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Exemplary Example - Immunobiology

Overview: 

The Department of Immunobiology at the University of Arizona strives to educate top-level scientists who will address the challenges facing human health, understanding the microbial world and the balance between infection and disease. Immunobiology addresses fundamental problems in the host-pathogen interaction. The progression of medicine relies on an understanding of infectious agents and the immunological response to infection. In addition, there are many non-infectious diseases with an immunological basis, including autoimmune disease, allergy, and cancer. Our graduate program offers a highly interactive and interdisciplinary environment for the development of scientists ready to address complex biomedical problems.

Information regarding our faculty and their research can be found at the departmental website:http://immunobiology.arizona.edu

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

By completion of the Ph.D. program in Immunobiology, the student will:Learning outcomes are clearly written with good use of action verbs which makes them easier to measure.  The number of outcomes is within the recommended 3-5. The 5 benchmark activities that are well-aligned with the outcomes are very defined and clearly written, however it may be more appropriate to list them under assessment activities instead of student learning outcomes.  The process involvement includes all of the key scoring rubrics and surveys that align to outcomes.  Again, this section should be in activities section.  However, program Is commended for providing their complete and well-thought out assessment plan.

1.    Effectively communicate research design, significance, impact, results and interpretation in the form of written research proposals and publications.

2.    Effectively communicate scientific findings, significance and impact of research findings to general scientific audiences through oral presentation.

3.    Design, conduct, analyze and interpret original research on a significant biological problem in immunobiology, infection, or disease.

4.    Demonstrate depth and breadth of scientific knowledge and concepts in his/her specific field and to the more general foundations of biological research.

5.    Demonstrate integrity and ethics in conducting and reporting scientific research.

Program Activities:  The GPIMB Ph.D. requires a student to complete a written and oral comprehensive exam based upon coursework and the student’s proposal for research. The student will also defend the doctoral dissertation. The students are also evaluated annually through their seminar and annual review with GPIMB Director. The assessment activities existing to evaluate student performance have been designed to gather program level assessment data.

Benchmarks to Assess Achievement Towards Outcomes

The Graduate Program in Immunobiology has established five primary benchmarks in the education of students seeking their Ph.D.: Written Communication, Oral Communication, Scientific Research and Execution, Scientific Knowledge and Concepts, and Research Integrity and Ethics.  Clear, compelling, and concise written and oral communication is paramount for success in any career path in science (e.g., research, teaching, government, policy, etc). For this reason we work purposefully to develop both written and oral communication skills in coursework and annual activities coupled with specific evaluation and feedback. Further, we strive to help each student acquire a strong foundation in research where they design and execute properly controlled experiments to address scientific questions and analyze and interpret findings to make novel contributions to their chosen field. Similarly, scientific knowledge and concepts with the breadth and depth required to tackle complex and interdisciplinary problems is essential in the development of an independent scientist. The students’ ability to think critically and execute scientific inquiry grounded in the existing body of literature will be evaluated by their individual work products and committee meetings and examined during oral defenses of their work. We strive to promote a philosophical approach to science grounded in established ethical principles such that research endeavors are of the highest integrity. Achievement of each of the five benchmarks is detailed below:

Written communication: is evaluated as part of the annual advisor’s assessment and student’s self-assessment. The annual evaluation will be based on a number of individual writing assignments (including, but not limited to: written comprehensive exam, abstracts, research publications). Written communication will also be evaluated by the written comprehensive exam and the written dissertation. Individualized feedback and mentoring will be provided by the Major Advisor annually and by the Comprehensive Exam Committee and the Dissertation Committee at the time of the comprehensive exam and dissertation defense, respectively. Scientific publications are fundamental to communication of scientific progress and advancement. The expectation is that each student will have the equivalent to two first-author research publications submitted by the time of their dissertation defense. This may come in the form of one first-author or co-author first paper and multiple second-author papers. The progress towards this benchmark will be evaluated in annual meetings. This benchmark guided the development of learning outcome 1.

Oral Communication: Oral communication is specifically evaluated as part of the annual evaluation based on advisor and self-assessment. Students will be given written and oral evaluation after each annual seminar presentation as the primary method to help students attain the skills to present their scientific research findings and conclusions. Both the scientific and stylistic portions of the presentation are evaluated. Students will be specifically evaluated on their ability to communicate to a broad scientific audience as well as to a lay audience. In addition, oral communication skills will be evaluated committee meetings and the dissertation defense. This benchmark guided the development of learning outcome 2.

Scientific Research and Execution: The ability of students to develop and execute experimental plans to address novel scientific questions will be assessed annually by their advisor’s evaluation and their self-evaluation and during the presentation of their work in the annual seminar series and committee meetings. The written and oral portions of the comprehensive exam and final defense will also examine the ability of the student to employ multiple approaches to address scientific questions and interpret findings. This benchmark guided the development of learning outcome 3.

Scientific Knowledge and Concepts in Immunobiology: Specific knowledge of foundational principles in Immunobiology and related fields will be evaluated as part of the annua; advisor’s evaluation and the student’s self evaluation, written and oral comprehensive exam, committee meetings and in the dissertation. Scientific knowledge and concepts, includes but is not limited to a foundation in the scientific literature, an ability to independently design experiments and devise approaches to answer scientific questions, and an ability to conceptualize and contextualize their scientific findings in within the broader scientific field. This benchmark guided the development of learning outcome 4.

Research Integrity and Ethics: Students are required to take a course in scientific ethics and research integrity. Individualized assessment and feedback will be given to the student on their understanding and application of scientific and ethical principles as part of their annual review, committee meeting presentations/discussions and dissertation defense. This benchmark guided the development of learning outcome 5.

 

 

 

 

 

Assessment Activities

Benchmarks/Outcomes

1

2

3

4

5

Apply Written Communication

Apply Oral Communication

Design and Execute Scientific Research

Demonstrate Scientific Knowledge and Concepts in Imunobiology

Demonstrate Research Integrity and Ethics

Annual Student Self Review

x

x

x

x

x

Annual Student Review by Advisor

x

x

x

x

x

Seminar Presentation

 

x

x

 

 

Comprehensive Exam

x

 

x

x

 

Committee Meetings

 

x

x

x

x

Dissertation

x

x

x

x

x

Process Involvement: The GPIMB Director and the Graduate Student Faculty Advisor meet annually with each student in the program beginning in the summer at the end of the first year. In preparation for this meeting, students complete a self assessment (Appendix A) and their major faculty advisor completes an evaluation (Appendix B) to be discussed in the meeting with the GPIMB Director and Student Advisor. Further, the GPIMB faculty have been instructed in the use of this rubric and the evaluation forms to assess outcomes. The rubric in Appendix C is used to assess outcomes at the annual student seminar. The assessment is carried out and Appendix C rubric competed by the course director following the seminar and will include input from peer review of other students in the audience. The rubric in Appendix D is used to assess outcomes from the comprehensive exam, committee meetings, and the defense of the dissertation. These assessments will be completed by the Chair of each committee and will reflect the consensus of the examining committee. All rubrics were developed with input from and approved by the GPIMB faculty. The Program also recognizes the individualized nature of the graduate degree and will assist students in setting and reaching personal benchmarks to aid their attainment of specific career goals. These activities may include, but are not limited to teaching and mentoring.

Appendix A is an indirect assessment of all 5 student learning outcomes.  Appendix B, C, and D are direct measures of student learning outcomes. Appendix B assesses all 5 student learning outcomes. Appendix C assesses learning outcomes 2 and 3.  Appendix D assesses all 5 student learning outcomes depending on the format of the assessment activity (comprehensive exam, committee meeting, dissertation committee). See the above matrix to match Benchmarks with specific learning outcomes and assessment activities.

The data will be reviewed annually by the GPIMB Director and a summary presented to the faculty during a faculty meeting in the early summer. Data will be posted as Appendix E-2016. Previous assessment data can be found here: Appendix E-2015. Changes will be proposed and approved by the faculty in response to the findings.

Assessment Activities: 

The GPIMB has designed assessment activities to meet the five primary benchmarks. These assessments are designed to set a high standard for the Ph.D. degree and to achieve equality in identifying students who have met the standard for degree. Activities described in this section reinforce what is in outcomes session.  Note the maintenance of the alignment of activities with outcomes, and use of both direct and indirect measures.

Annual Student Self Review: Each student will meet annually with the GPIMB Director and Student Advisor to evaluate their goals and progress towards each benchmark/outcome. A student self-assessment (see Appendix A, items 17-21) serves as an indirect measure of achievement. The student self-assessment will be used with the Advisor’s direct assessment as the basis of discussion of goals and progress at this meeting.

Annual Student Review by Mentor: Each student will meet annually with the GPIMB Director and Student Advisor to evaluate their goals and progress towards each benchmark/outcome. An evaluation by each student’s major faculty advisor (see Appendix B) serves as a direct measure of learning outcomes. The Advisor’s evaluation will be used with the student’s self-assessment as the basis for discussion of goals and progress at this meeting.

Seminar: Students are required to give an annual one-hour seminar on their research projects. Immediately following each seminar, students will be evaluated by their peer group and the course director based on the scientific and delivery/presentation portions of the seminar. The seminar and evaluation process is designed to help develop oral presentation skills and communication of scientific principles, concepts, and research findings. See Appendix C Rubric (direct measure of learning outcomes).

Comprehensive Exam: As detailed in the Graduate Student Handbook the Comprehensive Examination is comprised of both written and oral examinations. The written portion is sumitted in March of the second year and the oral exam will occur in May of the second year. The student will be provided specific feedback on both portions. See Appendix D Rubric, items 6, 9, and 11 (direct measure of learning outcomes).

Committee Meetings: Students are required to form a dissertation committee, as described in the Graduate Student Handbook, and to schedule annual committee meetings. These meetings will assess students’ progress and their ability to communicate research findings and interpretations and how their work fits into the larger framework of the field. The student will be provided evaluation of their progress at these meetings. See Appendix D Rubric, items 7, 9, 11, 13 (direct measure of learning outcomes).

The Final Defense of Dissertation: As detailed in the Student Handbook, the Dissertation are comprised of both written and oral defense portions that will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the student’s written and oral communication, their ability to design and execute research and demonstrate scientific knowledge and concepts, in addition to the final assessment of their integrity and ethics.  See Appendix D Rubric, items 6-14 (direct measure of learning outcomes).

Assessment Findings: 

The Immunobiology Graduate Program Assessments for the 2015/2016 Academic year are reported below. Appendix E-2016 contains the data from assessment activities and the findings from assessment activities are discussed below. The data represent evaluation of 11 students.Good use of attachments to report out on data collected.  Again, alignment of findings with outcomes is maintained.  The explanation of faculty involvement in this assessment plan is noted

Learning outcome 1: Effectively communicate research design, significance, impact, results and interpretation in the form of written research proposals and publications.

Evaluation: The GPIMB attracts students of promise for the ability to communicate in written forms. However, this represents a major area to focus for training and improvement, as students are ranked by their mentors and themselves as needing the most improvement in this area. Based on Milestone assessments at comprehensive exams and dissertation defenses, the majority of students are meeting expectations with writing. This is an area that needs focused and continued improvement.

Learning outcome 2: Effectively communicate scientific findings, significance and impact of research findings to general scientific audiences through oral presentation.

Evaluation: The GPIMB attracts students of promise for the ability to communicate in oral presentations. Most students were found to communicate their scientific findings effectively, meeting expectations.

Learning outcome 3: Design, conduct, analyze and interpret original research on a significant biological problem in immunobiology, infection, or disease.

Evaluation: The GPIMB attracts students of promise with acceptable proficiency in designing, conducting, analyzing and interpreting research findings. Faculty mentors generally rank students as meeting or exceeding these expectations.

Learning outcome 4: Demonstrate depth and breadth of scientific knowledge and concepts in his/her specific field and to the more general foundations of biological research.

Evaluation: The GPIMB attracts students of promise with some knowledge of the field. Students generally meet or exceed expectations in this category. However, the breadth and depth of this knowledge should be further developed. Based on written faculty comments, students require a deeper foundation of knowledge in the areas of biochemistry, cell biology, genetics/molecular biology, and developmental biology.

Learning outcome 5: Demonstrate integrity and ethics in conducting and reporting scientific research.

Evaluation: Students received the highest rankings related to this learning outcome. Students consistently rank at or above meeting expectations in this category.

Change in Response to Findings: 

Learning outcome 1: Effectively communicate research design, significance, impact, results and interpretation in the form of written research proposals and publications.Changes in response to findings again well-aligned to outcomes.  Data should be updated with current information to maintain continuity and to evaluate whether implemented changes were effective.

Change/Response: Written communication skills are an area deemed to need improvement for the majority of students entering the program. In response to these ratings and poor performance on written comprehensive exams, we offer a Scientific writing course (IMB 521) to enhance students’ written communication. Students also receive enhanced guidance on the requirements for the written comprehensive exam and writing is being more formally incorporated into all IMB courses.

Learning outcome 2: Effectively communicate scientific findings, significance and impact of research findings to general scientific audiences through oral presentation.

Change/Response: The assessment of the student’s annual seminar has been revised to provide very detailed and specific feedback to students. Specific requirements for communication of research topic and significance/impact to society to a broad scientific or lay audience were incorporated into the seminar course in the Spring of 2015. This aspect will be evaluated on the Seminar evaluation form (Appendix C) and students will be given feedback. We have also formed, in conjunction with the Graduate Program of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, a student seminar series (separate from the Immunobiology Seminar Series where students presented up to this point). In this new seminar format, the student body in the audience has been increased by a factor of two. Students present a 30-minute formal presentation followed by a 30-minute chalk talk of future directions. This gives students practice in both formal presentation and thinking on their feet in a more informal way.

Learning outcome 3: Design, conduct, analyze and interpret original research on a significant biological problem in immunobiology, infection, or disease.

Change/Response: Student evaluation with respect to this learning objective following their annual seminar has been revised to include more specific feedback.

Learning outcome 4: Demonstrate depth and breadth of scientific knowledge and concepts in his/her specific field and to the more general foundations of biological research.

Change/Response: A new curriculum was approved by the IMB faculty in Spring 2015 and will be implemented with the Fall 2015 incoming students that includes a requirement for courses on fundamental biochemistry, genetics and cell biology. All students are required to take a course based on primary literature (journal club) each semester to improve their depth and breadth of knowledge.

Learning outcome 5: Demonstrate integrity and ethics in conducting and reporting scientific research.

Change/Response: None

Updated date: Mon, 09/26/2016 - 10:11