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Increasing Student Motivation Through Development And Grading Of Examinations And Homework

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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

Effective Teaching to Motivate & Retain

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.693.1 - 8.693.13



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Paper Authors

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Reid Vander Schaaf

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Ronald Welch

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Session 1615

Increasing Student Motivation Thru Development and Grading of Examinations and Homework

Reid Vander Schaaf and Ronald Welch United States Military Academy, West Point, NY

Abstract Tests, homeworks, and the associated grading policy and course management all play key roles in student perception of a course, and ultimately the program. A perception of unfairness, real or imagined, can decrease student motivation to learn, or in more serious cases, result in the students giving up on the course entirely, or even changing their major. In large enrollment courses that are taught by several instructors, there can be the problem of student perception with inequity in the difficulty of the versions of the examinations and homeworks issued, and the subsequent grading of these exams and homework. The starting point in developing ‘fair’ examinations is to develop appropriate and pertinent test questions. Examination questions should follow from the lesson objectives, which come from the course objectives. The course objectives should support the program objectives, which in turn are guided by ABET criteria. How do you link these pieces together to write a good examination? Additional questions quickly follow. What problem type or types should you use: Multiple Choice, True/ False, Short Answer, Short Calculation, Long Calculation, etc.? How many versions of an examination are necessary? What are the advantages and disadvantages of giving the examinations during the regular class periods, verses during an available common hour for the students of all the instructors? This paper will discuss possible solutions to these questions, as well as how to effectively use multiple graders, and the role of the restrictive and sometimes controversial cut scale. Student course assessment data will be presented to illustrate the positive and negative effect on student motivation, i.e. learning, when there is a perception of unfairness in the examinations or homework issued and/or subsequent grading.

Introduction In the over 200 years West Point has been an undergraduate institution, it has consistently determined that students learn best in small sections of about 16 to 18 students. In order to facilitate and encourage additional discussion or tutoring to students after formal class periods, grade and assess student work, and prepare each lesson, the maximum teaching load that an instructor can effectively handle is four of these small sections. In our large enrollment courses that have more than 1,000 students, the course requires fifteen or more instructors. Most courses at West Point, including our electives, have multiple instructors. Theses multiple instructor courses work best when they are managed by one instructor – the course director. The course director is responsible for ensuring consistent content and grading philosophy throughout the course. The best technique for ensuring consistency is for the course director to write all the examinations and design problems, and occasionally the homework assignments as well. Consequently, the course director only teaches a maximum of two of these small sections. In this system, the course director has several concerns, especially about examinations. First, he must ensure all the instructors have adequately covered all the central concepts in the course. Second, he must craft an examination that is clearly written, and tests those important

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

Vander Schaaf, R., & Welch, R. (2003, June), Increasing Student Motivation Through Development And Grading Of Examinations And Homework Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12648

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