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Bernstein Project: Adding Web-Based Examples

Additional Examples

Grant Wiggins tells a story about a shop teacher who keeps a set of welds on his workbench for students to look at. They vary from elegant and solid to sloppy and non-functional, and he encourages students to compare their work with the examples on his bench. His goal is for students to internalize standards of quality so they will recognize quality in their own work when they produce it. A successful internalization would mean students would not be surprised by the feedback they receive on their work. I tried to do something very similar using the discussion board space of Blackboard (the UNL course website shell). I posted examples of the harder problem-based questions, along with samples of answers from prior students that varied in quality (without indications of grades received). I encouraged students to look at these examples, even though the questions they would see would have a different surface structure; I hoped they would recognize the deep structure of the topic and it would help them with a new question when they encountered it. The results were very encouraging, as in all four cases there were more students achieving in the top categories with examples than without (see the figures below). Many students visited the site, and there was an improvement in the answers to all four of the exam questions that received this intervention. My plan is to gradually add such a "workbench" to additional questions next fall when I teach the course again. I am intrigued that this improvement in performance occurred despite the fact that the course was about three times the size of previous groups and the students had much less formal preparation for the course.


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