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Indiana University Bloomington

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Journal Articles

A Study of the Effectiveness of Writing Exercises as Elaboration Techniques for Teaching Tax

1994, Journal of the American Taxation Association

Peggy A. Hite, Rob Parry


Based on self-elaboration theory, this study examines whether comprehension is better when tax students are asked to provide a written explanation of the rule that underlies an illustrative example rather than when the rule and example are jointly presented by the instructor. A second elaboration experiment examined whether comparative elaborations increase comprehension relative to the written explanations of separate concepts.

Rule application problems were given to students immediately after instruction, a few days later, and at the end of the semester. To test for potential intervening effects, grade point average and overall course performance were statistically controlled. The results indicate that written self-elaborations were found to be a useful teaching methodology, but the results were sensitive to the student's level of academic achievement in the course. Self-generated written analyses tended to help students with higher academic achievements. In addition, these students performed better when they were asked to write a set of comparative rules rather than several separate rules. The implication for educators is that written self-elaborations provide a means for discovery learning that will help achieve the goals of learning-to-learn and learning-to-write. Although the benefits of this strategy were associated with the higher ability students, future research should explore whether repeated exercises in self-elaborations can improve the lower achiever's ability to think inductively.


Hite, Peggy A. and Rob Parry (1994), " A Study of the Effectiveness of Writing Exercises as Elaboration Techniques for Teaching Tax," The Journal of the American Taxation Association, Vol. 15, Spring, pp. 172-186.