Center for Instructional
Innovation and Assessment


Robert Mitchell
Julia Sapin
Kathleen Saunders
Goals Contents
Kathleen Saunders
Department of Anthropology

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 Kathleen Saunders' teaching strategies meet each of these student learning outcome goals.

Critical Thinking

Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Identification Accurately identifies and interprets evidence. Each type of writing assigned in Anthropology 201, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, has its own set of objectives for learning. The responses herein refer to participation in a national project in which students write a persuasive letter to a decision-maker on the resolution of an ethical dilemma. To prepare, they read about 100 pages of historical background on the situation and competing arguments by professionals as to the resolution.
Alternative Consideration Considers major alternative points of view. Early in the project students often report that "both sides make sense" and ask if they may write a letter that says just that. Since the dilemma centers on returning biological samples to the indigenous people from whom they were received or not returning them, such a position would neither solve the issue nor clarify students' ethical decision making processes. After carefully considering competing points of view, students must take a position.
Accurate Conclusions Draws warranted, judicious, non-fallacious conclusions. Students learn that there is no single right answer to the dilemma but that there are stronger or weaker position arguments for their position. They learn to avoid logical fallacies in argumentation.
Justification Justifies key results and procedures, and explains assumptions and reasons. This assignment brings the difference between an "opinion" and an "argument" into high relief because students are not only faced with clarifying their own position but must make a compelling case to others to adopt the student's solution to the dilemma. This involves making their own reasoning transparent to their readers.

Source: Adapted from the California Academic Press's Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric (HCTSR).



Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Rhetorical Knowledge Focuses on a clear rhetorical purpose and responds appropriately to the needs of varied audiences and situations. The rhetorical knowledge required in this assignment stretches student experience because they are being asked to construct an argument that will be compelling to senior members of the discipline while they themselves are very new at disciplinary thinking and terminology. Other assignments which introduce disciplinary writing prepare them for this more stringent task.
Critical Analysis Develops, examines, situates, and communicates a reasoned perspective clearly to others. The internal structure of an argument becomes more clear to students as they attempt to make the most persuasive case they can for their newly-developed position. It is not uncommon for students to change their own positions while writing the argument because the act of writing uncovers weaknesses in their position.
Composing Processes Understands writing as a recursive process that involves drafting, re-thinking, editing, reconceptualizing. Students experience the recursive process of writing in three distinct ways during this project. The first revision cycle is the revision of their own first draft. The second revision occurs when participants in the project receive essays from four fellow participants across the country for review and evaluations. The third part of this cycle occurs when students receive peer reviews on their papers. I liken this phase to the cycle of peer review that even the most senior scholar receives prior to publication. I try to instill them the understanding that peer review and critique is the discipline to which scholars submit for a lifetime and further that it enhances our collective power to generate knowledge.
Convention Knowledge Uses appropriate conventions for documentation and for surface features such as syntax, grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling. The background documents for this project provide exemplars of documentation conventions in the discipline as well as the register that their own writing should emulate. Other writing assignments have been evaluated during the quarter on both content and conventions and strong papers have been posted online to serve as models. They are well aware at this point in the quarter that substandard writing will detract from the power of their paper.

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