(464f) Effort-Based Grading of Homework | AIChE

(464f) Effort-Based Grading of Homework


Lund, C. - Presenter, SUNY - Buffalo
Problem-solving homework assignments are often graded on the basis of obtaining accurate answers to the questions posed in the problems. The resulting homework scores then count as some percentage of the students’ course grade. This may motivate students to obtain the correct answers on their homework assignments, but in doing so, they may not learn how to solve those problems. Specifically, if a student finds a solution to the problem online or if a student finds a solution to a similar problem and mimmicks it, they will get the correct answer. However, when required to solve a similar problem without access to the internet and worked examples, the student is unable to obtain an answer. In this study, changing to effort-based homework grading was examined as means increasing the learning benefits of solving homework problems. The expectation was that by removing the pressure to obtain a correct answer, students would be able to focus on understanding how to get an answer. In three offerings of the course after changing the homework grading basis, neither the percentage of homework submitted, nor the effect of homework completion on course grade changed significantly. Suspecting that the students were still motivated by obtaining the correct answer, two additional changes were made. First, during in-class learning activities, the need to understand how to each type of problem and the differences between them was emphasized. Second, after submitting each assignment, the students were asked to reflect upon the process they used to solve the problem and write a brief statement on how well they understood the process and the reason for any mistakes they made while executing it. Adding these two changes on top of the effort-based grading did not change the percentage of homework submitted appreciably. However, the effect of homework completion upon course score increased by approximately 50%. That is, the slope of the trendline for course score as a function of homework completed increased from 0.29 to 0.44. The results suggest that students are motivated to obtain a correct answer to homework problems, and simply removing the reward for doing so is not sufficient to shift their motivation in the direction of deeper learning. However, the combination of explicitly telling them that their goals when solving homework should include being to develop understanding of how to solve different problem types, removing the penalty for not obtaining the correct answer and asking them to reflect upon their understanding after completing the homework resulted in a significant increase in the effectiveness of homework upon student learning.