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Individualized Homework: An Effective Learning Strategy

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Student Learning and Assessment

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.727.1 - 15.727.11



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Paper Authors

author page

Ronald Goulet University of Tennessee-Chattanooga

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

Individualized Homework: An Effective Learning Strategy


Although evidence that homework improves learning outcomes at the university level is sparse, instructor opinion about the importance of and the role of out-of-class assignments suggests that homework is the most important factor to maximizing achievement of learning outcomes, when it is significantly weighted, relevant, promptly scored and returned. That said, these same instructors express a reluctance to assign much homework or to adjust the syllabus to weigh it substantially because of the well founded suspicion that many students cheat and submit work that is not their own by copying the work of others including the solutions manual. As a result, homework if assigned often carries far less weight than exams and is often cursorily graded before its eventual return to the student, thus nullifying any benefit to achieving learning objectives.

While student are predictably opposed to any out-of-class work, most recognize that practice strengthens understanding and builds problem solving skills. However, these same students complain that homework counts too little in the computation of final grades that it is rarely graded or promptly returned and that the scores earned are skewed by the dishonest behavior of students who cheat, copy work of others including solutions manuals.

To maximize the likelihood of achieving learning objectives, the author developed an approach to incorporating out-of-class work into an undergraduate mechanics of materials course that effectively compels students to invest heavily in the assignments by a 50% weighting in the computation of the final grade; that effectively incentivizes students to improve their final grade by a correction policy where a student may recovers half of any lost points by finding and perfecting their errors; and reduces the likelihood of cheating by individualizing the assignment.

While the basic question, “Does homework improve learning?” remains unanswered, the paper describes the details of course delivery, preparations of individualized assignments, grading and correction policy. The paper also presents the results of a student survey and the author’s observations that include: a) increased student preparation for in-class lecture evidenced by Q&A, b) increased student engagement evidenced by office visits and email, c) increased student motivation to learn on their own as evidenced by the improvement of final scores through finding and correction of errors, d) an increase in learning suggested by the significant correlation homework scores and exam scores and e) a surprising reduction in the time required scoring and grading the assignments!

Keywords: Homework, individualized, customized, weighting homework


The purpose of this paper is to describe the system developed to deliver out-of-class assignments to an undergraduate mechanics of materials course. The system incorporates heavily weighted

Goulet, R. (2010, June), Individualized Homework: An Effective Learning Strategy Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16166

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