Assessing Critical Thinking and Information Literacy at WSU: AY 2012-13 Roots of Contemporary Issues [ROOT] Pilot Final Papers Assessment Project

With WSU’s new General Education program (UCORE) inaugurated in 2012-13, the Roots of Contemporary Issues Final Papers Assessment Project was piloted for the first time, to provide [ROOT] faculty with information for program improvement, as well as assess student learning on two of the WSU Learning Goals (Critical & Creative Thinking and Information Literacy). Reported in the AY 2012-13 [ROOT] Pilot Final Papers Assessment Summary of Key Evidence for UCORE (PDF), pilot results indicated that the average student taking History 105 performed at a “Developing First Year-Level” or higher for all eight of the elements evaluated to assess Critical & Creative Thinking and Information Literacy

Roots of Contemporary Issues [ROOT] courses are foundational first-year experience courses for UCORE. The courses introduce students to five of the seven university learning goals (Critical & Creative Thinking, Information Literacy, Communication, Diversity, and Depth, Breadth & Integration of Learning) by asking students to understand the historical and global roots of various issues facing the world today. Paralleling a series of in-class lessons and assignments, students work over the course of the semester to identify the historical and global roots of a contemporary issue facing the world of interest to them. The final independent research assignment asks students to use the critical thinking and information literacy skills they have developed throughout the class. A series of four integrative assignments, called the Library Research Assignments, build up over the semester to help students identify a topic, find and assess primary and secondary sources relevant to a better understanding of the topic, develop a research question and craft a thesis, learn appropriate citation standards for university writing, and compose a well-crafted final research essay.

The [ROOT] Steering Committee and faculty, in collaboration with the WSU Libraries, developed a rubric that aligned with course expectations and the Critical & Creative Thinking and Information Literacy WSU Learning Goals. This rubric asked whether in these final papers students:

  1. constructed a thesis that articulated a historical argument,
  2. selected and evaluated multiple primary and secondary sources appropriate to a research paper,
  3. critically evaluated the nature of those sources,
  4. used those sources in a way that suggests that they understood the relationship between the nature of the source and the kinds of conclusions they could draw from it,
  5. identified the historical roots of their contemporary issue,
  6. used evidence necessary to construct an argument,
  7. produced a complete and properly-cited bibliography and
  8. used a citation system.

For additional information, see Roots of Contemporary Issues [ROOT] Assessment.