The Impact of Problem Sets on Student Learning

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [The University of British Columbia]On: 09 December 2014, At: 19:06Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Journal of Education for BusinessPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vjeb20</p><p>The Impact of Problem Sets on Student LearningMyeong Hwan Kim a , Moon-Heum Cho b &amp; Karen Moustafa Leonard aa Indiana UniversityPurdue University Fort Wayne , Fort Wayne , Indiana , USAb Kent State UniversityStark , North Canton , Ohio , USAPublished online: 01 Feb 2012.</p><p>To cite this article: Myeong Hwan Kim , Moon-Heum Cho &amp; Karen Moustafa Leonard (2012) The Impact of Problem Sets onStudent Learning, Journal of Education for Business, 87:3, 185-192, DOI: 10.1080/08832323.2011.586380</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08832323.2011.586380</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. 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Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vjeb20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/08832323.2011.586380http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08832323.2011.586380http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>JOURNAL OF EDUCATION FOR BUSINESS, 87: 185192, 2012Copyright C Taylor &amp; Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0883-2323 print / 1940-3356 onlineDOI: 10.1080/08832323.2011.586380</p><p>The Impact of Problem Sets on Student Learning</p><p>Myeong Hwan KimIndiana UniversityPurdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA</p><p>Moon-Heum ChoKent State UniversityStark, North Canton, Ohio, USA</p><p>Karen Moustafa LeonardIndiana UniversityPurdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA</p><p>The authors examined the role of problem sets on student learning in university microeco-nomics. A total of 126 students participated in the study in consecutive years. independentsamples t test showed that students who were not given answer keys outperformed students whowere given answer keys. Multiple regression analysis showed that, along with pre-GPA andstudent major, a problem set with or without answer key significantly explained student learn-ing in economics. The authors discuss the role of answer keys and implications for teachinguniversity economics courses.</p><p>Keywords: microeconomics, problem sets, student evaluation, student learning</p><p>Homework is one of the most common instructional strate-gies instructors use to enhance students learning (Cooper &amp;Valentine, 2001; Warton, 2001). Homework refers to any as-signment given by teachers to students designed for themto do outside of regular class hours (Cooper, Robinson, &amp;Patall, 2006; Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, &amp; Macias, 2001;Olympia, Sheridan, &amp; Jenson, 1994). Cooper et al. suggestedthat there are instructional and noninstructional roles forhomework in Grades K12. From an instructional perspec-tive, homework is an important opportunity for students toreview, practice, and synthesize skills or concepts. By com-pleting the homework, students are expected to master andtransfer skills or knowledge to different contexts (Becker &amp;Epstein, 1982; Cooper et al.; Epstein &amp; Voorhis, 2001). Froma noninstructional viewpoint, homework creates a commu-nication opportunity between parents and young students,as well as providing information about class and schools toparents (Epstein &amp; Voorhis). In addition, homework fulfillsdirectives of school administrators, but it can also be used asa way to punish students. However, in higher education, the</p><p>Correspondence should be addressed to Myeong Hwan Kim, Indi-ana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Department of Economics,2101 E. Coliseum Boulevard, Fort Wayne, IN 46805, USA. E-mail:kimm@ipfw.edu</p><p>instructional aspect of homework is more critical than non-instructional roles because students are independent learnerswho must take responsibility for their own learning.</p><p>Researchers have found that homework is more effectivein secondary than elementary school level classes (Cooperet al., 2006; Keith, Reimers, Fehrman, Pottebaum, &amp;Aubrey, 1986). In their meta-analysis, Cooper et al. founda positive influence of homework on student learning ingeneral. However, Cooper et al. showed stronger correlationsbetween homework and learning in grades 712 than inK6. In addition, Cooper and Valentine (2001) and Cooperet al. consistently found that the relationship between timespent on homework and learning was weaker in elementarythan secondary school. Cooper and Valentine suggested thatyounger students have less ability to pay attention to thehomework and use less effective study habits. Therefore, itseems homework is a more effective instructional strategyin higher grade levels than in lower grade levels.</p><p>However, most of the homework studies were conductedin K12 settings. Very little research has been done in highereducation (Radhakrishman, Lam, &amp; Ho, 2009), althoughhomework plays a significant role in instruction at this level(Emerson, 2011). Unlike high school, university students areexpected to take more responsibility for their own learning.Whereas younger students received assistance from parents,university students cannot expect the same or similar type</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>The</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f B</p><p>ritis</p><p>h C</p><p>olum</p><p>bia]</p><p> at 1</p><p>9:06</p><p> 09 </p><p>Dec</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>186 M. H. KIM ET AL.</p><p>of help. Students are independent learners required to takeresponsibility for their own learning.</p><p>In the present study, we investigated the role of homeworkon student learning in a university setting, particularly in aneconomics class, particularly the role of answer keys givento homework problem sets. The specific research questionguiding the study is the following:</p><p>Research Question 1: Do college students in a conditionwhere they received problem sets with answer keys per-form better than students in a condition where they onlyreceived problem sets in an economics class?</p><p>We believe that the study results expand our understandingof the relationship of homework to student achievement inlearning economics in higher education.</p><p>Problem Sets as Homework in EconomicClasses</p><p>Although there are diverse forms of homework in an eco-nomic class, one of the most common is problem sets givenas homework (Becker &amp; Watts, 2001; Bonham, Deardorff,&amp; Beichner, 2003; Emerson, 2011; Grove, Wasserman, &amp;Grodner, 2006; Miller &amp; Westmoreland, 1998). This is aparticularly common strategy in mathematics, physics, andcomputer science, as well as in economics. Because thecontent in these areas is regarded as particularly difficult formany students, problem sets are used to help students solvedifferent types of problem and to practice ways to approachthe problems. Often, instructors choose some or many ofthem for following tests.</p><p>The types and numbers of problems in each set vary de-pending on the instructor. Also, ways to use problem sets asan instructional strategy are very diverse, including individ-ual work with problem sets, collaboration with problem sets,and presentation of the results of problem sets. Althoughmany faculty members use problem sets, empirical researchinvestigating their effect is very rare. Much research relatedto problem sets in economic class has been concerned withthe role of student aptitude variables (e.g., scholastic apti-tude test [SAT]) on learning (Cooper et al., 2006; Okpala,Okpala, &amp; Ellis, 2000). Okpala et al. argued that, in uni-versity macroeconomics class, academic efficacy and studyhabits was positively and significantly related to studentsperformance. Also, Okpala et al. showed that SAT scoresand accumulated credit hours were significantly related toabove-average students but not to below-average students.That is, other effects could be found for students doing well,but not for those doing poorly.</p><p>There is a lack of experimental research investigatingthe role of problem sets in student learning (Grove &amp;Wasserman, 2006). There were few examples of empiricalresearch using problem sets in an economics course. Millerand Westmoreland (1998) conducted an empirical study toinvestigate the effectiveness of alternative versus traditional</p><p>ways of grading in college economics courses. Students inthe experimental group were asked to solve all the problemsets as homework. The instructor only solved two selectedproblems during class, and students in the experimentalgroup did not know which questions the instructor wasplanning to solve. Students in the control group also wereasked to solve all the problem sets as homework. However,the instructor in the control group solved all of the problemsduring class. Miller and Westmoreland did not find any sig-nificant differences in student learning between two groups.Miller and Westmoreland recommended that, when problemsets are used as an instructional strategy to enhance studentslearning, instructors should solve only a small number ofproblems and not let students know which questions they willsolve in class.</p><p>Grove and Wasserman (2006) investigated the effective-ness of using grade incentives for completing problem setson college freshmen students learning in an economicscourse. The problem set assignment was a part of coursegrade for the students in the experimental group, but not forthose in the control group. Grove and Wasserman showedthat grade incentives significantly enhanced studentslearning. However, this effect was more significant onaverage freshmen than on those above or below average.</p><p>Online systems can be used to assist assigning problemsets as homework. Emerson (2011) used Aplia, an automatedonline homework program designed to grade problem setsand provide feedback on solved problems in a microeco-nomics course. They required students in the experimentalgroup to solve problem sets using Aplia, whereas its use wasoptional for students in the control group. Emerson arguedthat students who were required to use Aplia achieved signif-icantly better final exam and course grades than did studentsin the control group. They found that assigning homeworkcan enhance student learning, and an online system can re-duce instructors workload.</p><p>In the present study, we investigated the effects of problemsets with and without answer keys on students learning. Inparticular, we chose the most common assignment, giving alarge number of problems, and examined its effect on studentlearning. In specific, our hypothesis, working from the priorliterature, was the following:</p><p>Hypothesis 1: Students receiving problem sets with answerkeys are expected to do better than are those who receiveproblem sets without answer keys.</p><p>METHOD</p><p>Participants were those students taking a principles of mi-croeconomics course during fall 2008 and fall 2009 in aMidwest university taught by the same instructor. During fall2008, 100 students were enrolled in the course and, duringfall 2009, 75 students were enrolled. The demographics of</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>The</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f B</p><p>ritis</p><p>h C</p><p>olum</p><p>bia]</p><p> at 1</p><p>9:06</p><p> 09 </p><p>Dec</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>IMPACT OF PROBLEM SETS ON STUDENT LEARNING 187</p><p>these students are shown in Appendix A, including the examscore mean, standard deviation, and range for all students inthe classes and those students for whom all information wasavailable.</p><p>In each class, taught by the same instructor, students wereevaluated by two quizzes (15% each), two exams (20% each),and one comprehensive final exam (30%). The main teachingmethod for both years was lecture. The instructor providedstudents with the same lecture notes and problem sets in eachclass. Further, the instructor gave identical exams (quizzes,midterms, and comprehensive final exam) for both classes.The only difference between the two samples was the pro-vision or lack of an answer key to the problem sets. The in-structor did not provide the answer keys to students enrolledin three sections of fall 2008; however, students enrolled inthe two sections of fall 2009 received answer keys. Studentswere informed that over 90% of the quizzes, midterms, andfinal exam multiple choice test questions would be from theproblem sets.</p><p>The sample size dropped from 100 to 75 and from 75 to51 for fall 2008 and fall 2009, respectively, because we wereunable to get all students pre-GPA. We assume that selectionbias was not a problem. We compared the mean differencebefore and after the drop in observations between two samplegroups. The results are shown in Table 1, and clearly showthat we did not accept the null hypotheses, meaning that themeans of two samples should significantly differ from zerofor both tests. Therefore, we confirm that drop in observationsdid not cause a selection bias in our study.</p><p>In addition, Appendix A contains the final exam score,gender, age, high school GPA percentile, student major, andwhether the student was part of a learning community. Learn-ing communities are groups of students in linked or pairedcourses. At the university in this study, students have theopportunity to take an introduction to microeconomics aspart of a learning community experience. Learning commu-nities are generally designed to improve the learning expe-rience, study habits, and problem-solving skills of students(Schroder, 2010). Therefore, it is a needed control variable in</p><p>this study because students involved in the learning commu-nities might be expected to have higher grades in a principlesof microeconomics course.</p><p>To determine the role of the problem sets with and withoutthe answer key, an independent samples t test was performedto calculate mean difference between two groups. We thenconducted multiple regressions. The basic approach was toestimate a simple linear equation, with the exam score as thedependent variable and with physical and the same-genderratio in the classroom considered as env...</p></li></ul>