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

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)

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)

History: The Gilded Age

Title: Lesson Study: The Gilded Age
Discipline(s) or Field(s): History, Political Science, Economics
Authors: Kathleen Thomas, Robert Zeidel, Kam Zogorski, University of Wisconsin – Stout
Submission Date: June 2, 2008

Executive Summary: Our learning goals revolve around students’ struggle to learn about strikes and government regulations because of their preconceived notions about unions and big government. We want students to understand why Americans supported an expansion of government regulations at the turn of the 20th century, especially why the middle-class initiated and drove these reforms in pursuit of “modernity.” Therefore, we begin with the problems of the Gilded Age. Here students learn about the extreme wealth disparities, high mortality and injury rates in the workplace, poor public health, violent reaction to strikes, high unemployment rates, and corrupt urban machine politics. We constructed our study around an interactive lecture with a primary document discussion group activity that was graded for historical interpretation (i.e., an explanation of why these events happened at this particular time and are still relevant for us today). We found that students’ preconceived notions of immigrants are their biggest stumbling block, but when we have them focus on their reactions to low wages, lack of workers’ compensation, etc., they are able to anticipate Progressive Era reforms. Students enjoyed and seemed more engaged when asked to respond personally; they were most frustrated when asked to apply the reading terms from the textbook and to stick to the historical context. Individual reflection followed by group work seems to minimize these frustrations. However, finding the time in or out of class to cover the topic, reflect, then discuss (and grade homework) was still problematic.

Links to lesson plan materials:

Links to the study of the lesson:

Next Phase: The Progressive Era.
These are historical documents used to connect the Gilded Age problems to the Progressive Era reforms:

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.