EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Graded Homework.. Why Bother?

Last week (for me) was the most wonderful time of the year, the end of a semester. As most instructors can understand, it is also one of the busiest times of the year with the influx of paper grading. So as I was grading the piles upon piles of papers, I quietly reflected upon the multitude of papers I grade during just one semester. The thought made my hand cramp.

No doubt those of you who read my post from last week, Warning: Grading Essays May Cause Concussion, (go on click on it you know you want to read it) know that I do at least assign research papers to at least one of my classes. I also assign homework in various other forms for all of the classes I teach. This of course results in bringing papers home to grade all semester long. Many hours are spent listening to Audible or South Park grading those papers.

Some of my colleagues think I am nuts for having the students turn their papers in for grades. Most of them do not want to do the extra work of grading papers on a nightly or weekly basis. These instructors do give homework they just do not collect it and grade it. Many have told me that this is college and the students should be doing homework just to practice and learn. I should not need to dangle a grade in front of them to get them to do it. This makes me giggle.

I am not a new teacher. I have been teaching for many years. My experience is that when homework is given with the idea of it not being collected for a grade the bulk of the students do not do it. I think that for the most part uncollected homework comes from lazy instructors who do not want to be bothered.

I want to know your opinions: Does it matter that homework is collected and graded? Is there good reasoning behind uncollected homework or is it mostly just due to lazy instruction? Are there techniques to getting students to do uncollected homework?  

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).

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JoDee is an adjunct faculty instructor of astronomy and physics at various colleges around her hometown in the midwest. When she is not trying to get her cat, Pixel, off of her laptop she is observing variable stars and researching black holes.


  1. May 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm —

    I give regular homework in my classes and it’s probably the most useful assignment for the students that I give. The main reason is not only do I grade it, I give extensive feedback on what they did well and what they need to work on.

    From my perspective, what’s the point of assigning something if you never look at it? The students aren’t stupid; they won’t work hard on ungraded/uncommented on work even if somehow we enforce them doing it without looking at it. I can see wanting to make students review material by assigning the work, but if you never collect it, how will you know if the students understand what’s going on? That’s the main reason I assign anything; to make sure the students are getting it…

    • May 25, 2014 at 2:17 pm —

      I agree…I agree…I agree!!!! Isn’t that suppose to be the point of homework to practice and then get feedback. This is why I find it reprehensible when instructors do not assign any homework just to get around having to grade it.

  2. May 25, 2014 at 6:29 pm —

    Over that last few years I’ve been upping the amount of graded homework I assign, thinking all the work I put into grading must be useful for the students. But I recently took a class (in a subject totally outside of my expertise) where the teacher did minimal grading, and we were expected to check our own answers. There were only about 8 graded assignments plus three exams for the semester, and, because nothing else was graded, these were actually worth a significant amount. I think it worked much better than my hugely labour-intensive approach (with five graded items per week).
    I intend to change my teaching to involve many fewer graded assignments, but with a lot of ungraded homework with access to an answer key. Less work for me, and probably will result in the good students learning to be responsible, and the bad students doing not much worse than they usually do.

    • May 25, 2014 at 9:05 pm —

      I would suggest that your approach can only work for students who have already learned self-regulation, such as yourself. I provide an answer key, because sometimes I cannot keep up as quickly as I like, and yes “good” students use it to their advantage, but other students who have not yet figured out how college works might suffer.

      Those students do very well when I can provide that crucial feedback and learn to self-regulate. Unless I’m sure they know how to do that, I will continue to make sure they see something from me directly.

      • May 26, 2014 at 10:29 am —

        The trouble is that the bad students don’t take the graded assignments seriously when each item is worth a fraction of a percent. The good students do them diligently, but they would also do the ungraded assignments diligently.
        I’m going to give the “fewer graded assignments” approach a try this year, anyway.

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