Undergraduate Program Assessment Plan

Student Assessment

1. Student Content-Learning Evaluation

Starting in the 2017-2018 academic year, the Department of Geology is implementing a direct assessment of geoscience-content learning with our undergraduate majors.  This pre- and post-program quiz partly utilizes questions from the community-based Geosciences Concept Inventory and from the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) practice exam, but it is modified with additional questions tailored to meet our program's learning objectives.  However, this instrument cannot capture some of the field- and lab-oriented, skill-based learning objectives in our curriculum. In particular our Geoscience Learning Objectives, #17 through #21 must be assessed with coursework, such as in our GEO 5200 Field Camp capstone course.  Contact the Department Head for more information on this assessment instrument.

2. Student Performance in Courses

The following graphic illustrates how our twenty-one geoscience learning objectives map to the core geology courses where those concepts and skills are taught.  Assessment of student learning is evaluated partly through the graded exercises, labs, and exam questions in these courses.

The required courses and contributions

Assessment of Earth Science Composite Teaching (Esct) Major Learning Objectives

Assessment of the majority of ESCT Learning Objectives follows the same methodology as the Geology major Learning Objectives with the exceptions noted under Learning Objectives. ESCT majors must also demonstrate competency in the most effective science teaching methods. Assessment tools for evaluating competency in pedagogy include:

  1. Successful completion of the Secondary Teaching Education Program (STEP) coursework in pedagogy and teaching methods.
  2. Preparation of a professional teaching portfolio.
  3. Successful completion of the Secondary Teaching Education Program (STEP) clinical experiences, including student teaching.
  4. Evaluation by performance surveys of first year teachers.
  5. Demonstrate mastery of content knowledge by passing the ETS PRAXIS exam prior to their student teaching experience.

STEP Program: All teaching majors at USU receive their coursework, clinical experiences and student teaching experience in the Secondary Teaching Education Program (STEP) of the College of Education and Human Services. The performances that are assessed by the STEP are derived from the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) standards which include:

  1. Content Pedagogy
  2. Student Development
  3. Diverse Learners
  4. Multiple Instructional Strategies
  5. Motivation and Management
  6. Communication and Technology
  7. Planning
  8. Assessment
  9. Reflective Practice: Professional Growth
  10. School and Community Involvement

Four assessments were developed from the conceptual framework of the INTASC standards. These are as follows: 


Students who enter the secondary education program begin developing a professional portfolio which is an integral tool in the assessment of their professional performance as a teacher. Students select materials from the professional education courses, courses in their major/minor, clinical experiences, as well as other experiences they have had working with children to demonstrate successful performance of knowledge, skills, and attitudes reflected in the 10 standards of teaching in the conceptual framework. In every secondary education course, the relationship between course work, the conceptual framework, and the portfolio is explained. Students are taught how to analyze the materials they select and how to write a rationale explaining why the artifact fits the standard(s) indicated by the student. Students must complete the portfolio before entering student teaching. The reviews of the portfolios by a committee of TEAL faculty allow faculty to identify areas of the program which are successfully preparing students to perform as teachers.

Student Teaching Performance Report (STPR):

The Student Teaching Performance Report (STPR) uses the same INTASC standards as the professional portfolio. The form identities tasks for each principle that delineates the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that constitutes successful performance. The evaluation form is completed jointly by the student teacher, cooperating teacher, and university supervisor as a summative evaluation of that student’s performance. The level of performance is indicated by placing a mark on a line which represents a continuum from successful completion of the task to unsuccessful performance.

Performance Surveys of First Year Teachers:

While the previous three sources of data are compiled as students complete the secondary education program, the performance surveys of first year teachers are designed to gather data about the students’ performance after the first year of teaching. Surveys are sent to the graduates of the secondary education program and their principals at the end of their first year of teaching. The surveys provide data as to how well beginning teachers perform in relation to the ten standards that make up the secondary education program. Information obtained from the surveys provides information for the evaluation of the secondary education program.

PRAXIS Content Knowledge Exams:

Prior to student teaching all teaching majors must meet a State of Utah mandated passing score in the ETS PRAXIS exam in their content area. For the Earth Science Composite Teaching majors that exam is Earth and Space Sciences: Content Knowledge (5571).  The content categories for the exam include:

  1. Basic Principles and Processes (12%)
  2. Tectonics and Internal Earth Processes (17%)
  3. Earth Materials and Surface Processes (23%)
  4. History of the Earth and its Life-Forms (14%)
  5. Earth’s Atmosphere and Hydrosphere (19%)
  6. Astronomy (15%)

A score of 153 is required to successfully pass the PRAXIS Content Knowledge Exam.

Program Assessment

1. Student Evaluations of Courses and Instructors

The standardized USU course evaluation form is conducted in all courses taught by Geology faculty to allow students to evaluate both the course and the instructor.

2. Survey of Graduating Seniors

In the past, the department hosted a "feed and feedback" reception for graduating students. Now, we rely on the fact that the College of Science conducts an online exit survey of all majors from each department in the college. In addition, every student applying for graduation in the College of Science is given a questionnaire to complete. These collectively provide information on general student satisfaction with the degree program, courses, faculty and facilities. This information is collected anonymously and then returned to the department in the summer following graduation.

3. Self Study and External Review

The Department of Geology periodically conducts a Regents-mandated self study and external review. The self study allows the faculty to reassess the program and its direction as well as its goals and objectives. The recommendations made by the external review team are used to modify and improve the program.

4. Advisory Board

In April 2003, the Department of Geology formed an advisory board that meets annually to provide input and advice on the evolution and strategic directions of the department. The advisory board consists of members drawn from a variety of professional backgrounds, largely alumni of the department, and non-alumni who have an interest in the department’s direction.