August 2012

Main Content

Like everyone else, scientists have better things to do than file assessment reports, right? Maybe so. But as the microbiologists in the College of Science show in this month’s Assessment Showcase, good assessment can still be done and done well, despite many other professional commitments.

The Department of Microbiology amply demonstrates how to manage precise measures of student learning outcomes, and in so doing it illustrates the effective use of these measures in improving the undergraduate curriculum in particular. With this task accomplished, Doug Fix and his colleagues can then move on to their funded research, satisfied that they are doing well by their students.

The August issue of Assessment Showcase also features the faculty who make assessment happen. The whole department, including some members who have retired, is involved. They are well assisted by Boyd Goodson in Chemistry, the College of Science’s representative on the Campus-Wide Assessment Committee. We all need to see how such busy folks cope with ancillary teaching activities like assessment.

Finally, I want to bring your attention to the workshop and meetings planned with two unusual colleagues from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Nathan Lindsay, the Assistant Provost, and Drew Bergerson, the historian and assessment fellow, will be on campus September 6 and 7 to consult with us about our efforts with measuring student learning outcomes. So, please mark your calendars. You’ll be hearing more about their visit.

As you are well aware, the Fall semester starts August 20. It’s time to shift gears from our summer distractions from teaching to another academic year and all of its promise. May your objectives for the coming term be as focused as the learning outcomes listed in your syllabi. Before you know it, your students will be the better for them.

Jim Allen
Associate Provost for Academic Programs



Department of Microbiology


The Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology is designed to provide all students with knowledge and skills in the discipline. The programmatic outcomes for all majors are listed below:

Outcome 1. To develop an understanding of the specialized microbiology vocabulary (i.e., development of scientific literacy).

Outcome 2. To develop the ability to comprehend, assimilate, and convey the basic scientific principles inherent in the study of microbiology in written and/or oral form.

Outcome 3. To develop the ability to perform basic technical manipulations in microbiology (i.e., acquire a set of laboratory skills).

The skills necessary to achieve these outcomes are acquired primarily through a formal core microbiology curriculum, which includes required hands-on laboratory courses. Additional specialized skills are developed through elective courses and independent undergraduate laboratory work.

The assessment tools for the Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology have been in place since Spring 1997. Originally, only data from MICR 481 (Diagnostic and Applied Microbiology Laboratory) and MICR 495 (Senior Seminar) were included. More recently, MICR 480 (Molecular Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory), which is generally taken before MICR 481, was added to the process in order to observe improvement in the students’ laboratory skills. The department recently changed the parameters used to measure the students’ oral presentation. As more data become available, the department hopes these changes will likely provide more insights.

Currently data are collected from three courses (MICR 480, MICR 481 and MICR 495)and analyzed to determine whether students have mastered the program-level student learning outcomes.

The first two courses, 480 and 481, are upper-level laboratory courses generally taken by majors in their final year. These courses measure Outcome 3, the ability to perform basic technical manipulations in microbiology. Specifically, students are assessed by course instructors in the basic features of laboratory safety, organization, efficiency, technical skills, and written summaries and results. 

MICR 481: The data that have been collected are the average of the evaluation of 145 Microbiology undergraduate majors by nine different instructors from Spring 1999 through Spring 2010 (minus 2001, 2006; 12 annual sets). These data indicate that an average of 30% of students exceeded expectations, 57% met expectations and 12% needed improvement, primarily with writing skills.

MICR 480: The data here are the average of the evaluations of 17 Microbiology undergraduate majors by four different instructors from Fall 2010 through Fall 2011 (2 annual sets). These data suggest that an average of 21% of students exceeded expectations, 67% met expectations and 12% needed improvement, again primarily with writing skills.

MICR 495 is a Senior Seminar capstone course that was specifically designed to assess individual student academic skills.  It is used to measure Outcomes 1 and 2. In this course, both written and oral skills are measured separately twice during the semester. Written characteristics involving content and organization are evaluated, while the oral presentations measure attributes such as professional demeanor, organization, slide quality, articulation, volume, delivery rate, and appropriate attire.

MICR 495, Oral Evaluation: The data are the average of the evaluations of 151 Microbiology undergraduate majors by five different instructors from Spring 1998 through Spring 2010 (minus 2003; 12 annual sets). They indicate that greater than 80% of students met or exceeded expectations when asked to make an oral presentation based on the literature. On average, 12% of students needed to improve their skills.

MICR 495, Written Evaluation: The data here are the average of the evaluations of 24 Microbiology undergraduate majors by two different instructors from Spring 2009 through Spring 2010 (2 annual sets). An average of 9% of students performed below average early in the semester, while less that 1% needed improvement near the end of the semester. Coincident with this development, there was a 3% increase in the number of students meeting expectations and a 6% increase in the number exceeding expectations. These data clearly indicate that the training methods employed in MICR 495 are effective.

Recently based on the collected data, the attributes for evaluating oral presentations in MICR 495 have been changed to reflect more relevant characteristics.  This clearly demonstrates that the department understands that assessment results should be used to change and improve the existing curriculum.

The department plans to solicit post-graduate information from past graduates during the normal department review cycle via a questionnaire (attached). This is an indirect measurement, which the department hopes will provide information for assessment of Outcomes 1, 2 and 3.  This shows that the department understands the importance of including both direct and indirect methods when measuring program-based student learning outcomes.

The department is also considering an analysis of data collected from its introductory courses, MICR 301 (Principles of Microbiology) and/or MICR 302 (Molecular Biology). Here, a predetermined set of questions related to Outcome 1 will be incorporated into course exams. The data resulting from student responses to those specific questions will then be analyzed and compared with data from MICR 495. This approach will provide a "pre-program" baseline value for comparison with the "post-program" final evaluation. As you can see, the department has found ways to better understand how students learn and what changes need to occur in order for them to be successful in their chosen career upon graduation.

According to Dr. Douglas Fix, Microbiology Chairperson, program-level assessment within the department involves the entire faculty.  This collaboration is a key component to ensuring that the data collection at the program level are reviewed and necessary changes are made to improve the existing curriculum.  When all faculty are involved and have an opportunity to review the results, they understand what changes need to occur in order to ensure student success. 

Please review the Department of Microbiology's Assessment Plan and corresponding annual Assessment Report.

Sharon Walters, PhD

Assessment and Program Review

Sharon Walters, PhD
Assessment and Program Review

Spotlight On Faculty Members

As Microbiology’s chair, Douglas Fix, indicated, all faculty members in the department are involved in program-level assessment.  So we felt it was important to provide a brief biographical sketch on each faculty member involved in the 2011-2012 assessment review. 

Kelly BenderKelly Bender, Assistant Professor
Department of Microbiology
College of Science

Dr. Bender received her Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University in 2003.  She has been teaching at SIU since 2006. Dr. Bender’s field of expertise is Molecular Environmental Microbiology. Her research interests include environmental microbiology, sulfate-reducing bacteria, ecology of bacteriophage, and small RNA analysis.

KyuHong ChoKyuHong Cho, Assistant Professor
Department of Microbiology
College of Science

Dr. Cho received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 2001.  He has been at SIU since 2007. His field of expertise is Group A Streptococcal Virulence Factors. Dr. Cho’s research interests also include thermoregulation of capsule production and CvfA.

David ClarkDavid Clark, Professor, Emeritus
Department of Microbiology
College of Science

Dr. Clark received his Ph.D. from the University of Bristol (England) in 1977.  He has been at SIU since 1981. Dr. Clark’s field of expertise is Genetics and Regulation of Anaerobic Growth in Escherichia coli. His research interests in particular involve anaerobic growth and fermentation in Eschericia coli.

Douglas FixDouglas Fix, Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Microbiology

Dr. Fix received his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1983. At SIU since 1987, Dr. Fix’s field of expertise is Molecular Mutagenesis and DNA Repair. His research interests include molecular mutagenesis and DNA repair, transcription-induced effects on mutagenesis, ultraviolet light-induced mutagenesis, and alkylation-induced mutagenesis.

John Haddock, Associate Professor
Department of Microbiology

Dr. Haddock obtained his Ph.D. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1990.  He has been at SIU since 1995. Dr. Haddock’s field of expertise is Biodegradation and Transformation of Organic Compounds.  His research interests include biodegradation and agricultural and industrial biotechnology.

Vjollca KonjufcaVjollca Konjufca, Assistant Professor
Department of Microbiology

Dr. Konjufca received her Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 2002 and has been at SIU since 2010. Dr. Konjufca’s field of expertise is in Immunology and Host-Pathogen Interactions, her major research areas of interest.

Michael Madigan Michael Madigan, Professor and Distinguished Scholar, Emeritus
Department of Microbiology

Dr. Madigan received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1976.  He has been at SIU since 1979. Dr. Madigan’s field of expertise includes Bacterial Diversity; Phototrophic Bacteria; Nitrogen Fixation; and Extreme Environments.  His research interest is bacterial diversity.

John MartinkoJohn Martinko, Associate Professor and Distinguished Teacher, Emeritus
Department of Microbiology

Dr. Martinko received his Ph.D. from State University of New York at Buffalo in 1978, coming to SIU in 1981. Dr. Martinko’s field of expertise includes Structure and Function of Mouse Major Histocompatibility Complex Molecules.  His research interest is immunology.

Antje RuschAntje Rusch, Assistant Professor
Department of Microbiology

Dr, Rusch received her Ph.D. from the University of Bremen, Germany in 2000.  She came to SIU nine years later. Dr. Rusch’s fields of expertise are Microbial Ecology; Marine Microbiology; and Biogeochemistry. Her research includes these fields and other general/specific related research interests. 

As you can see from reviewing the department of Microbiology's Assessment Plan and corresponding annual Assessment Report, the faculty members deserve to be acknowledged for all their good work and for the outstanding assessment. When all faculty members are involved in program assessment activities, students are the first to benefit.

Sharon Walters, PhD
Assessment and Program Review

Featuring a CWAC - 
(Campus Wide Assessment Committee) Member

Boyd Goodson, Associate Professor 
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

College of Science

Dr goodson

Dr. Goodson obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999.  He was a postdoctoral scholar at California Institute of Technology from 1999 to 2002. 

According to Boyd, “Chemistry can be a challenging subject, but what’s the point of students taking chemistry without actually learning the material—and hopefully, enjoying themselves in the process? As a member of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s general chemistry team (and instructor for the new honors section of CHEM 200), I can say that assessment plays an integral role in what we do. Our team’s assessment tools (varying from real-time feedback from “clicker questions,” to longitudinal performance tracking with selected exam questions, to good, old-fashioned student evaluations) provide invaluable feedback regarding the learning outcomes of our students (as well as what they liked and didn’t like about the courses)—and ultimately have played a major role in the design (and continual re-design) of our general chemistry curriculum.”

Boyd also uses assessment in his research. He is the PI of SIUC’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, funded by the National Science Foundation. According to Boyd, “Our program focuses on providing summer opportunities in materials research (broadly defined) for undergraduates, particularly those students at small 4-year colleges and those from underrepresented groups. Our program’s assessment plan gauges success on two fronts—first, how much did the participants learn and accomplish during their time here; and second, how did participation in our program ultimately affect the students’ career-trajectory outcomes with respect to the STEM fields. Comprising a number of assessment tools (including questionnaires, knowledge assessments, faculty advisor feedback, exit interviews, and longitudinal tracking) our assessment plan is critical to gauging the success of our program in supporting its core mission.”

We are honored to have Boyd on the CWAC.

Sharon Walters, PhD
Assessment and Program Review

You Should Know...

new leadership alliance logo

This month’s newsletter from the New Leaders Alliance for Excellence in Student Learning and Accountability (a leading national advocate of assessment) contains an article that discusses the reinstatement of Teresa Sullivan at University of Virginia - MOOC vs Sullivan (massive online open courses). The newsletter also provides additional information on issues related to assessment and accountability.

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment's Logo

This month’s newsletter from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) contains a report on Assessment Results. Per the website: Most institutions are collecting evidence of student learning, but it is not clear how these results are being used to improve student outcomes. To learn more about what colleges and universities are doing to use assessment data productively to inform and strengthen undergraduate education, NILOA conducted nine case studies. The report concludes with lessons learned and reflective questions to help institutions advance their own assessment efforts within their specific institutional contexts." If you would like to read the studies, please follow this link <Assessment Results>.

The newsletter and website contain a wealth of information regarding assessment and transparency.

Bragging Rights

Have you heard?


Caleb McGee, a senior in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, won the 2012 Engineering Undergraduate Award from the American Society for Nondestructive Testing.  McGee is one of just three students nationwide to achieve this recognition (Crosby, 2012). This is definitely worth bragging about!

Crosby, T. (2012). Student is one of three in nation to win award. Southern Illinois University Carbondale,The Saluki Times. Retrieved from

Does your department or college have something related to assessment or program review it would like to brag about?  If yes, please e-mail and let us know.

Upcoming Spotlights


Nathan Lindsey  Drew Burgerson

Next month we will start preparing for the hands-on workshop being presented by Dr. Nathan Lindsay, Assistant Provost for Assessment, and Dr. Drew Bergerson, Professor of History and Assessment Fellow, University of Missouri, Kansas City.  This session is hands-on, as faculty/staff develop an initial assessment plan for a hypothetical degree program. They can choose from one of the following outrageous (and not so outrageous) possibilities:  a BA in flower arranging, a BS in flower arranging, a BA in extraterrestrial studies, an MA in extraterrestrial studies, a PhD in social media, an MD in veterinary medicine with a track in dinosaurs, and an LD to practice law in the World of Warcraft.  Since each table will only be allowed to pick one program, space will be limited.  In preparation, we will provide a brief overview of the essential components of an effective assessment plan in the next newsletter.



Two colleagues (above) from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, Nathan Lindsay, Assistant Provost for Assessment, and Drew Bergerson, Professor of History and Assessment Fellow, will be hosting a workshop on the basics of assessment and the outcomes on Thursday, September 6, 2012, 1-4 PM. in the Student Center, Ballroom A. There will be coffee, tea, cookies, and fruit for refreshment. Be sure to save the date. This will be a hands-on workshop and space will be limited.  Please go to the Survey Monkey link to register


Each month we will present what we believe to be practical information regarding assessment practices. However, because we believe assessment works best when feedback is sought, we encourage you to submit any questions regarding any aspect of the assessment process (i.e., at the course level, department level, college level, etc.) to us at We will attempt to answer these questions in the following month’s newsletter and post them on our website under FAQs