Department of Communication
|Table 1: Mean Knowledge Scores for Spring 98 and Spring 99|
|Senior Majors||LD Majors||LD Non-Majors||UD Non-majors|
Inspection of the table shows senior majors to perform better than either lower-class majors or non-majors of either rank. T-tests comparing seniors with the other groups were significant at the p=.01 level or higher. Given there is considerable choice in the classes a communication major may take, and the exam measures all possible course content, the pattern shows exiting seniors to know more that either of the three groups. Since most students specialize in two or three of the four possible areas, the differences are artifactually small, but still statistically significant.
Although this index provides a general sense that students are learning discipline-relevant information, the department sees the index as a relatively general measure. We would like to see a bigger difference in the performance of seniors relative to the other three groups. This profile led the department to add a course requirement for all communication majors. As of summer 2000, all communication majors were required to take Comm 2210 (Perspectives on Communication) rather than selecting from a menu of introductory course possibilities. This curriculum change increased the particular theoretical knowledge that could be expected of all majors yet still retain students' ability to tailor course selection to their intellectual interests. Our new requirements now go well beyond that change. We think that our new requirements should have a greater impact. But we may have to further tailor the test to adequately measure the actual impact.
Spring semester 2001 was our first opportunity to accomplish a longitudinal study comparing the scores of the graduating seniors to the scores of first-year students three years earlier (These are not, or at least not entirely, the same individuals, but are samples from the same cohort.) See Table 2. We expect students graduating in Spring 2002 to even further exceed entry level scores. In the future, the new requirements will help insure that students have a better sequence of courses and larger amount of content knowledge. Higher difference scores should result since we are increasing the number of core ideas with which majors can be assumed to be familiar, and enabling instructors teaching senior seminars to assume a larger common knowledge base for students in the class. Instructors can be more demanding of students in upper-level classes.
|Table 2: Mean Knowledge Scores for Spring 2001 and Spring 1998|
Graduating Senior Majors
For spring 2001 we developed a more complete senior assessment tool. This instrument focused more on self-assessment of knowledge and skills and less on satisfaction. Graduating seniors were asked to rate themselves on 14 different specific skills and knowledge sets that are core to the department's mission and directly related to students' personal, professional and civic life, as well as to assess the quality of the major. The instrument is here. [Heather - make "here" a link to l ir outcomes oa0001 commsurv.doc.] Each of the items is marked with a 5-point response scale, from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree," and each makes a statement that "My studies in communication have [improved my ability or knowledge]…." in a given area, as listed in Table 3 below. In addition, open-ended items asked the student to describe what he or she liked best and least about his or her studies. This instrument was emailed to all graduating students; about 30% (n=43) returned the instrument. In the spring of 2002 we have included the survey with a form related to graduation and asked students to return them together; we hope this will improve the response rate.
|Table 3: 2001 Senior Survey|
|Item||% SA||% A||% N||% D||% SD|
|1. Public speaking||59||36||5||0||0|
|2. Professional relations||51||42||8||0||0|
|3. Analyze arguments||37||56||7||0||0|
|5. Manage conflict||57||43||0||0||0|
|7. Social Community||59||31||10||0||0|
|8. Interpersonal relations||56||45||0||0||0|
|11. Organization comm.||52||33||16||0||0|
|12. Civic preparation||29||44||27||0||0|
|14. Personal life||38||34||29||0||0|
|15. Satisfaction w/ major||52||37||11||0||0|
Overall satisfaction with the major has remained fairly constant over the past few years. Negative comments in the open-ended section related mostly to the difficulty of getting into classes and redundancy across courses. We hope to soon have the enrollment under control. Better sequencing of courses should lead instructors to feel less need to repeat material. The survey indicates that we need to continue to focus on writing. Surprisingly, we also need to do more with teamwork and collaboration. Hopefully the new placement of critical thinking will aid in some of the other categories.
A significant number of majors do an internship in a professional setting related to one in which they may have a job interest following graduation. In an internship, students spend a certain number of hours in the field, keep a journal, and write up a paper linking a theory of communication with their observation and experience in the internship site. Toward the end of each semester, interns' field supervisors are sent a 7-item questionnaire and are asked to evaluate their intern. Five of the items ask the supervisor to rate the student on 7-point scales where 1 = poor and 7 = excellent. Items included, for instance, "I would describe the intern's ability to express himself/herself orally as" followed by a seven-point scale. Besides assessing oral expression, other items ask about the intern's quality of writing, ability to adapt messages to particular audiences, listening skills, and critical thinking and problem-solving ability. In addition, supervisors were asked for open-ended comments and what internship grade they would assign. A summary of the quantitative part of the field supervisory assessment is below. For 97-98 there was a 68% return rate, for 98-99 a 76% return rate, 00-01 a 73% return. Individual comments were largely positive, often exceptionally so. Not infrequently, supervisors commented that they would hire the student if a position came open. In the 97-98 there were occasional concerns expressed about students' writing skills; this occurred less frequently in 98-99 and 00-01.
|Table 4: Mean Competence Ratings from Field Supervisors|
|Acad. Yr.||# of Responses||Oral Expression||Written Expression||Audience Adaptation||Listening Skill||Critical Thinking||Grade Assigned (A=4, B=3, etc.)|
In sum, feedback from field supervisors suggests the department is doing a good job preparing its students for the wide range of professional positions that they might take upon graduation. In fact they think we are doing a better job than the seniors themselves think. The department regards the internship program as important to the quality of its program and intends to continue encouraging students to get involved in this distinctive type of learning.
Last revision 01/28/03