Division of Agriculture

University of Arkansas at Monticello

Annual Assessment Report



PART I.  Narrative Response to Open Ended Questions Requested by the UAM Office of Academic Affairs.


1. How does the academic unit’s (the Division of Agriculture) mission statement and goals flow from and contribute to the University’s mission statement?



The mission statement of the Division of Agriculture at the UAM states:


1 It is the mission of the Division of Agriculture to provide educational programs on both the theory and practice of agricultural science enabling the graduate to compete within and contribute to this diverse field at the producer, industry, and graduate student level.  2This mission is accomplished through degree options in Agribusiness, Animal Science, Plant and Soil Science, and General Agriculture.  3 An agriculture minor is also offered.   4Those desiring agriculture degree programs not offered at the University of Arkansas-Monticello are provided introductory course work and advising designed to facilitate transfer to another institution.  5In addition, students desiring to enter veterinary school are provided course work and advising aimed at meeting the requirements of institutions offering a degree in veterinary medicine.”  


The Division of Agriculture’s (DAG) mission to “provide educational programs on both the theory and practice of agricultural science…” corresponds to the University’s mission of producing a student who is educated for ‘critical thought’.  Critical thought requires both an understanding of the theory and practice of knowledge.  The DAG mission to produce a student capable of contributing at the producer, industry, and graduate student level also reflects the contribution to the overall mission of the University.   The mission of the DAG is accomplished through a curriculum containing three critical areas for student preparation: general education, an agriculture core and program core of courses and experiences. 



2. How are the major field assessments based on the mission and goals of the academic unit and University?”


The major fields of the DAG are in the core career areas of the agriculture industry in the state, nation and world: agriculture business, animal science, and plant and soil science.   These areas of concentration reflect the traditional and most prevalent needs in the agriculture community for educated, baccalaureate level personnel.  Additionally, the DAG has an option in general agriculture, which combines the fundamental courses for each of the three core areas.  A two-year applied science degree is also offered in conjunction with the McGehee campus.  Students in the applied science program take the lower division core agriculture courses in addition to technical courses and an apprenticeship through the vocational school.


It is the responsibility of the faculty to assess the program in their area of specialization.  The DAG has full-time, Ph.D. professional educators in the three main fields: animal science, agriculture business, and plant and soil science.  In addition, adjunct faculty employed by SEREC teach courses in their area of expertise, including entomology, weed science and plant pathology.  The faculty is active in their prospective discipline’s professional societies, the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture and the agriculture industry.  In 2004 the faculty met on various occasions to critique the curriculum in the program areas.  Adjustments were made to the Ag Business program and the Animal Science program to require the students to take either Plant Pathology or Weed Science.  This allows our teaching program to take better advantage of the expertise at our disposal and provide a better informed graduate.  In the process of critiquing, emphasis was placed on preparation of a student who is marketable, independent, and knowledgeable.  This product, the competent graduate in the DAG, is the primary mission of UAM and the DAG. 



3. How are the data being gathered to support assessment of the academic unit’s goals and mission?


Informal and formal interviews with graduates and leaders in the agriculture community provide data to support our assessment.  In 2004 our faculty attended and participated in several professional meetings which involved interaction with other agriculture educators and industry representatives.  Through informal visits with colleagues who employ our graduates, we gain information on how our graduates are performing in industry or graduate school.  For example, in recent years inquiries have indicated that our graduates need better verbal, written and social communication skills, which has prompted faculty to incorporate activities within their courses, such as written reports and verbal presentations.  In 2004 a student working as a rice consultant indicated that more education in weed science would have helped him in his present job.  We also learn of trends being observed at other Universities through our professional contacts.  In 2004 two of our faculty participated in the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture annual meeting which is entirely focused on issues related to teaching agriculture at colleges and universities.  Since our mission is to produce a graduate who can compete within and contribute to the agriculture field, we survey the field to assess our accomplishments.



4.  Describe how faculty are involved in the process(es) of assessing student learning.


The DAG faculty are the front line for assessing student learning.  This is done primarily by student performance in his/her agriculture courses.  Course grades are a good indication of student learning, but student performance on individual assignments is also a good indication to the faculty member how well a student has learned certain material.  In 2004 the percentage of enrolled students successfully completing our core agriculture courses ranged from 80% in Agricultural Economics to 100% in Soils.


Each year all faculty submit a self assessment of their individual performances in teaching, service and scholarly service.  In this comprehensive self review, faculty critique their individual programs and teaching efforts.  Faculty submit supporting documentation such as course syllabi, examples of class projects and student evaluations of courses.  The report also includes narratives of successful activities and plans for improvement.   The faculty member then meets with the Division Head to discuss the self-evaluation and student learning and make plans for improvement.


Additionally, faculty are involved in annual meetings to discuss student learning.  In 2004 the faculty met in April to award scholarships.  This serves as a good venue for assessing student learning as well. 


A recent trend has been observed of students taking their math and science courses from other universities.  We theorize that this is because those courses are easier at other universities.  We also feel that student learning from these math and science courses is not as good as if the students took those same courses at UAM.  Currently the only way we have to assess student learning in courses taken at other universities is by that student’s performance in upper level UAM ag courses. 


5.  Describe your use of multiple forms of data gathering to assess student learning.


We rely heavily on student performance in agricultural classes to assess student learning.  Our faculty use writing assignments, open-ended test questions, question requiring calculations, research assignments, take-home exams, oral presentations and critical thinking assignments to assess the student’s ability to read, comprehend, use knowledge, decipher, think critically, form ideas and opinions and communicate their answer in writing and verbally to a third party.  By quizzing and testing students in multiple ways, we are better able to assess their understanding of the subject matter.  Their course grade reflects their level of mastery of the subject.



6.  Describe how data are being used to make programmatic changes in your academic unit.


In 2004 the faculty met on various occasions to critique the curriculum in the program areas.  Adjustments were made to the Ag Business program and the Animal Science program to require the students to take either Plant Pathology or Weed Science.  This allows our teaching program to take better advantage of the expertise at our disposal and provide a better informed graduate. 


This year was the first year students applied for acceptance into the upper division of the agriculture degree program.  In September of 2004 our first co-hort had completed enough course work to apply.  This policy was put in place in the 03-05 catalog.  We hope that by requiring a student to complete certain course work before taking upper level ag courses, the faculty receive a student who is more capable of understanding and synthesizing the material presented in upper level courses. 



7.  Describe how both faculty and students are given feedback concerning assessment results.


Students receive immediate feedback on their progress in individual courses through the grading system.   The small class size and open door policy of faculty also provide more personal evaluations of student performance of which many students take advantage.   Most students are prepared to give feedback on their learning experiences for individual courses, but it is the graduating senior and alumni that are interested and competent to give an assessment of the overall program in the DAG.  Avenues for this include employer/alumni surveys, course evaluations and graduating senior surveys.  Faculty receive feedback on their specific programs through annual meetings with the unit Head to discuss faculty performance and student evaluations of individual courses. 



8.  Describe how your assessment plan is cost effective and reflects access, equity and diversity.


The DAG assessment plan is based on readily available data compiled by each individual faculty, senior seminar program evaluations, rising junior standardized test scores (CAAP scores), student evaluations of individual courses, alumni surveys, and faculty meetings to critique both individual and departmental programs.  Examples of individual program critique are the annual assessment of individual annual faculty self evaluation between the unit Head and each faculty member, faculty meetings to discuss curricula, the mandated annual faculty assessment report, and informal meetings with alumni and employers.  Surveys, student evaluations, regular meetings, informal and formal alumni and employer interviews, and faculty networking with other professionals in their area of specialization reflect a diverse and very cost effective program of assessment. 


9. How does your unit’s assessment system link to research on learning theories, constructing vs. acquiring knowledge, and active learning strategies?


The assessment system of the DAG evaluates programs in accordance to the mission of both the DAG and the UAM using the following hierarchy:




The venues for assessment follow:




Specific individual assessment follows:




Faculty use the standards system of learning success.  Students are told of the standards, or knowledge retention/synthesis that are the established standards of the course, and students are told that they must meet these standards.  Standards are set by each faculty in their field of expertise. 



10. How are students required to present verbal and written explanations of how their work products demonstrate attainment of publicly stated goals and objectives for their learning?


Grades earned on individual assignments and in the course are the primary way students show they have obtained the goals and objectives for their learning.  Students are told of the standards, or knowledge retention/synthesis that are the established standards of the course, and students are told that they must meet these standards.  Grades assigned indicate to what level the student has obtained those goals.  Our faculty use writing assignments, open-ended test questions, question requiring calculations, research assignments, take-home exams, oral presentations and critical thinking assignments.  This requires the student to present verbal and written examples of their mastery of the subject matter. 


Students in the DAG are provide anonymous,  written evaluations of each DAG course, and of the overall program of the DAG and the UAM during the required senior seminar course.  Additionally, students in the DAG are treated with respect and faculty have an open door policy where students are encouraged to visit and exchange ideas on program improvement.  Often, the students provide excellent feedback.  Examples include a recommendation for a multi-media classroom and an upgraded and expanded computer lab.


While most students and alumni are not well versed on the goals and mission of the DAG and the UAM, they are interested, based on informal discussions, in obtaining an education that will make them competitive in the job market.  Students and alumni are often eager to provide feedback on program assessment. 



11.  How do course syllabi state measurable objectives for student learning and provide for the assessment of students’ academic achievement?


Course syllabi state the learning objectives for each course.  They also provide an outline of the material to be covered and the resources required.  The syllabi outline the type and number of assignments that will be used to measure student learning and they give the level of performance required in the course to obtain a certain letter grade. 



12.  How are students involved in the assessment process?  For example, do students participate in your unit’s assessment committee activities?


Students provide feedback on our program in various ways.  During registration they provide immediate feedback on courses they have taken recently or in which they are currently enrolled.  These may be ag courses, general education courses or supportive courses.  Currently our students are experiencing difficulty in their General Chemistry classes.  Some are opting to take these classes elsewhere while others are taking multiple attempts at completing those two courses at UAM.   


Students provide assessment data through course evaluations in our ag classes and a senior seminar program evaluation at the completion of their final semester.  They also express their feelings and concerns during informal interaction with DAG faculty. 





1.         Graduating Senior Agriculture Major Survey.  (Appendix II)


Students generally liked the program they received in the DAG. 

           One area often cited needing improvement was better computer

            laboratory facilities. 


2.         Grade Distributions in the DAG core courses of animal science,

            plant and soil science, agriculture economics and introductory soil

            science.  (Appendix III)


About 50 percent of the grades in the core courses are in the A and B categories.  One hundred percent of the grades in the introductory soils class are A, B or C.  The introductory soil science course requires a thorough knowledge of basic chemistry. 


These grades indicate that students in the DAG are obtaining the learning goals and objectives of the DAG courses and programs, thus contributing to the mission of the UAM. 


Our number one problem currently is low enrollment.  Of the ten academic units at UAM, the fall of 2004 saw five units with increased enrollment and five with decreased enrollment.  The DAG set a seven year record low.  Our number of freshmen bottomed out in fall 2002 but has since recovered to levels seen in 2000 and 2001 but still half of those observed in 1996 and 1997.  Casual conversations with faculty from ag colleges at other universities leads me to believe this is a national trend.  Our problem is not that students are majoring in agriculture at other universities rather than at UAM, it is that students are not majoring in agriculture.