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 thesis services 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 help essay 123 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 thesis services 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.
Audience makes a difference in many aspects of student writing. One theme found in both sets of writing samples was example. Students used examples, both short and extended, to illustrate the statistical concepts they were writing about. Student writers pulled examples from the world as they see it.