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Research Articles

An Authentic Learning Approach to Group Assignments: An Analysis of Student Attitudes

Roger Brown, Na Zuo, Jordan Shockley, and Steven Buck

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: December 10, 2019

Abstract: Using a difference-in-difference estimator adapted to include student fixed effects, we examine whether exposure to an authentic, business-oriented approach to group assignments improves student attitudes about working in groups. Our results show that, compared with a traditional approach, students exposed to the business-oriented approach had significantly improved attitudes about group assignments in general. Specifically, students indicate that forming groups was more authentic and likable, individual grading processes were fairer, and scheduling group meetings was easier. We also identify the marginal effects for these improved attitudes and show that the relevant factors are, in descending order of importance, improvements to group scheduling, group formation, and individual grading.

Keywords: Authentic learning, students, teaching, teamwork

Valuing College Graduate Attributes and Skills: Employer Willingness to Pay as Elicited through Design Valuation

Ryan Feuz and F. Bailey Norwood

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: December 11, 2019

Abstract: Design valuation (DV) is a new valuation method adapted from the Build-Your-Own (BYO) method used within the marketing literature. Within design valuation, subjects design their optimal good by selecting various attributes at select prices. Through a DV survey of college graduate employers, interval-censored willingness-to-pay (WTP) data are collected for 10 college graduate attributes. Both tangible and intangible attributes are evaluated. Average WTP estimates for the college graduate attributes are estimated relative to the type of college (agricultural, business, engineering, or other) from which the employer prefers to hire recent graduates. A high degree of character, ability to work well with others, and excellent communication skills are among the most highly valued attributes. In general, we find that intangible attributes such as these are valued higher than tangible attributes, which require relatively less subjectivity to determine. This finding points to the importance of the job interview, which is often the best tool employers have to evaluate whether candidates possess these intangible attributes. Analysis of the DV survey results will help academic advisors prepare students for the job market and students to better align their own goals with development of specific skills and attributes to increase their marketability and return on education investment on entering the job market.

Keywords: Academic advising, human resources, interval-censored data, non-market valuation

Outstanding Seniors: Where Have All the Young Men Gone?

Paul Wilson and Na Zuo

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: December 17, 2019

Abstract: The gender gap reversal in higher education, first noted in the early 1980s, has evolved into an educational policy issue due to its persistence. We explore the gender gap among outstanding graduating seniors within a college of agriculture and life sciences. Our investigation found a predominance of female outstanding seniors in the college, including in STEM-like, male-dominated academic majors. We attribute this significant gender gap to national behavioral trends (e.g., male disadvantages in non-cognitive skills) and to organizational changes within the college.

Keywords: Gender Gap, Outstanding Seniors, Undergraduate Education

Teaching and Educational Methods

Teaching Competition Topics: Applications of Seller Market Power in Agricultural Industries

Yuliya V. Bolotova

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: September 30, 2019
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Abstract: The article presents a simple theoretical framework that can be used to explain conduct and performance of agricultural industries and seller market power in these industries. The framework components include a linear inverse demand function, a constant marginal cost function, and a set of measures of costs, revenue, and profit. The theoretical framework is consistent with agricultural supply and price cycle, and the decision-making process of agricultural producers. The theoretical framework is used to develop applications for the U.S. peanut and potato industries represented by two problem sets provided in the teaching note, which also includes four sets of assessment questions. The article discusses implementation and practical applications of the proposed teaching activity. The target audience includes students taking undergraduate courses in agricultural economics and agribusiness programs as well as extension and outreach audiences.

Keywords: Agricultural marketing, competition, peanut industry, potato industry, seller market power

Facilitating Higher Order Learning: Examining Student Outcomes after a Course Redesign

Anna Josephson, Larry DeBoer, Dave Nelson, and Angelika Zissimopoulos

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online January 7, 2020

Abstract: We study student learning outcomes following the redesign of an undergraduate macroeconomics course. Changes were made to focus students’ learning efforts and time in-class on the application and analysis of key concepts. To evaluate changes to student learning outcomes, we use thirteen questions that appeared on final exams both before and after the redesign. The analysis shows that after the redesign student performance on application and analysis questions improved, while performance suffered on memorization and understanding questions. With this paper, we provide a description of our experience and method for others to use in assessing changes in performance after redesigning a large, introductory-level course.

Keywords: Active learning, Bloom’s taxonomy, high-order taxonomy, macroeconomics, undergraduate instruction

Hedging with Futures: An Experiential Learning Game

John Michael Riley

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online January 7, 2020
Supplementary material

Abstract: Hedging is often an integral concept in agricultural futures and marketing courses as well as extension marketing workshops. Textbook and chalkboard examples offer students of these courses the ability to understand the concept and learn the mathematics. However, this mode of instruction is less intuitive and does not have a real-world feel. The purpose of this paper is to present an interactive hedging game that was developed to provide students with a more realistic hedging experience that improves the understanding of the mechanics of hedging. Under the premise of an eastern Nebraska corn producer using actual data, a spreadsheet was designed that displays market information to the students who then must make decisions about the number of futures contracts to trade. Pre- and post-game results indicate a positive learning outcome, and students responded favorably when asked if the game enhanced their understanding of hedging.

Keywords: Experiential learning, futures, hedging, teaching

Case Studies

Teaching and Education Commentaries

The Do Now: A Simple, but Effective Active Learning Strategy

LaPorchia A. Collins

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: January 7, 2020
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Abstract: Students often have difficulty applying concepts discussed in lectures. Using practical guidance that allows for flexibility in implementation, I highlight the Do Now as a short, practice exercise that promotes just-in-time instruction. My approach stresses application of course concepts to improve student self-efficacy and performance. A supplemental teaching note provides additional guidance on implementation.

Keywords: Active learning, formative assessment, interactive lecture, self-efficacy

The Project Manager / Private Contractor Approach to Group Assignments

Roger Brown, Na Zuo, Jordan Shockley, and Steven Buck

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: December 16, 2019
Supplementary material

Abstract: We describe an authentic approach to group assignments whereby instructors act as corporate officers in the classroom and assign tasks to student leaders who act as project managers. These student leaders, in turn, recruit and supervise groups of their peers who act as private contractors. This approach attempts to accommodate three known student preferences for group assignments. One, students want to be involved in the group formation process, but often instructors form student groups, and then ask groups to select their leader. We propose instead to let the entire class select its own leaders and then let each leader form a group from the remaining students. Two, students want control of their individual grades, but often instructors lead efforts to assess individual contributions based on incomplete student feedback. We propose instead to let student leaders lead these efforts subject to constraints prescribed in advance by the instructor. Three, students prefer easy scheduling of their group meetings, but often they must coordinate most or all of their group meetings out of class. We propose instead to let students schedule most or all of these meetings in class. We conclude by discussing two limitations related to class size and distance learning.

Keywords: Authentic learning, students, teaching, teamwork

Case Study Special Issue

Case-Study Research Topics in Agribusiness Economics and Management

Michael Boland

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: September 18, 2019
Supplementary material

Abstract: Within agricultural and applied economics, the development of and methodology for case-study research receives wide discussion. Despite this, there exists no published case-study research studies based in classic case-study methodology. Case-study research is an important methodological tool in social sciences, but generally not taught in agricultural and applied economics graduate programs. The objective is to discuss two different researchable topics requiring extensive data collection that are suitable for dissertations and research. The first topic is to help inform the theoretical contributions in geographic indications by collecting supply data for food products to better understand the relative shape of supply curves and their relative elasticities of supply for such products. The second topic is to understand the depth of agricultural global supply chains in a topical area such as sustainability. Both topics would provide cross-sectional and time-series dimensions in a detailed experimental design with individual firms being the subject of each data. There are opportunities for graduate degree programs to focus on case-study research, which would be suitable for dissertations. This is especially true for graduate students in agribusiness economics and management who have a desire to teach as a career.

Keywords: Agribusiness, agriculture, case-study research, economics, food, industrial organization, management

Government Cheese: A Case Study of Price Supports

Katherine Lacy, Todd Sørensen, Eric Gibbons

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: November 19, 2019
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Abstract: In this paper, we present a case study that uses a Planet Money podcast to introduce microeconomics students to several important economic concepts. The podcast, which is about a policy intervention in the dairy industry, reveals the unintended consequences of government price supports under the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977, which increased dairy price supports through government purchases of manufactured milk products. By 1981, the government was struggling to reduce its stockpile of 560 million pounds of cheddar cheese stored in caves across the Midwest. This case study examines the history of dairy price supports and the government’s resulting acquisition of millions of pounds of cheese, butter, and nonfat dry milk. Available on request are detailed teaching notes with learning objectives and background materials, questions (and answers) for student evaluation, and a table displaying meta-data for each question, such as learning objective, difficulty level, and Bloom’s Taxonomy level.

Keywords: Agricultural Policy, Government Cheese, Government Policy, Market Inefficiencies, Price Floor, Price Support

The Ethical Choice: Confronting Ethical Dilemmas with Industry Participants in a Curriculum

Cheryl Wachenheim

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Volume 1, 2019, Posted online: November 19, 2019
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Abstract: This hypothetical teaching case presents learners with two ethical dilemmas faced in an agricultural sales course. The primary dilemma consists of a salesman suggesting to a student they fabricate a ride-along experience they were to complete together. A second dilemma addresses a sales representative condoning the use of “little white lies” to customers and others as part of the sales process. The case study is designed to facilitate consideration of ethical dilemmas through context-specific decision making. It allows students the opportunity to investigate choices by considering a range of factors not limited to standards of conduct and personal values. Questions help guide use of the case, and an instructor’s note is available.

Keywords: Agricultural sales, ethics