Forest and Natural Resources Management Fall 2011 Assessment Update

Forest and Natural Resources Management
Fall 2011 Assessment Update
The Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management has been actively
engaged in program evaluation for the past 4 years. We have gone on a recurring
cycle in which each of our majors is evaluated every 4 years and changes are made
to the program based on programmatic needs and assessments. We do this through
the use of ad hoc committees made up primarily of faculty directly involved in each
major, which reports to our Undergraduate Education Committee, which then
reports to our faculty for a final decision. The primary assessment tool that we use
is an outcome evaluation matrix developed through our capstone management
course (FOR 490) that is required of all students in the Department. The 9 learning
outcomes that we have for our students are evaluated with this exercise (shown in
the 2 attached appendices) are used to help inform the work of these committees,
but we also rely on an informal assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each
of our majors by the faculty responsible for teaching and administering them, and
an exit interview done with graduating seniors.
In 2008, we assessed and made major modifications to our Natural Resources
Management (NRM) major. This major was created in the 90’s and was based on a
model in which students chose areas of emphasis in which to study. Our impression
of the effectiveness of the major was that we were placing too many requirements
on students, making it difficult for them to enter into the program as transfers and
limiting its effectiveness. We had no formal assessment tools in place but it was the
general consensus that the areas of emphasis were not working well. Through
discussions and evaluation, we made major changes to the major that did away with
the areas of emphasis, affirmed the continued requirement of the Summer Program
at Wanakena, increased the number of free electives making it easier for transfer
students to enter the program and for all students to complete a minor, and
broadened the set of required elective courses in a range of resource areas
(business, wildlife, human dimensions, and policy) to give students a breadth of
knowledge about resources management.
In 2009, we evaluated the Forest Resource Management (FRM) major. This major
has been the traditional bedrock of the Department, but was hampered by faculty
losses, the need to get students involved in the major earlier in their coursework,
and the need to better integrate transfer students into the program. Of particular
concern was the desire to integrate students in our 1-1-2 program with the Ranger
School. These students were troubled that a significant number of their credit hours
did not count towards their degree and that it was taking them longer than 4 years
to complete their B.S. A number of changes to the major were made, including
adding two ecology courses in the freshman and sophomore years in order to
provide more field opportunities and better understanding for the later professional
courses, affirming the use of the Summer Program at Wanakena for students not in
the 1-1-2, increasing the number of credit hours that were counted from the Ranger
School allowing relatively easy completion of the combined program in 4 years, and
increasing the number of free electives in the major in order to allow greater access
for transfer students and for students to complete a minor.
In 2010, we the evaluated the programs offered at the Ranger School, the Forest
Technology (FT) and Land Surveying Technology (LST) majors. As part of this
effort, we also created a new major, Environmental and Natural Resources
Conservation (ENRC). The Ranger School’s unique structure as a 1-year program, in
which students take their first year GED courses at another institution and complete
the A.A.S. requirements in the second year presents a number of challenges. We had
strong directives to take steps to increase enrollment, which had remained stable at
around 40 students per year. The creation of the ENRC major was the primary
response to this directive. This major builds on the strengths of the existing majors
in that it develops a strong set of field technician skills during the Fall semester,
which allows students to work in the woods, and then develops a broader set of
knowledge in a range of natural resources during the Spring semester. We are
offering this major for the first time this year (with 15 registered students) and we
are developing the assessment tools for the major this year. Both the FT and LST
majors were accredited this past year by their respective accrediting bodies (Society
of American Foresters and ABET) and both accreditation reviews were extremely
positive with respect to the structure and carry through of each major.
In 2010, we performed a review of the Forest Ecosystem Science (FES) major. This
is a relatively small major that is built upon a dual major that FNRM used to run
with EFB. The major objectives of this review were to increase the number of free
electives to make it easier for transfer students to enter the program, to make the
program easier to complete for students by reducing the number of directed elective
areas, and to raise the profile of the major. Again, we were able to increase the
number of free elective hours and reduced the directed elective areas from 5 to 3
while allowing students to put together a more coherent set of courses.
This year, we are renewing the cycle and reevaluating the NRM degree.
Appendix 1: FOR 490 (for FRM students): End of Course Supplemental Survey
1. Communicate relationships between flora and fauna in a
forest setting.
2. Describe alternative ways to change or maintain forest and
stand structure.
3. Prescribe, justify, and implement forest and stand level
treatments in accord with owner objectives.
4. Correctly identify the number of major species of flora in a
given area.
5. Plan, conduct, and analyze forest inventories including
biological, physical, and social.
6. Describe and apply different statistical sampling methods.
7. Project stand and forest development. Possess knowledge,
and use, of computer growth and yield projection models.
8. Evaluate tradeoffs among biological sustainability, economic
feasibility, and social acceptability.
9. To describe and apply different economic and related
decision techniques including investment analyses, to evaluate
alternative stand and forest management practices.
10. Specify and implement management practices appropriate
to owner objectives.
11. Explain how forest policy at the national, state, and local
levels affect forest management.
12. Describe technical forestry and natural resources
management terms to many different audiences.
13. To function as an effective team member.
As a graduating senior, I feel confident in my abilities to:
14. Feel qualified to pursue a career in forestry.
Appendix 2: Natural Resources Management Assessment
Course Number and Name: FOR490 Integrated Resources Management (Section 2,
Spring 2010)
Assessed Project or other Course Element: Summative tool – management plan
Learning Objectives
1. Understand Natural Environments
1) Strengths: none observed – normal levels of knowledge
2) Areas for Improvement: wildlife ecology and management (evidence – lack of knowledge about
habitat and management of common game and on-game animals; lack of knowledge landscape
ecology concepts related to wildlife such as corridors, connectivity, fragmentation
3) Insights: surficial understanding, but able to learn and teach self as a basis for renewed or new
understanding (ability to teach oneself may be a strength of our students)
2. Measure Natural Resources
1) Strengths: ability to get things done in the field, GIS mapping (at least one team member)
2) Areas for Improvement: developing a measurement scheme to sample/describe natural resources;
plant / animal / ecosystem component ID
3) Insights: raw abilities are there; high degree of confidence to get out there and do it
3. Manipulate Natural Resources
1) Strengths: no observed – normal levels of understanding
2) Areas for improvement: shallow understanding of various natural resources manipulation
techniques, e.g., no clue on herbicide use to control undesirable plants such as non-native
invasives; little understanding of planting
3) Insights: students are unafraid to manipulate and were unabashedly willing / planning to do all
kinds of things, from planting to clearcuts to using herbicides
4. Manage Natural Resources
1) Strength: students demonstrated strong organizational abilities and leadership
2) Areas for improvement: decision making, problem solving and planning were weak – in general,
the groups had to be strongly directed in this arena (e.g., a grading rubric was needed to show the
students what should be in a management plan; students were implicitly tuned to need for
continuous improvement, but were not versed in monitoring and adaptive management, and even
simple accounting and accountability; however, it was apparent that groups did have self
accounting in terms of group effort and performance)
3) Insight: it is odd to have an outcome – “Manage Natural Resources” – that is really our program –
“Natural Resources Management”. In order to assess this Outcome #4 I really had to look at all the
other outcomes. I propose we remove this outcome. I would note that students had no clue about
monitoring, adaptive management, continuous improvement – how to set these up in a
management system/plan
5. Analyze Policy
1) Strength: students had the context of policy understanding and were able to properly grasp needed
guidelines, regulations and laws into management planning
2) Areas for improvement: none observed.
3) Aside: difficult to assess this outcome in the class
6. Communicate
1) Strengths: students are, with little exception, strong communicators in both written and oral form
2) Areas for improvement: none perceived, except perhaps as related to technical writing associated
with a management plan (format, style), which the students did not know. I also noted that
students had problems citing reference material. Photos and diagrams were not captioned without
3) Insights: none.
7. Demonstrate Ethical Behavior
1) Strength: none perceived.
2) Areas for improvement: none perceived
3) Insightl: difficult to assess; no blatant problems here; students were generally professional and
collegial; all groups seemed to function fully and positively
8. Solve Problems
1) Strength: none perceived
2) Areas for improvement: none perceived
3) Insight: students do have the capacity to solve problems; NOTE that this outcome is really,
directly related to Outcome #4 – problem solving and decision making is one of the four main
functions of management )other three: organizing, leading and controlling (AQ/QC – continuous
9. Lead
1) Strength: students do have the capacity to lead
2) Areas for improvement: none perceived
3) Insights: See Learning Outcome 4 (Management Natural Resources) – “leadership” is one of the
four main “pillars” or functions of management
BENCHMARK (Unsatisfactory, Satisfactory, Exceed – with/without opportunities
for improvement)
The benchmark for each of the Learning Outcomes is Satisfactory, with
opportunities for improvement.
Additional Comments – General and Summary (strengths, areas for
improvement, suggestions for improvement, insights):
- Ability to form productive groups – each group had some form of leadership
develop that was generally effective
- Self-learning – all groups had to have individuals / team learn new methods
and concepts (skills and knowledge)
- Capacity to work outside, without complaining
- Communication
- In general: we have developed Natural Resources Managers who can succeed
as professionals (and feel they can succeed)
Areas for Improvement:
- Skill and knowledge sets (courses): wildlife ecology and management;
vegetation ecology and manipulations attuned to broader natural resources
management; plant ID
- Planning and associated problem solving
- Modeling outputs (management plan, presentations) was a useful “teaching”
devise (NOTE that FOR 490 was not designed for teaching, per se); the best
models for the class were other groups
- Students appreciated being forced to “self-learn” – all groups had to teach
themselves something important for the project, from new field
measurement methods to focal concepts for the work (e.g., biodiversity:
wildlife corridors, invasives, succession), and they did it, and then
commented on how pleased they were with themselves and that it boded
well for their futures
- Students who went a 1+1+2 route with an AAS form the Ranger School
demonstrated higher field skills, stronger communication skills, and greater
self-confidence than the rest of the class
- Good integration of 1+1+2 with other student types (no “us” versus “them”;
the “chip” on RS student shoulders seems to be gone)
- NRM program has developed a sort of esprit de corps, a self-bearing where
the students feel they have disciplinary and professional importance