Center for Instructional
Innovation and Assessment


Thor Hansen
Tim Pilgrim
Matthew Roelofs
Linda Smeins
Goals Contents
Tim Pilgrim
Department of Journalism

Institutional Goals

Listed below are selected learning outcomes in the areas of writing, critical thinking, and information seeking that Western Washington University is actively integrating into its curriculum. Curricular transformation within the Journalism 190 course was designed with these goals in mind. Each learning outcome is listed with its definition, along with a description of how the project met each of these student learning outcome goals.



Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Rhetorical Knowledge Focuses on a clear rhetorical purpose and responds appropriately to the needs of varied audiences and situations. Students are presented with writing opportunities in the form of free writes, short answer essay questions on exams, online discussion, and other written responses to assertions made by media scholars in videos, and a final essay project.
Critical Analysis Develops, examines, situates, and communicates a reasoned perspective clearly to others.

The in-class, first-day writing assignment asks students to tell what the impact of media is on society, culture and self-governance. This provides an opportunity to assess critical analysis, both to the professor and other students.

Students must respond to short-answer questions that ask them to identify and analyze media messages, portrayals, concepts, and theories.

Free-writing situations, in small-group, online discussion and in analyses and impromptu responses to class material (such as videos or readings) give students opportunities to communicate reasoned perspectives in a lucid manner.

Composing Processes Understands writing as a recursive process that involves drafting, re-thinking, editing, reconceptualizing.

The final essay, which asks students to evaluate ideas and arguments presented during the entire quarter, requires that they draft, rethink and reconceptualize, and edit as they craft their papers.

The requirement of brevity in the short written assignments facilitates composing processes; in order for a student to get a point across to the audience clearly and succinctly, rethinking and redrafting a response is most often required.

Convention Knowledge Uses appropriate conventions for documentation and for surface features such as syntax, grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling. The final essay must embody rhetorical knowledge, critical analysis, composing processes, and, to a lesser degree, students' knowledge of basic conventions such as grammar, spelling, etc.

Source: Adapted from Western Washington University's Learning Outcomes for Writing II.


Critical Thinking

Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Identification Accurately identifies and interprets evidence.

Journalism 190 is focused on critical thinking in the form of what is called media literacy.

J190 uses some traditional objective testing (matching of concepts and their definitions, etc.) and heavy reliance on the various means of writing outlined above in the Writing section. Through assignments, videos and lectures, students develop a framework in which to evaluate the structure, interests, motivations and content of mass media.

Students are also given numerous opportunity to evaluate the impact of mass media on society, culture and the political process, specifically focusing on whether media provide citizens with all relevant information so that they can govern themselves effectively.

Alternative Consideration Considers major alternative points of view. Students are required to demonstrate critical responses weekly in online discussions and then to respond to the responses of their peers. An example of an online discussion prompt is: 
"The video, Illusions of News, asserted that the selling of political candidates in a manner similar to selling products is now the norm in American (and other) cultures. In your view, tell whether this growing practice is as harmful as Bill Moyers, Ben Bagdikian, Todd Gitlin and the crew would have us believe. If so, why? If not, why?"
Accurate Conclusions Draws warranted, judicious, non-fallacious conclusions. J190 is organized in a way that requires students to do more analysis and deeper evaluation as the
course develops. Through exposure to concepts, research, and facts regarding the detrimental aspects of mass media influence, students are given the tools and ample opportunity to make their own judgements and conclusions about media and the problems of mass communication.
Justification Justifies key results and procedures, and explains assumptions and reasons.

A final essay project requires that students evaluate the state of mass media, justify their views, and/or offer solutions to problems they see. Usually over 90% of these essays discuss media in a way that indicates students now possess an unwillingness to accept media messages at face value; In these responses, students voice their reasons for wanting improvement of media structure and content.

During the last week of the quarter prior to exam week, students in the course are given a self-assessment that asks them to examine how their thinking has or hasn't changed about mass media as a result of the course.

Source: Adapted from the California Academic Press's Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric (HCTSR).

Information Seeking


Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Identifying Need Recognizes when information is needed and formulates clear questions based on the information needed.

Because of the strong emphasis on concepts and critical thinking in Journalism 190 the course inherently requires information-seeking learning outcomes. Students must be able to recognize and analyze media sources; decide how and where to search, and to search effectively and quickly. Because of the interwoven nature of all the learning outcomes, however, specific, separate assignments dedicated to such goals will not be given.

Search Strategies Matches information needs to information resources and organizes an effective search strategy. Students learn to question how media are structured and how they affect society, culture and self-governing by examining a wide range of sources, including online sites such as Center for Living Democracy, Project Censored, and Adbusters.
Effective Searching Interprets citations and the internet equivalents and knows how to efficiently retrieve cited items. For the course, students are required to retrieve and explore a wide range of information, specifically sources that reflect theories of the effect of mass communication on people's attitudes and behaviors that come to be viewed as "normal."
Evaluating Seeks various sources of evidence to provide support for a research question or conclusion.

Students are urged to expand their information exploration, all the while being aware that fewer than nine corporations control most mass media in America. As this reality takes shape, the course begins to focus on what the effects are on the society and its culture. This critical evaluative element in assessing information takes information-seeking to a higher level.

Source: Adapted from the Association of College and Research Libraries' Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.