Spring, 2004





The primary mission of the UM Philosophy Department is to contribute to a sound liberal education of undergraduate students through the provision of general course work and a focused major curriculum in the great tradition of Western philosophy.  Though it must include these goals, philosophical education involves far more than imparting information about figures and developments in the history of philosophy and providing instruction in the latest techniques of approach and most defensible answers to philosophical questions.  Still more important is the cultivation of students' analytical, critical, interpretive, and evaluative abilities in thinking about a variety of kinds of problems and issues, both "philosophical" and commonplace. 


In addition to its goals for undergraduate education, the Department aims to provide Master's-level education in traditional Western philosophy and in the teaching of ethics, as well as to contribute to the ongoing development of philosophy and its application to the issues of our day.



Steps in the Assessment Process


1. Student Learning Goals


To develop an understanding of the major issues and positions in the history of Western philosophy.


To develop the fundamental skills of critical thinking: the capacities to recognize issues, to recognize and to frame arguments, to analyze concepts, to expose assumptions, to recognize and to reason about value questions, to evaluate the significance of evidence, to recognize the differences and the shared ground in competing views, and to synthesize diverse elements into a complex whole.


To develop a reflectively-grounded understanding of the bases of personal and social values.


To develop capacities for the effective expression and communication, both oral and written, of complex ideas and analyses.


To develop an appreciation of the diversity of thought, an openness to new ideas, and a capacity to work with uncertainties.

2. Measurement of Goals


Success in meeting goals is measured by: (1) annual review of portfolios of the written work of our majors; (2) comparisons of entry-level and senior-level performances on the Watson-Glaser test of critical thinking skills.  We are also beginning senior exit interviews; while not content or skill examinations, these interviews should provide additional insight into student perceptions of our strengths and weaknesses.


3. Modifications based on Assessment


We have changed our major requirements, adding a beginning course that focuses on basic skills and a small-enrollment and writing-intensive introduction to ethics that replaces for our majors the large, introductory ethics classes that serve general education.  These changes reflect our assessment that our majors need more writing- and reading-intensive, individualized instruction in the basics of philosophical analysis at a relatively early stage of their educations in philosophy.