The overall purpose of the BA in history is to educate students in how human societies change over time: in daily lives; through commerce; in response to crisis; and in interaction with other cultures in order to prepare them to understand and appropriately analyze their world in a manner that spiritually strengthens each student.
Students successfully completing a history major should demonstrate a range of critical thinking skills and abilities. They should also possess a command of the key historical terms and have the ability to identify and solve fundamental historical problems through primary and secondary source research. By the end of the program, students should produce work that is clear, precise, and well-written. Such skills and abilities will serve them well in their lives and future careers.
In terms of careers, the program is designed for the student who desires the broad educational background for entrance into professions such as law, government service, or business, or who wants a liberal arts education. History can also be valuable training for someone who plans to teach. Moreover, in recognition of the broad range of uses to which historical education can be put, the field of public history has emerged in recent years.
Students pursuing a BA in history must complete a methodological core of History 200 (The Historian's Craft) and History 490 (Capstone Research Seminar), which develops the basic skills of the historian. History 200 teaches such fundamentals as research in primary and secondary sources, an investigation into the schools of historical thinking and their methods, and intense writing instruction within the norms of the field. History 490 builds upon this foundation by providing students the essential historiography on a specific period, region, and/or theme. This seminar requires students to fully engage different ideas and arguments and to critically consider the issues themselves. Furthermore, drawing upon their experiences and facts acquired in History 200 and the electives, the students write an extensive senior thesis based largely on primary sources.
The introductory core consists of our American history series (220 and 221) and world civilization series (201 and 202). Students are permitted a great degree of latitude in choosing upper-division electives, but we do insist that they take at least one course in three geographical areas of the world to avoid over specialization at the undergraduate level. We encourage students to minor or double major as it may make them more marketable to particular careers or areas of graduate study.
The department provides several co-curricular activities designed to support the program. Students are given the opportunity to work with faculty in a variety of ways including as research assistant, teaching assistant, and through mentored research in a faculty member's research project. Several internships are also available, as is the opportunity to become a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society for history. Students also have an opportunity to publish their papers in the department's student scholarly journal, The Thetean.
Gain a historical consciousness by demonstrating a knowledge of major developments in American and world history and understand key historical terms and theories. (For course-specific application of this learning outcome, please see:
Acquire the ability to analyze historical questions and issues clearly, assess historical information accurately, and distinguish between questionable and valid historical assertions. (For course-specific application of this learning outcome, please see:
Demonstrate proficiency in using the historical method of research effectively by skillfully and honestly using primary and secondary sources. (For course-specific application of this learning outcome, please see:
Skillfully integrate data into a coherent argument expressed through a clear, well-written style and through oral communication. (For course-specific application of this learning outcome, please see:
Evidence of Learning
This History Department's assessment strategy seeks not only to measure whether students are achieving the department's learning outcomes, but to improve teaching and learning in our programs. Assessment data are used in our recurring evaluations of course syllabi, consulted for peer evaluations of teaching, and considered when evaluating our curriculum.
The keystone of our program assessment strategy is the student portfolio. By requiring each student to compile a portfolio with a representative sample of the work he or she has completed during his or her course of study, the department has the potential to assess how students are meeting most of the program's learning outcomes. For practical reasons faculty evaluate a random sample of the work of 25 percent of all graduates every three years. Selected portfolios are evaluated using a locally created rubric.
The History Department requires all of its majors to complete History 201 and 202 (the world history sequence) and History 220 and 221 (the U.S. history sequence). In these courses, we also teach a large number of non-majors who are using these courses to fulfill one or more of the university general education requirements. Faculty administer pre- and post-tests to students in these classes as a direct measure of one or more learning outcomes.
The History Department also indirectly measures how well students have met our learning outcomes through program- specific questions on three different surveys issued to graduating students. These questions ask students to report how much they have learned in the history program. All assessment information is kept in the files of the department secretary.
Major Program Portfolio: The contents of the portfolio allows faculty to directly measure student success (using a locally created rubric) in the majority of learning outcomes as outlined below:
1. Gateway course paper: Each student includes the final paper from Hist 200 (The Historian's Craft) the program gateway course. Among other goals, this course seeks to provide students with the skills needed to work toward proficiency in program learning outcomes #2 and 3 (see above).
2. Capstone course Senior Thesis: Each student includes their senior thesis from Hist 490 (Historical Research and Writing). This capstone course allows students to demonstrate proficiency in all learning outcomes, with emphasis on outcomes #2, 3, and 4.
Introductory course pre- and post-tests
Faculty in Hist. 201, 201, 220, and 221 give pre- and post-tests each semester in order to evaluate whether LO #1 is being met.
FHSS Senior Exit Survey: The History Department has partnered with the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences to administer a senior exit survey. The survey asks students to rate various aspects of their experience in the program focusing on questions related to teaching and learning. Data are compiled by the college and forwarded to the department for review and evaluation.
National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
BYU Senior Survey
BYU Alumni Survey
Learning and Teaching Assessment and Improvement
Analysis, Evaluation, and Improvement Process
The History Department has a curriculum committee that is responsible for assessing and evaluating teaching and learning in the department and for reforming departmental curricula. The curriculum committee consists of the associate chair, undergraduate coordinator, and assessment coordinator. While the structure of the curriculum is under constant eye, the committee is most concerned with improving teaching and learning.
Under the direction of the curriculum committee, capstone course faculty review student portfolios using a standard rubric and report on general successes of student learning as well as areas where faculty should redirect their efforts. The curriculum committee also reviews the data gathered from the survey course assignment survey, the senior exit survey, and the course syllabus review. The committee recommends to the chair and department faculty areas that need improvement.
Senior faculty serve, by appointment by the chair, as peer evaluators of faculty teaching. Evaluators conduct both unofficial and official reviews. Unofficial reviews are used to help faculty improve their teaching; formal reviews are used in rank and status decisions. The department chair reviews both peer evaluations of teaching and student evaluations of teaching in advance of the annual stewardship reviews with each faculty member. During these reviews the chair and faculty member discuss, among other topics, successes faculty have enjoyed and areas they should focus on to improve teaching and learning in their courses.