Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Robert L. Williams

Committee Members

Sherry K. Bain, John W. Formby


Presumably, one approach for improving exam performance in college courses is to increase the quantity and quality of pre-class preparation. Over a two-semester period, students in six sections of a large undergraduate course in human development at a large southeastern university participated in a study designed to assess the efficacy of an intervention to enhance student preparation for class. The treatment involved administration of daily five-minute writing activities based on pairs of concepts embedded in the instructor notes of each unit in the course. The principal dependent variable across semesters was student performance on unit-exam items related to content in the instructor notes and power-point slides. Student performance on these exam items was contrasted across semesters (one semester with the writing activities and one semester without the writing activities) and across written performance levels for the semester in which the writing activities were used.

In general, performance on the writing activities was a better predictor of performance on exam items related to the instructor notes and power-point slides than performance on items related strictly to issues in the reading materials. Specifically, there were four major findings: (1) exam performance on the targeted items was higher the semester when the writing activities were used than when they were not used; (2) the relationship between performance on the writing activities and exam performance was stronger for exam items related to the instructor notes/PowerPoint slides than items related only to issues in the reading materials; (3) daily writing activities were a stronger predictor of exam performance than other previously predictive course variables (pre-course critical thinking, pre-vocabulary, and attendance); and (4) students who scored high on the writing activities scored higher on the targeted exam items than those who scored low on the writing activities.

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