Department Assessment


The Department of English Assessment Plan was adopted by the department in 1994 and has been refined and updated continuously since.  The Department of English adopted six goals in 1994 (adapted from goals established by the Association of Departments of English) and has since routinely collected data relevant to those goals.  Assessment procedures in the Department of English include a rigorous capstone course (ENG 490: Portfolio) in which students compile portfolios that are reviewed and scored by faculty members.  Additionally, the department conducts exit interviews of ENG 490 (Portfolio) students.  The data collected from these sources is used to make various adjustments to department procedures and to the curriculum.

The department has developed six common goals for all major programs, each with a distinctive mission.  A critical element of the assessment process is to evaluate the students’ ability to respond to board, common goals for all programs and to articulate the ways in which students’ individual program and academic experience have shaped students’ understanding of that goal as it relates to the specific mission and requirements of the program; this process places responsibility on the students to critically evaluate and explain their understanding of the goal and how they have met it.  While the department recognizes the general institutional requirement that each program articulate distinctive goals for each program, the English Department values the process it has followed for nearly fifteen years (maintaining common goals for all programs) because it has been shown to be an effective way to reinforce and assess the critical thinking, reading, and writing skills central to the mission of the department.
Revised Fall Semester, 2010
Graduates of WSU programs offered by the English Department should …

  1. Know and practice several approaches to scholarship in their discipline.  They should be conversant in scholarly terminology, be acquainted with the premises and arguments of various theoretical approaches, and be familiar with the issues connected to choosing one approach over another.  Approaches may include literary theory or linguistic theory.
  2. Have an understanding of literary history or the historical evolution of rhetoric and linguistics.  They should have experience situating works in historical contexts, be able to distinguish between periods, and be aware of difficulties in establishing such distinctions.  Work in this area could include historical development of the discipline or development of forms, genres, or pedagogies.
  3. Have an understanding of language and discourse.  Avenues to such knowledge include study in the history of the language, formal grammar, rhetoric, poetics, and linguistics.
  4. Have a diversity of reading experiences.  Their reading should include texts written by authors representing the broad range of cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities that have shaped the English language.  They should also have experience reading critical texts, expository prose, and the writing of their fellow students.
  5. Practice writing in several modes and for different audiences and purposes.  They should gain an awareness of the social and critical implications these shifts raise, and classroom practice should bring teachers and students to experience writing, reading, listening, and speaking as integrated, mutually supporting exercises.
  6. Understand how their education translates into lives and careers outside the classroom. An ultimate aim of these programs should be to develop well-rounded human beings with intellectual interests in a wide variety of ideas and ways of life, not only in literature and language but also in social and ethical issues important to citizens of a changing world and democratic society. 

The current assessment process includes the following:
  1. The Department requires a capstone portfolio of all graduating majors in their last semester of residency.  The portfolio is completed in English 490, Portfolio, a required one-credit, graded course in all department majors.  The portfolio requirement is introduced to Literature & Language, Writing Option, and CALT majors in English 290, Literary Studies, to ESLT and Applied Linguistics majors in English 350, Introduction to Language Study; the portfolio is further reinforced by academic advisors and course professors.  The portfolios include an introductory critical self-assessment, course papers, and other evidence of student accomplishment.  Full details of the portfolio requirement are listed in the section following.
  2. At the end of each semester, department members review all senior portfolios and score them using a rubric; each portfolio is scored by two department members and a third member, if the scores are inconsistent.  Six of the ten items ask raters to score the portfolio against a department goal: the rater evaluates the ability of the student to articulate and demonstrate how the department goal has been acquired, especially in relation to the specific mission and requirements of the student’s particular major; the other four items represent additional relevant elements of the portfolio process (i.e. writing ability). Each item is followed by the cumulative score, on a five-point Lykert scale (1.0 = poor, 2.0 = fair, 3.0 + adequate, 4.0 = convincing, 5.0 = superior). 
  3. The portfolio scores are accumulated each semester and then combined at the end of each year; the composite score for all sections of English 490 are entered yearly in the department maintained database for portfolio scores. 
  4. At the end of each semester, class members are interviewed and an Exit Interview Report is generated by the external interviewer and then added to the department’s repository of Exit Interview Reports.
  5. The Assessment Committee is charged with reviewing the assessment data periodically and bringing suggestions for revision or reforms to the department.
Assessment efforts to date reveal demonstrable accomplishment of all of the department’s goals; at the same time, evidence has pointed to areas for improvement.  Based on evidence provided by departmental assessment data, the Department has periodically undertaken curricular reforms, pedagogical initiatives, and procedural revisions intended to address areas of concern.
The Department of English recognizes the following guidelines for assessment as approved by Winona State University in 1989:
  • The purpose of the academic assessment program is to support and improve student learning.
  • The faculty will create assessment appropriate to their specific programs. 
  • Student assessment will not be used as entrance or exit requirements from academic programs. 
  • Quality assessment results are for the exclusive use of WSU. 
  • Academic assessment data will not be used to make comparisons among faculty, departments, or colleges.
  • Assessment data will not be used for faculty or staff evaluation and will not be used in making retention, tenure, and promotion recommendations or decisions by supervisors or administrators. Individuals may choose to use assessment data compiled from their own classes or services for documentation purposes. 
  • The faculty will receive assistance and financial support to implement their assessment programs. 
  • Quality improvement is a long-range process.
The English Department maintains the following documents related to assessment.  All of these documents are available from the department (
  • WSU English Department Assessment Plan:  This document includes complete information about how the English Department assesses its programs.
  • Data:  The English Department has been collecting the following data since 1999:
    • Portfolio Scores:  Portfolio scores are tabulated each year and maintained in a spreadsheet.
    • Exit Interview Reports:  All of the Exit Interview Reports, which are submitted at the end of each semester, are included in this document.
  • Responding to the Assessment Process:  This is a document that traces all of the ways that the department has responded to the assessment data.  This includes revisions made to department procedures and policies and to the curriculum.
  • ENG 490 Course Information:  Information and documents used in this course are provided in the ENG 490 on the Course webpage.