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Classics Learning Objectives

According to the American Philological Association, the principal professional organization of Classical scholars and teachers in the United States, there are four main goals for undergraduate Classics programs:

  1. To provide all students, regardless of their field of study, with a basic knowledge of Greek and Roman civilizations and their Mediterranean context.
  2. To give students a deeper knowledge of ancient languages and civilization in preparation for a wide range of careers, as well as for their own benefit and enjoyment.
  3. To prepare students for careers teaching Latin and Greek in primary and secondary schools.
  4. To prepare students for graduate work in Classics and careers in teaching and research in colleges and universities.

To this end, therefore, a Classics program ought to offer something to a variety of students, ranging from those whose interest in Classics is largely casual to those whose goal is to attend graduate school in Classics. The main difference between students within this continuum is their level of engagement with Latin and Ancient Greek. Thus, while student progress in learning these language has traditionally provided a basis for assessment in Classical Studies, we need to be sensitive to the different emphases of each student and be flexible in our employment of various instruments of assessment.

Student Learning Outcomes

We have identified six learning outcomes organized within 5 content/skill areas. that students should attain to during their course of study in Classics here at Pomona.

  1. Proficiency at languages: This goal has two measures: (1) Students will be able to translate a variety of authors in a variety of genres from the original Greek or Latin into English. (2) Students will be able to describe the grammar and syntax of the texts they have read using the appropriate technical terminology.
  2. Skill at philological interpretation: Through the close study of texts in Greek and Latin students will be able to comment meaningfully on aspects of style, word choice, structure of argument, and basic textual problems.
  3. Appreciation of other forms of interpretation: Students will have acquired at least a basic understanding of how to read and/or interpret other texts and artifacts from the ancient world such as art objects, material remains, monuments, inscriptions, and so on.
  4. Knowledge of historical/cultural contexts: Students will be able to reproduce in broad outline the main periods of Greek and Roman history, along with significant events and/or developments in each period. Students will also be able to demonstrate their awareness of basic literary, philosophical, social, and cultural developments that affect the interpretation of texts, artifacts, and historical events.
  5. Proficiency in research methods: Students will be able to produce scholarly work, based on the close study of ancient texts and other materials, that utilizes the latest research methods and resources in the field.

In our opinion these specific learning outcomes largely conform to the prescriptions set by the APA for the successful undergraduate Classics program. The goals are consistent with both the traditional emphases in Classics on language study and philology, while at the same time acknowledge and celebrate the interdisciplinary nature of the field. We also believe that these goals are both specific to the discipline of Classics and generally applicable to the development of the sort of critical thinking a liberal arts education is supposed to engender. The flexible application of these goals in student assessment should allow for individual student needs.

It should also be noted that Classics at the Claremont Colleges is an intercollegiate program, and so our students and faculty are drawn from four of the five Colleges. This presents us with a particular challenge since in many cases we will not be able to assess fully all our students in a given year, or be able to "enforce" these learning outcomes on faculty at the other Colleges.

Areas of assessment

In order to assess relative success in achieving these outcomes, we have identified three main skills in which student should show progressive mastery

  1. Languages (Area 1)
    1. grammar/syntax: has the student acquired the requisite facility with grammatical and syntactical concepts that s/he can provide a technical explanation of a given passage in Greek or Latin?
    2. translation: can the student produce a translation that not only indicates her/his understanding of the meaning of the text, but conveys also the student's sense for the author's style?
    3. composition:* has the student acquired an understanding of the language such that s/he can produce a grammatically correct and stylistically appropriate Latin or Greek version of an English text?
  2. Philology (Area 2)
    1. semantics: is the student able to comprehend how the history of words, their "literal" and "metaphorical" senses, and their use in particular context all contribute to our understanding of the meaning of the text?
    2. stylistics: can a student comment meaningfully on an individual author's use of tropes and figures, word choice, and organizational structure?
    3. genre: can a student recognize the principal features of texts belonging to the several ancient literary genres?
  3. Research and scholarly writing (Areas 3-5)
    1. primary sources: does the student have a sufficient grasp on ancient writers to be able to formulate meaningful research questions about them?
    2. secondary sources: is the student able to locate, understand, and synthesize modern scholarly conversations on particular problems or issues in Classical studies?
    3. methods in classics: does the student have a grasp of scholarly approaches above and beyond philology such that s/he can meaningfully contribute to ongoing critical conversations?

Instruments of assessment

In what follows we detail both existing and potential instruments for assessing student progress toward our stated goals. Those instruments not currently being employed are marked with an asterisk (*). Our assessment plan would likely take a "rolling" approach, where each year department members gather data (as indicated below) in one of the three main areas listed above. Our indirect assessment instruments in particular would be geared toward which of the three areas of assessment is being considered that year.

  1. Course work: This traditional instrument of assessment continues to be a largely reliable way of determining student progress. Student achievement in Area 1 (Languages) is measured by grammar/syntax exams, translation exams, morphological quizzes, and written homework. Additionally, we are focusing more on composition is as a measure of student mastery of the languages. Student achievement in Area 2 (Philology) is measured by written assignments keyed to one or more of the key areas of semantics, stylistics, and genre. Student achievement in Areas 3-5 (Research and Scholarly Writing) is measured in longer research projects required for courses, and particularly in the senior project (see below).
  2. Senior project: In Classics the senior thesis project is generally conceived of as an exercise in scholarly writing that attains to, as far as possible in an undergraduate setting, actual professional work in the field. As such, the thesis should represent the culmination of the student's progress in Area 3.
  3. Senior seminar: The senior seminar, team-taught by members of the intercollegiate department, brings together in a more or less systematic way the various approaches to the material that students have seen throughout their academic experience in Classics. Assessment of methodological assignments associated with various scholarly approaches addressed by each professor allow us to see student progress in Areas 2 and 3.
  4. Student portfolios*: In order to provide a more systematic basis for our assessment of student progress, we are interested in instituting student academic portfolios as a major requirement. Students would assemble examples of their work over time indicating their progress in the three main assessment areas. Some possible examples of portfolio contents:
    1. translation exams from introductory, intermediate, and advanced language classes (measures Area 1)
    2. polished translation/composition from a course or done specifically for the portfolio (measures Area 1)
    3. example(s) of philological analysis, e.g. a short paper or stylistic analysis from an advanced language class (measures Area 2)
    4. example(s) of research, e.g. a longer paper from a course-in-translation (measures Area 3)
    5. self-evaluative statement of student attainment of learning outcomes (measures all Areas).
  5. Indirect assessment*: We are also interested in assessing student satisfaction with their academic progress by employing a variety of outcomes-based assessment tools. Some examples might be:
    1. formalized exit interviews and/or focus groups (focused on eliciting student self-evaluation of learning outcomes).
    2. formalized alumni questionnaires.
    3. student portfolios (these would be targeted toward student's opinions of their fulfillment of our learning outcomes, and would replace the more "direct" portfolio mentioned above).
    4. modification of teaching evaluations to address learning outcomes issues.