?Writing Skills for Tax Professionals ? Passive Voice? is a combination tutorial and interactive drill and practice module that helps future tax professionals develop the skill of using active voice more correctly and effectively. Passive Voice is the third segment on basic writing skills for tax professionals located at the M. Tx. Writing Web Site (http://www.gsu.edu/~accerl) developed for the Masters of Taxation (M.Tx.) program at Georgia State University. The module consists of a two-page overview on passive and active voice as well as five self-tests. The self-tests are constructed using an authoring product from Half-Baked Software. Employing a fill-in-the-blank format, users transform sentences from the active voice to the passive voice. Initial feedback has correct responses replaced in the sentence in bold font with repeated attempts allowed.
Type of Material:
Combination Tutorial and Drill and Practice
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Identify Major Learning Goals:
To review and practice writing in the active voice more frequently and more effectively.
Target Student Population:
Masters of Accountancy students in Taxation and tax professionals who must learn to author tax research typically found in the client files of CPA and law firms.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Requisite skills include basic grammatical skills of the English language. Practically, however, some knowledge of federal tax authority is required in that all examples utilize tax illustrations
Evaluation and Observation
The module discusses a topic that is not typically included to the extent necessary in graduate programs of taxation and is very relevant to the skill set required of these students. The lesson focuses upon active voice as it relates to the tax research memorandum; consequently, it wastes few words and thoughts.
The narrative portion is brief. While some topics found in the narrative are tested via the quizzes, others are not. In addition, some test questions seem to be skewed to emphasize certain punctuation rules more so than others. Not all responses are judged correctly (question 3 on tests #1 and #2). In addition, the ?Give Me A Letter? help feature for question 3 on self-test #1 is incomplete. Grammatical errors occur on some self-tests (the word ?whom? should be used in place of ?which? in question 3 of self-test #1, subject/verb agreement in question 4, self-test #2). Finally, only one correct response is permitted, when several could exist. For example, the articles used (i.e., ?the taxpayer? vs. ?a taxpayer?) in a sentence affect the response judgment.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Overall the module provides a good review of passive and active voice. In addition, students get to practice lessons learned from the narrative discussion.
The quizzes contain style ?preferences? as opposed to universally adopted concepts. Quiz questions are often phrased in such a way as to have multiple right answers, not all of which are (or can be) included in the solution. Quiz software was slightly cumbersome to use (?hints? are given one letter at a time ? student must repetitively press key to obtain suggestion). While this did not make the software difficult to use, it did take away somewhat from the effectiveness of the module. Self-tests might be more beneficial to the user if they began with simpler illustrations and became progressively more difficult. Scoring procedures are not articulated. The percent correct is judged by dividing the number of completely correct revisions by the total number of blanks to be completed. The only time a repeated attempt does not affect one?s score occurs when the entire answer is requested by repeatedly clicking the ?Give Me a Letter? button.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Overall, the site and supporting quiz software is relatively easy to use and navigate. Instructions are provided for each self-test.
Unlike the self-tests on punctuation, the only way users can obtain the correct answer is through trial and error or repeatedly pressing the ?Give Me A Letter? button. No explanatory feedback is provided to justify the correct responses. Users must scroll vertically after clicking on the ?Give Me A Letter? button in order to see the single letter hint provided. The space provided to revise the sentence is not related to the number of words or length of the revision required. Response blanks might be more useful if they were tied to the length or number of words desired by the authors. Wrong answers are not necessarily wrong ? they may reflect style preferences of the author. For example, the MS-Word grammar checker did not flag most sentences as having passive voice problems. Thus, calculated percentages of right answers may be misleading. Finally, in the quiz segment, the buttons at the bottom of the page are placed too close to each other. Inadvertently pressing the wrong button moves the student out of the quiz, forcing him or her to re-enter data.