Steve Rock

Accounting Division, Leeds School of Business

Course Context:

The class I taught in Spring 2010 was BCOR 2000 - Financial Reporting and Analysis. It is a large lecture class that meets for two one-hour and fifteen minute lectures in MATH 100 and had related fifty minute recitations taught by PhD students (six recitations) and an MS student (one recitation) on Fridays. The enrollment in the class at the beginning of the semester was about 232 students, 201 students took the final exam, and I assigned 218 grades for the course. This is the first time that I taught this course at any institution.

Execution – what did I do?
Target of improvement – I did not have a baseline of experience, so my modest goal was to improve student learning and retention of key concepts throughout the semester.

What did I do? I implemented one assessment technique in the course – the ‘minute report’. The way that we implemented this strategy was that after a given topic was completed in lecture (the two seventy-five minute lectures in the mega-class), I had my teaching assistants solicit minute reports at the beginning of their Friday recitations on a rotating basis. That is, each week I would have a given teaching assistant sample from one recitation section. Recitation sections were approximately 30-35 students each. The information solicited of the students on the minute reports was:

1) To indicate the three most important concepts discussed during lecture that week, and...

2) To indicate the three most confusing or ‘fuzzy’ concepts or topics covered during the week.

The teaching assistants typically gave me the completed minute reports from the students over the weekend or on the following Monday. I tried to systematically review the minute reports to discern whether students identified the concepts that I thought were most crucial and to aggregate what concepts were unclear. I made categories each week and identified the three most common ‘fuzzy’ areas. On the first lecture following (the next Tuesday), I made a PowerPoint overhead of those three topics with clarifying information, an example problem, or bullet points upon which I expanded verbally and by writing on the PowerPoint slide with the stylist on my tablet PC. At that juncture, I also solicited further questions from the material that we covered. This page is an example of one of the PowerPoint slides related to minute report solicitation regarding coverage of the topic Cost – Volume – Profit relationships, which is Chapter 5 from the Managerial Accounting portion of the class. Note that the PowerPoint slides are visually better and I typically write comments on the PowerPoint slides.

Results – what happened?
Since this was the first semester that I taught the course, I have no time-series in terms of helping me discern whether instituting the minute reports enhanced student learning, at least as reflected on other assessment devices such as exams, homework, or quizzes. As such, the best I could do was to discern whether students perceived that minute reports enhanced their learning. To that end, with the help of my Division Chair, I conducted a survey via Survey Monkey regarding student perceptions of whether various pedagogical tools improved their understanding of topics covered in the class. I asked ten questions on the survey, but the first three were directed at this FTEP Assessment exercise:

1) We directly queried whether using the ‘minute reports’ to solicit challenging areas and subsequently attempting to clarify those issues impacted students’ understanding.

2) To provide a baseline of comparison, we also asked about the Homework Manager product offered by McGraw-Hill as a companion to the two textbooks we use. The Homework Manager product is not required as part of the class, but is intended to enable students to work through exercises and problems on their own. Tacit learning gained by working through problems is a very important part of acquiring accounting knowledge.

3) Similarly, we asked about the PowerPoint lecture notes that were made available prior to embarking on new topics. I intend the lecture notes to provide a structure for discussion. The PowerPoint lecture notes I used were a concise version of the combination of lecture notes from other instructors and materials offered by the textbook publisher.

I sent the following note to the class list available through CU Learn to solicit student responses to the survey:

Hi All:

I would like to make improvements to BCOR 2000 to enhance student learning.  Related to that effort, I have constructed the following survey that I hope you can take a few minutes to complete.  Your responses are anonymous, so please be candid.  The questions posed in the survey enable us to learn about course issues in which we are interested, but are not available from the FCQs.  Here is the link to the survey – I hope you can complete it by the end of the week:

Thank you again for an enjoyable teaching semester.

Sincerely, Dr. Rock

We had fifty-eight responses to the survey. If the population is the students who took the final (201), then the response rate is about 28.9%. I attribute the high response rate to proximity to the end of the semester and to students’ genuine interest in improving the class.

The tables from Survey Monkey for each of the responses are on the next three pages of this report. Here are summarized key findings:

1) The students seemed to find that using the ‘minute reports’ at least somewhat improved student understanding of the topics – this was the majority response.

2) Both the Homework Manager product and the PowerPoint lecture notes appeared to be more effective in improving student learning as in each case, the majority of respondents indicated that each tool ‘greatly improved’ their understanding of the topics.

Some more interpretation – it is important to consider the cost / benefit tradeoff of different pedagogical tools. The Homework Manager product is fairly expensive – a cost incurred by the students, and I invest a substantial amount of time in constructing the lecture notes. By comparison, our implementation of the ‘minute reports’ was relatively less costly to me and to the teaching assistants. Also, it is not surprising that students perceive that both the Homework Manager and PowerPoint lecture notes are more effective at improving learning. My discussions following up on the ‘minute reports’ are effectively a second run through the material. For students who already have a decent understanding of the material after lecture, doing homework, and working through additional problems in recitation, my clarification of “fuzzy concepts” is probably redundant. However, the bottom line is that these tools are neither mutually exclusive, nor collectively exhaustive, and it appears that students, on average, seem to perceive that using minute reports to solicit what is unclear and subsequently attempting to clarify those issues is a worthwhile endeavor and I am glad that I implemented this approach last semester.

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