Annual Assessment Report 2010-2011
Mathematical and Physical Sciences
I. Executive Summary
The Mathematical and Physical Sciences major met for its annual review of students' progress toward majors in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics. (These had been concentrations under a single MPS major but have now been made into separate majors. Students who had previously declared MPS with a concentration can either retain that major or declare one of the new majors. New students must choose one of the separate majors.) Advisors will meet with individual students. The group also considered having second readers for senior theses and requiring each student to work with a faculty member. These already occur in most cases but should be formalized. We discussed making changes in major requirements in light of the three new majors and planned to revisit how this affects assessment after any such changes are proposed.
II. Summary of Assessment Review and Planning Meeting
Professors Adams, Cramer, Heinekamp, and Stiadle met on December 13 for an hour beginning at 12:30pm. The group first reviewed the progress of current and prospective majors in CS, Math, and Physics. We considered grades in completed courses, what requirements remain, and faculty experiences with individual students. Advisors will meet with individual students. We discussed the recent senior project proposal presentations
Currently, senior theses are read by the faculty member who teaches the course. While others usually read various theses as well, this does not always happen. The group agreed to formalize second readers as BCS does. We will discuss possible mechanisms so as to equitably distribute faculty workload. In a similar vein, instructors usually require students to work with a faculty member knowledgeable in thesis topic. We will make this a formal requirement for the course. We may develop consistent feedback forms as well.
Finally, we discussed possible changes to major requirements since there are now three majors instead of concentrations within a single major. The three majors created form BCS last year made such changes and MPS should at least consider what is best. In fact, the introductory Physics I, II, III sequence is already transitioning to a two-course sequence. There was some discussion of whether the Math major should require two semesters of physics (it currently requires one), but there was no consensus. In support of this proposal, math majors at other colleges often require two semesters, and success in physics demonstrates students' understanding of and ability to apply concepts learned in math courses, thus providing an independent measure. On the down side, this would add a course requirement at a time when administration pressure is to lessen the number of courses for majors. The added course may deter potential majors as well. Professor Adams will look at the CS major requirements, Professor Heinekamp will further consider the Physics major, and Professor Stiadle will study the Math major. If any changes are made, we will discuss their assessment impacts on a case by case basis at the time and as a whole at next year's meeting.
III. Plan for Upcoming Year
Formalize requirements for senior theses to include a second faculty reader for each paper and a specific faculty member working with each senior.
Study major requirements in light of separate majors; report on any assessment impacts.
IV. Updated Assessment Plan
Keep current plan for now.
V. Summary of Data
List of students' courses and grades.
Commentary from MPS faculty on senior thesis proposal Powerpoint presentations and papers.