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Philip Merrill College of Journalism

About Assessment

Electronic Portfolios@Merrill

The goal of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism is to prepare students for careers in a constantly changing media world. It does this by stressing the hallmarks of good journalism — accurate reporting, good writing, technical skill and an understanding of media history, law and ethics.

Starting in fall 2006, the Merrill College will measure how well it teaches these key principles. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, the organization that evaluates journalism programs nationwide, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the body that accredits the University of Maryland, both require programs such as ours to assess student learning at the course, degree and departmental level.

The college will measure students’ familiarity with the facts, concepts, processes and laws that impact the profession and determine whether students have absorbed this knowledge and applied it in their coursework.

Although  grades are an indication of a student's overall success in a particular course, they do not provide a measure of a student's mastery and comprehension of specific skills and concepts. By rating a student's performance on specific assignments in key courses, the college can gauge how well students are learning certain concepts and acquiring specific skills.


How Assessment Works

Here’s how the process will work:

The College’s assessment plan will be conducted online, through Web portfolios that are accessible only to the student, the instructor and college’s administration. (Accreditors evaluating the college may also be given occasional access to some of the portfolios.)

Students will be required to turn in one or two assignments identified by the instructor or professor for the following courses:
JOUR 200 (Media History)
JOUR 201 (News Writing and Reporting I)
JOUR 300 (Media Ethics)
JOUR 320 (News Writing and Reporting II: Print)
JOUR 350 (Graphics)
JOUR 352 (Online Media)
JOUR 361 (Television Reporting and Production)
JOUR 400 (Media Law)
JOUR 410-479 (one course measuring the student’s ability to conduct research and evaluate information)
JOUR 625/Print News Bureau
JOUR 655/Online News Bureau
JOUR 667/Broadcast News Bureau
JOUR 772/Computer-Assisted Reporting

Students will submit their work electronically by logging onto a secure Web site that will identify the course and the assignment due. Instructors and professors will evaluate the portfolio assignments using a rubric that rates the level of learning on a scale of 0 to 4, with 0 an indication of no learning and 4 an indication of superior performance. (Read more about the assessment values.)


What are we measuring?

What knowledge are we measuring?

The college’s assessment plan will measure student performance in these areas, also called learning outcomes:
  1. Demonstrate the ability to research, write, report and edit relevant news stories acceptable by a professional news outlet.
  2. Understand the history of journalism, be familiar with coverage of diverse groups in society and learn the role of journalists in society.
  3. Understand the ethical guidelines and practices that govern the profession and the legal implications and considerations that inform the profession.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to apply tools, concepts and technology appropriate for the presentation of images and information in the profession.
  5. Conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the profession.
  6. Apply basic numerical and statistical concepts.
Participation in this assessment is mandatory. Students who do not turn in the selected assignments electronically will not receive a grade for the class.

The College’s Board of Visitors will also play a role in the assessment, evaluating small numbers of students’ portfolios online as well as in paper form and providing feedback to the College as well as to the students. Students may volunteer for this evaluation.

The College’s goal is to achieve a rating of at least 2 for 90 percent of all journalism students on all learning outcomes.

The data the College collects will then be analyzed and presented to the faculty and the administrators, along with any recommendations. The results should provide the College with important data that will guide curriculum changes in the coming years. It should also provide students with another measure of their performance beyond classroom grades.

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