We at the UA School of Journalism believe in holding students accountable, and teaching young journalists how to hold the government accountable, so we should hold ourselves accountable!
Self-assessment is paramount for improvement. It’s also an essential element to remaining one of the 100 or so journalism programs in the nation accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. On this page we provide quantifiable measurements of school performance, and what we are doing to improve in our goal of educating the world’s best journalists to best serve Arizona and society at large.
The school adopted its first assessment plan in 1999 and updated it in 2004 and then again in 2011. The goal is to figure out whether students are leaving the program prepared for the workplace and competent in the school's 10 core student learning outcomes. Students, parents and the public must know that their tax and tuition dollars are making a difference. The school employs quantitative and qualitative assessment indicators, both direct and indirect, of student learning (see the assessment plan). Below are some of the indicators of the school’s performance.
1. Enrollment stable
Undergraduate enrollment has been stable during the past few years through excellent advising, recruitment and retention through student clubs and other school activities. The school is large enough to support resources for students, yet small enough so students receive individualized attention by world-class faculty.
2. Retention rates – most students stay
This is an indicator of whether incoming freshmen tend to stay with the major or switch to another major by their second year. Most stay. Our analysis indicates that some of our entering majors tend to move out to other majors by their sophomore year, more so than other parts of campus, as opposed to being a major that attracts students who switch to us from other programs. An introductory class for pre-majors started in 2008 has helped students decide whether journalism is for them, which has lowered the retention rate. We consider that a good thing – students continue in the major dedicated and knowing what they want, which leads to higher graduation rates for the school (see below).
3. Graduation rates reflect 2008 entry standards
Below are the percentages of freshman journalism students who graduate within four years and within six years, compared to the University of Arizona as a whole. The school’s graduation rates generally reflect the university’s rates. The 2009 entering class had a lower graduation rate, which reflects the higher standards imposed in 2008 for pre-majors, particularly the requirement of taking an introductory class to see if journalism was really for them. As a result of that class, many pre-majors switched out of journalism in 2009 and did not graduate in the major. This might lower the number of journalism majors, but it better serves the students and results in more committed students for journalism.
4. Students graduate with greater journalism knowledge
The school administers a multiple-choice test to pre-majors as they come into the major (Journalism 105) and in their capstone school media courses, typically for seniors. Below is a comparison, showing the better scores of seniors compared to pre-majors for a variety of categories, including ethics, numeracy, writing, media law and the role of the press in society.
5. Students leave the school better writers
The school tests beginning students’ writing ability (in Journalism 205) and compares it to the writing ability of those in senior school media courses. Students write a story based on provided notes and a panel of judges rates the stories based on several criteria. During the past three years we have seen marked improvement in writing ability and critical thinking. In 2012-13 we noticed poor scores in numeracy and accuracy, so we increased the attention to math for journalists in the curriculum. By 2014-15 the scores had tripled.
6. Students leave the school more comfortable with technology
The school wants to make sure students are prepared to cope with increasing technology in the workplace, and has implemented several classes to address multimedia, video editing, data visualization and other skills. Students are required to take a class in photojournalism and another class in multimedia. Surveys of technological comfort in spring 2015 show that those in senior school media courses are much more comfortable with technology than pre-majors, particularly in using social media, blogging, sound recording, photography, Photoshop, pagination, Final Cut Pro, mobile apps and other skills.
7. Employers increasingly satisfied with UA journalism interns
The school initiated several steps to make sure students are well-prepared for the job market and get the practical on-the-job experience they need. This included developing an “apprentice” class in 2007 with the local newspaper. The school hired an internship coordinator in 2007 to help prepare students for the workplace. Intern supervisors rate the interns and those ratings have continued to increase annually.
8. Average GPA of journalism students increasing
In 2006, the school implemented a minimum GPA of 2.5 to become a major, which was a little higher than the standard for remaining at the university (2.0), but still lower than required GPA levels of some campus units. As a result, the average GPA of journalism majors has steadily increased, from 2.96 in 2006, to 3.16 in 2010. The university average is 2.96.