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Handy Recovery 5.5 Serial 23

Homework Must Be Handwritten


Homework Must Be Handwritten

I am a TA who is helping to grade student homework assignments for an undergrad engineering course which involves a lot of mathematics. The homeworks all together count for miserly 5% and is only graded based on completeness. One of my biggest petpeeves is poor hand writing for written work. I don't exactly have good hand writing, but for things that are turned in or show other people (i.e. for communication purposes), I always ensure that the quality of work is top notch quality.

I have been telling them to write neatly since homework 1. Yet this problem persists. The main problem is that the homework grades counts for so little, and there is nothing to enforce quality of homework. If a homework is completely done, even if the hand writing is so poor that I could not decipher exactly who handed in the assignment, I am still required to give full grade. I have talked to the professor who is running the course, and he basically gave me a "I don't want students whining over grades" sort of reply. I am powerless to change the policies of the course, and at maximum all I can do now is giving out recommendations to the students on expected, but not enforced, handwriting standards.

The homework is worth 5% and the professor wants to give full grades to anyone who completes it. I'm basing my answer on the assumption that the students can get their graded assignments back after you mark them.

The assignments aren't worth much, so I imagine the professor is giving them out as an opportunity for the students to make sure they understand how to do the problems assigned. Although it may not directly change their grade, your ability to understand their answers will change the quality of feedback you can give. Explain to the students that if they want constructive feedback, they must write neat enough for you to understand.

My approach is simple- homework is submitted as a typed .pdf file, no exceptions. Homework is submitted online through the course management system (Instructure's Canvas in our case), which enforces the required file extension.

Make a pile of homework submissions that are not legible enough for you to do a good job of grading. Put those in a separate envelope in the professor's mailbox, along with a cover note explaining that you were not able to grade those.

If you are given responsibility, and authority, to address this problem as you see fit, then I would suggest paperclipping a quarter sheet to each illegible submission, with a xeroxed note, letting the student know that the temporary grade is zero, but that if the assignment is resubmitted in legible form by (deadline), you will grade it as though it had been submitted on time. Explain that if a student is unable to submit a legible version in writing, s/he can see you in office hours to use an alternate method of demonstrating that s/he did the work. Keep a record of which students submitted illegible homework. Use this list to work toward getting the homework submitted legibly and on time.

I had a professor with extremely strict homework guidelines. One example, if your name was not in the top-right corner of very first page in the format last name, first name you got a zero. You could easily spend hours on the homework and get a zero because of that. Homework that was not stapled Zero. Homework handed in A4 instead of 8.5x11 Zero.

Yes, you are overreacting. You're not going to get neat homework with this policy, period. Most of these students probably don't write by hand very often, and so they have not spent the time to get good at it. That means it takes a lot of effort to make their handwriting look nice, possibly including carefully rewriting the entire problem on a new sheet off paper once they are done with it. These students have other things to do, possibly including assignments worth more points in this class, other classes, jobs, kids, etc. Time is a finite resource, and they have zero reason to spend it on this. I


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