What are your feelings about teaching online courses? Has your department instituted them? If so, why?
What are your feelings about teaching online courses? Has your department instituted them? If so, why?
Since 1997, the Research Department of the American Sociological Association has conducted a census of U.S. academic sociology departments. The survey instrument has been designed to meet the information needs of those sociology departments, including demographic data about faculty, and types of courses offered. In June 2012, we launched our 2012 department survey and expect to complete the data collection process soon.
For those of you who already have completed the 2012 survey, we in the Research Department wish to know:
What aspects or sections of the survey were most challenging or time consuming for you to complete? Were there certain types of information that you were not able to obtain or obtain in their entirety?
Please use this blog as a forum for discussing your experiences with taking this survey. Your thoughts will be extraordinarily helpful when we interpret the survey results and when design our next census of academic sociology departments in the United States.
According to the most recent academic Department Survey, more than eight out of 10 sociology departments carry out departmental assessments that are often demanded by college or university administrators. Faculty members have mixed feelings about doing such assessments, especially when they are ordered from the top down.
The ASA Research Department on the Discipline and the Profession has just added a new PowerPoint presentation—Program Assessment with Benchmarks: Using Data from the ASA—to our collection of free downloads. The presentation describes how ASA resources—especially data collected from our Bachelor’s and Beyond Survey, can be used to “solve” common assessment problems. These problems include the following:
The presentation provides examples of how these survey data can be used and how they can be enhanced through combining them with questions that test students’ conceptual and methodological knowledge.
An example of data on assessment activities.
Source: Spalter-Roth and Scelza, 2009. What’s Happening in Your Department with Assessment? Washington, DC: American Sociological Association.
We’d like to hear from you about the issues that you are having with doing assessments. Also, are you adapting or have adapted the Bachelor’s and Beyond survey or other ASA data for your department’s assessment needs? If so, how? Was this effort successful?
This year, the ASA Research Department will be conducting a new survey of sociology departments and programs. We are asking departments for their input as we begin drafting the 2012 questionnaire. What would you like to see addressed in the new survey? What are the issues that your department or program are currently facing? What information does the Dean want to know?
Please post your comments.
We have just posted a new data brief on the survival of masters programs. Are Masters Programs Closing? What Makes for Success in Staying Open discusses findings from a follow-up to our 2009 survey of graduate program directors. Findings from that earlier survey are available in What Can I Do With a Masters Degree in Sociology? The Department in Context.
For additional research on masters programs, visit the What Can I Do With a Masters Degree in Sociology? webpage.
Now available on the website are two new PowerPoint presentations exploring different aspects of the sociology pipeline.
Feel free to post comments and questions, and to share similar experiences.
Note: all comments are publicly visible. Do not include your name if you wish to remain anonymous.
Question of the week: Assessment of student learning is a contentious issue among sociology faculty. From the perspective of your department, what are the positive and negative features of assessment activities? Are assessment requirements becoming more standardized at your institution?
Click Here to comment on this post. Please do not include your name if you wish to remain anonymous.
A Frequent Issue of Concern
In our 2008 survey of sociology departments, we asked respondents what they considered the most pressing issues in their programs and institutions. (See “What’s Happening in Your Department? A Comparison of Findings From the 2001 and 2007 Department Surveys“). Common among the open-ended responses were concerns about burdensome workloads and disproportionate compensation; heavier reliance on part-time faculty and the inability to replace full-time faculty who left, growth in majors or defending the vitality of the discipline; competition with criminal justice programs; and strategies to attract well-qualified graduate students.
Another commonly cited issue had to do with what faculty member called “the obsession with assessment.” In particular, departments have raised concerns about the amount of time the process takes (especially as time appears to be a scarcer resource), inefficient training, the lack of new resources that result from the effort, the disconnect between bureaucracy and education, and the possibility of negative consequences to the department.
One respondent wrote:
We are inundated by initiatives from the administration, faculty bodies, accrediting agencies, the Commission on Higher Education, and state government. We spend an ever-increasing portion of our time and energy responding, accommodating, and resisting. This does not lead to any measurable improvement in anything we do. It does harm morale.
Another faculty member involved in the development of an assessment program wrote:
We are concerned about how assessment information will be used both within the institution and by the state. As a public institution, we must serve the needs of our immediate constituents, our students, and the larger constituency of state government and the public. We are concerned that attempts will be made to evaluate individual faculty or departments with the assessment data we collect. There has been some exploration of “standardized assessment tools” by our administration. When concerns were raised about following this system of assessment, we were assured it was primarily to understand what was available, and might one day be required… I felt that the opportunity to teach people at the state level could be lost, and the appearance of interest in standardized assessment could be considered an indicator of a willingness to use that form of assessment.
And still another described changes in their program:
…We have changed our curriculum, the new major will being in the fall. One of the major changes is a new focus on public sociology… We are also changing our social work minor toward a human services minor. The issue of changing to move into a new century has been a positive process for us. We have also been upgrading our web sites, thinking about a blog. Under the leadership of one faculty member, we are learning to use technology to “market” ourselves and to understand what will attract this new generation of students. That has also been a very positive process.
In “What’s Happening in Your Department with Assessment?“ we reported a greater number of sociology departments were using some form of assessment in Academic Years (AY) 2006/07 than in AY 2000/01. A little more than a third of departments at research and doctoral universities were engaged in the process, followed by 80 percent of those at baccalaureate institutions, and more than 90 percent of departments at master’s comprehensive schools. Moreover, departments with higher course loads and major-to-faculty ratios were more likely to assess student learning.
Most departments don’t appear to use a single type of assessment, and some employ both direct and indirect methods. Of the measures of assessment technique available, departments at all types of institutions seemed to focus on a student survey, capstone course, senior thesis project, and exit interview. The percentage of departments using these methods remained relatively stable between survey years. In contrast, fewer departments reported using a department exam, portfolio, and employer survey.
Aside from evaluating individual students’ mastery of learning goals, assessment techniques can also be used at the classroom and program level to modify curriculum and perhaps, their mission. Nearly three-quarters of respondents in the 2008 department survey either recently underwent major curriculum revisions, or intended to do so in the near future, although there was variation by type of institution (about 75% of masters and baccalaureate institutions made major curriculum revisions while only 60 percent of research and doctoral institutions did so).
Join the Discussion
Although there are many stakeholders in the conversation on assessment, we especially interested in hearing about experiences from faculty. Form the perspective of your department, what are the positive and negative features of assessment activities? Are assessment requirements becoming more standardized at your institution?
To post your comments and questions, click on the Comment Section at the end of this post. Do not enter your name if you wish to remain anonymous.
Recently, a faculty member from a baccalaureate-only institution emailed our department:
“I think my department faces a dilemma common to non-research universities and colleges: hiring and retaining faculty with strong quantitative skills. Our experience seems to indicate that such colleges find it difficult to provide the resources necessary for quantitative researchers, and we seem to compete with research universities and for-profit and non-profit research organizations to hire and retain them. We can see the obvious that we are less able to provide grants and aid in grant-writing and to provide research assistants since we have no graduate students. But what resources might we offer a candidate as an attractive package?”
This inquiry inspired our latest research brief in the series of findings from the 2002 and 2008 surveys of sociology departments. In What’s Happening in Your Department? Department Resources and the Demand Side of Hiring, we compare the distribution of resources across type of institution (research, doctoral, masters, and baccalaureate) and examine its relationship to hiring, and with specific attention given to baccalaureate-only schools. These resources include the availability of various types of information technology (IT), travel funds, workplace and family policies, and course loads. Are departments with more resources more likely to hire new faculty? Click on the link to learn more.
We invite readers to join in this conversation. Share your experiences, comments, and questions.
Please note: do not include your name in the comment fields if you wish to remain anonymous.
The new research brief, Down Market? Findings From the 2008 ASA Job Bank Study presents findings from an in-depth follow-up to our 2006 study on jobs in academic sociology advertised through the ASA Job Bank, Too Many or Too Few PhDs? Employment Opportunities in Academic Sociology. Going a step further year, departments were surveyed to determine how many advertised positions were filled and how many were canceled or suspended. Our findings show that job seekers searching for assistant sociology professor positions in AY 2008/09 were faced with a difficult job market, though it wasn’t as bad as we expected.
Join the discussion! Post your comments.
Note: Do not provide your name if you wish for your comments to remain anonymous.