School of Business faculty, Dr. Nathan Garrett and Dr. Alice Shiotsugu, presented their research at the latest AAA Conference on Teaching and Learning in Accounting. Their presentation, “Critical Thinking in Excel,” described how students typically struggle with formulas.
The project analyzed logs from an online tutorial system, and showed that students have difficulty solving complex problems. While students had issues with syntax (such as comma placement), a deeper issue was that they often failed to truly understand each problem. Instead of using a logical approach (such as divide and conquer), struggling learners randomly tried different functions and references.
The project’s results show that learning to write Excel formulas is not trivial. Instead, writing formulas requires students to develop their critical thinking skills. They need to understand a problem, try out different strategies, and evaluate the effectiveness of their approach.
Drs. Garrett and Shiotsugu plan on continuing their project, investigating ways of helping students develop the critical thinking skills necessary for employment in today’s businesses.