Program assessment

Anthropology Major Program Assessment Update for 2022

The WSU Anthropology Department aims to be a leader in making our field accessible, engaged, and relevant for our students. Each year we assess two of our undergraduate program's Learning Outcomes. This year we have focused on:

Engagement and Knowledge: Anthropology majors will apply knowledge, skills, and perspectives gained inside the classroom to the local and global community outside the classroom.

Teamwork: Anthropology majors will demonstrate their ability to engage in teamwork.

Significantly, after spending several years of focusing assessment efforts on our introductory level classes, in AY21-22 we have chosen to assess these Learning Outcomes at the other end of our undergraduate curriculum, the ANT5886 Capstone Seminar.

In order to better understand whether students are achieving these learning outcomes by the end of the program, we surveyed 17 anthropology students in Capstone (23 students were enrolled in the class in total, for a response rate of 74%). As is typically the case in Capstone courses, students were in their final years in the program, with 14 of 17 expecting graduate at some time in 2022.

Our results for each outcome are as follows:

Engagement and Knowledge: Anthropology majors will apply knowledge, skills, and perspectives gained inside the classroom to the local and global community outside the classroom.

We asked students if they felt anthropology could "serve as form a community engagement." 100% said Yes to this question. We then asked students to provide examples of what community engagement means to them. Here are some sample responses.

"Anthropology can serve as a form of community engagement through many of it's different fields. In Archaeology, they can work with the community to protect cultural sites and save historical buildings from being forgotten. Through museum studies, they are able to bring the findings of other anthropologists right to the community in a format understandable to the general public that engages them to learn more about important topics."

"Ethnographers can be a bridge between large institutions and people in the community."

"If you are conducting ethnography without engaging with the community you are focusing on, then you are not truly doing ethnographic work. Community engagement is a fundamental tenet of good ethnography, just by definition"

These responses are notable in that argue, implicitly or explicitly, that research is a form of engagement because it takes place in a community. Other responses focused the role of anthropologists as advocates or teachers:

"Now more than ever anthropology can play a role in how the public perceives different cultures. We have the unique training to educate and convey information from a place of neutrality and curiosity that can be beneficial during tumultuous times such as the ones in which we are currently living."

"Learning to understand and work with people outside of our cultural bubbles can help create a beautiful, equitable society for all."

"Anthropology can act as a mediator between science and communities. I am inspired by Dr. Killion's and other professor experiences, As the museum returns the remains to the families or nations. The anthropologist has a chance to bridge between the actors of the past who made poor choices, to the people who are receiving their loved ones back".

"Anthropologists can engage with the community by educating them about false narratives that lead to oppression. If more people were educated about what us anthropologists know, would there be as many issues in the world? We, as anthropologists, can especially engage with the community by community-based participation research."

While similar, this set of survey responses focus on the value that people with anthropological training can bring to the public as experts and educators. These responses show that students particularly value anthropological engagement in the context of the here and the now, that is, anthropology is viewed as particularly important and relevant in time of political and social turmoil related to the pandemic, protest movements, and war.

In sum, all students surveyed view anthropology as a form of engagement but students differ in how they define engagement. Some students view research practice itself as form of engagement because it takes place in a community context. Other students seek to apply anthropological knowledge to public debates, positing themselves as advocates and educators whose value to society stems from anthropological training.

Teamwork: Anthropology majors will demonstrate their ability to engage in teamwork.

We were also interested in how many team-based assignments students had been involved with during their undergraduate careers and we wanted to know more about how students perceived team-based assignments. In addition, we were curious if students believed that their own attitudes to teamwork changed over time. Here are the results of our study.

Out of 17 students surveyed, 3 had completed only 1 or 2 team-based assignments, while taking anthropology courses at Wayne State. 7 students reported completing 3-4 team-based assignments and 7 students completed 5 or more team based projects. The vast majority have students had done 3 or more team-based assignments while enrolled in anthropology classes.

We asked students to self-report their attitudes towards team based on assignment using a sliding Likert scale. It is notable that 6 out of 17 students "strongly disagreed" with the statement "When I started college, I enjoyed team-based assignments" and only 2 students "strongly agreed" with that statement.

When students reflected on their attitudes at the beginning the semester, most traced an improvement in their attitudes about team-based projects. 6 students reported that they strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement "At the beginning of this semester, I enjoyed team-based assignments." This suggests self-reported positive change in attitudes about team-based assignments during the students' time at Wayne State, up until the Capstone semester.

Student self-reported a further change in attitudes by the end of the Capstone semester. The largest proportion of students "somewhat agree" that they enjoy team-based assignments "at this point in the semester and overall, 9 of 17 students express a positive attitude to team-based assignments. However, the number of students expressing negative attitudes (7) also grows, with 4 reporting a "somewhat disagree" and 3 report a "strongly disagree." While there is slight tendency towards positive attitudes, results seem to grow more polarized at the end of the semester.

The survey suggests the anthropology majors report receiving an adequate number of team-based assignments to fulfill our learning outcome. It further suggests that student attitudes on team-based assignments seem to improve over the course of their undergraduate career. However, more short-term reflections about team-based assignments over the course of their final capstone semester are mixed. The polarization of attitudes might reflect the fact students are being surveyed while in the midst of completing major team-based assignment for capstone.

We extremely pleased with these results. To sustain this success, we will continue to make community engaged research projects a core a feature of the capstone curriculum. The Undergraduate Director and the Capstone instructor will work closely together to continue to ensure the LOs of Capstone stay aligned with those of the program to produce these results.