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Empirical Evidence

A Structured Analysis of Student Performance in Economics

A performance comparison based on the use of documented problem solving in a large section of Principles of Macroeconomics (Wilson, 2007) was conducted. The class was divided into two groups. At the conclusion of each chapter, homework was assigned. Both groups were given the same homework assignments to complete. For each assignment, one of the two groups was required to use documented problem solving for a specific question while the other group was not required to do so. By the end of the semester, each group had documented a total of 6 questions.

The same comprehensive Final Exam was administered to both groups. The mean score on the Final Exam was 71 for both groups. There were several questions on the Final Exam that covered the same content as the homework questions that were documented. The group that was required to complete the documented problem solving technique for a specific homework topic was more likely to answer the correlated Final Exam question correctly than the group that did not document the given question.

Final Exam Performance By Group

This table provides a comparison of student performance for the six questions on the Final Exam that were closely related to the homework questions that students were required to write a documented problem solution for. For two of the three questions that Group A documented, the Final Exam performance was better than Group B. Similarly, for two of the three questions that Group B documented, the Final Exam performance was better than Group A. For one question documented by each group (a total of two questions), the performance was nearly the same.

Table 1

As the table above indicates, the most dramatic difference in performance occurred on the question related to change in quantity supplied. In this case, 53% of the students in Group A, (the group that documented the homework problem), answered the closely related Final Exam question correctly versus 33% of Group B (the group that did not document it). For the question related to inflation, 93% of the students in Group B (the group that documented the homework problem) answered the closely related Final Exam question correctly while 82% of Group A (the group that did not document it) answered it correctly. The questions about the unemployment rate and the consumption function show similar results with the group that documented the closely related homework problem outperforming the opposing group. For two of the Final Exam questions, the difference in performance was very slight.

Homework and Final Exam Questions Used for Comparison

This table shows an example of one homework question and the closely related Final Exam question that was used for comparison. The questions on the Final Exam were not the same as the homework questions that were documented, but the content was similar.

Table 2

The complete table with all six questions can be accessed here. Table 2 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 159kB Jun19 10)


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