Assessing Learning in Ethnobotany

SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany proposes to serve 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 eighteen students (9 female, 9 male)  in the course engaged in a number of activities in support of this learning outcome. Reproductive strategies were also communicated via student presentations. Vegetative morphology was supported by a vegetative morphology walk. Identification of local plants permeated every outing, field trip, and hike.

Leeron, Rosalyn, Lavonna

Fifteen of the eighteen students attended the field final examination exercise. Of the three students who missed the final, two were no longer attending the class. 

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 82 Latin binomials for plants found on and around the Paies, Palikir, campus to assist with the Latin name identification.

Performance on Latin name, local name, and local use sections of the final exam

Collectively, the 15 students who took the field final examination made 236 correct Latin binomial identifications out of 300 possible identifications for a 78.7% success rate, down significantly from the 92.6% success rate seen fall 2017. There is no clear indication of what contributed to the drop. The long term average for the fall term is 85.3%, for the spring term is 85.5%. The drop came even though the course is now supported by a both a flora for the course and an online "self-assessment" based on the flora in Schoology.

Flora review practice in Schoology

The students made 252 correct local name identifications out of the 300 possible identifications for a success rate of 84%, which was also down from fall 2017 when the success rate was 93.2%.


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

Rosalyn relates the use of heated Morinda citrifolia to relieve hives

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.

For the twenty plants on the final examination, the 15 students were collectively able to cite 246 uses out of 270 possible uses, a success rate of 91.1%. This was on par with past performance. Note that two plants had no known use.

The essays were again not analyzed this term. Only 11 of the 18 students in the course submitted the healing plants essay, 6 of the 18 submitted the material culture essay. Only four students submitted both essays, eight students submitted only one essay. The essays were intended 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 should be explored, with options now available including the possible use of unmarked Discussions in Schoology to encourage writing or written reflection journal type assignments during the term. 


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.

Lavonna, Nemely, Rodrigo

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.

Pohnpeian uht idihd doughnuts

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

From 2002 to 2005 the course had a course content oriented final examination. From 2005 to 2012 (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 82 plants were on the list. The increase from 72 to 82 Latin names may have be a contributing factor to the downturn in performance on the final examination. That said, the course has increased the emphasis in the field on identifying the plants.

Part of the increase in the number of plants is due to the intentional evolution of the campus and environs as a living herbarium. The conversion of the Pohnpei/CTEC Campus Traditional Plants Garden to an agriculture/food crops focus has led to the development of the Palikir campus as an ethnobotanical garden and living herbarium.

Reporting Learning Outcome Achievement

Course student learning outcome achievement were mapped to activities, presentations, hikes, and assignments in Schoology Institutional during the term.

Schoology Mastery settings

Mastery settings were set at 70% with at least five demonstrations of the outcome at that level or higher. For the purposes of reporting learning outcomes the "green stars" were tabulated as described in an article on assessment using Schoology and Nuventive TracDat.

Course student learning outcome performance by student

* The current course outline dates to circa 2007. In 2011 the college undertook reformatting all outlines at the college, but instructors were instructed to not change content at that time. That meant that the outline approved in 2012 was still the outline designed in 2007. In the wake of a decision to include the course as a required course in the two-year Agriculture and Natural Resources program, revised outline was prepared and submitted after 2012. As the outline document saw changes in the format specifications, the outline was appropriately modified. The reformatted outline was again submitted for consideration in the fall of 2016. As of spring 2018 the proposed outline has yet to be considered by the appropriate bodies. There has no been no change in the core student learning outcomes, the change is rather an addition of outcomes in light of the inclusion in the ANR requirements.


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