College of Social and Behavioral Sciences


Assessment for Students and Others


Teach, LEARN, Lead


Student Learning Outcomes Assessment for Anthropology students and their parents, employers, and graduate schools.

The Anthropology faculty are dedicated teachers committed to student learning.  Part of that commitment involves being campus leaders in assessment.  In 2019, the University of Northern Iowa received the Excellence in Assessment from NILOA.

Below are summaries of the annual assessment in the Anthropology program.  Each summary contains the outcome(s) being assessed, the sample of student work (artifact) used for assessment, the results of analysis, and how the Anthropology faculty used information from assessment to improve student learning.



Because of COVID-19, the university granted the Anthropology Unit a waiver and we did not conduct Student Learning Outcomes Assessment for the 2020-2021 academic year.



Outcome:  “Use a variety of library resources (print and electronic) to produce written documents and oral presentations for a variety of audiences.”

Artifact:  The artifact was a paper from our Native North America class.  The assignment required students to visit the library to consult the Handbook of North American Indians (print) and the eHRAF database of ethnographies (electronic).

Analysis:  Native North America, as a class in the Liberal Arts Core, enrolls many non-majors.  Of 54 papers, only three were from Anthropology majors.  There were two sophomores and one first-year student represented.  Two anonymous faculty reviewers scored these assignments an average score of 1.75 out of 4 (on a scale of 0-4, where 2 meets the program’s expectations for demonstrating student learning).  The issue identified in this small sample was the papers were written by students earlier in their academic career whereas the outcome should be met by graduating seniors.

Improvement:  In 2020, the Anthropology introduced a new class, “Practicing Anthropology.”  Designed for first-year and sophomore students, the class introduces students to careers in Anthropology and skills for success in the major, employment, and graduate school.  Part of the course has a focus on library and research skills which should improve student learning across the curriculum.



Outcomes:  Two outcomes were assessed:  1.  “Critically evaluate anthropological theories”  2.  “Critically apply anthropological theories in relation to empirical evidence.”

Artifacts:  The first outcome used responses on a written exam from our Psychological Anthropology course where students had a choice of two questions, one evaluating child development and the other examining cultural homogeneity, using anthropological theories of their choice.  The second outcome was assessed with essays written for the program’s Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft class in which students were asked to interpret their observations drawn from a film in the context of anthropological theory.

Analysis:  Both classes are intended for upper level Anthropology majors though each attracts students from other majors such as Psychology and World Religions.  When considering the first outcome and the written exams, the faculty felt the first question would be more appropriately evaluated under a different outcome.  So, assessment focused on the second question and scoring 10 artifacts demonstrated that Anthropology students met or exceeded faculty expectations with an average score of 2.43 (on a scale of 0-4, where 2 meets the program’s expectations for demonstrating student learning).  Using eight papers from the Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft class to look at the second outcome produced similar results with an average score of 2.4 (on a scale of 0-4, where 2 meets the program’s expectations for demonstrating student learning).

Improvement:  Even though students met or exceeded expectations, the Anthropology faculty identified two areas to improve student learning.  Looking at the entire list of outcomes it became clear that two outcomes (Outcomes 1.3 and 3.3) were very similar, with one asking to apply theory to data and the other asking to interpret or analyze data (which would be hard to do without theory).  As a result, the Anthropology faculty will reevaluate their learning outcomes.  Along those same lines, the Anthropology faculty will undertake a major revision to the curriculum, one that will more closely align course offerings with student learning outcomes.



Outcomes:  Three outcomes were assessed:  1. “Collect appropriate data in a research project” 2. “Organize and catalogue data” 3. “Analyze and interpret data.”

Artifact:  The artifact was a paper from a Forensic Anthropology class in which students collect data from a human skeleton and use that information to tentatively identify trauma, cause of death, age, sex, and ancestry of the deceased.  The artifact is a mock report similar to what would be submitted to law enforcement.

Analysis:  The class had 12 Anthropology majors and 10 non-majors.  Complicating evaluation of student learning is that it was a group assignment so that each paper represented the combined work of several different students (in other words, individual effort could not be isolated).  Each group, though, had at least one Anthropology major in it.  When the first outcome—data collection—was evaluated artifacts received a score of 2.875 (on a scale of 0-4, where 2 meets the program’s expectations for demonstrating student learning).  The second outcome, organizing data, saw even better results with an average score of 3 and the third outcome (analysis and interpretation) received an average score of 2.25.  For all three outcomes, students met expectations for student learning.

Improvement:  Though students met expectations for student learning, review of the artifacts revealed that since the assignment involved an identification activity, the papers were primarily descriptive.  There was no hypothesis testing or no use of Anthropological theory to provide context for the paper.  Consequently, the Anthropology faculty engaged in an effort to better include more theory in student research across the curriculum and this was done in classes like Archaeology of the New World.



Outcomes:  Three outcomes were assessed:  1. “Collect appropriate data in a research project” 2. “Organize and catalogue data” 3. “Analyze and interpret data.”

Artifact:  Papers were provided from our Language and Culture class.  The assignment was a transcript analysis where students make audio recordings, transcribe them, and analyze the data.

Analysis:  A total of 17 papers were assessed, ten of which represented the work of Anthropology majors.  When evaluated the students met the first outcome (data collection) with an average score of 2.13 (on a scale of 0-4, where 2 meets the program’s expectations for demonstrating student learning).  Similar results were produced for the second outcome (organizing data) with an average of 2.25 and the third outcome (analysis or interpretation of data) with an average score of 2.35.

Improvement:  The process of evaluating artifacts revealed that students met expectations.  In reviewing the artifacts there was a great variation in the second outcome—the organization of data.  The assignment did not specify how to present data so student work ranged from having little data at all to some papers with charts, tables, or lengthy and detailed transcripts.  As a consequence, the Anthropology faculty determined to include more discussion on the presentation and organization of data across the curriculum.  This was done in classes like Interpreting the Archaeological Record.