Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

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Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby relative_entropy » Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:00 pm UTC

I teach math and physics at a community college. In every class that I teach, I assign homework. Sometimes, I do all the homework that I assign. Other times, I feel like I don't have time to do it all.

There have a been a few times when I taught a course, and I did every problem that I assigned. I worked out every single problem, with pen and paper, in the manner that I would want a student to do it. It really gave me a much stronger sense of what the homework is, and whether it's too much homework, not enough homework, too difficult, and so on.

Let's say I assign 12 problems, and I announce to my students, "these 12 problems are due 1 week from today." But then I feel like one week is not enough time for me to do those 12 problems. Then I've assigned too much homework.

So I'd like to hear from other teachers, and I'm wondering how common it is for teachers to do the homework that they assign.
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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby ConMan » Wed Sep 28, 2016 11:28 pm UTC

Not a teacher, but I did run a post-graduate-level training course at work for a couple of years, and I certainly did attempt all of the homework, including the week-long project (although I just did the bare basics of it to make sure I had a feel for the data and what kinds of approach were likely to work on it, I didn't do all the write-ups and stuff they're expected to do). I also worked out the answers for the exam, which is good because in a year prior to me one of the exam questions had been missing vital information and so they had to make an on-the-fly adjustment.
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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:21 pm UTC

Bear in mind that as a typical Teacher, the demands on your time are different from the demands on the time of the typical Student (and actual teachers and actual students vary away from this ideal).

As teacher, you have so much other prep to do (not speaking as a teacher myself, but being related to one), the marking of each piece of homework deserves time (during schooltime, 'after school' at school or at home). And, without being too lazy about it, you want to make it easier to 'validate' the effort of your pupils than it took the whole lot of them, cumulatively, to deluge you with their work. (The notorious age-old trick of a teacher only reading the first and last paragraph of any essay, to save time, is probably going too far, especially if known to the students and exploitable.. ;) ) Although at least setting one homework for an entire class (or for multiple parallel classes, or even quickly reviewing, refreshing and updating a little last year's 'third week after New Year, once they learn about matrices' materials for the successor year's students) at least cuts down on ths prep once you've done it once.

I think, though, that if you trundle through each set question and determine that your expectations are that the student will probably find it take half an hour to compete, with current level of expected knowledge and maybe a few small disteactions, and reckon that the other three main classes that day1 might be giving another half an hour each (in reality, PE probably does not) then that's four hours a day (perhaps required by next week, but in the meantime four other schooldays could be piling upon another potential eight hours of homework, which could be seen as a ten-hour day of their own if piled into a Saturday or Sunday by a dedicated but awkwardly scheduling student).


My own problem, as a student, was never (initially) the total time needed to accomplish the work. It was putting it off until I realised I had to cram. Setting the alarm for 5am, upon realising that the essay was due tomorrow but hadn't been started (yes, I could have started at the point of setting the alarm, eaten up the time into the night and then gone to sleep for what remained of the early hours but woken 'fresh', or at least worry-free, at a more normal time to be ready to rush my breakfast, in the morning. And that was without any modern distractions like the Internet. (Just things like a very limited amount of age-appropriate TV, and the devouring of books in any free moment, without regard for the homeworks set that very day, never mind the ones set six days ago.)


That seems to have strayed from the subject. Tl:dr is that yes, you should try the homework yourself, and ideally then have 'hand written' (or in this modern age, possibly something to project up onto the interactive whiteboard with Comic Sans denoting your workings out, for fun!) as an example to give if you can't puck and choose a class-member's exemplorary example to single them out for reverse-snobbery ridicule by their peers visibly reward them for being the class swot their diligence and hard work.

But as well as knowing that you (hopefully!) know the subject like the back of your hand and can whiz through quicker than the kiddiwinks, you should probably apply other discriminatory factors to it to make it useful but not impossibly off-putting.


1 Going by the half-remembered schedules of my own school days, two double-period lessons, separated by a break, in the morning, another two, likewise, in the afternoon (or two sets of two single-slots times two, or varioys combinations thereof). That was secondary school. Sixth Form College (UK: tertiary, pre-University level) off course had huge holes in the academic week, and I assume Community College is pretty much like that, every student having a limited number of classroom periods in their semi-personalised schedule, and 'free periods' (if not days) aplenty.

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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby doogly » Mon Oct 03, 2016 8:42 pm UTC

For the more serious courses, I did this for careful solution sets. It was very handy, and the five or six a set were meaningful and nice. For less rigorous ones where the students required a lot of drill like problems for practice, I did not bother going through each one. Nothing of value was lost, I don't think. (Except that these sorts of courses are very hard.)
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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:52 pm UTC

Well, for anything long answer, at very least you usually need to go through and have a solution ready for marking the question and assigning partial credit as necessary. It's hard to get around this unless you have a TA that you can fob off the responsibility to (who would still have to do this herself anyway). It's also good to have something like this around so that if a student comes to you in office hours and asks about problem 6C on the homework from a month ago, you have a solution key that you can discuss with them.

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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby rmsgrey » Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:03 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Well, for anything long answer, at very least you usually need to go through and have a solution ready for marking the question and assigning partial credit as necessary. It's hard to get around this unless you have a TA that you can fob off the responsibility to (who would still have to do this herself anyway). It's also good to have something like this around so that if a student comes to you in office hours and asks about problem 6C on the homework from a month ago, you have a solution key that you can discuss with them.


There are, more or less, three classes of question (or at least of expected answer): there's the short, definite answer, which is right or wrong (most of the time); there's the long answer, at least a couple of sentences long, which wants to hit certain points, but could be phrased in several different ways; and then there's the essay, where there may be certain points you're looking for (for example, an essay on 20th century physics would almost have to mention Einstein) but the form is at least as important as the actual content (and easier to provide marking criteria for).

For short answers, a mark-scheme is easy to produce, though not as useful (it's mostly there to list the right answers); for long answers, a mark-scheme is more-or-less essential. For essays, a useful mark scheme is almost impossible to invent - rather some example answers with annotations to indicate what's looked for is about the best you can hope for.

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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:29 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Well, for anything long answer, at very least you usually need to go through and have a solution ready for marking the question and assigning partial credit as necessary. It's hard to get around this unless you have a TA that you can fob off the responsibility to (who would still have to do this herself anyway). It's also good to have something like this around so that if a student comes to you in office hours and asks about problem 6C on the homework from a month ago, you have a solution key that you can discuss with them.


There are, more or less, three classes of question (or at least of expected answer): there's the short, definite answer, which is right or wrong (most of the time); there's the long answer, at least a couple of sentences long, which wants to hit certain points, but could be phrased in several different ways; and then there's the essay, where there may be certain points you're looking for (for example, an essay on 20th century physics would almost have to mention Einstein) but the form is at least as important as the actual content (and easier to provide marking criteria for).

For short answers, a mark-scheme is easy to produce, though not as useful (it's mostly there to list the right answers); for long answers, a mark-scheme is more-or-less essential. For essays, a useful mark scheme is almost impossible to invent - rather some example answers with annotations to indicate what's looked for is about the best you can hope for.


Sorry, was thinking of this in a physics/math context. Long answer in such situations just means "a longer, usually harder problem where you need to show all of your work". There's usually still one definitive answer, and there may only be one, or usually not more than a few, correct approaches to get to the correct solution. The marking scheme in such a problem would might look like
"2 pts for drawing the correct diagram"
"1 pt for labelling all of the forces"
"1 pt for writing F = ma"
"2 pts for correctly substituting the forces into the equation"
"2 pts for algebra"
"1 pt for correct final answer"
"1 pt for units and significant figures"

Essay questions or open-ended questions in general of the style you're talking about in a physics exam are extremely rare, in my experience.

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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:00 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Essay questions or open-ended questions in general of the style you're talking about in a physics exam are extremely rare, in my experience.


They tend to come in at university level for coursework/dissertations, but, yeah, essay questions for school-level physics courses is practically unheard of.

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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:34 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Essay questions or open-ended questions in general of the style you're talking about in a physics exam are extremely rare, in my experience.


They tend to come in at university level for coursework/dissertations, but, yeah, essay questions for school-level physics courses is practically unheard of.


Even at university level it's pretty rare. I could probably count on one hand the number of essay-styled questions I had to answer on an exam in physics courses during my undergraduate program (and am pretty confident saying zero for my math courses). Even in graduate studies, exams were overwhelmingly problem solving. Maybe some places do things differently, but this seems fairly standard practice in the field, and certainly consistent with how the majority of physics texts present their material.

Projects, labs, literature reviews, etc. would certainly involve some writing (though probably not essay writing, strictly speaking), but almost never in a test situation.

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Re: Teachers, instructors, professors: When you assign homework, do you do the homework?

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:15 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:Essay questions or open-ended questions in general of the style you're talking about in a physics exam are extremely rare, in my experience.


They tend to come in at university level for coursework/dissertations, but, yeah, essay questions for school-level physics courses is practically unheard of.


Even at university level it's pretty rare. I could probably count on one hand the number of essay-styled questions I had to answer on an exam in physics courses during my undergraduate program (and am pretty confident saying zero for my math courses). Even in graduate studies, exams were overwhelmingly problem solving. Maybe some places do things differently, but this seems fairly standard practice in the field, and certainly consistent with how the majority of physics texts present their material.

Projects, labs, literature reviews, etc. would certainly involve some writing (though probably not essay writing, strictly speaking), but almost never in a test situation.


Non-test situations are closer to what most homework provides anyway.

In my Cambridge Maths degree, I didn't actually do any coursework - I just did the exams - but the optional coursework component that was available was getting into essay territory.

It was only when I started on post-grad level material that essay-writing (properly sourced and referenced) became inescapable.


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