Feedback on Student Outlines

Each semester, my course includes a writing component. That component is aimed at bolstering students’ research, analytical, and communications skills. It accounts for 20% of the course grade.

The details of the writing assignment are provided in the course syllabus, which is provided to students at the beginning of the semester. The writing assignment is comprised of an outline and the paper.

The purpose of the outline is to determine whether each student is on track with respect to his or her assignment. Students are provided feedback on their outlines. The feedback can address minor issues such as a student’s planned organization of the paper. Occasionally, students can be asked to make large changes such as selecting a new target company. The feedback provides an early opportunity for students to make adjustments so as to maximize their learning and their grade on the paper.

Once the outlines have been submitted, I review the outlines. The outlines are critiqued for completeness with the requirements of the paper. In this semester, the paper has nine required elements. Each student’s outline is scored in relationship to those required elements. The outline review does not concern the quality of students’ research, as the outlines are submitted prior to the most intensive period of research.

Beginning this semester I also discuss the overall outcomes with the entire class. I provide data that shows how well the class, as a whole, addressed the paper’s requirements in their outlines. The slide from this semester follows:

The numbers reveal how well students did in providing for the paper’s required elements. For example, the 0.950 score for the target company indicates that 95% of the outlines identified a specific target company. The requirements shown in red indicated that a large share of student outlines omitted those elements. My goals are: (1) to reinforce to students whose outlines missed those elements the importance of including them in their paper; and, (2) to assure that the whole class devotes sufficient attention to those elements when researching and writing their papers. The overall score indicates that the student outlines covered an average of 6.15 out of the 9 required elements. Put another way, the outlines indicated ample opportunity for improvement. That information gives students a chance to earn a better grade on their papers than would otherwise be the case.

The paper’s requirements are also classified by activity. Average scores by activity are also provided to the class. This semester’s paper has three major activities: choice, research, and analysis.

The sections of the outlines devoted to analysis proved to be the weakest activity area this semester. This is a finding that is consistent with data from exams given across student cohorts. Students typically have fared much better when it comes to identifying or articulating principles and concepts than they have in drawing upon and applying those principles and concepts in problem-solving.

My current class will be given this information. This guidance should help them prepare better papers. It should also encourage them to allocate a larger share of their study time to practicing concept application from the course’s case studies.


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