How Student Performance in First-Year Composition Predicts Retention and Overall Student Success

My co-authored chapter in “Retention, Persistence, and Writing Programs” titled “How Student Performance in First-Year Composition Predicts Retention and Overall Student Success” has now been published.  This was a cooperative project with Bruce Feinstein and Matthew Bridgewater.

The biggest factor we discovered was the relationship between success in writing programs and graduation.  Instead of being an isolated issue safely  hidden in GE, writing courses predict graduation just as well as courses in a student’s major.


The big chart for us was the following.  It shows the grade earned in a single course, separated into major classes and general education writing courses.

Viz of Eye Tracking Data

I’m working on a new way to visualize eye-tracking data. Last year, I had a number of students watch a video while my camera recorded their eyes. After exporting the raw data, I wrote a custom script with Three.JS to plot the fixations in a 3d world.

The gif to the right shows my current version. Each person’s eye track is shown as a line. As time progresses, the lines shift/move with their eye fixations.

The major benefit of this approach is that we can zoom out and see aggregate behavior fairly clearly. While we can get a similar look with the bar chart I posted earlier in the year, this way does a better job of allowing you to compare the time dimension.

If you have a Google Cardboard, the current version will allow you to see the visualization in a 3d VR world.

Textbooks for Responsible Data Analysis in Excel

My most recent paper, titled “Textbooks for Responsible Data Analysis in Excel” has been put online at the Journal of Education for Business.

Abstract: With 27 million users, Excel (Microsoft Corporation, Seattle, WA) is the most common business data analysis software. However, audits show that almost all complex spreadsheets have errors. The author examined textbooks to understand why responsible data analysis is taught. A purposeful sample of 10 textbooks was coded, and then compared against spreadsheet development best practices. The results show a wide range of approaches, and reveal that none of the 10 books fully cover the methodologies needed to create well-rounded Excel data analysts. There is a need to re-evaluate the teaching approaches being used in office application courses.