Exit Examinations for the Media Major
Susan Tyler Eastman Indiana University
Departments of mass communication employ about 15 different types of assessment to measure either their students' individual achievement or the curriculum and teaching. Of these, exit examinations for seniors have raised the most apprehension nationwide. This chapter reports the results of a national survey of 276 4-year colleges and universities teaching mediated communications under such departmental titles as mass communication, radio-television, broadcasting, telecommunications, and mass media. Results (response rate exceeded 82%) showed that 94% of media departments do not use exit tests, and that most of the 6% that do use them to measure improvements in curriculum and teaching, not individual student achievement. And even when individual student outcomes are the goal, few schools make passing exit tests a requirement for graduation. Conclusions drawn from surveys and interviews with media faculty suggest a 10-part assessment decision-making model to guide other faculty and administrators in setting an assessment course.
Testing students as they leave school to find out what they know is an idea with immediate appeal. After all, higher education successfully uses comprehensive or preliminary exams to test what graduate students know, so that model could be applied to university undergraduates. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Education's Goal 5.5 calls for assessment of the communi-