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Learning Outcomes

Philosophy begins with wonder and curiosity about the world, yet is focused by an emphasis on clear reasoning and cogent argumentation. It asks about some of the deepest and most pressing issues confronting us-ranging from recondite topics in metaphysics to practical concerns about ethical actions-and fosters the critical skills needed to arrive at answers to these questions.

To this end, by the end of their career, majors in the philosophy program at Pomona will: ]

  1. Be able to formulate rationally grounded views on issues of central importance to human experience, including questions about the nature of the world, our place within it, and how we ought to act.
  2. Be able to offer a balanced and fair evaluation of the views of others, both in readings and in discussions.
  3. Be familiar with the history of philosophical thought, and with the general metaphysical, epistemological and ethical issues that guide the discipline today.
  4. Be able to interpret and extract an author's arguments from a text, and to offer novel, substantive commentary on philosophical positions.
  5. Be able to write clear and cogent arguments in defense of their positions.
  6. Be able to discuss in an articulate manner issues that arise in class and in their own work.
  7. Be prepared to excel in the best graduate programs in Philosophy, should they decide to continue their education.


[Note: These are provisional plans, still to be adopted]
The department teaches a large number of students every year who are interested in philosophy, but are not majors; indeed, while our enrollment numbers are comparatively very large, we typically only have between eight and 12 majors every year. Given this situation, the emphases of our classes and our major might at times diverge, and as such we do not follow one single model of assessment. That said, there are two ways in which we chart the progress of our majors:

  1. We track the development of the writing skills of majors by collecting copies of papers written early on in their careers in the department, and comparing them with later work.
  2. More importantly, we treat the senior thesis as a means of determining how well our majors are living up the aspirations outlined above. The thesis involves a year-long research project, undertaken by each major, under the supervision of two primary readers. Theses range over a number of different topics, but typically end up being around 50-60 pages long. In the fall, students settle on a topic, submit a detailed prospectus and bibliography, and produce at least one chapter; in the spring, the majors complete the thesis, and present their work to a colloquium of faculty and fellow students. The thesis by its very nature involves the first four of the department's learning goals, and students are also expected to give a substantial and polished oral presentation of their work near the end of the spring term. In order to provide students with the training and experience needed for this requirement, the senior thesis seminar involves discussion of presentation techniques, as well as periodic presentations by students about the current state of their research.

    The assessment of the thesis is done by the two readers who have overseen the project, and involves both a grade as well as written commentary assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the thesis. Students are evaluated both on the written thesis, as well as their performance in presenting it to the departmental colloquium.
  3. The assessment of the seventh learning outcome is carried out by surveys of past students currently enrolled in graduate programs, asking them how well their training at Pomona equipped them to succeed in graduate school, how their training compares to their peers, and what could be done differently at Pomona to make the move to graduate study easier.

Academic Dean