Application Essays as an Effective Tool for Assessing Instruction in the Basic Communication Course: A Follow-Up Study

Document Type


SoTL Category

Course/Program Assessment

SoTL Discipline

Arts and Humanities

Publication Date



The assessment of student learning in general education courses is of critical importance in higher education. This study examines the utility of a writing assignment (application essays) in a basic communication course as an effective assessment tool. The authors conducted a content analysis of student portfolios to determine the extent to which application essays provide evidence of student learning in the basic course. The present study extends the findings from recent assessment efforts (Jones, Simonds, & Hunt, 2005) to explore types of mass media events students address in application essays and assess the revisions made to the assignment based on findings from Jones et al. (2005). Results reveal (a) the various communication events that students write about in application essays, (b) the communication concepts that students address, (c) that students typically, but not always, make appropriate connections when they write application essays, and (d) after revising the assignment based upon data from recent assessment efforts, more students made appropriate connections between the communication event and concept. Implications for classroom pedagogy and course management are discussed.


This article was published in Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Vol. 12, Number 4 (2012).