STUDENT OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT PLAN Master of Arts Department of Biology University of Northern Iowa Section I. Departmental philosophy of Student Outcomes Assessment The Biology Department's intent is to provide a broad, well-balanced program for all Master of Arts students. The Master of Arts degree in Biology is available only as a non-thesis option; however, students are required to develop a research paper that focuses on a relevant topic in biology that is agreed upon by the student, advisor and the student’s advisory committee. Students will take advanced core courses to provide a comprehensive knowledge of the foundational concepts and skills in biology. Requirements are designed to allow students to develop programs tailored to their interests and aspirations in biology. Section II. Outcomes and Competencies Outcome I: To develop knowledge of the scope and depth of biological sciences, including an understanding of relationships among biological systems, current topics and modern biological techniques with special emphasis in an area of focus agreed upon with the student, advisor and the student's advisory committee. Students are expected to develop and improve their critical thinking skills as they progress through their program of study. All competencies under Outcome 1 will be assessed based on student performance in the graduate program of study. Minimum criteria are detailed in the Department of Biology's Graduate Handbook. Competency 1: An understanding of the breadth of the biological sciences will be attained by taking required courses from at least three core areas and participating in the weekly colloquia. Competency 2: Knowledge of currently significant biological topics will be acquired from the weekly colloquia, required core courses, and elective courses in the area of focus. Competency 3: Depth of understanding will be achieved by taking graduate level courses in an area of focus chosen by the student in consultation with the advisory committee. Competency 4: Familiarity with current techniques in biology will be developed during the weekly colloquia, required core courses, and elective courses in the area of focus. Competency 5: The ability to critically read, analyze, and critique current literature will be developed in the required core courses, most elective courses, and through examination of research papers in the chosen area of interest. Outcome II: To gain expertise in developing and presenting a syntheses of current biological thought in the development of the student’s research paper. All competencies under Outcome II will be assessed by the student's Advisory Committee as outlined in the Department of Biology's Graduate Handbook. To achieve the competencies listed below, the student will work in consultation with their advisor as well as members of the advisory committee and will utilize the information received in their core and elective courses as needed. Competency 1: The ability to identify and select areas or topics on which an original research paper will be written. Competency 2: The ability to evaluate the appropriate scientific literature for the proposed research paper. Competency 3: The ability to write in a style and format suitable for scientific papers. Competency 4: The ability to prepare and deliver oral scientific presentations. Section III. Frequency of Assessments All Master of Arts students will be assessed at various points in their programs: 1) 2) 3) at entry into the program, during the advisory committee's consideration of the research paper proposal, following completion of a comprehensive examination (pass/fail) during the 4) 5) semester in which they plan to graduate, during evaluation of the research paper, following graduation. Section IV. Methods of Assessment for Outcomes and Competencies 1) At entry into the program. Students will be accepted into the program based on compatibility of research interests with faculty, transcripts and letters of reference to identify strengths and possible weaknesses in the basic sciences (e.g., lack of appropriate course work and low grades in relevant courses). Any deficiencies will be rectified by adding appropriate courses to the program of study. At the beginning of the first semester, a portfolio based assessment plan will be introduced by the student’s advisor. The advisor will explain the purpose of the assessment portfolio, its intended contents, and the process by which it will be reviewed. The portfolio is used as a means to assess the MA Biology graduate program in the long term. The student is expected to add to the file for the duration of their program. The file should include representative works from their core and/or elective courses, (e.g. research papers, lab reports, article reviews, class presentations), a copy of their program of study, the initial research proposal, a mid-progress report, any presentations made at scientific meetings, the final public presentation of their research work as well as a copy of their research paper. 2) During the advisory committee’s consideration of the research paper proposal. Following the formation of the student’s graduate advisory committee, the suitability of the research paper proposal will be assessed based on a presentation given by the student at Colloquium in the first or second semester of their program. 3) Following completion of a comprehensive examination (pass/fail) during the semester in which they plan to graduate, The student’s advisory committee will administer the exam and evaluate the results following the guidelines in the Biology Graduate Handbook. 4) During evaluation of the research paper. The student’s advisory committee will evaluate the quality of the research paper during the semester in which they plan to graduate. 5) Following graduation. After graduation, graduates will be contacted to assess the adequacy of our program in preparing students for futures in biology. Section V. Analysis-Interpretation and Reporting of Results Files that document academic progress will be retained in the Biology department office. This file will consist of student’s initial (complete) application for graduate study as well as transcripts, program of study, degree audits from their current degree. The student will be responsible for maintaining a portfolio of their academic progress. This portfolio will include a representative sample of the student’s work from core and/or elective courses (may be research papers, lab reports, article reviews, class presentations), a copy of their program of study, the initial research proposal, a mid-progress report, any presentations made at scientific meetings, the final public presentation of their research work as well as a copy of their research paper. After graduation of the student, portfolios will be maintained in a centralized, accessible space where the department’s Outcomes Assessment Committee will periodically review them to assess if MA students are meeting the outcomes and competencies outlined in the Outcomes Assessment plan. They may also evaluate feedback from former students about the program's adequacy in preparing them for careers in biology and make recommendations for any necessary changes. All potential program modifications will be reviewed by the entire biology faculty and any changes will be forwarded to the Graduate Committee.