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Enhancing Student Learning in Introduction to Sport Management—Angela Lumpkin (2011)

Courtesy of
University Relations

Overview

In order to enhance and document students’ learning, a sports management professor implements new writing assignments in an introductory course for prospective majors.

Background

Introduction to Sport Management (HSES 289) is a required prerequisite for students seeking admission into the undergraduate sport management major. The purpose of this course is to help approximately 100 students each semester explore the fundamental content areas within sport management as a foundation and make a reasoned, knowledgeable choice about whether this is the right major for each one of them. While participating in a CTE Faculty Seminar, I identified, refined, implemented, and assessed the effectiveness of students’ performance in this course.

Implementation

In Spring 2010, I designed a series of four writing assignments (each with its own rubric) to sequentially help students gain an increased level of understanding about the depth and breadth of their chosen sport management career while providing opportunities for students to improve their writing. These assignments included an interview, two small research papers, and a reflection paper; following papers one through three, students also had to revise and resubmit that paper. Upon reflection, I decided to revisit the writing assignments for the Spring 2011 course. I rethought the papers’ order, slightly revising papers two and three; I also chose to eliminate the requirement to revise and resubmit earlier papers and included peer review.

Student Work

In response to the changes made in Spring 2010, I did see improved writing across the four papers. In addition, following the Spring 2011 changes, I saw some stronger papers because I had placed greater emphasis on research. During both iterations I incorporated small changes based on student performance and mid-semester student feedback.

Reflections

With the goal of enhancing and documenting student learning, I added four sequential research and writing assignments, engaged in continuous reflection about how to improve the teaching and learning process, and made mid-semester and new semester adjustments. Reflection indicates further minor changes I can make, such as a framework for writing papers and increased guidance in research. Overall, however, most students realized the value of these papers, because by connecting the papers with career exploration they learned more about options and opportunities in sport management careers. It was personally rewarding to read students’ comments at the end of their last papers about their learning in this course and how much they appreciated the opportunity to learn more about their chosen careers.


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Courtesy of
University Relations

Background

When the Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences revised and enhanced its undergraduate sport management program during the 2006-2007 academic year, a new introductory course was added. Introduction to Sport Management (HSES 289) is a sophomore-level, required prerequisite for students seeking admission into the undergraduate sport management major. The purpose of this course is to help approximately 100 students each semester explore the fundamental content areas within sport management as a foundation and make a reasoned, knowledgeable choice about whether this is the right major for each one of them.

The general learning goals for the course are:

  • Students will identify careers of interest to them, investigate the chosen career, and demonstrate through written assignments their knowledge about and understanding of how to advance in a chosen career.
  • Students will be able to explain the principles of leadership and management as applied in sport settings.
  • Students will be able to describe, analyze, and apply the principles and issues in sport ethics, personnel management, financial management, sport law, facility and event management, strategic planning, and sport marketing.

In May 2007, I participated in the Best Practices Institute sponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence. Based on this colloquium and past experiences teaching sport management courses, I incorporated several instructional approaches in this course when I first taught it in Fall 2007. Among these were the following:

Gave three options for students to demonstrate that they had completed the reading assignments prior to class so they would be prepared to participate in discussions:

  • Online quizzes on Blackboard;
  • Discussion board prompts;
  • Article critiques.

Required completion of topical written assignments, with two options to complete either five or 10 of these, which were graded for 10 or 20 points depending on the choice.

Assigned group projects with students self-selecting into groups, and required use of the wiki function on Blackboard:

  • Required initial posting of the group project design, at least two work-in-progress postings, and posting of the final paper for the entire class to read.
  • Required completion of Group Participation Form and a 200-word self-reflection.

Use of mid-semester feedback survey through Blackboard

After this course was taught in Summer 2008 and Spring 2009, based on student feedback, the required use of the wiki was dropped, as were the optional discussion board prompts and article critiques.

In the 2009-2010 CTE Faculty Seminar, several interdisciplinary colleagues and I read and reflected on books and articles on the teaching and learning process. Collaboratively in five seminars during the fall semester, seminar participants further conceptualized the intellectual work of teaching and learning. During the spring semester of 2010, I identified, refined, implemented, and assessed the effectiveness of students’ performance in this course.


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Courtesy of
University Relations

Implementation

Spring 2010: new assignments and creating rubrics
When planning for teaching this course in Spring 2010, I chose to retain the online quizzes over the assigned readings, a group project, and three examinations including a comprehensive final. However, I also wanted to add new student assessments that would document students’ critical thinking skills and enhance their writing abilities. Therefore, I designed a series of four writing assignments to sequentially help students gain an increased level of understanding about the depth and breadth of their chosen sport management career while providing opportunities for students to improve their writing. When planning for teaching this course in the Spring semester of 2010, I added a fourth course goal: Students will identify careers of interest to them, investigate the chosen careers, and demonstrate through written assignments their knowledge and understanding of how to advance in the chosen careers.

For paper one, students had to interview a professional within their chosen career and write a short report of that interview. In paper two, students had to write briefly on the steps needed to either advance in or toward the chosen career, while in paper three they discussed the roles and responsibilities attached to the chosen career position. Paper four was a reflective paper requiring personal application of information learned in the previous papers. Following papers one, two, and three, students also had to revise and resubmit this paper; as a reflection piece, paper four was not revised and resubmitted.

In order to facilitate students’ research and writing abilities, I invited colleagues (pdf) from the University Libraries and Writing Center to meet with students during the second class session. I also demonstrated a “read-through” of the course’s first reading assignment, in order to help students identify and understand key points when reading a scholarly article. I displayed the first assigned reading, which students had been asked to read prior to class, and used a highlighter to emphasize several key points. As I highlighted major points in the article, I explained them more fully and responded to questions. As a follow-up and to further emphasize the most important points, I asked students to answer several questions.

After reviewing relevant literature on rubrics and examining numerous rubrics, I developed a rubric for each writing assignment. The purpose of these grading rubrics was to provide clear and specific guidance to students in their thinking, writing, and revising processes. For more information, please take a look at the rubrics, as well as somewhat more in-depth information on each paper.

Spring 2011: rethinking the writing assignments
Upon reflection, I decided to revisit the writing assignments for the Spring 2011 course. First, I rethought the order of the papers. I retained the first paper with no changes. The main changes occurred in my approach to the second and third papers. I felt it would be more beneficial for students to investigate the roles and responsibilities of persons in ultimate career choices before exploring interim types of experiences they could complete and positions they might have in progressing toward their chosen careers; therefore, I exchanged the assignments, with paper three becoming paper two and vice versa. Paper two now required students to write a research paper about their long-term career aspirations so they could gain a better understanding about what individuals in these roles did and, possibly more importantly, whether these job responsibilities would be of personal interest. Students had to utilize information obtained from a minimum of five articles published in scholarly or sport-related journals for this paper. With career goals more clearly in mind, paper three required each student to write a research paper based on information from at least ten sources of information (five of which had to be articles published in scholarly or sport-related journals) about the interim positions or steps for advancing in or toward the selected career. While increasing the number of sources for paper three, the requirements were flexible to allow students to find information online about lower-level jobs in their chosen careers. Additionally, for both of these papers, students had to read at least five brief career sketches of professionals in sport management careers. Numerous examples of career sketches were provided on Blackboard; alternatively, students could chose to read sport managers’ career profiles provided on team, institutional, or organizational websites. I retained the fourth reflection paper.

Second, due to the large class size (over 80 students), I decided to eliminate the requirement to revise and resubmit earlier papers as portions of subsequent paper grades. This change led to the decision to make each of the four writing assignments worth the same number of points, 60 points each. However, after students received their second and third paper grades, they requested and I gave them the option to choose one paper to revise and resubmit to improve their grades.

Finally, during the Spring 2010 iteration, I implemented peer reviews. For the first paper, students brought in a draft one week before the paper’s due date; in two- to three-person groups, students read and provided feedback to their group members. I used the same process for paper two, although following student feedback, I moved the exercise from one week to one class period prior to the due date. However, due to negative student feedback, I made the peer review step optional for paper three and eliminated it altogether for paper four. In the 2011 iteration, though, I included peer review, requiring it for each paper. Students were required to bring a draft to the class preceding the due date and were counted absent if they failed to have one. The rationale for this was to emphasize the importance of the writing process: preparing an initial draft, obtaining feedback from at least two classmates, and making revisions to strengthen their papers before submission for grades. I also gave greater structure to the peer review sessions, emphasizing the rubric as a way to guide comments provided to classmates; these rubrics were similar, but with slight edits, to those used in Spring 2010. Because of the importance of receiving feedback to enhance their writing, students were encouraged to meet individually with the professor to discuss and get comments on drafts. A few students took advantage of this opportunity with positive effects on their grades. Also, to encourage students to get help with their writing, I allowed them to make up one unexcused class absence by going to the Writing Center for assistance.


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Courtesy of
University Relations

Student Work

In response to the changes made in Spring 2010, I did see improved writing across the four papers. In addition, following the Spring 2011 changes, I saw some stronger papers because I had placed greater emphasis on research.

Writing assignment 1
I provided specific editorial comments on each paper, which were returned the next class after submission. In addition to writing comments and questions on each paper, I attached a copy of the grading rubric to each student’s paper on which I placed evaluative checkmarks and minor comments in the section of the rubric matching the summative feedback. The quality of the papers ranged widely (Student 1 Paper (pdf) and Student 2 Paper (pdf)). Some students did well because they met the requirements stated in the rubric for exemplary performance, diligently edited their own writing, took advantage of feedback received from classmates or someone in the Writing Center, and followed the guidance provided in the grading rubric. Most students emphasized the content of what they learned from the person interviewed but could have edited their writing more closely. A few students procrastinated, leading to late submissions, poorly edited papers, and cursory descriptions of their interviews.

Most students did an excellent job making editorial changes in their first paper and adding any missing content (Student 3 Paper (pdf)). However, a small number of students failed to use the feedback I provided, so they did not receive the full 10 points that were possible for submitting revised and improved interview papers.

Writing assignment 2
For paper 2, several students struggled in locating resources that could help them learn about the types of entry-level positions and mid-level positions through which they might advance in gaining the knowledge and experience needed to progress toward the career to which they aspired. Many students relied solely on easily-located electronic and minimally-helpful resources, while other students read more broadly and greatly enhanced their understanding of the types of jobs, responsibilities associated with these jobs, and skills and abilities needed to be successful in entry and more advanced jobs. I again attached a copy of the grading rubric to each paper on which I placed checkmarks in the evaluative section of the rubric matching the summative feedback.

While a few students chose not to revise their second papers for extra credit points, most did. For those who had done well, the resubmission was easy to complete to receive the full 10 extra credit points. Most students made the marked editorial changes and responded to specific questions asked in my written comments. These students received less than or up to all of the extra credit points, depending on how well they revised their papers. A small number of students had to make major changes in their writing and content about roles and responsibilities to receive up to all of the extra points.

Mid-semester feedback
Students were invited to provide anonymous feedback via Blackboard on any aspect of the course. There were asked to respond to three open-ended questions on what they liked about the course, what they did not like about the course, and what their suggestions were for improving the course. The few students who provided feedback liked exploring different careers, learning about a wide variety of topics in sports, class discussions, opportunities to get actively engaged with the content, and the professor’s enthusiasm. They did not like peer feedback on drafts of papers and the number of writing assignments. Students suggested eliminating the peer feedback, having more extra credit opportunities, and reducing the reading assignments. Based on this feedback, three changes were made to the writing assignments:

  1. Making revision of the second written assignment optional for extra credit points as a part of the third assignment;
  2. Reducing the number of required readings for the third written assignment from five to three; and
  3. Making revision of only the third written assignments optional for extra credit points as a part of the fourth assignment.

I again solicited mid-semester feedback in the 2011. Unlike the previous iteration, I received no negative comments regarding the peer review, leading me to suspect that the increased guidance improved students’ experiences with this process.

Writing assignment 3
This seemed to be the most challenging of the writing assignments. Students were asked to research information from a minimum of three articles from scholarly journals (not from newspapers or popular magazines) or a book to learn more about the roles and responsibilities of a person in their chosen careers. This was difficult, because it required time and effort to locate informative articles and books. Those students who did not adhere to the source requirement and used more easily accessible and minimally informative websites received a reduction in their grades.

Overall, the third papers showed a range of understanding about students’ chosen careers (Student 4 Paper (pdf) and Student 5 Paper (pdf)). I returned each paper with a copy of the grading rubric on which checkmarks in the appropriate section of the rubric matched the summative feedback. Grading the third papers made me question whether this was a good assignment or whether I should have provided more guidance or even specific resources to students to help them complete the research for these papers.

Most, but not all, students chose to revise their third papers to earn up to 20 extra credit points. Again, most students simply addressed the marked grammatical issues and specific comments.

Writing assignment #4
The checkmarks on the grading rubric for paper three corresponded with the summative feedback on evaluative sections for the fourth paper. For most students, the quality of their fourth papers was strong (Student 6 Paper (pdf) and Student 7 Paper (pdf)), because they emphasized extensive learning from their interviews, research, and writing. Even though students commented that they did not like having to write four papers, most acknowledged how beneficial networking with a professional in the field and learning about the process for career advancement was to them personally. The major problem a few students had with this assignment was the lack of direct personal application of what they had learned, even though this requirement was stated on the task assignment and grading rubric for this paper. It was personally rewarding to read students’ comments at the end of their papers about their learning in this course and how much they appreciated the opportunity to learn more about their chosen careers.

In addition to positive comments written on students’ papers following the 2011 iteration, overall the feedback about the writing assignments was positive because of what students learned about sport management careers. Misperceptions were corrected, insights gained, and anticipated career choices changed, adjusted, or confirmed. One suggestion made on the end-of-course evaluation was to encourage students to use these papers to explore multiple careers. While students were given the option to change the topics of their papers, I will reflect on how to emphasize this option more the next time this course is taught.

After implementing the changes described in the Implementation portion of this portfolio, I saw some students writing stronger papers.

Writing Assignment 1

Student A

Student B

 

Writing Assignment 2

Student C

Student D

 

Writing Assignment 3

Student E

Student F

 

Writing Assignment 4

Student G

Student H

Student I


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Professor Angela Lumpkin

Angela Lumpkin

Reflections

Teaching is intellectual work. Continually examining and evaluating how to enhance the teaching-learning process is a critical aspect of effective teaching and requires a professor’s heartfelt commitment and lifelong passion for education. Professors who share this commitment to teaching and learning as intellectual work inspire students to fully engage in the learning process, enhance their critical thinking skills, and actively seek understanding. As Bain (2004) reports, the best college teachers set high standards. Value-added education demands setting and meeting high standards of teaching and learning. With the goal of enhancing and documenting student learning, I added four sequential research and writing assignments, engaged in continuing reflection about how to improve the teaching and learning process, and made mid-semester and new semester adjustments. Reflections on the inclusion of the four writing assignments yielded a number of insights.

Many undergraduate students struggle with their writing abilities and need practice and guidance in improving these skills. While additional guidance was provided in the second iteration of this revised course, most undergraduate students would benefit from having a framework for their papers and assistance in locating and utilizing scholarly resources. Borrowing from the work of Broskoske (2007), I will provide the following five-step framework for papers to students the next time this course is taught:

  1. Introduction—define the topic (thesis statement);
  2. Evidence—provide credible research, information, and facts about the topic;
  3. Key points—written in an active voice with evidence to support each point;
  4. Summary—a closing argument will restate persuasively the key points;
  5. Review—carefully edit for clarity and to ensure evidence in support of the key points.

While more students in 2011 availed themselves of the opportunities to get formative feedback from me prior to the submission of their papers, most students were resistant to using the Writing Center, even when strongly encouraged to take advantage of this helpful resource. For example, in Spring 2011, only 14 out of 85 students went to the Writing Center to get help with their papers. This small percentage may indicate that students feel that they already have the needed writing skills to get whatever grade is their goal, or maybe students do not wish to spend the extra time to get help.

Some students needed more guidance in finding scholarly sources of information about sport management careers. While I provided additional guidance to help students find resources for papers two and three in the second iteration of this course, some students still relied too heavily on easily accessible websites, many of which were limited in content and direct relevancy to the paper requirements. The next time I teach this course, I will demonstrate during class how to use databases to find resources.

Most students realized these papers’ value, because by connecting the papers with career exploration, they learned more about options and opportunities in sport management careers. In the final reflection paper, many students commented on the helpfulness of learning more about one or more careers and how beneficial it was to confirm or contradict their preconceived notions about these careers. Some students stated that what they learned reaffirmed their desires to pursue certain careers. Other students learned that the job expectations for the careers they investigated were quite different than they had thought and changed their minds or were rethinking what their career choices should be. One student commented that, “throughout this class our writing assignments have been a huge asset in aiding my development and understanding of a sports agent.” Having conducted research, written about their aspiration careers as well as possible interim experiences and jobs they might hold to prepare for their chosen careers, and reflecting on what they had learned was considered by most students to be highly beneficial. For example, a student noted that the course gave, “me the opportunity to explore what it is that I exactly want to do with my career and has helped me tremendously.”

Implications of this course redesign
The incorporation of research and writing assignments into an introductory class is applicable to any college course. Designing writing assignments to make them directly relevant to the students’ present and future lives enhances how engaged students will be with required research and writing processes. One student echoed this when he stated that, “this course, for me, was an amazing introduction course, that applied knowledge that I must have in the future.” Since many college students struggle with writing in general and writing research papers in particular, it is incumbent on the professor to structure writing assignments in clear, understandable, and meaningful ways. This includes specific task assignments, guidance in how to identify and use scholarly sources, and a framework for conceptualizing and writing a research paper. Encouraging students to avail themselves of personnel working at a writing center and take advantage of peer and teacher feedback also is beneficial in improving writing skills. Clearly stated high expectations identified in grading rubrics help students understand expectations and strive to achieve them.

From my perspective, three implications of this course redesign are most poignant. First, given that the focus of teaching should remain on students and their learning rather than on the discipline (Bain, 2004; Shulman, 2004), teachers should seek feedback from students about how to make their learning more relevant. Second, reflecting on teaching should be never-ending. After each class period, throughout the semester, and in the planning process for teaching a course again, the teacher must examine every aspect of course content and the instructional process and make adjustments that will lead to greater student learning. Third, documentation of student learning is imperative. While development of a course portfolio may not work for everyone (although it is highly recommended), collecting examples of students’ work is a powerful reminder of the difference teachers can make in students’ learning.

References

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Broskoske, S. L. (2007). Prove your case: A new approach to teaching research papers. College Teaching, 55, 31-32.

Shulman, L. (2004). Teaching as community property: Essays on higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. (2005). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Contact CTE with comments on this portfolio: cte@ku.edu.


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