June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.171.1 - 11.171.16
An Alternative Paradigm for Engineering Homework: The Case of Engineering Economics
Homework is an absolutely crucial component of engineering education, but there has been little progress in this vital area other than improvements in computational aids. This paper offers a new and thought-provoking paradigm for engineering homework by establishing the feasibility of routinely assigning problems with the same structure but unique numbers for each student. It examines the current status of homework, reports on a survey of students’ needs, examines basic issues that affect widespread implementation, and considers meaningful enhancements for pro- fessors, such as automated grading and help for students.
A common ground shared by engineering professors and their students is that neither are enam- ored of homework. Professors are keenly aware of its benefits, but some rediscover prayer while seeking assistance in grading. Students know that homework is necessary, but sometimes that necessity has more to do with getting a grade rather than a burning desire for long-term learning. This leads to a variety of compliance and evasion strategies that are all too familiar to professors. This paper first examines the current status of homework within engineering education. Then it presents a survey of what students think of alternatives to this status quo. This is followed by a closer look at the most promising alternative paradigm, how it can be implemented, and en- hancements that benefit both professors and students.
At a very general level, the traditional mode of engineering education consists of enlightened lectures, reinforcement and extension of the lectures via homework and labs, assessment of how much students learned, and evaluation of how well professors did their jobs. The homework step is critical, but onerous to all parties. Professors seek to reduce time spent on grading homework, and many students also develop methods to converse their time. Perhaps the most common stu- dent strategy is some form of copying. Working together does encourage cooperation and possi- bly increases communication skills, but weaker students frequently do not develop the independ- ence that they will need at a professional level, or even to succeed on the next test.
How can simple copying be eliminated, while still allowing the best aspects of cooperation? One approach used by some professors is to give short, weekly tests. The benefit of this strategy is that it strongly discourages accumulating a learning deficit by not doing homework, and it pro- vides rapid feedback that discourages copying. The cost is the class time that it consumes, as well as the time required for preparing and grading tests, and many professors feel that the costs outweigh the benefits.
Ristroph, J. (2006, June), An Alternative Paradigm For Engineering Homework: The Case Of Engineering Economics Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--431
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