Reducing the expectations gap: Using an academic literacies approach to improve student writing in economics

University of Queensland
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australasian Journal of Economics Education, 2010, 7 (1), pp. 31 - 58
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This paper reports on the evaluation of a writing program embedded within an intermediate macroeconomics course at an Australian university. This program was designed to address core issues identified by an academic literacies analysis of what might be called the higher education writing problem: an observed poor quality in the writing of higher education students across a range of disciplines. The program attempted to close an expectations gap between student and academic perceptions of what constitutes good writing by using clear and detailed assessment criteria, providing exemplars of good writing, and interacting with students about their writing in a series of writing workshops. Regressions of assignment results on a range of factors and a comparison of assignment results for students who attended the writing workshops versus those who did not, indicate a small but positive, and statistically significant, effect of important aspects of the writing program on assignment outcomes. A distributional effect was also observed whereby students at the pass-fail margin who attended the writing workshops performed better than those who did not. Limitations of the study are identified and suggestions are made for further work.
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