June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.427.1 - 15.427.11
Does collecting homework improve examination performance? Abstract
In this study, our goal is to examine the impact of different homework grading policies on students’ final exam performance. We are interested in not only the overall student performance, but also performance of specific student subgroups with varying backgrounds as well as the impact of graded homework on the type of learning that takes place in the course. The study was conducted in a Numerical Methods course at a large university in the southeast of USA over a period of 3 years encompassing data from over 300 hundred Mechanical Engineering students.
As a strategy for college success, the tip most consistently given by professors and college officials is that a student should simply do their homework1. Practice, preparation, extension and integration are identified as the most common instructional goals for assigning homework to students2. More often than not, to provide an incentive for the students to spend the necessary time on the homework problems, these assignments are graded and the grades are included as a fraction of the final grade in the course.
The idea for this study came about from sheer economics of lack of teaching assistants assigned to a Numerical Methods course that the first author teaches. The common practice is the assignment of a 10hr/week TA in the spring semester and none in the summer semester. With anywhere from 40-70 students taking the class, the first author had to critically think about the best use of the assigned TA. Should the TA spend time to maintain generous office hours, grade computer projects, assist in programming and experimental laboratories, or grade homework assignments? The question we are trying to answer in this paper is whether grading the homework problems improve the student performance. We are not questioning the importance of assigning the homework problems but if they help the students if picked for a grade.
Cartledge3 presents an interesting review regarding the vastly different views about homework since the turn of the 20th century. These views range from “useless and dangerous practice of carrying books home and asking pupils to do evening studies” to conclusions that favored homework as a tool which improved scholarship. The debate over the merits of homework continues today without conclusive research results, especially for college level engineering students, which support the common belief that doing homework improves the students’ comprehension and performance.
Weems4 examines the effects of homework collection on achievement of college level intermediate algebra students. More specifically, the question of a student who is required to hand in homework performs better than one who is not is addressed. The study conducted over 108 students was inconclusive regarding the overall grade distribution, however the group which was required to hand in homework had significantly more number of students who earned A grade in the course than the control group which was not required to hand in homework.
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