Today’s blog post stems from my having graded 40+ labs this week and the entirely shocking bi-modal distribution of professionalism. The students who handed in their lab assignments and did well, did very well. Those who handed in assignments and did poorly, did very poorly. For the most part these students are in their junior year of college, which presupposes they all passed courses requiring homework. Possibly even kindergarten.
Examples causing me to tear my hair out include, but are not limited to, the following:
- No title, no date, no pagination on the assignment
- Problems completed out of order
- Name and lab partner names in the same order on two separate labs so I have no idea which lab goes to which partner
- Two lab assignments submitted by one student with no indication of which version he wanted graded
- Labs write-ups that look like they’ve been run over by a truck (several times)
- Maps with no legend, no descriptions, and not to scale (essentially five lines drawn like a pentagon… leaving me to wonder, what does this mean?!)
- Numerical values with no units and no explanation
- Lab write-ups not only turned in unstapled, but the pages were turned in at separate times and to separate lab instructors — as if to say, “I wonder if my TA can figure this little puzzle out!”
- Hand-drawn diagram spanning 5 sheets of 8.5 x 11″ paper except the sheets were taped together, then trimmed to fit the diagram, and folded several times
Dear readers, do not be mistaken. I’ve graded assignments for more than five years as a TA at two separate universities and this is just the icing on the cake. The above exasperations are not unique to this class. It did get me thinking a base template for a winning homework assignment might be in order.
A Winning Homework Assignment
- Your name, the date, assignment title at the top of the first page
- Page numbers
- If you worked with a lab partner, clearly notate who is the author of the assignment and who is the lab partner
- Typed whenever possible; field notebooks and lab notebooks excepted
- All figures need a title
- Graphs need axis titles and units, legend
- Maps need north arrow, legend, scale, date
- Tables caption above
- Figures caption below
- If you erased and smudged your answers, get a new sheet of paper and re-write
- Fit diagrams on to one sheet of 8.5 x 11″ paper unless otherwise instructed
- Do not turn in an assignment that looks like (or actually has been) run over by a truck (or car, combine, golf cart, etc.); do not turn in an assignment with a boot print on it
- Answer problems in the order given in the assignment
- If assignment ends up more than one page, staple together (in order)
- If you tore your answers out of a notebook, clean the fringes off prior to handing in
- Box answers to engineering and math problems
- If science, engineering or word problem, include units in answer
Four years in college should be considered training ground for the professional world. If you turn in assignments following the above guidelines, not only will your TA feel happy and refreshed upon grading your brilliant work, you will be practicing for success as a professional.
No boss wants to review slop, this I promise.