Creating Individualized Self-Scoring Assessments for Agricultural Economics Undergraduates

What is an individualized self-scoring assessment for an agricultural economics major? It is a homework assignment that is unique for each student in the class and provides immediate feedback to the student on the correctness of the work. The principle is to generate unique problems, whether it is as simple as the basic intercept and slope of supply and demand equations for an introductory economics class, the parameters of a production function for a production economics, or the interest rate for agricultural finance. One must be aware in constructing the generator algorithms for problem parameters that any necessary conditions will be satisfied a priori such as downward sloping demand, concavity or convexity for maximization or minimization. These assignments are created in an Excel spreadsheet format. Once the basic template is created, the process for self-scoring immediate feedback is relatively easy. Create a copy of the original uncompleted problem sheet in the same workbook and provide the correct formulae to serve as a key. Create a second copy to serve as a check page and replace the formulae with an IF statement comparing the value or formula in the original to the second. It is best to provide some tolerance in the comparison such as checking that the absolute difference in the original and second sheet is less than some critical value. This is especially true for optimization problems. By hiding the key worksheet and protecting the workbook structure, students can not access the correct formulae. However, if the correct formulae or number is entered in the problem sheet, the student can view the check worksheet to see if the answer is correct. A simple GETFORMULA add-in allows the worksheet to check model setups in optimization problems. The key advantage of this technique to the students is the immediate feedback. Also by generating unique assignments, students can cooperate and learn among themselves without being able to directly copy from their peers. Additionally, graphical representations of their problems can often be provided simultaneously. Lastly, the students find that their spreadsheet skills are greatly enhanced. From the instructor perspective, the assessments are already scored when submitted. Students will seek help prior to turning in the assignment. And there is little need to sacrifice complexity to create problems that work out to neat answers. Empirical evidence of improvement in student evaluations indicates the technique is successful.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-04-26

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