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The Time Survey: A Course Development Tool That Works!

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.482.1 - 1.482.6



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Paper Authors

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Stephen J. Ressler

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Thomas Lenox

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

Session 3230

The Time Survey: A Course Development Tool That Works!

Stephen J. Ressler, Thomas A. Lenox United States Military Academy

“My students don’t spend enough time preparing for class.” “Students spend more time on this course than on any other course in the program.” “Students today just don’t spend as much time on their studies as they used to.”

You’ve heard these claims before. Perhaps you’ve even made them yourself. If so, we have a simple question for you: How do you know? How do you really know how much time your students spend in out-of- class preparation for a given lesson or course?

This paper describes a simple yet powerful tool which, we believe, will help you answer this question. The tool is a time survey, used extensively in the civil engineering program at the United States Military Academy. The survey has been in continuous use since 1988. Today it functions as an integral element of a comprehensive, multi-dimensional assessment system, used to manage the ABET-accredited USMA civil engineering program.* As a course-level and program-level assessment tool, the survey offers much at very little cost. It requires few resources and very little time to administer; yet, the authors have found, this modest tool facilitates improved teaching, responsive course development, and rational management of the entire academic program.


The time survey is used to obtain input from students on the amount of out-of-class time they spend in preparation for each lesson. It is administered to every student, in every class, in every course offered by the civil engineering faculty.

A typical completed time survey sheet is shown in Figure 1. This particular example was administered in EM364A, an undergraduate Mechanics of Materials course. The survey takes the form of a matrix, with a row for each student in the class and a column for each lesson. (Lessons are designated MM-1, MM-2, etc.) The matrix is printed on both sides of the sheet, so that a single sheet can be used for an entire 40-lesson course.

At the start of each class, the survey is passed around the classroom, with each student entering the number of minutes he or she spent in out-of-class preparation for the day’s lesson. To minimize bias in the survey data, the instructor ensures that the students’ entries are entirely anonymous. (A student may record his or her entry on any numbered row of the matrix.) Students are encouraged to be completely candid in their

* See Ressler and Lenox, “A Structured System for Outcomes Assessment “, elsewhere in these Proceedings.

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Ressler, S. J., & Lenox, T. (1996, June), The Time Survey: A Course Development Tool That Works! Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6349

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