Assessing Learning in Ethnobotany

SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany serves four program learning outcomes through three course level outcomes. The course serves learning outcomes in general education, the Micronesian studies program, and the Agriculture and Natural Resources program.

GE 3.4 Define and explain scientific concepts, principles, and theories of a field of science. 1. Identify local plants, their reproductive strategies, and morphology.
GE 4.2 Demonstrate knowledge of the cultural issues of a person’s own culture and other cultures.

MSP 2 Demonstrate proficiency in the geographical, historical, and cultural literacy of the Micronesian region.
2. Communicate and describe the cultural use of local plants for healing, as food, as raw materials, and in traditional social contexts.
ANR 2 Demonstrate basic competencies in the management of land resources and food production. 3. Demonstrate basic field work competencies related to management of culturally useful plant resources and foods.


Identify local plants, their reproductive strategies, and morphology.

The twenty-one (11 female, 10 male) students in the course engaged in a number of activities in support of this learning outcome. Reproductive strategies were also communicated via student presentations. Identification of local plants permeated every outing, field trip, and hike.

Shanaleen makes notes next to Angiopteris evecta

Nineteen of the twenty-one students attended the field final examination exercise. 

The final examination involved a walk on campus and required the students to identify twenty local plants. The students had to identify the plants by Latin binomial, local name, and provide a specific cultural use for the plant.

The students had a list of 74 Latin binomials for plants found on and around the Paies, Palikir, campus to assist with the Latin name identification.

Success rates over time for the three sections of the final examination

Collectively, the 19 students who took the field final examination obtained an average of 88.7% correct Latin name identifications. This success rate is on par with the success rate seen last spring. Both terms showed improvement over prior terms and are the highest success rates on the 20 plant version of the final examination. Fall 2015 included only 16 plants from a 56 plant list. The improvement is thought to be due to the new flora for the course and the availability of an online "self-assessment" based on the flora in Schoology.

Plant identification practice in Schoology

The students had an average of 94.7% correct for local name identifications and an average 89.5% correct for local uses of the plants.

Performance across the past five terms has remained above 80% on all three areas of the final examination: Latin binomials, local names, and local uses.  This term marked the third term for the use of twenty plants on the final examination. In prior terms sixteen plants were on the final examination. The Latin flora list has also grown with each term. Spring 2017 had 72 plants, fall 2017 had 74 plants. Each term the final is more demanding and challenging.


Communicate and describe the cultural use of local plants for healing, as food, as raw materials, and in traditional social contexts.

May-me noted the use of nnét in Chuuk, Scaevola taccada, to treat bloating during a women's period. The leaves of Scaevola taccada and Psidium guajava are boiled in water to produce an infusion. The leaves are removed and the indusion is put into a basin. The patient then sits in the basin and soaks in the infusion.

Students engaged in presentations on healing plants, plants as food, plants used for material culture, and wrote two essays during the course of the term on the cultural use of plants. Essays were marked using rubrics provided one the day one calendar and syllabus.

For the twenty plants on the final examination, the 19 students were collectively able to cite 340 uses for the 380 possible uses, a success rate of 89.5%

The essays were not analyzed this term. Fourteen of the 21 students in the course submitted the healing plants essay, 11 of the 21 submitted the material culture essay. The essays were added to the course to bring writing into the course. The essays, however, remain peripheral to the other many activities in the curriculum. Other ways to bring writing into the course might be explored, with options now available including the possible use of unmarked Discussions in Schoology to encourage writing. Development of appropriate topics that would yield sustained, interactive discussion has yet to be done.


Demonstrate basic field work competencies related to management of culturally useful plant resources and foods.

Students tended to a banana tree collection and engaged in maintaining ethnobotanical plant collections on campus.

Kiyoe and Emerika cleaning up a banana stand

The students worked with bananas from production on the land to the kitchen to the table. The collection also provided a living banana herbarium and assisted in teaching students the diversity of bananas.

Idihd en uht: mashed banana

Students also tended to ethnobotanically useful plant collections and learned to identify threats to 
food production such as invasive species.

Performance on the final examination across multiple terms
Long term final examination success rates

A longer time frame indicates that the final examination performance is fairly stable over the past five years. From 2002 to 2005 the course had a course content oriented final examination. From 2005 to 20012 (not shown on the chart above, did not yield percentages) the course ended with a final essay examination. In 2012 the course shifted to using the present format of naming plants and explaining their uses in a field final practical examination. In 2012 there were twelve plants on the final. This was later increased to 16 plants. Spring 2016 this increased to 20 plants. In the fall of 2016 the twenty plant format was retained. Each term the number of plants listed in Latin has increased, this term 74 plants were on the list. Part of this increase in the number of plants is due to the intentional evolution of the campus and environs as a living herbarium.

Success rates on the final examination are now hovering near 90%. The final examination was introduced on the second day of class and the nature and layout of the final was covered again in subsequent classes. Thus the students have strong opportunities to become acquainted with the final and the challenge the field final presents. 


Course diversity varies from term-to-term and generally reflects the composition of the national campus.
Class diversity

While two students had some Mortlockese heritage, and one student had partial Sapwafikese heritage, these three students grew up here on Pohnpei and were more familiar with the Pohnpeian names and uses of the plants. All three were also part Pohnpeian. The Japanese student was a visiting student, spending a term here at the college. 


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