Center for Instructional
Innovation and Assessment


June Dodd
Marc Geisler
Marc Richards
Goals Contents
Marc Richards
Department of History

Institutional Goals

Listed below are selected learning outcomes in the areas of critical thinking, writing, and information literacy that Western Washington University is actively integrating into its curriculum. Each learning outcome is listed with its definition, along with a description of how Joyce richards's teaching strategies meet each of these student learning outcome goals.

Critical Thinking

Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Identification Accurately identifies and interprets evidence. Students must think and research like real historians. Whether writing a history term paper or giving a presentation before the class on a particular topic, students must resurrect the past through primary documents. Their interpretation of the past must be based on high standards of historical methodology. In part, this means retrieving and analyzing documents that give an honest sampling and selection of the many voices of the past before forming a credible thesis for their topic.
Alternative Consideration Considers major alternative points of view. Rediscovering the past demands students to understand that the past, like the present, has many perspectives. The past was a noisy place with contradictory understandings of its meaning. All sides have to be taken into account. To achieve this kind of critical thinking, for example, I require students that write historical term papers and class presentations to use pro and con primary documents for their topics before they come up with a unifying thesis regarding the past's meaning.
Accurate Conclusions Draws warranted, judicious, non-fallacious conclusions. In history there is no such thing as "accurate conclusions." History is interpretive. At best, conclusions can be "warranted, judicious, and non-fallacious." That means that students cannot give a "mere opinion." Editorial opinion pieces are not allowed. There should be no "I think" or "I feel" statements. Instead, their interpretation must be based on a considered analysis of past evidence. Although not entirely achievable, the student must strive for historical objectivity when viewing and drawing conclusions about the past.
Justification Justifies key results and procedures, and explains assumptions and reasons. Students are required to read secondary historical sources by experts on their topic. This way they must test their assumptions and conclusions against those of historians who have made a life-long study of the student's topic. They are not expected to entirely reinvent the wheel. A sampling of the "secondary literature" ensures that the student understands the interpretive framework of their topic. The student must then use primary document evidence to "prove" (justify) his or her assumptions and conclusions. Simply put, the student is held to the same high standard of historical methodology, "proof," and critical thinking that would be required of any professional historian of a given topic. As with any historian, their interpretations must meet the test of critical peer review.

Source: Adapted from Western Washington University's Learning Outcomes for Writing II.