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Homework: To Do (Assign And Grade) Or Not To Do (Only Assign)

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade Outside of Class

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.639.1 - 8.639.11



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Paper Authors

author page

Craig Somerton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1475

Homework: To Do (assign and grade) or Not To Do (only assign)

Craig W. Somerton Department of Mechanical Engineering, Michigan State University

Introduction It is a well known fact that adults learn about 10% of what they hear, but 90% of what they do (Dale, 1954). This, by itself, is a persuasive argument for assigning homework, especially for those of us that still teach primarily in the lecture mode. Though I still interact with a few engineering educators that do not assign homework, the vast majority do assign homework problems, but many do not collect and grade these homework assignments. Assigning and grading homework is the focus of this paper. The value of homework is supported by grading data for two courses and survey results from a senior level mechanical engineering class. This paper continues by presenting this data, which is then used in discussions on several of the issues associated with homework. These discussions also rely upon anecdotal information from the authors eighteen years of teaching. The paper concludes with some final remarks.

Data on the Value of Homework Any discussion concerning homework needs to support the contention that homework is important and valuable in the facilitation of student learning. Certainly, the 10% - 90% observation that is stated in the introduction provides support for this contention. Most faculty would support the use of homework from their own experiences as students, as well as from their teaching experiences. Wankat & Oreovicz observe that homework is beneficial as there is evidence of a strong correlation between homework effort and test scores. To further substantiate this contention, data is presented in Figures 1 and 2, in which a student’s homework score for a course is plotted against their course score. Figure 1 is for a senior level mechanical engineering course in heat transfer, while Fig. 2 is for a sophomore level course in thermodynamics taken by mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, engineering arts, and civil engineering majors. The correlation coefficient for Fig. 1 is fairly strong (0.76) and is moderate (0.61) for Fig. 2. It seems that the trend is clear; a student who does well on the homework has a much better chance of doing well in the class. In Table 1, the homework average for various course grades is presented for these two courses. The trend for ME 410 also supports the contention made above. However, for ME 201 we see a major inconsistency in the trend for the homework average associated with students who received a 2.5 in the class. Several reasons could explain this, including the maturity of sophomores when it comes to taking exams and the issue explored later in the paper concerning team efforts in homework assignments.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Somerton, C. (2003, June), Homework: To Do (Assign And Grade) Or Not To Do (Only Assign) Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11640

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