Beginning finance courses, comprised largely of business majors, are typically challenged by a lack of background in the field, a complex and analytical subject matter and often a lack of interest and motivation (particularly for those who are not finance majors). To further complicate matters, beginning principles classes are frequently taught in large lecture rooms and to large numbers of students, thus decreasing the possibility of discussion, student/teacher interaction, and consequently, learning, interest and motivation. In an effort to diminish the effects of these variables, the authors of this study sought to make improvements in instructional strategies. Specifically, the authors empirically investigated the effects of a student generated expressive writing program on overall performance in a Principles of Finance class.
Writing in the classroom is not new, in fact, students have probably always taken written notes as a way to record teacher directed content information. But in recent years, research in the field of comprehension has found that the act of writing to learn information can be far more sophisticated than simply jotting down what the teacher has said. In a student generated expressive writing program learners are taught and encouraged to write out any questions they might have, concepts they need to review, and any additional supportive examples or elaborations they can think of. When they do these types of writings, they are more apt to apply critical thinking skills and a higher order of understanding to their general knowledge base. Apparently, this is the case because student generated expressive writing: 1) focuses thought; 2) makes thoughts available for introspection and further analysis; 3) translates mental images into more concrete pictures; and 4) motivates inter-communication when the teacher responds to the students writing (see Britton, et. al. (1975), Emig (1977) and Draper (1982)). While the first three factors serve as an intrapersonal study strategy, wherein students work and rework their notes and their confusing and clarifying thoughts as they relate to those notes, the last factor serves to build an interpersonal relationship between the instructor and the students. All of these factors work in combination to build a schema of better understanding and hopefully more motivation to do well in the course, because the student no longer feels isolated.
Though research in writing-to-learn has found its' way across most curricula, (see Fulwiler (1980) and Willey (1989)), it is still very new in quantitative courses. A review of literature found little theoretical and no empirical research related to finance courses and writing-to-learn factors. Dahlquist (1995) suggests properly designed and implemented writing projects can increase the communication skills and the overall learning of finance students. Templeton (1996) presented an overview of the potential benefits and costs of using writing exercises in a finance course. Ciccotello and Green (1997) investigated the impact written case analysis had on undergraduate and graduate finance students. Using survey results, the two authors found undergraduates viewed case writing less favorably than graduate students, citing that the process was more time consuming and frustrated than expected. However, the majority of the empirical research has been done studying the effects of writing in statistics and mathematics.
Specifically, Watson (1980) found that students who regularly wrote in "learning logs" or journals showed improved ability in quantitative problem solving. And Smith, Miller and Robertson (1991) found students who completed regular writing assignments in a statistics class showed improvement in their learning when compared to a non-writing control group. In light of these positive findings, it seems important to continue the investigation of the effects of writing on students' achievement in a Principles of Finance course. …