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Philosophy: Undergraduate Programs

Overview: 

   An undergraduate philosophy major will learn formally to analyze and assess arguments by critically engaging and understanding the writings of philosophers throughout the history of the western tradition.  Topics and issues covered within the curriculum will fall within the primary areas of philosophy including:

•    Metaphysics
•    Epistemology
•    Ethics
•    Political Philosophy
•    The Philosophy of Science
•    The Philosophy of Language
•    The Philosophy of Law
•    Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics
•    The Philosophy of Mind
•    The History of Philosophy

   Under the direction of the faculty, students will develop their own carefully considered views regarding various issues covered in their studies. Students will learn objectively to grapple with challenging works from both the past and present, while developing a deep appreciation of the historical or contemporary contexts within which philosophical themes arise. As students master the art of critical reading and writing, they will engage prominent authors in philosophical conversation while striving fully to comprehend the relevant issues in relation to their own lives. Throughout their philosophical education, students will aim to broaden their conceptual perspectives by developing a rational, well informed tolerance for a wide range of philosophical ideas based on precise, analytical reasoning.
 

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

Our undergraduate philosophy major has three main goals for its students: excellence in philosophical writing, analysis, and critical thinking.  Our three learning outcomes mirror those goals.  They are:

  • Learning Outcome 1:  write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.
  • Learning Outcome 2:  analyze a philosophical text
  • Learning Outcome 3: demonstrate critical thinking.

The major is composed of a core requirement in formal logic and the analytic method. The curriculum is divided into four distribution areas:

•    Ethics and Value Theory
•    Metaphysics and Epistemology
•    Logic and Language
•    The History of Philosophy

Specific learning outcomes and assessments are unique to these four distribution areas. Follow the links above to descriptions of the objectives within these areas and examples of the associated learning outcomes and assessments.
 

Writing Emphasis in Philosophy
In many philosophy courses developing expert writing skills is a key learning objective. The analytic tradition in philosophy relies on rigorous and precise argumentation to advance knowledge. For this reason, many of the tools used in measuring learning outcomes employ written assignments as part of the assessment process. Objective evaluation of these written assessments is ensured through the use of rubrics. For an example of a typical rubric used in a lower division philosophy general education course, click here.

Assessment Activities: 

Undergraduate learning outcomes assessment

Learning outcomes
Our undergraduate program has three main goals for its students:  excellence in philosophical writing, analysis, and critical thinking.  Our three learning outcomes mirror those goals.  They are:  
•    Learning Outcome 1:  write a clear, logical, and mechanically sound philosophy paper.  
•    Learning Outcome 2:  analyze a philosophical text.  
•    Learning Outcome 3:  demonstrate critical thinking.

Learning Outcome 1:  write a sound philosophy paper

There are two measures for Outcome 1:  direct and indirect.

The direct measure assessment activity for 1 — writing a clear, logical, mechanically sound philosophy paper — consists of evaluations of papers that are supposed to argue for a philosophical thesis.  The evaluation committee assesses papers written by Philosophy majors in lower-level Philosophy classes and in upper-level courses.  The goal is to determine how much improvement students have made between one of their first Philosophy classes and one of their last.  Evaluation consists of three elements.  Each element is scored 1-3, for a maximum total of 9 points.
Element A:  Thesis
3:  The thesis is clear and philosophically cogent.
2:  The thesis is vague or ill-conceived.
1:  There is no clear thesis.
Element B:  Argumentation
3:  There are clear explications of arguments in favor of the thesis and of arguments opposed to the thesis.
2:  There are statements of reasons for and against the thesis, but the arguments for those reasons are vague or minimal.
1:  There is no clear articulation of any supporting reasons.
Element C:  Mechanics
3:  The writing is clear, succinct, and grammatically correct throughout.
2:  The writing is comprehensible but it is occasionally awkward, wordy, or ungrammatical.
1:  The writing contains so many infelicities and errors that it significantly impedes understanding.

The indirect measure of Outcome 1 is a question on the exit interview of Philosophy majors, asking them for their own assessment of “the development of my writing skills.”  These answers were on a 5-point scale:  1-strong disagree, 2-disagree, 3-uncertain, 4-agree, 5-strongly agree.

Learning Outcome 2:  analyze a philosophical text

There are two measures for Outcome 2:  direct and indirect.

The direct measure assessment activity for 2 — analyzing a philosophical text — consists of evaluations of papers that are supposed to analyze a philosophical text (whether historical or contemporary).  The evaluation committee assesses papers written by Philosophy majors in lower-level classes and in an upper-level classes.  Evaluation consists of two elements.  Both elements will be scored 1-3, for a maximum total of 6 points.
Element A: Understanding a central claim
3:  There is a clear and accurate statement of a central claim in the text.
2:  The statement of the text’s central claim is somewhat vague or not completely accurate.
1:  There is no clear statement of the text’s central claim or the statement is completely inaccurate.
Element B:  Understanding of argumentation
3:  There are clear statements of the reasons and arguments the author of the text gives for his/her central claim.
2:  There are statements of the author of the text’s reasons and arguments, but they are incomplete, unclear, or inaccurate.
1:  There is no evidence of understanding of the author of the text’s reasons for advancing his/her central claim.

The indirect measure of Outcome 2 is a question on the exit interview of Philosophy majors, asking them for their own assessment of “the development of my skills in analyzing texts.”  These answers were on a 5-point scale:  1-strong disagree, 2-disagree, 3-uncertain, 4-agree, 5-strongly agree.

Learning Outcome 3:  demonstrate critical thinking

There are two measures for Outcome 3:  direct and indirect.

The direct measure assessment activity for 3 — demonstrating critical thinking — consists of a test in critical thinking.  The test is administered to students in introductory philosophy classes and to students in an upper-level philosophy classes.

The indirect measure of Outcome 3 is a question on the exit interview of Philosophy majors, asking them for their own assessment of “the development of my analytic and problem-solving skills.”  These answers were on a 5-point scale:  1-strong disagree, 2-disagree, 3-uncertain, 4-agree, 5-strongly agree.
 

 

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There is, it should be emphasized, ongoing assessment of students, courses, and teaching methods conducted in the usual way. Students are variously assessed through examinations, written assignments, and class participation. Such assessment, because of the detailed, specific, and continuous feedback provided also informs instructors regarding their success in achieving their learning objectives.

   Beyond the above, the Philosophy Department’s overall assessment of its curricular programs is also informed by the continuing work of Department’s Curriculum Committee, the activities of the Director of Undergraduate Studies and annual exit interviews with graduating seniors conducted by the Undergraduate Advisor.

   The Undergraduate Advisor keeps a file for every philosophy major, onward from when the student declares a major in philosophy. The file contains notes regarding each of the meetings the student has with the advisor. When the student meets with the advisor for “Senior Check,” he or she is asked to

1.    Submit a writing sample that, in the opinion of the student, represents his or her best piece of philosophical work then to date
2.    Complete a standard questionnaire concerning his or her experience as a philosophy major.

   The writing samples are scored according to a rubric designed by the Undergraduate Advisor to assess the extent to which graduating philosophy majors have mastered the knowledge and skills represented in the learning objectives set by the Department for its majors. The findings that emerge from the application of the rubric to the writing samples are conveyed to the Head and the Department Curriculum Committee to inform ongoing adjustments to the curriculum.

   The questionnaire is periodically revised by the Undergraduate Advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies and approved by the Head or confirmed by the faculty. The primary goal of the questionnaire is to assess the extent to which graduating philosophy majors perceive themselves as having mastered the learning objectives for students of philosophy. A secondary goal of the questionnaire is to assess student satisfaction with the major and with the methods of assessment used by the department.

Strategy for responding to any student outcome deficiencies found through assessment efforts:
The Undergraduate Advisor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, with the cooperation of the Curriculum Committee, present an annual report to the Department and Head. The report is based largely on the contents of the files of graduating philosophy majors, including their exit questionnaires, and addresses the extent to which philosophy majors are mastering the kinds of knowledge and skills that the faculty aim to impart in their various courses.

The annual report triggers an annual opportunity to charge the Curriculum Committee or Director of Undergraduate Studies with either revising the assessment methods as may be required or devising strategies for improving learning, teaching, and the curriculum.

Ongoing use of assessment results to improve assessment, learning, teaching, and the curriculum:
The Department has revised its curriculum and practices as follows as a result of its ongoing assessment of its undergraduate programs

1.    Improvement in procedures for training and assessing GTAs
2.    Creation of numerous new courses to reflect student demand and ongoing developments in philosophy
3.    Collaboration with the Honors College to provide appropriate opportunities for Honors College students
4.    Establishment of the new interdisciplinary major and program for Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law
5.    Establishment of the new Ethics Track towards the major in Philosophy to complement the Standard Track towards the major
6.    Creation of the faculty position of Director of Undergraduate Studies
7.    Establishment of the full time position of Undergraduate Advisor held by a full time faculty member
8.    Creation of the Accelerated Master’s of Philosophy Program for qualified University of Arizona undergraduate philosophy majors with aspirations for advanced study
9.    Establishment of an extensive online curriculum.

Findings
Exit surveys of philosophy majors over the past three years indicate that the majority of students “strongly agreed,” (i.e. assigned the highest score to the idea) that the major gave them breadth of knowledge of philosophy, depth in at least one area, provided a solid liberal education, aided their efforts in developing writing, communication, analytical problem-solving skills, and contributed to their ability to accept and utilize constructive criticism. In addition, the majority of students “strongly agreed” that the faculty is approachable and teaches well.

Exit Questionnaire

Assessment Findings: 

 

 

 

 

Outcome

Mean for Introductory Students

Mean for Advanced Philosophy Majors

t

p

 

Writing Ability

 

5.3

 

7.5

 

5.78

 

<.001

 

Outcome 1:  Indirect Assessment

 

Self-assessment of whether the Philosophy major has improved “the development of my writing skills”

 

On the following scale:  1-strong;y disagree, 2-disagree, 3-uncertain, 4-agree, 5-strongly agree

 

Average:  4.64

Modal response:  strongly agree (65 out of 96)

 

 

 

 

Outcome 2:  Indirect Assessment

 

Self-assessment of whether the Philosophy major has improved “the development of my ability to analyze a text”

 

On the following scale:  1-strong;y disagree, 2-disagree, 3-uncertain, 4-agree, 5-strongly agree

 

Average:

Modal response:

 

 

 

 

Outcome

Mean for Introductory Students

Mean for Advanced Philosophy Majors

t

p

Performance and Critical Thinking Exam

 

 

5.83

 

 

6.91

 

 

2.3

 

 

.02

 

Outcome 3:  Indirect Assessment

 

Self-assessment of whether the Philosophy major has improved “the development of my analytic and problem-solving skills”

 

On the following scale:  1-strong;y disagree, 2-disagree, 3-uncertain, 4-agree, 5-strongly agree

 

Average:  4.64

Modal response:  strongly agree (65 out of 96)

Updated date: Thu, 11/17/2016 - 16:09