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Undergraduate Homework Assignments that Achieve Desired Learning Outcomes

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Student Learning and Assessment II

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1568.1 - 22.1568.14



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Paper Authors


Firas Akasheh Tuskegee University

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Dr. Akasheh is an Assistant Professor at the Mechanical Engineering Department at Tuskegee University. He joined in 2008.

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Denny C. Davis Washington State University

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Dr. Davis is Professor of Bioengineering and Director of the Engineering Education Research Center at Washington State University. He has led numerous multidisciplinary research projects to enhance engineering education. He currently leads projects creating and testing assessments and curriculum materials for engineering design and professional skills, especially for use in capstone engineering design courses. He has been a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education since 2002.

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Undergraduate homework assignments that achieve desired learning outcomesFiras Akasheh1 and Denny Davis21 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL 360882 Engineering Education Research Center, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99163It is well-known that doing homework is an extremely common and useful tool for achievingstudent learning outcomes and for enabling the instructor’s formative assessment. Nevertheless,it is equally well-known that, in general, the students’ less-than-optimal approaches tocompletion of homework assignments diminish achievement of the desired learning outcomesthat could be supported by this tool.This work presents two different approaches to administering homework assignments, which caneffectively achieve student learning intended by practice in problem solving. The first approachuses an oral examination style in which a number of students are selected at random on thehomework due date. To gain their homework grade they must solve the assigned problem on theboard in front of the class while the instructor probes their understanding. Students are asked fortheir justification of their methods to reveal their thinking process and to ensure deeperunderstanding. The second approach involves homework assignments which are unique to eachstudent and for which a written solution is turned in for grading. The assigned problems are notselected from the students’ textbook nor are they referenced.These approaches are strongly supported by principles of how people learn. With regards to thefirst approach, a significant portion of the class time is conducted by the students while theinstructor serves as the facilitator for learning. This way, students are more active and are forcedto take charge of their learning. Both students and the instructor get to listen to other students asthey think loud, which aids the instructor’s identification of misconceptions and developsstudents’ abilities to express themselves in a technical manner. Their abilities to clearly reflectupon and express their thinking process enhance their understanding of the material. The secondapproach, forces the student to think through a problem on his/her own, thereby strengtheningtheir independent thinking skills and helping uncover related flaws and misconceptions. Theirsuccess after struggling with the problem, while having the proper intervention and guidance ofthe instructor as needed, will let the student experience the joy of learning and gain a boost ofself confidence.In order to measure the enhanced learning resulting from the experimental homeworkapproaches, samples of previous years’ exams are given to the students and the performance ofthe study group (the whole class) is compared to that of the previous two years’ classes. Thevalidity of this comparison is justified by student demographic data for the two student cohorts inthe same department at the same institution. Furthermore, student reflections on thoseapproaches compared to the traditional common homework style are collected and analyzed byan independent evaluator to document the impacts of the homework innovations.Finally, it is worth noting that this approach may be more suitable for small-size classes, so themethods described here may not apply in medium to large classes.

Akasheh, F., & Davis, D. C. (2011, June), Undergraduate Homework Assignments that Achieve Desired Learning Outcomes Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18849

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