|Teaching and Learning Forum 2005 [ Refereed papers ]|
Venkata Yanamandram and Sarah Lambert
University of Wollongong
This paper describes improvements in learning outcomes in a large undergraduate marketing class at the University of Wollongong. The authors reflect on the interventions developed and evaluated, aimed at supporting students in their transition from novice researchers into self regulated researchers, and producing professional marketing reports in industry recognised report writing genres. The project, and therefore the paper, was focussed on the major assignment and the initial and ongoing supports provided to students. These have been developed through a continuous cycle of improvement - planned, developed in partnership with a central resource development unit, deployed using a website and classroom activities, evaluated and refined over 2 phases in a 12 month period.
As Jenson (2004) noted recently, today's students struggle when using the electronic databases and indexes to which their library subscribes. Differences between journals and popular magazines, articles and abstracts, and annotations and advertisements are hard to discern when it is all on the web (Jenson, 2004). Even for those students who attend library workshops, instruction can only be generic and their searching is often limited to hypothetical research scenarios. Consequently, the coordinator wanted to increase the support given to students as a way to improve the learning outcomes of the assignment.
Aim 1: for students to develop independent researching skills, particularly keyword searching for relevant articles in library databases and reputable TV, magazine, newspaper and other websites.To achieve these aims, the report was augmented by a second assessable task, with initial and ongoing supports provided in a combination of the face to face and online arenas.
Aim 2: to write up findings and recommendations in industry standard and recognised marketing report genre.
The first task (task 1) consisted of a worksheet and online quiz, and was designed by the Marketing discipline in liaison with the Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources (CEDIR) in autumn session 2004. The task required students to locate a particular journal article from (1) an online database, (2) a magazine website and (3) a TV website that would assist them to undertake their major marketing assignment successfully. The worksheet takes students through locating particular articles step by step and asks them to record bibliographic information of the resources found. The online quiz tests that bibliographic information, ensuring that they did in fact find the correct items.
The second task (task 2) was the original marketing report, for which a number of other types of support were offered. These included: providing comprehensive instructions/guidelines for assignments; clarifying in detail the assessment criteria; spending more class time on strategies to approach assessment and provision of a sample marketing report from the previous session (though on a different topic). The final support - the sample marketing report, was developed by the Learning Development Unit in liaison with the subject coordinator. The document uses the contents of a marketing report prepared by a Mark101 student in a previous session and walks through every paragraph highlighting the good aspects and aspects that need improvement in addition to proposing and explaining the structure of a good marketing report at first year university level. All the above mentioned resources were provided to make assessments in large classes more manageable without undermining the quality of learning as suggested by Gibbs (1992).
Figure 1 shows the relationship between the task and support elements; the model is based on the task/support/resource model used by the Learning Designs project of the AUTC (Oliver & Herrington, 2001).
Figure 1: Task/support model showing elements of the student assignment
For those who disagreed, some had undertaken a similar exercise, or already had the research skills. Others commented that the located resources were not exactly relevant to their essay, but this is due to the choice given to students in the essay topic.
Question 4 asked if the students had been able to locate relevant articles form OTHER online sources since undertaking the worksheet/quiz. This was important, as it tests skills transferability to something not explicitly taught in a step by step way. Although the number of respondents was lower (N=102 valid records) the level of agreement was higher - 81.4%. Only 3.8% disagreed. Comments included: "Agree; Expanded academic index and other online databases". One of the 19% of students who did not make the leap to independent searching said, "It did not really teach me to look up other sources, I just followed the guidelines".
For the purpose of this evaluation, we have employed the concept of 'conceptual ordering' (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) which refers to the organisation of data into discrete categories or themes according to their properties and dimensions, and then using description to elucidate those themes. Data from the open ended question on the survey forms was coded and analysed using the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
A section of students acknowledged that they were happy with the guidelines provided. Typical responses included:
The resources provided were really helpful when it came to structure and the content that was required. I found the assignment extremely beneficial in applying the concepts and thus understanding them better.Another section of students commented that they wanted a more challenging research task (with the presumption of further support would be provided) and that having found good resources, there should be more opportunity to use them in the assignment. For example, "make part 1 activity in depth and more demanding - make us use those sources".
It was [given in] a step by step [manner]...Teaching staff couldn't have done much more without doing the report for students. I feel the supports for this subject were better than any I have studied in this university and I have been around for 6 years.
The shift to student self direction and autonomy means that students need to take more responsibility for their learning, but may need assistance in achieving this skill. Shaffer & Resnick (1999) maintain that technology can be used to create authentic contexts for learning, and provide resources that foster reflection and deep learning amongst students. The need to foster deep learning is important given that some students in the study were passive in learning, which can be inferred from a comment such as, "Just breezed through it [marketing curriculum integrated research skills task] by following exact instructions and not taking anything in".
However, the stimulation of reflection is essential for deep learning, as the reflective process includes synthesis of knowledge through re-evaluation of the experience by undertaking association, integration, validation and appropriation (Boud, Keogh, & Walker, 1985). Reflection may be facilitated through interaction with peers, or alone through writing (Lincoln, Stockhausen, & Maloney, 1997).
In regards to learning, Ramsden (1992) distinguishes between two approaches: deep and surface learning. A deep learning approach is consistent with a search for knowledge and understanding. This deep learning is in direct contrast to the more superficial type of learning or memorising of information with little consideration of what it means (i.e. surface learning). However, for students to be able to develop such skills, they need to be given the opportunity to engage in deep learning.
The authors argue that, to foster deep learning amongst first year students, who have just made the transition from high school to university, students needed to be provided with additional supports or scaffolding in the light of growing disparity from staff between the expectations they have of first year students and students' performance in areas such as independent learning, research skills, academic reading and writing as well as the use of new technologies (Latham & Green, 1997). Further, given that students in a large enrolment class such as Mark101 report inadequate opportunities to monitor their own learning and reduced contact time with instructors, additional supports could provide guidance to prevent such frustrations.
Applied to assessment and teaching approaches in higher education, the implication being that the creation of an appropriate learning environment can foster a deep approach. Gibbs (1992) emphasises that a focus on process, rather than content is essential in promoting active learning and that evaluation and assessment procedures are central to these issues as students interpret the objectives of a course of study according to the demands of the assessment system.
The initial type of support or scaffolding (marketing curriculum integrated research skills task: task 1) did not help much to promote deep learning amongst certain students as minor themes indicate. Figure 2 indicates the multiple supports offered to students in spring session 2004.
Figure 2: Task/support model showing elements of the student assignment in phase 2
The following paragraphs explain the supports illustrated in Figure 2:
At first, I didn't think it would be useful, but as I was writing, I found that they were useful references to back up what I was saying. The articles were informative, guided me in the right direction and I even starting reading those articles in my spare time.Others said that it was only fairly useful, however mentioned that it prompted them to find relevant articles on their own and that the articles uploaded were a good starting point. Following are the typical responses:
It gave me ideas for the types of materials I was searching for and types of articles that should be used and how resources should be related. It was good also to see articles that were relevant even if they weren't specifically to do with a particular topic. The guidelines helped me structure my response in a logical fashion. The marking criteria sheet was very good; good to know what is expected of you.
They were useful to complete the part of the assignment in relation to communication strategy...and provided good secondary data that was reliable, clear and succinct. It gave me references I wouldn't have had otherwise. It linked me to other sources, that is, helped to prompt us where to look for similar articles. It saved me time in finding the right ones.
The website resources were very useful...the sample report and referencing resources were helpful too. Learnt a lot about the industry I was researching as a result of the journal articles uploaded.
They were all right, although I did find it difficult to use the needed amount in my assignment, as I did my own research. I thought they were good to start my assignment.
They were fairly useful, but the ones I found on my own were more relevant to my assignment. The articles [uploaded on to WebCT] were however a good trigger and could see the significance of this exercise!
Very good, although referring them back to the assignment proved a bit difficult as I chose an industry other than the ones recommended in the subject outline. The WebCT articles are extremely well done sources. As a result, the expectation that we had to find in relation to the WebCT's chosen sources was very high. It was motivating!
Only a couple of them were relevant to my product. They were useful, but I don't think there should have been a clause that we had to use a certain number because it made it difficult with limited articles.
Students mentioned that the bibliographies in uploaded articles provided direction to finding their own articles. By providing a pathway or route for the learner, the scaffolded lesson is somewhat like the guardrail of a mountain highway. The student can exercise great personal discretion within parameters but not in danger of "off road" stranding. It helped students to figure out where to focus their attention. Since "the ways in which learners are assessed and evaluated powerfully affect the ways they study and learn" (Angelo, 1993, p.6), these supports offered a way to improve their learning.
Most educators complain that some of the articles traditionally used by first year undergraduate students suffers from a low 'signal to noise ratio' - the confusing, weak and unreliable information (noise) outweighs and threatens to drown out the information most worthy of consideration (McKenzie, 1999). However, the articles uploaded on to WebCT were apparently the most applicable articles and student responses confirm those perceptions. This reinforces the idea that scaffolding identifies the best sources so that students speed to signal rather than noise (McKenzie, 1999). Further, this type of scaffolding delivers efficiency as students commented it saved time in finding the right articles. This perception was achieved, in part, by virtue of comparison with the old kind of research that was mostly about wandering and scooping (McKenzie, 1999). However, scaffolding distilled the work effort and the students' efforts were channelled. Further, as student responses confirm, scaffolding creates momentum (McKenzie, 1999). That is, the focus achieved through scaffolding concentrates and directs energy in ways that actually build into momentum. Further, as student results indicate, they seemed to be more motivated to learn as they saw the value of the exercise.
Further, the purpose of the exercise is to remove support when learners can cope with the task independently, a process described as fading, which is an important element of scaffolding.
Some students mentioned that though the articles uploaded were fairly useful, there should not have been mandatory requirements that they had to use 4 articles from the uploaded list. During the past sessions when students were advised to have 15 references, they did not take it seriously. However, the provision of 20 articles on WebCT and the requirement that they have to use 4 of them for their major report seem to have registered in their minds seriously. This seems to confirm Angelo's (1993, p.7) suggestion that "younger students tend to achieve more by working with teachers who expect more of them". As the results indicate, some students seem to have shared the subject coordinator's high expectations and perceive them as reasonable.
As a result of these multiple supports, there seemed to be greater engagement with students in the planning stage of their assignment; more meaningful discussion took place during tutorials and student consultation hours of the subject coordinator and tutors, thus allowing opportunities for meaningful feedback from instructors. Thus, the initial support (uploading of articles by instructor and self reading by students) and ongoing support (more meaningful discussion of how to integrate evidence and analyse during instructor consultation hours, which is face to face scaffolding) as suggested by Winnips & McLoughlin (2001) seemed to have positive effects on their tendency to learn deeply.
As Angelo (1993) suggests, teaching a first year subject requires a different approach than teaching a third year subject in the same discipline. The scaffolding exercise helps to explain why students of lower ability or much weaker preparation often benefit from and appreciate highly structured course like the one offered currently for Mark101 at University of Wollongong.
In presenting the findings of this study, we acknowledge their limitations. The results of this study apply to one substantive area. That is, the students who studied Marketing Principles at the UoW in the two sessions surveyed. We also acknowledge the subjective nature of this study and as a caveat to the findings we appreciate the appropriateness of Cialdini's (1984, p.9) statement that "no matter how careful and thorough I tried to be, [what] I observed [was] seen only through my eyes and registered through the filter of my expectations and previous experience". Although bearing this statement in mind and acknowledging the limitations of the study, we also draw attention to the rich and insightful descriptions offered by students.
Currently, the Mark101 teaching team is evaluating the major assignments of students. As part of further study and to validate the usefulness of this study's findings, we intend to observe each student's reference list in the report to get an idea of the kind of articles they used to support their claims in the report. Further, we would observe if there has been an increase in the quality of reports, which can be inferred from the bibliographic lists and students' marks and comparing them to previous session's assignments results. If the further results from this preliminary study are positive, the authors may conduct a large scale study and wish to hypothesise amongst others that integrated or reinforced scaffolding would be more effective than multiple but unrelated scaffolds.
Boud, D., Keogh, R. & Walker, D. (1985). Promoting reflection in learning: A model. In D. Boud, R. Keogh & D. Walker (Eds.), Reflection: Turning experience into learning (pp. 18-40). London: Kogan Page.
Cialdini, R. (1984). Principles of automatic influence. In J.Jacoby and C.S. Craig (Eds), Personal selling: Theory, research and practice. MA: Lexington Books, 1-27.
Ellis, C. & Percy, A. (2001). Building online essay writing support tools. In L. Richardson and J. Lidstone (Eds), Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, 239-250. Proceedings of ASET-HERDSA 2000 Conference, Toowoomba, Qld, 2-5 July 2000. ASET and HERDSA. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/aset-herdsa2000/procs/ellis-c.html
Gibbs, G. (1992). Assessing More Students. London: Polytechnics and Colleges Funding
Glaser, B.G. & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. New York: Aldine Publishing.
Gutzdial, M. (1994). Software-realized scaffolding to facilitate programming for science learning. Interactive Learning Environments, 4(1), 1-44.
Halttunen, K. (2003). Scaffolding performance in IR instruction: exploring learning experiences and performance in two learning environments. Journal of Information Science, 29(5), 375-390.
Harcum, E. (1992). The classroom test as a dependent variable in transfer of learning, New Directions for Education Reform, 1, 69-74.
Hicks, M., Reid, I., & George, R. (1999). Enhancing online teaching: Designing responsive learning environments. In Cornerstones. Proceedings of HERDSA Conference, Melbourne. http://herdsa.org.au/branches/vic/Cornerstones/pdf/Hicks.PDF
Jenson, J.D. (2004). It's the Information Age, so where's the Information? College Teaching, 52(3), 107-112.
Latham, G. & Green, P. (1997). The journey to university: A study of 'the first year experience'. Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Ultibase, December. [retrieved 30 Sep 2004, verified 29 Jan 2005] http://ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/dec97/greenlath1.htm
Lincoln, M., Stockhausen, L. & Maloney, D. (1997). Learning processes in clinical education. In L. McAllister, M. Lincoln, S. McLeod & D. Maloney (Eds), Facilitating Learning in Clinical Settings (pp. 99-129). Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes.
McKenzie, J. (1999). Scaffolding for success. From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal, 9(4). http://www.fno.org/dec99/scaffold.html
McLoughlin, C. and Luca, J. (2001). Assessment methodologies in transition: Changing practices in web-based learning. In L. Richardson and J. Lidstone (Eds), Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, 516-526. Proceedings of ASET-HERDSA 2000 Conference, Toowoomba, Qld, 2-5 July 2000. ASET and HERDSA. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/aset-herdsa2000/procs/mcloughlin1.html
Minkel, W. (1999). Hunting Season: try a scavenger hunt - it's a sneaky way to teach library skills. School Library Journal, 45(10).
Oliver, R. & Herrington, J. (2001). Teaching and learning online: A beginner's guide to e learning and e-teaching in higher education. Edith Cowan University: Western Australia.
Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to teach in higher education. London: Routledge.
Shaffer, D.W. & Resnick, M. (1999). Thick authenticity: New media and authentic learning. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 10(2), 195-215.
Strauss, A.L. and Corbin, J.M. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. California: Sage, Newbury Park.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Winnips, K. & McLoughlin, C. (2001). Six WWW based learner supports you can build. In C. Montgomerie and J. Viteli (Eds), ED-Media 2001 World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications, Tampere, 25-30 June 2001.
|Authors: Venkata Yanamandram is a Lecturer in the Marketing Discipline at the University of Wollongong. His research interests include services marketing and various aspects of education relating to first-year marketing students. Venkat teaches primarily at the undergraduate level including Marketing Principles and Services Marketing. Prior to joining academia, Venkat has held key account sales positions in the information technology industry overseas.
Sarah Lambert is a learning designer at the Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources (CEDIR), University of Wollongong. Sarah's role involves facilitating the development of quality educational multimedia resources and coordinating CEDIR's Faculty Service Agreement Program. Her research areas are: collaborative learning, extending learning activity supports into the online arena, and adult choral education. Prior to joining CEDIR, Sarah taught in the Creative Arts and Marketing disciplines.
School of Management and Marketing
University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW 2522
Phone: (02) 4221 3754 Fax: (02) 4221 4154 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Yanamandram, V. and Lambert, S. (2005). Reflecting on providing multiple assignment supports to first year marketing students in a large class. In The Reflective Practitioner. Proceedings of the 14th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 3-4 February 2005. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2005/refereed/yanamandram2.html
Copyright 2005 Venkata Yanamandram and Sarah Lambert. The authors assign to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format (including website mirrors), provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.