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Replacing Graded Homework Assignments in Statics

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Grading and Feedback Models in Mechanics

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Charles S. White Norwich University

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Prof. White received BS, MS and PhD degrees in Mechanical Engineering from M.I.T. He has worked in government research (U.S. Army Materials Technology Lab), private industry (Gillette/P&G, The Velcro Companies, Saint-Gobain) and academia (Northeastern University, Norwich University). His return to academia in 2018 resulted from a desire to give back and share his experiences. Particular areas of expertise include constitutive modeling for mechanical behavior of materials, consumer product development, and touch fasteners.

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Title: Replacing Graded Homework Assignments in Statics Innovation in Statics instruction is an important area of research with new approaches including: flipped classroom, concept mapping, on-line homework, and others. Most traditional teaching of Statics has involved a homework assignment where the students solve problems similar to those from lecture. The homework problems serve to reinforce the new concepts and to develop the students’ ability to solve math and physics based problems. These homework assignments have also typically been graded student assessments. The challenge with using these homework problem sets for student assessment lies in the difficulty in assuring that what is submitted represents the students own work. As someone who has returned to teaching following a 20+ year hiatus in industry, one striking observation is how readily the solution manuals are available to the students and how automatic is their inclination to work together on assignments. One downside to these changes is that they may too readily access the known solutions and not challenge themselves into the learning zone. Many of the students’ homework sets resemble the solution manual. This makes grading the homework sets to have no value, either for providing feedback to the students or for assessing their learning. In this study, a different approach was taken. As in the traditional method, a weekly problem set was assigned from the textbook. In this case the students were encouraged to avail themselves of all relevant resources: solution websites, group work, faculty help, or other. The goal was for the students to understand how to solve the assigned problems. The assessment was changed from grading the homework assignments to one where an in-class quiz was given as the homework is turned in. One of the assigned problems was chosen and the students were assigned to solve it, in class, with no references. Since which was the quiz problem was not known ahead of time by the students, they had significant incentive to understand how to solve all of the assigned problems. The assessment rests on the graded quizzes with only a nominal weight given to whether the homework problems were submitted. The preliminary evaluation of this approach was conducted in a Statics class section of 32 engineering students. Two assessment metrics were used. The first is the class final exam scores compared to previous sections taught by the same instructor. The second examines the submitted student homework and classifies whether the student had copied down a solution or shown evidence of working through the problem on their own. The quiz scores and final exams were then compared on this basis. Surprisingly, only a very weak relationship was seen between perceived student effort (working the problems or copying solutions) and demonstrated student understanding. The value to the students for copying solved problems was significant and nearly equal to the benefit for working the problems themselves. Implications for this approach are discussed and verification testing is proposed.

White, C. S. (2020, June), Replacing Graded Homework Assignments in Statics Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35144

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