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Writing assignments can be intricately tied to applications- oriented methods, in that they often ask students to consider how the concepts they are learning in class apply to the world they live in and then to articulate their understanding in writing. Beins concluded that students who wrote about statistics in lay language acquired better interpretative and computational skills. The range of writing assignments that statistics professional paper writing services instructors have used is huge, and it includes term papers, short essays, notes, press releases, position papers, and journals.

The action research presented here combined qualitative and quantitative techniques to investigate two different types of writing assignments in an introductory undergraduate statistics course with an applications-oriented approach. The assignments were written in response to the same set of prompts but in two different ways: as homework journal assignments or as posts to a computer discussion board on a professional paper writing services Blackboard course web site. Student writing was analyzed to identify the types of writing found, and a survey at the end of the semester elicited student reactions to writing in a statistics course, as well as to the two different types of writing they were asked to do. Identifying the types of writing students do in response to these assignments can help determine both the strengths and weaknesses of each as well as the ways in which students are using writing to learn statistics.

One reason that the national organizations recommend integrating writing into mathematics and statistics courses is that writing assignments will make students better writers or mathematical communicators, and it is clearly the consensus of the field that statisticians need to be better writers (Beins, 1993). The more practice students have in writing about statistics, the better statistics writers they will become. Integrating writing into statistics courses, however, is not only important because it gives students practice writing. There are several other reasons that professional paper writing services may be just as important. Kathleen Dillon asks her students to do a short piece of anonymous writing at the beginning of her undergraduate statistics courses, specifically about how they feel upon entering a statistics course, as an introduction to a discussion of math anxiety (Dillon, 1982). Their study indicated that these methods did have a statistically significant effect, as shown with pre- and post-test measures of anxiety. According to Pan and Tang (2004), anxiety about learning statistics may be due to a lack of mathematical background or skill, but it may also be due to misunderstandings about what the study of statistics is about (p. Writing about why statistics might be useful, or why it is important to be statistically literate, may help students begin to connect to the subject matter in new ways. Because writing exposes what students can and cannot explain, it also helps us discover what they still need to learn. The American Statistical Association (2005) recommends written assignments as a way to assess statistical thinking. Articulating thinking in writing, especially in informal writing assignments like learning logs or journals, can help clarify and professional paper writing services extend that thinking. Though there are many examples of informal writing as a teaching method in statistics, including journals, learning logs, dialogue journals, and informal writing turned in with homework, one of the two types of assignment in the current study consists of posts on a discussion board, and discussion posts are treated more often as verification of technology use than as a writing assignment in the literature.

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Comunale, Sexton, and Pedagano Voss (2001), for example, studied discussion boards as part of a larger study of the effectiveness of course web sites in a business statistics course. They found that students who used the course web site and found the discussion board useful also thought that the web site helped them learn. One problem, of course, is that it is difficult to decide whether learning has, in fact, taken place. Methods In the current study, students in two sections of the same introductory statistics course were given the same writing prompts, but asked to reply in two different ways. We believed that the prompted writing would promote student learning and statistical thinking, whether they were writing journal assignments or participating in a discussion board. We hypothesized, however, that students would get more benefit from the discussion board, as it allows for interactive discussion, collaboration, and debate. We were also particularly interested in determining what kind of writing students were doing in each case.

Along with each homework assignment, the students would write a short paragraph in which they could ask questions relating to the content or the course as well as express their feelings about the course. This journal, however, did not specifically require students to think about, and write about, statistical content.

Although journal writing has been shown to alleviate statistical anxiety, as has been noted, writing about more than just their feelings may also prompt students to think about statistics, so the instructor decided to create ten prompts, based on class content, to which the students would respond. Some of these prompts asked students to apply their new understanding of statistics to real-world applications. Some of the prompts, the first and third in the table for example, asked open-ended discussion questions about statistics, and others, like the second, asked students to apply the new concepts they were learning.

The fact that the instructor taught two sections of Introduction to Statistics created an opportunity to compare two different methods of asking students in each of the two sections to respond differently to these prompts. In one section, all the students would simply write a 250-word journal response to each prompt and turn it in on a weekly basis. In the other section, all the students would answer the same prompts by participating in discussion forums in Blackboard. For the latter method, which placed an emphasis on the use of technology, each student was required to post an initial response to the prompt as well as at least one response to another student. The course structure for the two sections was identical in all other ways. Across the two sections, 38 students participated in this study. Out of the original 23 in the discussion board section, 3 stopped coming to class, and 2 declined to participate in the study, leaving 18 participants. Of the original 24 students in the prompted journal section, 2 stopped coming to class, and 2 declined to participate in the study, leaving 20 participants. Each section had both high achieving and low achieving participants. Herein, the discussion board section will be referred to as Section A and the prompted journal section as Section B. Example 2 Get on to the Gallup Poll website (via External Links).

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