The following samples are intended to illustrate how instructors have communicated their assessment expectations to students via their syllabi. For more examples of this kind, see the Center for Teaching and Learning's Syllabus Tutorial.

Syllabus explanation of an essay exam

The purpose of the course is to provide an understanding of the field. Understanding is best measured by assessing a student's ability to use the material in thinking about people. Therefore, the essay questions usually ask students to think with the material--to compare, argue, conclude, and so on, going beyond what is spelled out for them in readings and lectures. In this way, the essay questions also perform an important teaching function in their own right. Since psychology is a science, the questions ask students to think scientifically. Therefore, statements of opinion are worth very little--whether or not they agree with mine--unless they are supported by valid arguments based where possible on rigorous evidence. This may sound formidable, but most students learn to do this well enough to be successful on these examinations. As you study, keep in the back of your mind questions such as, "How does the author know this is true?" "On the basis of what evidence does she disagree with So-and-so?" and so on.

- Eric Klinger, Psychology 3400 (Morris Campus)


Project 3: Annotated Bibliography

Choose three journal articles on ONE women, law, and public policy question or issue that interests you. The articles may be from several different journals, but need not be (for example, if there is a symposium issue on your topic). Submit a SHORT annotated bibliography. The annotation should be a paragraph or two at most. Begin with the correct citation (either Chicago Manual, APSA, or Blue Book citation style), then include a sentence summarizing the argument. A brief description of the method and sources used to further the thesis and a brief evaluation of its merits should follow. Careful skimming may be an important skill in writing the annotations. But pick three articles you'd really like to read.

Being able to summarize an argument, article, or report effectively is a vital skill in the world of public affairs where congressional staffers, for example, are asked to confine their memos to one page. When you have to state the argument in one or two sentences, and describe the evidence used to support the argument, you realize that your understanding of the text may be much fuzzier than you had thought. The clarity required to write succinctly helps you to separate out which details and points are most important. Annotating, however, takes practice and requires revision.

The key quality is detail and precision. Rather than use general evaluative words, such as "this is an interesting article" or "this article is good" you need to precisely convey what specific quality made it so. For example, "By comparing the treatment of white middle-class unwed mothers over time, and by comparing the social services they received to those received by black women, Solinger demonstrates how meaning of unwed motherhood is socially constructed." Rather than merely stating that her evidence is historical, you might want to point out that she examines the governance and operation of private homes for unwed mothers, even exploring the newsletters and board minutes of the home.

I will grade the annotation according to four criteria: Did you cite the material correctly? Did you state the argument clearly in one or two sentences? Did you describe the evidence considered? Did you evaluate the piece?

- Sally Kenney, Public Affairs 5441: Women and Public Policy in the United States