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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.
Heres how the process will work:
The Colleges assessment plan will be conducted online, through Web portfolios that are accessible only to the student, the instructor and colleges 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:
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 knowledge are we measuring?
The colleges assessment plan will measure student performance in these areas, also called learning outcomes:
The Colleges 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 Colleges 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.