I. MISSION STATEMENT
The English major engages students in reflective reading, creative inquiry, composition, critical analysis, contextual analysis, research methods and effective communication. The study of literature and culture, creative writing, pedagogy, linguistics, rhetoric and composition, film, and technical communication prepares graduates to pursue a variety of careers, including writing, publishing and editing, government and law, business, public relations, advertising, technology and education. These studies also prepare students for graduate study.The Department of English provides a dynamic intellectual environment and learning community. Faculty introduce diverse historical and cultural contexts, as well as new genres of creative and professional expression, fields of critical inquiry and communication technologies to provide our students with the best possible education. The Department of English offers small, student-centered classes, innovative pedagogy, and close faculty-student interaction. Department of English faculty have earned numerous awards for excellence in teaching, research and writing; members are nationally recognized in various creative and critical fields. Students have amassed an enviable record of placement in graduate programs and professional positions. The Department of English shares with the larger university “a commitment to engaged excellence in fulfilling its tripartite mission of teaching, scholarship, and community service in a student-centered environment, with a liberal arts foundation and opportunities to develop professional skills” (All quotations from the University’s Strategic Plan, “Engaged Excellence,” 2006). For example:
- The Department of English engages and trains students in reflective reading, creative inquiry, critical analysis, and effective expression. In this way students become motivated and prepared to pursue a “lifelong passion for learning” that “fosters individual curiosity, intellectual rigor, critical thinking, and creativity.”
- The Department of English promotes “scholarly and creative work of significance” among both its students and faculty. The Department of English sponsors and publishes the student literary magazine Jeopardy, the literary journal The Bellingham Review, and places students in service-learning and professional writing internships. The Department of English hosts annual regional and national conferences and several visiting writers a year, presenting readings and lectures free and open to students and the public.
- The Department of English “creates opportunities for students to display leadership, civic engagement, social responsibility, and effective citizenship” through professional opportunities provided through its publications, service learning, internship opportunities and Scholars Week activities.
- The Department of English “brings together an increasingly diverse and talented student body, faculty, and staff to form a learning community.” The Department of English, which has won the University Diversity Award, is one of the most ethnically diverse departments on campus. Attention to diversity occurs at all levels of the Department of English’s service, including text selection, course topics, and the speakers and public events we provide and sponsor. Recently, the Department of English hired a tenure-track appointment in Latina/o Literatures, which has allowed it to open a very important field of study for students.
- The Department of English “provides a high quality environment that complements the learning community,” providing excellent classes featuring student-centered learning, events and resources for students, our local community, and the state of Washington.
- The Department of English supports the University’s commitment to “environmental stewardship” through course offerings, energy conservation, and the recycling of paper, cardboard, and printer cartridges. The Department of English is proud that a majority of its faculty walk, bike, bus or carpool to Western.
- The Department of English creates multiple opportunities for “positive learning environments that support diverse opinions and cultures and foster respect and ethical conduct” through its many courses offerings in global literatures; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender literature; African-American literature; American-Indian literatures; Canadian literature; Irish Nationalist literature; Asian-American literatures; Latina/o literatures; studies in historically marginalized literatures; literary and creative expressions across cultures, as well as in U.S. and British literary traditions.
- The Department of English actively supports “promoting active student learning through participation in research and experiential learning activities such as internships.” The Department of English recently created an “Internship in English” course (English 461) to formalize some of its internship activities. Additionally, the Department of English recently assessed research learning outcomes and has worked on developing more venues for developing student research. These internships and research skills are instrumental in supporting the development of a lifelong pursuit of learning.
- The Department of English fosters the “technological enhancement of the learning experience” by maintaining, upgrading, and enhancing two writing laboratories. Furthermore, the Department of English is currently developing a multimedia instructional laboratory that will support collaborative research between students and faculty.
The following goals represent the basic principles of the Mission of the Department of English, organized into categories of skills, abilities, and corresponding knowledge that will characterize graduates of our programs.
|Write English effectively in a variety of genres||Genre discourses and emergent rhetorics|
|Speak English effectively and persuasively||Familiarity with social, artistic, political, and literary histories appropriate to English studies|
|Read English critically in a variety of literary genres and media from a variety of historical periods and cultures||Theoretical concepts and methodologies for thinking critically about literature and culture, writing creatively, film, composition and rhetoric, technical writing, and pedagogy|
|Comprehend the structure and history of language with a focus on the English language||Awareness of linguistic diversity over time and across cultures|
For each goal, the Department of English has specific student competencies. The assessment of the competencies is facilitated by a clear connection between goal, competency, and student learning outcomes.Goal 1: write English effectively in a variety of genres
- Know genre expectations
- Revise appropriately
- Apply research expertise
- Develop sophisticated analyses of literary forms
- Understand rules of evidence and how to construct an essay
- Understand writing theory and pedagogy
- Understand and use various forms of assessment
- Demonstrate expertise in lyric and narrative elements
- Know audience expectations
- Understand and use the art of persuasion
- Effectively use evidence, figures of speech, and organization when speaking on advanced topics in English Studies
- Demonstrate sensitivity to diversity and cultural differences
- Engage in dialogues and reflective discussion
- Understand one’s own place in social, artistic, political, and literary histories
- Demonstrate fluency in genre discourses
- Apply contextual analysis
- Understand and evaluate the cultural significance of literary criticism
- Read critically as a writer
- Apply theoretical and methodological concepts for reading critically
- Demonstrate sophisticated visual literacy to complement and enhance reading skills
- Apply media specific analysis
- Recognize discriminatory myths and stereotypes about language
- Recognize linguistic diversity
- Understand language change and the history of English
- Understand the structure of language (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics) and how to analyze it
1. Direct Measures
- Embedded assignments in all courses offered by the Department
- Student test results in comprehensive exams (graduate program only)
- Final projects and portfolios in senior seminars and workshops
- Placement of graduates in graduate programs
- Periodic review of student evaluations, peer observations, syllabi, textbooks, exams, etc.
- Surveys of alumni
- Exit interviews/questionnaires
- Transcript analyses
- Individual embedded assignments and assessment analysis
- Individual student learning outcomes for each competency
- Individual rubrics designed to assess student learning outcomes
- Shared examples of activities and exercises that address the competencies and goals listed above
First and foremost, it is important to note that the Department of English places great importance on the assessment of teaching in its promotion and tenure policies, as well as in its ongoing professional performance & development reviews of tenure-line faculty and annual evaluations of limited-term faculty. The Department expects to see a continuing record of excellent teaching from all its faculty, demonstrated by results on student evaluations, peer observations of the classroom, well prepared syllabi and assignments, and evidence of innovation in pedagogical strategies. Indeed, the Department assessment of faculty teaching is continuous and rigorous.
Following the 1998 Accreditation report, the Department of English responded to the recommendations by initiating an exit interview, which has been completed by all graduating students with the intent to find out what students thought they were learning and what they were not. Overall, students have reported being very satisfied with their education in the Department of English. The Department of English responded to the one major criticism: the creative writing emphasis students did not feel that they had timely access to the courses they needed. The Department responded over the past two years by locating the resources to add five new sections of creative writing workshops and to make its first hiring priority a new tenure-track position in creative writing. (The Department of English has successfully hired the new faculty member, who will start teaching fiction, nonfiction, and multigenre workshops in fall 08.) Additionally, the Department has made a curricular change to go into effect in fall 08 to make English 460 “Special Topics in Creative Writing: Multigenre” repeatable with different instructors to a maximum of ten credits, which will make the access easier and more flexible for the students as well as introduce more students to innovations in multigenre writing. Perhaps most importantly, in 2008 the Department of English has been able, with the additional courses and faculty, to increase the number of creative writing emphasis majors from 185 to 220, all but eliminating the extensive waiting list for the major it has maintained over the past five years.
The Department of English also responded to literature emphasis students who wanted earlier access to the popular and required introduction to critical and cultural theory course. The Department has scheduled two more of these courses to allow students to take the courses sooner after declaring the literature emphasis major.
In 2003-2004, the Department of English completed an extensive assessment of student learning opportunities and objectives for the State Board of Education approval of its Secondary English Language Arts degree. This endorsement program approval involved the assessment of every course the Department offers in relationship to the degree, which included just about every course offered for all the Department’s degree programs. (See link below for the full report.)
Two other programs within the Department of English have also carried out assessments of student learning outcomes and other aspects essential to effective teaching. The results from the English 101 “Writing and Critical Inquiry” program in 2006 and the English 302 “Introduction to Technical and Professional Writing” classes in 2007 demonstrate that students overall are doing an excellent job of achieving the desired student learning outcomes. (See the links below for full reports.)
In the summer of 2006 the department chair attended the Associated Departments of English Summer Session for New and Continuing Chairs primarily to study best practices for department-wide assessment of student competencies that were featured in the conference program. Based on the models presented at the conference, the chair decided to hold a fall retreat before the beginning of classes in fall 2006 to discuss the course-embedded method of outcomes assessment presented at the ADE Summer Seminar. At the retreat, the faculty responded favorably to this method and began identifying the core competencies that it would assess in the near future, with the intent to make course-embedded assessment a permanent feature of its teaching and assessment practices. (See the link below for the full course-embedded plan.)
The faculty identified contextual analysis, revision, and research as the key core competencies to assess in the following year. One major strength of the course-embedded assessment plan adopted by the Department is that it promises to create a rigorous and in-depth assessment of student learning over time. The faculty chose to assess “contextual analysis” in the first round of assessment in fall 2006. The results are attached, which include several data elements, such as a list of the top three to six changes that faculty felt would most improve student learning, along with a timeline and plan for their implementation.
The Department has used Blackboard to create online discussion forums where faculty have posted their assignments to be assessed, their rubrics for determining what student learning outcomes students achieved and failed to achieve, as well as analyses of the results and ideas for improvement. The faculty also met at a department meeting to discuss the results and to provide input into the final Department Report on the assessment of “contextual analysis.”
In winter 2007 the faculty similarly assessed “revision,” and in spring 2007 it assessed “research.” In 2007-08, the Department has been using course-embedded assessment to assess various aspects of fluency in genre discourses, media specific analysis, and the awareness of the structure of language. The Department has made a strong start in its plan to assess core competencies and student learning outcomes. For more details on the reports the Department has completed, including data on the numbers of faculty participating in the process, the number of meetings held, and the number of postings made on our faculty Blackboard site, please see the links below.5. Links to Full Reports
- Departmental Reporting Form: Core Competency “Contextual Analysis”
- Departmental Reporting Form: Core Competency “Revision”
- Departmental Reporting Form: Core Competency “Research”
- Secondary Language Arts Endorsement Assessment & Approval Report (2003-04)
- Results from the English 101 Program Assessment (2006)
- Results from the English 302 Course Assessments (2007)