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Best practices for homework
Practice makes perfect: Studies show that learning by doing has a six times better outcome than learning by watching or reading. Based on research and our own experience, we recommend the following best practices for homework:
- Give weekly assignments with the same deadline each week, e.g., Fridays at 10pm. Frequent small assignments lead to better learning outcomes than infrequent large assignments, and having the same deadline every week makes it easier for students to remember the due dates.
- Hide future assignments by setting an open date in the future, e.g., the Monday of the week in which you will cover the relevant material, to keep your students focused on the current assignment.
- Assign 10 to 20 problems each week. You want to provide ample opportunities to practice, but not overwhelm your students. If you want to provide more opportunities, you can create optional practice assignments in addition to the required assignments. Just change the assignment type to "Practice" and those assignments will not count towards the overall score.
- Select exam problems from the homework problems (or at least use very similar problems) and tell your students about it, to encourage them to do the homework.
- Allow students many attempts on numerical problems, e.g., 10, so that students can learn from their mistakes.
- Do not impose a penalty for incorrect attempts on numerical problems, to reduce stress and encourage risk taking.
- Allow students to see the solution to numerical problems with a moderate penalty, e.g., 20%, to let students make progress even when they are stuck and reduce the incentive for cheating.
- Choose a reasonable value for the tolerance, e.g., 2%, in order to prevent students from failing due to rounding.
- Set no or a small late penalty, e.g., 2% per day, to encourage students to do the homework even after the deadline has passed.
- Do not impose a time limit, to give students time to consult the book or go to office hours and discussion sections.
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