B.A. Natural Science – Written Communication (2013-2014)

Have formal Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) or Student Learning Outcomes (SLOS) been developed?

YES, “Goals for Student Learning in the Major”

Published where? (website)

Natural Science Webpage

Do PLOs include or imply link to Core Competency? (AY 2013-2014: Written Communication)?

Written communication is not specifically addressed in the PLOs.

Process of Core Competency Assessment:

Course (400- level)

Natural science majors specialize in one of seven science sub-specialties, which means that different seniors are taking different classes. We contacted graduating seniors (in November for fall candidates and April for spring candidates) requesting a writing product such as a research paper from any upper division class taken during their senior year. Submitted papers were evaluated against the standard GE writing rubric.



Type of Student Artifact


Rubric or other instrument


Data (measurement of the competency)

The response rate to the request for writing samples was 20%. One senior (out of five polled) submitted two writing products: a term paper from a non-science class and an essay from a non-science class. The term paper was rated 3.88 (on 1-4 scale, average of two reviewers) and the essay was rated 2.38. The average score for “organization” (2.75) was lower than that for reasoning, content, and prose (3.25).

The Department’s interprets results as follows:

1) Voluntary submission of writing products is not a viable means of collecting statistically representative samples for evaluation.
2) The quality of student writing varies with the nature of the assignment. For example, a paper that has undergone revision following feedback will be better written than a low-stakes assignment.
3) It is not possible to evaluate writing competence unless writing samples are standardized in the sense that all samples are drawn from the same high-stakes assignment in a single class.

Based on qualitative feedback from one students, the department notes that only a few of the courses taken by Natural Science majors include science-oriented writing. The planned phase-out of Eng 225 (scientific and technical writing) removes one option for teaching the conventions of scientific writing.

Action Taken in Response to the Data (What will you do in response to the Findings?)

For this particular major, two courses of action suggest themselves. The first is to replace the existing capstone course (which emphasizes oral communication and is offered on a rotating basis by three departments and serves five majors) with a new capstone course (designed for the natural science major) that includes written communication about contemporary science issues. Unfortunately this would be a low-enrollment course and would require resources that presumably are not available.

Development of an upper division scientific writing course would be beneficial to majors, but again, the resource limitations are problematic. (Students in the natural science major already take too many lower-division courses so an upper division course would be preferable.)

Date of Last Program Review

It appears that Interdisciplinary programs do not undergo review.