Assessment in Action: Student Learning in Media, Journalism & Film

by Sarah Gray and Keri Franklin

Media, Journalism & film students typing on computers in class

The Department

Dr. Mary Jane Pardue, the Interim Department Head of Media, Journalism & Film, in the College of Arts and Letters, has been at Missouri State University since 2002. Throughout her 12 years at the university she has taught numerous courses within the department and has seen, first hand, the process of student learning take place in her classroom. In her current role as Interim Department Head, Dr. Pardue assesses student learning to keep up with the discipline: “Journalism is changing rapidly and in a huge way. We talk about what our students need to graduate as a professional journalist. We look at the classes we are teaching and the content of those classes.” Assessment of student learning is not new to MJF: “We’ve done assessment for a long time. Assessment in a less formal sense goes on all the time, in my opinion.”

Understanding and Discussing Student Learning

The first step of the Media, Journalism & Film Department was to form an assessment committee made of faculty members from the department. The group started the process of developing a curriculum map and reviewed the department and course learning outcomes. "We looked at where and how we wanted to see students progress in areas such as ethical journalism. From there, we wanted to see what was working really well, but we also wanted to see what we could change and fix while having a mindset that we might need to do some adjusting along the way.” Throughout this process, the faculty realized that their bottom line was to teach students to be versatile and adaptable at all times.

The faculty developed a rubric and student learning outcomes. Through the process of developing student learning outcomes, the department discovered that one outcome did not quite work. The outcome said, “Students will be able to know what news is.” At first glance, this seemed to the group like a simply stated outcome that students would meet before they graduated, but it quickly led to the following question, “How do you measure whether students ‘know’ the news?” Knowing the news was an outcome of the journalism courses, but the department wanted to develop a way to measure whether students met that expectation.

A new outcome was developed: “Students will create journalistic works that would be publishable in a professional news outlet." This outcome was measured by looking at the number of students in the program who published work in the Ozarks News Journal and other publications. Reflecting back on the process that the department went through, Dr. Pardue stated, “when we stepped back and changed it, that was the student learning outcome we actually got a lot of good data from.”

What the Department Learned

Dr. Pardue provides this advice to other departments preparing to develop an assessment plan and learning outcomes: “ I would recommend trying to not do everything at once. Do something manageable. We didn’t try to assess everything that we did, but we tried to pick three things that were important. Honestly, we needed to pick three things that we saw potential for improvement on as well.” She also recommended that department's keep in mind that “the process will be one that is done over a period of time.”

Action Steps

Through the work of the Media, Journalism & Film Department assessment committee and faculty conversations, the department developed an action plan and implemented changes in the fall of 2013. According to Dr. Pardue, “If you’re going to do all of this work, then you need to get something out of it.”

The department revised the Print and Internet Journalism program. Numerous structural changes were made including adjustments to course numbers, to better reflect course content, and changes to course periodicity, course sequencing, and the types of electives available to students. The faculty made these changes once they realized some of the courses students took at the end of the program contained foundational tools for the profession that should be taught much earlier in the program.

Assessment for improvement “is doable if you get specific, if you try to work together, if you are not resistant to some changes, and, more than anything, you want to celebrate what you’re doing.”

Media, Journalism & Film Department

  • 12 faculty
  • 400 majors
  • 2 graduate certificates
    • Undergraduate Certificate in Screenwriting for Television and Film
    • Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting for Television and Film

Keys to Success

  • Develop a curriculum map to begin a discussion about what and where students are learning.
  • Begin with the end in mind: “What will a professional journalist need to know when they graduate from Missouri State?”
  • Assessment Committee

Methods to Collect Evidence

  • Looked at past student work
  • Reviewed course outcomes and desired department outcomes
  • Reviewed faculty observations and discussions

Return to Use of Student Learning page—Assessment in Action