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Chemistry Department Mission Statement

To provide exceptional opportunities for students to learn chemistry and biochemistry through classroom, laboratory, and research experiences. Students participating in our program will master content, develop critical thinking and communication skills that will prepare them for professional careers as scientists, educators, health professionals, and scientifically literate citizens.  

Chemistry Department Assessment Plan

I.  Assessment committee
A departmental assessment committee was formed at the beginning of fall quarter 2009.  The purpose of the department assessment committee is to lead the department in developing and carrying out a plan to assess the impact of our programs on our students and to use assessment data to improve our programs.  The committee is responsible for reporting progress with the above tasks to university stakeholders.

II.  Assessment strategy
The committee identified four levels at which to assess our programs.  Each level is defined by a set of specific outcomes or objectives to be assessed.  These levels are designed to correspond with each other so that the more specific outcomes near the bottom of the hierarchy directly relate to one or more outcome from the level above it.  The four levels are defined below.

  1. Mission Statement:  The overall broad goal/vision.
  2. Program objectives:  Objectives we expect our students to meet 3-5 years after graduation.
  3. Program outcomes:  Outcomes that we expect our students to meet on graduation. 
  4. Course outcomes:  Outcomes that we expect our students to meet in specific courses. 

The mission statement and program objectives were formulated before the existence of the assessment committee.  The committee led the department in developing a set of 4-7 outcomes for each course taught in the department.  Faculty generally undertook this process in disciplinary groups.  The committee then developed a set of program outcomes using the course outcomes as a guide.  Where a course outcome was repeated many times over different courses, it was rewritten in a more general format to serve as a program outcome.

Each section below summarizes the outcomes/objectives at each level, as well as a plan to assess each set of outcomes/objectives.  This document concludes with a plan for how the department will use the assessment data to make departmental improvements.

III.  Mission statement
All of the outcomes assessed reflect the larger vision of the chemistry department, which is articulated in its mission statement:

To provide exceptional opportunities for students to learn chemistry and biochemistry through classroom, laboratory, and research experiences. Students participating in our program will master content, develop critical thinking and communication skills that will prepare them for professional careers as scientists, educators, health professionals, and scientifically literate citizens.
Assessment.  The broad nature of the mission statement makes it difficult to carry out assessment at this level.  Instead, assessment will be performed at each of the levels below, which are directly related to the mission statement.

IV.  Program objectives
Our alumni will:

  1. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge from traditional and emerging areas of chemistry and biochemistry.
  2. Integrate and apply their knowledge to solve complex scientific problems.
  3. Apply the necessary laboratory skills to answer questions of chemical and biochemical relevance.
  4. Demonstrate effective critical thinking skills.
  5. Demonstrate effective quantitative reasoning skills.
  6. Effectively communicate scientific information in written and oral forms.
  7. Engage collaboratively and independently in scientific processes.

Assessment.  We plan to rely on self-report data from alumni to assess at the program objective level.  The assessment committee will develop a survey instrument to enable alumni to report to what degree they believe to have developed the skills and knowledge above, as well as their confidence levels in applying these skill and knowledge sets. 

The chemistry department has also been collecting data related to the success rates of graduates from its undergraduate and graduate programs.  Such data include the percentage of graduates enrolling in graduate programs in chemistry and biochemistry and the success rate of those students in their graduate programs. 

V.  Program outcomes
Graduates from our B.S. and B.A. programs will:

  1. Understand and integrate fundamental chemical principles that unify all traditional and emerging areas of chemistry and biochemistry including:
    1. atomic theory
    2. molecular structure and bonding
    3. physical properties of molecules
    4. kinetics, thermodynamics and equilibrium
    5. reaction mechanisms
    6. chemical synthesis
  2. Acquire detailed, in-depth knowledge from the traditional and emerging areas of chemistry and biochemistry and be able to integrate and apply these principles to solve complex scientific problems.
  3. Acquire laboratory skills necessary to answer questions of chemical relevance, including:
    1. Understanding and demonstrating safe and effective laboratory practices.
    2. Understanding the theory behind and being able to interpret data generated by a variety of chemical instruments.
    3. Interpreting experimentally-generated data to reach a sound conclusion.
    4. Designing an experiment to answer a scientific question.
  4. Connect the theory they learn in class with the experiments and procedures they perform in the lab.
  5. Be able to critically analyze chemistry-related claims and connect chemistry-related ideas to everyday and societal contexts.
  6. Develop effective quantitative reasoning skills.
  7. Effectively communicate scientific information in written and oral forms.
  8. Use primary literature to further their knowledge of advances in the fields of chemistry and biochemistry.
  9. Work both individually and collaboratively with peers to advance the skills outlined above.

Assessment.  Our main source of data at this level will come from assessment items at the course level.   Each course outcome will be linked to a specific program outcome, enabling us to aggregate and report data according to program outcome. Because we will be using these data to assess the impacts of our programs on our majors, we will only use data from upper-division courses that enroll students who are close to graduation.

In addition, an ad-hoc committee developed two exit surveys, one for graduates of the undergraduate programs, and the other for graduates of the M.S. program.  These surveys ask students to report their impressions of the quality of their academic program.  The surveys have been administered annually to all graduates earning a B.S., B.A. or M.S. in chemistry, starting in 2007.  We expect to identify trends or themes from these instruments that will inform the department about possible improvements.  Upon identification of such trends, members of the department may interview samples of students to learn more about the nature of the issues and possible improvements that can be made. 

VI.  Course outcomes
See appendix A for full set of course outcomes.  All faculty members are required to list the relevant course outcomes on the syllabi for the classes they teach each quarter.

Assessment.  Each quarter, faculty members will identify 1-3 questions on their final exams that directly correspond to each outcome for their course.  They will report average student performance on each of these questions to the assessment committee chair each quarter.  This process was piloted at the end of winter quarter 2010 with a few faculty volunteers. We plan to revisit this process in a department meeting during spring quarter 2010 and discuss what additional information (such as the text of the actual questions used for course outcome assessment) we might have to collect in order to make the data useful.

VII.  Use of assessment data
The department assessment committee will summarize the data in an annual internal departmental report. Faculty meetings will be devoted to identifying weaknesses revealed by the data at each assessment level.  The group will then determine 1-3 priorities for improvement based on those data and will begin to discuss:  a) possible improvements that can be made, and b) additional data that need to be collected to further illuminate the problem. In response to these discussions, the assessment committee will develop and implement a plan for making improvements and collecting additional data.



Department of Chemistry MS-9150
Western Washington University
516 High Street
Bellingham, WA 98225-9150
  Tel: (360)-650-3070
Fax:(360)-650-2826
chemdept@chem.wwu.edu