Journalism dept. to test students#039; creds.

by Beacon Staff • April 2, 2008

The test is being developed to determine whether a larger part of the journalism curriculum should emphasize the importance of those subjects in the professional world.,The Department of Journalism is planning on creating a test for undergraduates that would evaluate their understanding of written grammar, as well as their grasp of government.

The test is being developed to determine whether a larger part of the journalism curriculum should emphasize the importance of those subjects in the professional world.

Janet Kolodzy, interim chair of the journalism department, said the department, fueled by the knowledge that it is up for a performance review by the school next year, has been filled with discussion about how the current curriculum can be improved.

Kolodzy said that multiple faculty members have voiced concerns about the quality of writing they've seen from some students.

Journalist-in-residence Paula Childs said in an e-mail that some freshmen students she had were not as prepared for college writing as they should have been.

"I definitely think that freshmen students would benefit from a grammar and writing component in their introductory journalism courses," Childs wrote in the message, adding that many freshmen are also unfamiliar with the court system, the legislative process and social and political issues.

A basic knowledge of government-especially regarding first amendment rights-is very important for aspiring journalists to have, said department faculty member David Wallace.

"If [students] don't know how basic laws in their city hall are passed, then they have a problem," Wallace said.

In response to these concerns, the journalism department may develop a test for freshmen in their 100-level introductory classes that goes over basic grammar and government.

The results of the test would allow the department to assess the students' knowledge of the subjects.

Later, in 300-level journalism courses, the students would be tested again, and the results would be compared to their freshman scores as a way of tracking their progress, Kolodzy said.

A trial test is now being developed that will be given to current students in the 300-level Beat Reporting and Radio Producing classes later this semester.

The test would be one of several new methods used to track the progress of journalism students as they complete their degree at Emerson.

Outcome assessment tests are also required in order to receive accreditation from accreditation organizations.

Currently, Emerson is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which requires outcome assessment tests from schools to ensure its standards are being met.

Journalism departments can also seek accreditation from the Accrediting Counsel on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, an internatioanl educational association that promotes the advancement of journalism education.

Ten percent of colleges in the nation are accredited by ACEJMC, including journalism giants Colombia University and the University of Missouri.

Emerson is not accredited by AEJMC, and Kolodzy said that there are no immediate plans to apply for accreditation.

Doing so would mean that the current journalism curriculum would have to be redesigned to meet all AEJMC guidelines, a decision that Kolodzy said won't be made before a permanent journalism chair is found.

Kolodzy said that while accreditation is desirable for some, it does not affect department rank, or provide any strong advantages over colleges that are not accredited.

As for existing journalism courses, Kolodzy said the department will try to better coordinate 100-level course curriculums, taught by a variety of teachers, so that students are coming away from the classes with the same information.

Kolodzy mentioned as an example that the various 100-level Newsgathering classes seem to have very different curriculums, an issue she said will need to be addressed.

Wallace said that the lack of coordination causes problems for both students and professors in future courses.

"Everybody should be on the same page in the beginning, so that there is no need to spend classes going over things that [students] should already know," said Wallace, who teaches the Beat Reporting class that will be given one of the trial outcome assessment tests.

Sophomore Gresa Balaj, a former Beacon contributor who is in Wallace's Beat Reporting class, said that while she doesn't believe it is absolutely necessary, adding a few more hours of grammar instruction into the curriculum would probably be beneficial.

Instead of stressing government in courses, the print journalism major said the department should focus on providing more magazine writing courses, because she feels the current courses only prepare students for newspaper reporting.

Classes in magazine writing are currently offered through the Writing, Literature and Publishing department.

"I'm taking American government this semester, and I've learned more than I'll ever need to if I write for magazines like Glamour or Marie Claire," she said.