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Writing Analytics for Management Decisions & Control

Improving written communication skills in an accounting subject through the use of writing analytics

Teaching & Learning Grant, 2016: PI: Amanda White (Lecturer: Business) & Nicole Sutton (Lecturer: Business); with David Brown (Professor: Business); Rachael Lewis (PhD candidate: Business); Adam Aitken (Academic Language Liason: IML); Simon Buckingham Shum (Professor: Connected Intelligence Centre); and Simon Knight (Research fellow: Connected Intelligence Centre).

business school handbook screengrab

When studying 22421 Management Decisions and Control, students are required to gather evidence, summarise that evidence, critically evaluate the literature and provide recommendations in a written report. These are complex skills that challenge students. Academics have commented that there a number of reasons why students struggle when completing this style of assessment task – a poor understanding of how to write academically, teaching staff lack the confidence and ability to teach academic writing, and time constraints within the course to teach academic writing and provide feedback to students on their work. Written communication skills are essential to allow students to communicate with their peers, potential employers and upon graduation become productive and valuable employees in their work places. The improvement of written communication skills aligns with the Graduate Attributes and UTS Model of Learning.

This project aims to improve the written communication skills of students studying 22421 Management Decisions and Control through the development and implementation of the Academic Writing Analysis (AWA) tool from CIC. AWA enables students to receive formative feedback whenever and however often they like. This project embeds the tool in professional writing-activities, to investigate its effectiveness in supporting students to improve their abilities to communicate, think critically, and be creative and analytical (as per the Graduate Attributes for the Bachelor of Business degree). Writing is a core professional practice, and this project integrates technology into the support of academic and professional genres. The use of AWA by students online (whenever they feel the need to) improves the opportunities for students to receive learning-analytics based formative feedback for the assessment task.

Therefore supporting development of these skills is important in the 22421 curriculum. The project will involve:

  1. Ensuring the 22421 assessment criteria express the key academic language expected of students;
  2. In an iterative process, supporting the AWA1 team in fine-tuning the language technology to identify this language;
  3. Supporting the students’ writing practices, through a benchmarking task and draft revision task (to be developed);
  4. This data (from 3) will provide a resource for the AWA team to further understand how students make sense of their writing, and how to analyse ‘improvement’ in student writing;
  5. Provide students with language technologies (including AWA) to support their writing and reflection on that writing; and
  6. Provide a site for evaluation of the AWA tool as a resource for student writing and reflection.

AWA will be tailored to meet the specific academic writing demands of the subject and will facilitate student-driven self-assessment and reflection on their work (an important component of Learning.Futures and flipped learning). The feedback from AWA will be aligned with the Graduate Attributes, Subject Learning Objectives and assessment criteria.