Economics: Efficient and Effective Feedback – A Lesson Study Investigating Students’ Responses and Follow up to Feedback on Their Writing

Title: Efficient and Effective Feedback: A Lesson Study Investigating Students’ Responses and Follow-up to Feedback on Their Writing
Authors: Taggert Brooks, Elizabeth Knowles, James Murray, Laurie Strangman, Department of Economics; Bryan Kopp, English Department; University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
Discipline / Field: Business Communications, Research Methods
Submission Date: August 1, 2013

Abstract:  
We developed and implemented a systematic and efficient approach to give feedback on student writing in a business research methods course. In this lesson study, we investigate how students respond to this feedback. The lesson takes place at mid-semester, after students have spent some time developing their research question and reviewing the literature. At the time of our classroom observation, the students receive the first feedback of their first draft of the introduction section of their final paper. We observed their conversations upon receiving the feedback and noted how it influenced their revision plans. We conducted our lesson study over two semesters, Fall 2012 and Spring 2013.

To make the process of giving feedback efficient, we developed a database of comments on student writing which were specific to the objectives of the assignment. There are seven goals of the introduction assignment, some of which are specific to an introduction section of a research project, such as “State the purpose of your research project”, and some of which are very general, such as “Communicate in a clear and meaningful way.” Using these goals as the traits for a rubric, we developed a set of feedback comments that align to each goal suggesting improvements or noting when the objective was met. While the comments are specific enough to address specific goals of the
assignment and common writing problems, they were general enough so that they could be used for any student’s writing for the given assignment. We use text expanding software (Breevy for Windows, TextExpander for Mac) that allows the instructor to quickly populate a letter to each student with a set of comments appropriate for their submission.

Our classroom investigation revealed some challenges in giving feedback that effectively guides students on how to revise their work. One significant example concerns how students communicate purpose. While students may have attempted to communicate a specific purpose in one part of their introduction, often the introduction as a whole lacked focus. Even after receiving feedback, students were largely unable to recognize this problem or understand what kind of revision was appropriate.

Efficient and Effective Feedback – A Lesson Study Investigating Students’ Responses and Follow-up to Feedback on their Writing (Full Report)

Marketing: Providing Supporting Information as Evidence for Decision Making

Title: Providing Supporting Information as Evidence for Decision Making
Authors: Maggie McDermott and Nicole Gullekson- UW LaCrossse
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Marketing & Management
Submission Date: June 2013

Abstract: This lesson study aimed to better understand the process students use to evaluate information in a SWOT analysis. The ultimate goal was for the students to be able to identify what makes for a good SWOT analysis and to use this knowledge to successfully develop a team SWOT analysis. For the lesson, students reviewed three example SWOT analyses, were asked to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to develop criteria for a good SWOT analysis. Observers noted the students’ discussion points and process of approaching the task. Findings revealed that students focused on superficial details of the examples, rather than on content or the quality of information. Additionally, team members did not appear to engage in debate or critique one another’s ideas. General conclusions and recommendations for future lesson studies are included.

Lesson Study in Marketing: Providing Supporting Information as Evidence for Decision Making (Full Report)

Economics: Student Thought Processes For Choosing Appropriate Statistical Methods

Title: Developing Students’ Thought Processes for Choosing Appropriate Statistical Methods
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Research Methods, Statistics
Authors: Elizabeth Knowles and James Murray, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
Submission Date: August 23, 2012

Abstract: Introductory statistics classes typically emphasize computation and implementation procedures for a number of statistical tests. While it is essential to build these skills before achieving higher-order critical thinking skills, students often struggle in subsequent research methods courses when expected to select appropriate statistical tests to answer research questions. This requires an understanding of how statistical methods are related to one another; and to achieve this, students must develop a more advanced organization of knowledge. We designed a lesson to help students build a knowledge organization to achieve this outcome, and observed students to better understand their thought processes. We share our thought process map for selecting a statistical test, report on the impact it had for our students, and offer suggestions for improving the lesson. In addition, we describe the thought processes students used, both before and after being exposed to the thought process map, and identify sources of confusion revealed through the lesson study process. These include: when to apply an independent-samples test versus a paired-samples test, how the identification of scale of measurement led students to choose the wrong statistical method, the difficulty students had recognizing or defining what the variables in a problem were, and the lack of understanding of the difference between statistical language and colloquial language.

Economics Lesson Study: Student Thought Processes for Choosing Appropriate Statistical Methods (Final Report)

Women’s Studies: Civic Engagement and Exploring Gendered Ideas about Leadership

Title: Teaching Civic Engagement: Exploring Gendered Ideas about Leadership in Women’s Studies
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Business, Education, History, Political Science, English
Authors: Lauren Smith, Ellie Schemenauer, Rebecca Schrum, Zohreh Ghavamshahidi, Mary Emery, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
Submission Date: October 29, 2009

Executive Summary: With this lesson study, we wanted to foster critical thinking about male-centered ideas of leadership and challenge students to imagine leadership and leadership styles in more inclusive ways. In addition, we wanted to explore ways of empowering students to move from understanding social issues to understanding their own responsibility and capacity for civic engagement, particularly by addressing the difficulties women students have in imagining themselves in leadership roles.

The group invited three women leaders, two in politics and one in education, to speak to a total of five different Introduction to Women’s Studies classes.  We helped the students come up with a series of questions to address to their visiting speaker, and members of the group were available to observe each class.  In addition, we asked students to respond to a series of pre-lecture and post-lecture questions.  The group met several times before and after each lesson to discuss plans and observations.  The most useful data we found, however, came from the pre- and post-lesson discussion boards.

Our findings were sometimes surprising and multi-faceted.  For example, when asked to cite examples of good leaders in the pre-speaker discussion board, these women’s studies students named mostly men.  This dynamic was especially pronounced for male students, the large majority of whom didn’t list any female leaders at all.  We also analyzed the pre-lesson discussion board for the masculine and feminine qualities associated with leadership.  We found that students were slightly more likely to associate leadership with qualities we identified as masculine than with qualities we identified as feminine.  Men were less likely than women to describe leadership in feminine terms and more likely than women to have a hierarchical vision of leadership. Pre-lesson questions about the students’ own capacity for leadership also yielded interesting gendered results.  While both male and female students were relatively positive about their own leadership capacity, women were most likely to qualify and contextualize their positive responses and men were most likely to reply with definite positive or negative responses.

The post-lesson discussion board also yielded interesting results.  When we asked students whether their ideas had changed as a result of the lesson, relatively few students were willing to say that the lesson had changed their perspective.  Many students responded with what we classified a “no, but . . .” response.  These students would qualify their negative response with details about how their thinking had in some way been affected, enhanced or modified.  Self-reported changes were once again gendered.  Both in relation to their thinking about leadership qualities generally and their thinking about their own leadership capacity, women were much more likely than men to report some change in their thinking as a result of the lesson.

When the group analyzed the discussion board for evidence of change beyond self-reports, the results were complicated.  The shifts we saw in the student discussion did not necessarily go in the directions that we had predicted or planned for, nor were student changes in thinking necessarily more feminist.  In addition, the qualitative changes in thinking were different depending on which speaker the students had seen.  Three promising threads emerged in the conversation, however:  speakers’ strength and ability to endure adversity, explicit conversation about gender, and the “down-to-earth” qualities of the speakers.  Each of these suggested to us the emergence of a more complicated and more feminized vision of leadership.

Students’ changes in attitude about their own leadership capacity were especially unpredictable.  We had assumed that women students would see themselves as more capable of leadership after the lesson.  Instead, all the students tended towards more specificity when they described their own abilities as leaders.  At first glance, this would suggest that students were less likely, rather than more likely, to see themselves as leaders.  After analyzing and discussing student responses, however, the group felt that student post-lesson responses showed greater sophistication, a more realistic idea about what leadership might involve, and a more thoughtful consideration of the questions than had been shown in the pre-lesson discussion board.

Overall, the lesson study was extremely useful in providing information both about student attitudes and about student learning processes.  The students clearly benefitted from the guest speakers we brought in.  They expressed enthusiasm about and engagement in the lesson.  Though the learning evidenced in the discussion board was often unpredictable, it was also profound.  Student thinking showed greater complexity and sophistication, as well as more depth and awareness around gender issues—even when the students did not arrive at conclusions we might have predicted or desired.  We also gained valuable insights about students’ gendered ideas about leadership and differing attitudes of male and female students on this topic.

Economics: Diminishing Returns and Increasing Marginal Cost

Title: Diminishing Returns and Increasing Marginal Cost
Discipline(s): Economics
Authors: Donna Anderson, TJ Brooks, Lisa Giddings, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Submission Date: Fall 2003

Goal of the lesson: To understand how the concept of marginality is linked to supply by examining the concept of diminishing returns and evaluating its effect on marginal cost.

Rationale for the goal: Evidence that students are completing the principles of microeconomics course with less understanding of the supply side of a market compared to the demand side includes significantly lower scores on exams covering supply-side concepts, and evidence from the intermediate microeconomics course.  This concern led us to focus on an essential microeconomic concept identified by our department the previous year:  diminishing returns in production and its effect on marginal cost.

Agriculture: Time Value of Money

Title: Application of Time Value of Money Concepts
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Agriculture
Authors: Annie Kinwa-Muzinga, Tom Loguidice, and Mark Zidon, University of Wisconsin–Platteville
Submission Date: June 16, 2006

The goal of the lesson study is to develop students’ understanding of time value of money concepts.  Students should be able to

  1. to apply the concept appropriately in real life situations;
  2. to use explicit principles to evaluate alternative options;
  3. to integrate appropriate information as support for judgment.

During lecture, instructor presents different concepts of time value of money in an engaging manner (with example). After the lecture, students apply the concepts of time value of money in their decision to accept a rebate or a low APR (annual percentage rate) when buying a truck.  Overall, students were able to apply the different concept appropriately in their decision.