ENGLISH DEPARTMENT ASSESSMENT REPORT

September 7, 2007

MISSION STATEMENT

The mission of the English Department is to educate students in the diverse voices and forms of British and American literature, and to approach literature both critically and creatively in their writing.By analyzing literary texts and genres, and considering the personal, aesthetic, and historical forces that inform them, students will develop their abilities to think critically and develop an informed position.By encountering and creating a wide range of literary perspectives, students will gain an appreciation of complexity and difference necessary to engage in humane actions.

GOALS

All students who major in English will:

·gain knowledge of specific literary forms in the genres of poetry, dramatic literature and prose fiction

·gain familiarity with the historical and theoretical development of British and American literature

·develop insight into ways class, religion, race, gender and sexuality inform literary works and reader or audience reactions

·conduct research on well-defined literary questions, making judicious use of primary and secondary sources

·develop and support their interpretations effectively in oral and written arguments and creative projects

English majors who take creative writing workshops, or elect the concentration in creative writing, will develop the ability to craft original literary work and present their work to the public.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Students who complete the major in English will demonstrate:

1.knowledge of distinctive features of the major genres of poetry, dramatic literature and prose fiction

2.recognition of specific literary forms within and across genres, such as the sonnet, the revenge tragedy, the postmodern novel, the creative nonfiction essay

3.knowledge of specific periods and movements in the development of British and American literature

4.understanding of personal and cultural forces that lead to the development of new literary subjects and modes of expression

5.understanding of the perspectives of past and contemporary writers and characters whose cultural experiences and modes of expression differ from their own

6.close observation of elements of literary texts and recognition of patterns of meaning that lead to arguable interpretations

7.good judgment in selecting and citing secondary sources to support interpretive arguments in presentations and essays

8.clear organization, reasoning and writing in critical essays

9.attention to the rhetorical and aesthetic effects of their own language in critical and creative writing

10.in the creative writing concentration, skill in crafting original poetry, prose fiction, and creative nonfiction, and presenting their literary work to the public

MEASURABLE LEARNING OUTCOMES

Objectives 1 and 2:

·Students first demonstrate their knowledge of the major genres and specific forms of poetry, dramatic literature and prose fiction through close reading of a few representative texts in ENGL 104: Introduction to Literature, Form and Meaning, required of all English majors.Faculty gauge studentsí understanding through in-class exams, presentations on literary terms, short critical essays examining how writers use specific forms, and creative projects such as writing and/or performing a Shakespearean sonnet or dramatic monologue.

·Understanding of literary genres and forms isdeveloped in upper-level seminars focused on specific genres, including at least one course each in poetry, dramatic literature, and prose fiction, and one that mixes genres. Students in upper-level genre courses reveal their knowledge through take-home exams, extended presentations, longer critical essays and research papers, anthologies, and creative projects.In creative writing workshops, knowledge of the major genres and of specific forms is revealed through oral and written analysis of published literature, discussion with visiting writers, and the studentís original work in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

·The comprehensive examination in the senior year tests the studentís understanding of genre and form through close analysis of passages from three works in different genres, identifying ways the passages reflect and/or defy literary conventions.

Objectives 3 and 4:

·ENGL 105: British Literature 1100-1800, ENGL. 250: British Literature 1800 to the Present, and ENGL 215: Survey of American Literature provide a foundation for studying the historical and theoretical development of British and American literature, and the personal and cultural forces that inform literary works of particular periods.In these survey courses, student understanding is measured through exams on key writers, literary forms, and social contexts; reading journals; essays comparing writers or literary works from different periods; and presentations and critical essays using primary and secondary research on historical periods and cultural contexts.

·In upper-level electives, students take more specialized courses in British and American literature, and in periods pre- and post-1800.These courses rely less on exams and more on comparative literary analysis and secondary research, measured through extended class presentations, critical essays, and creative projects, such as dialogues and parodies.

·In the comprehensive examination, students display their knowledge of British and American literary history by selecting and analyzing texts from periods both pre- and post-1800 to support their responses to essay questions.

Objective 5:

·Confrontation with diverse literary voices, cultural experiences, and values is built into the English curriculum.The required courses referred to above incorporate writers who challenge common assumptions of their time, including women writers defying Renaissance and eighteenth-century British gender conventions, nineteenth-century slave narratives, anglophone literature from various cultures, and twentieth- and twenty-first century queer fiction.Assessment of student learning involves the methods indicated above, as well as role-playing and debate.

·Many upper-level seminars focus on literature as it relates to race, class, religion, gender and sexuality.Students engage in research on the social contexts of literature and reader or audience reaction to controversial works, using this research in class presentations, essays and creative projects, such as writing from the point of view of a transgressive or marginal character.

·In creative writing workshops in poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, students test their ability to understand experiences and perspectives outside their own by creating the voices and points of view of characters who differ from them in age, ethnicity, gender or sexuality.

·The comprehensive exam in English includes essay questions and passages for close analysis that require students to engage with issues of cultural diversity in British and American literature.

Objective 6:

·Close analysis of literary works and recognition of patterns of meaning begin in ENGL 104.Such analysis is modeled in classroom discussion and developed in group work and class presentations.Essays require students to develop an interpretation of a text and support it through close examination of specific language.

·Exam and essay questions in later courses draw on and test these skills and, as mentioned above, the comprehensive exam requires students to write essays closely analyzing passages from the three major genres.

·In creative writing workshops, students analyze specific features of literary works by published writers, visiting writers, and their classmates, learning to focus on the techniques writers use to achieve particular effects.

·Senior essays by students concentrating in literature must demonstrate the ability to closely analyze literary passages and cite relevant textual evidence in support of a clearly defined thesis.Senior projects by students concentrating in creative writing must display their ability to create patterns of meaning through precisely chosen details.

Objective 7:

·Students are introduced to methods of literary research, including locating and evaluating bibliographic and internet sources, in ENGL 104 and ENGL 105.In class presentations and essays, students select relevant and reliable sources and use them to support their literary interpretations.

·In most upper-level seminars, students engage in more extensive research.Their ability to locate and effectively use secondary sources to support their arguments is gauged through class presentations and analytical essays.

·In writing the senior essay, students in the literature concentration develop an original interpretive question and use secondary sources more extensively to help support a 30-35 page literary analysis.

Objective 8:

·In addition to focusing on genre and form in literature, ENGL 104 is a workshop that trains students in writing interpretive essays.Assessment of student work follows the process of writing, from development and presentation of a thesis, to organization of the argument in an outline or first draft, through correct use of citations, and revision for clarity of expression.Peer editing and conferences on drafts are part of the process.

·Upper-level seminars also use peer assessment at some stages of the writing process, for instance asking students to explain their working thesis and preliminary research to the class, and/or present a draft of the essayOn longer research essays, students often meet in individual conferences with the faculty member for comments on a draft.

·The senior essay requires English majors to move beyond the 10-12 page research paper to develop a more complex argument.Students meet individually with their thesis advisors, and in a seminar with their fellow seniors and the English faculty, to discuss their proposals and present drafts of chapters or sections.

·The six short essays students write for the comprehensive examination must not only show knowledge of literary forms, subjects and periods, but also the studentís ability to formulate an arguable thesis in a clearly organized and written essay.

Objective 9:

·Exposure to a range of literary and critical voices in literature classes, writing workshops, and presentations by visiting writers and scholars helps expand the studentís sense of the possibilities of human expression.

·Reading aloud or performing poems, dramatic scenes and prose passages trains students to hear the aesthetic and rhetorical effects of rhythm, tone and emphasis.

·Close work with faculty and their peers in revising their writing, critical or creative, develops the studentís ability to identify where their language could be more precise or expressive.

·The senior thesis challenges students to create and sustain a compelling voice in their writing, whether in literary analysis or creative writing.

Objective 10

·In writing workshops, students learn the elements of a particular genre in part by studying the work of published and visiting writers and learning to read as writers, focusing on technique.

·The central learning experience involves practicing elements of creative writing, such as creating point of view and character, setting a scene, using significant details and imagery, and experimenting with poetic forms or rhythms.

·Assessment of creative work occurs through peer critique, faculty comments and conferences on drafts and final work and, often, the comments of visiting writers.

·Writing workshops culminate in a portfolio of the studentís best work, which students are invited to read in a public forum.

·Students in the creative writing concentration demonstrate their writing skill in a particular genre with an extended work of fiction, or a collection of poetry or creative nonfiction.They are invited to present a selection from this work in a public reading.

MEANS OF ASSESSMENT OF OUTCOMES

Student work varies according to class level and course type, as indicated above, and means of assessment also vary.Syllabi and assignments usually indicate criteria for evaluation, as indicated by samples attached.

In summary, faculty in English use the following means of assessment:

·Peer comment on in-class presentations, drafts of essays, and other projects in literature courses, on creative writing in workshops, and on drafts of the senior thesis.Peer critique does not contribute to the grade a student receives, but provides a useful means to assess student progress.

·Oral work, including student presentations and performances, individual and collaborative.

·In-class exams testing key concepts and/or giving a choice of essay questions, and take-home essay exams, both closed- and open-book.

·Creative projects in literature courses.

·Technical exercises in creative writing workshops.

·Informal writing, such as reading journals, brief personal responses to literary texts, and synopses of texts.

·Short essays (approx. 4-6 pages) emphasizing close analysis and interpretation of a literary text.

·Longer analytical and interpretive essays (approx. 8-12 pages) requiring more extended analysis and/or use of secondary sources.

·Individual conferences on student drafts of essays and creative writing

·Capstone Experience:

1.The Senior Thesis (fall semester, except when a student has a serious conflict, such as student teaching):

Students in the literature concentration write a 30-35 page critical study.This essay may examine works by a single writer, with a thematic or other focus, compare the treatment of a particular issue or theme in works by two or three different writers, or examine a particular literary form or mode.

Students in the creative writing concentration write 25-30 pages of creative work, with a 6-8 page critical introduction.The project could be a collection of poems, stories, or creative nonfiction essays, an extended work in any of these genres, or a mixed mode with a strong unifying concept.

In both concentrations, the senior thesis requires students to synthesize analytical, creative and expressive skills they have developed in their coursework.All students writing the senior thesis meet together in a seminar with members of the faculty in English to discuss methods of research and writing, and to read work in progress.

One faculty member serves as the studentís thesis advisor, reading drafts of the essay as it develops, writing comments, and meeting in conferences.The faculty in English meet at the end of the semester to discuss the finished work.The studentís thesis advisor and a second reader from the English faculty jointly assess the final thesis.Students later meet with the second reader to receive that faculty memberís comments.

2.The Comprehensive Examination in English (spring semester, except when a student has a serious conflict, such as student teaching)::

The comprehensive examination in English is a timed take-home exam in two parts taken over the course of one weekend. The take-home format allows students to write the two parts of the exam at times convenient to them, but limits them to 3 1/2 hours on each of the two parts.Students may not consult books, notes or other sources on the exam.

The purpose of the first part of the exam is to demonstrate the studentís knowledge of English and American literature in the genres of poetry, dramatic literature and prose fiction from periods both pre- and post-1800.Students write essays in response to three questions from a choice of 10-12, showing their ability to apply aesthetic, historical and cultural concepts to literature read in their college work.

The purpose of the second part of the exam is to show the studentís ability to closely analyze and interpret passages of poetry, dramatic literature and prose fiction.Students write essays on three passages, selecting one from a choice of two or three offered as representatives of each of the three major genres.Students are expected to develop an interpretation of the passage, demonstrating their ability to recognize and analyze significant formal elements of the genre.

The comprehensive examination is graded Distinction/Pass/Fail on the basis of at least two faculty membersí evaluation of each part of the exam.Faculty members meet together to discuss the exams.

Distinction is given to exams that show wide-ranging and specific knowledge of British and American literature, expressing that knowledge in essays united by a sophisticated thesis and well-supported analysis.Students confirm distinction through an oral exam with the faculty in English, in which they are invited to evaluate the exam format.

Exams that show basic knowledge of British and American literature in essays with a clear focus and writing receive a pass.These students are invited to meet individually with their advisor to discuss their work on the exam.

Exams that demonstrate inadequate knowledge of British and American literature and/or inability to formulate a clear thesis and support it with references to specific texts receive a failing mark, unless the student is able (as most are) to expand on and clarify their responses in an oral examination with the faculty in English.Students are asked to evaluate the exam format and their preparation to determine what caused their difficulty on the exam.

HOW ASSESSMENT DATA WILL BE USED

Given the small size of the English department, the faculty are able not only to use wide-ranging methods of assessment, but also to meet frequently to share information about the work in our courses, discuss the progress of individual students, and assess the effectiveness of our curriculum.We use the information we gather about student learning to revise our course requirements, develop new courses, and modify the senior thesis and comprehensive examination process.

In recent years, for instance, we added an additional British literature survey course to the requirements for all English majors, largely based on weaknesses we were seeing in some comprehensive examinations.We also developed two new courses in creative nonfiction to expand the course options for all students and strengthen the creative writing concentration.To diversify course offerings, we have developed new courses such as ENGL 213: Anglophone Drama, ENGL 214: Women in English Renaissance Literature, and ENGL 222: American Minority Literatures.

In response to student comments and our sense that the comprehensive examination could be made a more effective means of assessment, we altered the format from an on-campus exam taken over two mornings during finals week to a take-home exam taken over a weekend in April.This change better accommodates non-traditional-age students and others living off campus, and allows all students to write the exam at a place and time more conducive to doing their best work.

However, the relatively rapid rise in student enrollment at Wells and in our English courses over the last three years poses challenges to our ability to use the diverse student assessment methods described above, and even to hold department meetings as regularly as we have in the past.In addition, the absence of any institutional research support, and of basic secretarial services for faculty, makes it difficult to gather and maintain assessment information in any systematic way.

Because copies of senior theses are kept by Long Library, and titles and authors have recently been made available online, we have a centralized record of this key component in our assessment of students.Other records of our studentsí work, and of the graduate programs and careers they go on to, are kept only by individual faculty members, as time, space and our memories allow.It would be useful to have more systematic means of compiling and accessing student evaluations, results of the comprehensive examination, student awards, and information on our graduatesí later accomplishments to aid in long-term assessment of our program.

English 104 - Comparative Analysis of Two Lyric Poems/Editing Guide:  Comparison of Two Lyric Poems

English 104 - Introduction to Literature:  Form and Meaning
English 202 - Jane Austen:  The Presentation and Longer Essay
English 215 - Syllabus (Survey of American Literature-Sites of Conflict)
English 271 - Syllabus (Short Story Writing)
English 271 - Short Story Writing (Exercise)
English 340 - Syllabus:  Reading Film
English 380 - Research and Essay on Critical Approaches to a Literary Text
English Comps Meeting re:  Comp Exam