Assessment of the
English Major

Each major program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is required to conduct an assessment of its courses in order to clarify its goals, set standards, and evaluate its performance. Because reading, writing, and research are at the core of the English Department’s goals, we annually collect and review examples of our students’ formal written work and conduct an interview with each graduating senior. From these documents and interviews, the department is in a position to assess the degree to which we are meeting the outcomes for Writing, Reading, Argumentation and Research, and Cultural Literacy stated in the published Outcomes of the Major in English at UW Oshkosh (see page 3).

Beyond its value to the continuing development of the department, the portfolio assembly process also has a purpose and a value for students. The portfolio provides students with the means to reflect on their own work during their career in the English Department. Teachers in the English Department deliver content (authors, periods, genres), but also believe in fostering the growth of literate, educated citizens. Because reading and writing are frequently self-directed activities, students are encouraged to critically examine the ways that they have grown as individuals in the tenure of their study. Students are aware that they can be challenged by teachers’ expectations and course content, but they are infrequently asked how they challenge themselves. Assembling the best examples of written work into a portfolio can serve also as the basis for a professional career. In fact, some graduates report that they have used the portfolio concept in preparing their work for job interviews.

Individual students and instructors are not evaluated during the process of assessing the English major. Participating in the major assessment does not carry a letter grade, influence scholarship decisions, or affect graduation. Rather, preparing a portfolio of significant writing assignments and taking the online Exit Survey (described below) allow students to track and guide their own progress through the English major. These activities also allow students to guide the decision-making process of the English Department faculty by providing important insights about courses, programs (such as Study Abroad), and activities (such as Convocation).

Portfolio Assessment

Beginning with English 281, the first course in the major, and concluding with English 481, students compile a portfolio that contains samples of the written work they have done in courses in the English major. Each portfolio begins with a self-reflective introduction to the portfolio, followed by the self-reflective entry essay that was required in English 281: Introduction to English Studies. The bulk of the portfolio is made up of 3-4 substantial pieces of writing (researched essays, creative nonfiction essays, short stories, or poems); for creative writers, 4-5 poems serve as the equivalent of one essay. The portfolio concludes with the summative final project from English 481: Seminar in English Studies.

• The self-reflective introduction to the portfolio contents:
During English 481: Seminar in English Studies, you will be assigned a self-reflective essay that introduces the portfolio to readers and makes connections between the essays and your progress as an English major. A clean copy of this essay, free of instructor comments, grades, and proofreading marks, will be placed in your portfolio as the introduction to the portfolio. To assist you in writing this essay we recommend you consult the Learning Outcomes for the major.

• The self-reflective entry essay from Introduction to English Studies:
During the first half of the semester in English 281: Introduction to English Studies, you will be assigned a self-reflective entry essay. A clean copy of this essay, free of instructor comments, grades, and proofreading marks, will be placed in your portfolio. Please consult your English 281 instructor about the length, format, and subject for this essay.

• The summative project from the Seminar in English Studies:
All English majors are required to complete a summative project in English 481: Seminar in English Studies. This project varies, depending on the needs of the student and the theme of the seminar. Students may produce a research-based, critically-informed project, a collection of poetry, an extended work of creative nonfiction, or a short story. This project should sum up questions and interests from previous study in the English major, while also addressing the thematic framework raised by the course.

• The rest of the portfolio-selected writings from your undergraduate career:
In addition to the two self-reflective essays and the English 481 seminar project, portfolios must include one essay from English 381 and one creative piece completed for a course in the major. Additionally, students may include another piece (essay or creative work) demonstrating growth or experience during the major. Other guidelines regarding what to select for the portfolio are available on the English Department website under “Final Assessment.”

The Exit Survey

The Department has developed an online survey for you to complete during your senior year regarding your experiences as an English Major. It covers a range of topics, allowing you the opportunity to evaluate all dimensions of the department and the program and activities it sponsors. You will be asked to complete the survey online– –after you have completed your English coursework.