ACEJMC assessment plan, undergraduate programs

Undergraduate Programs: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Bachelor of Arts in Sports Journalism
Adopted Fall 2016

The Cronkite School’s undergraduate program assessment plan is built on the expectation that Cronkite students will be prepared to assume entry-level positions as journalism or communications professionals upon graduation. Students are expected to be proficient with current tools, technologies, and techniques and be prepared to not only adapt to but lead continual transformation in their chosen fields. 

In developing learning objectives, particular emphasis is placed on the time-honored journalistic values of accuracy, responsibility, fairness, balance and integrity that characterize the School’s namesake. These values and skills are taught and practiced through a “teaching hospital” approach to journalism education in which students get hands-on experience in courses and in immersive capstone courses that serve the information needs of communities and act as a testing ground for innovative practices and approaches to journalism and other forms of communication.

Learning goals track the professional values and competencies specified by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. These are included in all course syllabi and are posted on the Cronkite website. Course syllabi are reviewed before the start of each semester to ensure they include learning outcomes specific to each course and that they reference ACEJMC values and competencies.

The Cronkite School assesses student learning outcomes at the undergraduate level in each academic year. Assessment results are evaluated by the Curriculum and Assessment Analyst and the Senior Associate Deans and shared with faculty and leadership to determine needed changes in the curriculum or course content to improve student learning. Assessments may also guide decision-making with regard to resources, student services and other out-of-classroom offerings.

The School has used the following assessment measures throughout this review period. Revisions and additions are noted by date:

Direct measures

1. Portfolio reviews

At the end of each spring semester, undergraduate students who are graduating submit portfolios that represent their best work produced while at the school. Portfolios are reviewed by professionals, many of whom are members of the Cronkite Endowment Board, composed of Arizona’s top journalism and communications executives. Reviewers complete a form evaluating student work according to all ACEJMC values and competencies and indicate whether they would hire the student if they had an entry-level job opening, and whether they believe the student is prepared for an entry-level job in a small market newsroom or communications firm.

Students create their portfolios in the second semester of their first year in the required JMC 305 or JMC 306 Multimedia Journalism courses. Students are advised to add to their portfolios throughout their academic career. During their required internships, typically in the third year, students submit their portfolios for review by the Cronkite Office of Career and Professional Development for quality and completeness. Completed portfolios are to include the following items: 

  • Homepage with a professional photo, an introduction focusing on the student’s work experience and what they can bring to the hiring manager, and a paragraph about the hard skills they can offer to the company.
  • Sound navigation that leads the hiring manager easily through the site.
  • Work samples in at least three of these categories: print/digital; broadcast; multimedia; social media; media analytics; public relations campaigns; audio; and graphics and design. All content must be original.
  • A resume page with a PDF version of the resume that can be easily read and downloaded.
  • An “About” page with a photo, stated career goals and stated outside interests and activities.
  • A contact page with LinkedIn and other relevant social media links, phone number and non-ASU email address. 

Revised: Spring 2022 to reflect new ACEJMC values and competencies.

Revised: Fall 2022 to include adoption of a portfolio template in the JMC 305/306 courses to standardize and elevate the quality of portfolios and to institute additional portfolio reviews in two other Cronkite courses (Business & Future of Journalism, and Intermediate Reporting) to ensure students are on track.

2. Grammar Proficiency

Since 2005, the School has required students entering the program to demonstrate proficiency in basic English grammar. All undergraduate students enroll in JMC 101, an online asynchronous course in the first half of their first semester of study. Students must pass the course with a proficiency (defined as a “B-” grade of 80% or better) before they may move on to other Cronkite courses. Students who do not demonstrate proficiency may repeat the course. Those who fail a second time may apply to take the course a third time. There is no test-out option.

Students are given a diagnostic test to assess their grammar competency at the beginning of the course and then are administered a final exam at the end of the course to measure their learning. Results are used to refine teaching and course design and identify where additional grammar teaching may be needed in the curriculum.

3. Capstone Prerequisite Skills Assessment

Students in the Cronkite News professional program are assessed on how well prerequisite courses prepared them for their capstone experience. The assessment is intended to identify needed changes in curriculum and the content of courses to ensure that students have mastered fundamental skills and knowledge required for a professional-level experience. 

Cronkite News faculty complete a form assessing the preparedness of students assigned to their teams, based on learning outcomes for prerequisite courses. The assessment is done about six weeks into the semester in order to allow time for faculty to become familiar with each student’s capabilities. Students are evaluated on whether they have mastered journalism fundamentals such as sourcing, interviewing and using data, ability to shoot, edit and upload photos, and understanding of and use of SEO and analytics, among other learning outcomes.  Students are evaluated on whether they meet, do not meet, or exceed expected competencies in each area. 

The assessment applies to students assigned to news and sports in Cronkite News bureaus in Phoenix, L.A., and Washington D.C., as well as those in Cronkite Noticias, the Spanish-language news program. These include the large majority of student enrollment in the School’s immersive experiences.

Revised: Spring 2017 to update instructions on form.

Revised: Spring 2018 to update course learning outcomes and break out data on sports majors.

Suspended: Summer 2020 due to pandemic.

Reinstated: Summer 2022.

4. Internship Evaluations

Student performance in internships is evaluated at the end of each semester. Supervisors are asked to rank how well student interns performed on a range of competencies, including journalism skills and professional behavior as well as ACEJMC values and competencies. Students are given an overall rating from unacceptable to excellent. Employers are asked if they believe the student is ready for an entry-level job and whether they would hire the student for an entry-level position. The assessment helps identify strengths and weaknesses that can be addressed in curricula or course content.

Revised: Spring 2022 to include new ACEJMC values & competencies

Indirect measures

1. Graduating Student Exit Survey & Alumni Surveys

Graduating students are asked to fill out an exit survey, the Graduating Senior Report Card, administered by the ASU University Office of Evaluation and Educational Effectiveness. Approximately 70-75% of graduating seniors complete this exit survey each year when they apply for graduation. Questions focus on overall experiences at ASU, experiences in their academic major and general education courses, university services, and post-graduation employment and education plans. Department-specific results are shared with colleges in academic plan and department reports. Employment data are shared with career service units at the university and college level. The assessment helps identify needed improvements in curricula, course content, student services, advising and other areas.

Additionally, alumni are occasionally surveyed to gather feedback on how they perceive their experiences and the quality of education they received at the Cronkite School. Questions address the quality of courses, faculty, equipment, internships, advising, career preparedness and the ACEJMC values and competencies. Such surveys can aid in assessing curricular relevance, technology and student services, among other areas.

Revised: Spring 2022 to develop a new alumni survey instrument, replacing a previous instrument that solicited alumni feedback via a survey included with an alumni e-newsletter.

2. Publication and Merit of Student Work

Student work is published for mass audiences; the most exemplary pieces of published content often win awards. Student awards are monitored and published on the Cronkite website. Contests provide important feedback from external judges and reviewers on the quality of Cronkite student work as compared to the work of their peers — and in some cases, as compared to the work of professionals. How well students fare in local, regional and national competitions provides evidence of the competencies they have acquired and is indicative of the level of their preparedness for the profession. 

Teaching effectiveness and student learning can be measured indirectly through the number and types of professional media outlets that publish student work. Student content is picked up by professional print, digital, television and radio news outlets almost daily in Arizona, across the region, and across the country. Cronkite News faculty track placements as closely as possible as a measure of whether the work meets professional standards, and how well it fills gaps in reporting that meet the needs of news organizations and their audiences. Combined with other feedback from news organizations, this data helps guide a number of decisions, including what beats and assignments should be prioritized in Cronkite News and what specific training students and their editors may need. It also is useful in pointing to needed changes in policies regarding fact-checking, sourcing attribution and style.

Another important measure of the quality of student work is the ability to attract audiences. The School measures viewership of the Cronkite News weeknight student newscast, broadcast on Arizona PBS, which has a reach of more than 1 million viewers (1.9 million households) across the state. Nielsen ratings also indicate whether student work is resonating with the audiences the program is intended to serve.

Finally, Cronkite News faculty measure user engagement across the Cronkite News website and social channels, including Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, Snapchat and Facebook. Audience analytics are tracked daily and shared with students and faculty as a measure of how well the work resonates with audiences, and helps inform (but does not dictate) decision-making on content, presentation and approach.

3. Employment Data

The Cronkite Director of Career and Professional Development is responsible for tracking graduates as they take their first jobs and advance in their careers. Utilizing LinkedIn, other social media platforms and email, the unit attempts to make contact with every graduate of the school each year. Information is maintained and regularly updated in a database of alumni, which contains the names of all 14,000 of the School’s alumni dating back to 1950. Of those, current information is on file for about 70% of Cronkite alumni who received bachelor’s degrees as of 2022. Alumni are coded by degree program, year of graduation, type of employment and part-time or full-time status. The data is useful in identifying needed improvements in curricula or instruction and in assessing whether the School is meeting its objective of preparing students for the professions.

4. Course Evaluations & Teaching Observations

Students evaluate every Cronkite course at the end of each class term, and data is used to improve both curriculum and instruction. Students are asked to evaluate instruction based on a range of measures, which has, since 2013, included ACEJMC values and competencies. Scores on two items – overall teaching ability and rigor of class – are extracted and included in annual evaluations of all full-time faculty members, along with a ranking of how each instructor’s rating compares to that of all other Cronkite faculty. Deans also review student comments on courses and address issues with individual faculty members as needed. Student evaluations figure prominently in the annual performance rating awarded to each faculty member and in decisions about faculty teaching assignments and retaining adjunct faculty.

Members of the School’s administration visit classes each semester to assess teaching and get feedback directly from students. Priority is given to new courses, courses taught by adjunct faculty, and courses in which issues have been identified. These visits take place typically within the first two months of the semester so that any problems can be addressed in a timely manner. Individual faculty members get immediate feedback on strengths and weaknesses of instruction. Larger themes also are identified that may lead to changes or adjustments to course content or the overall curriculum.