Am I missing something here? January 27, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, engineering, science, teaching.
Tags: grades, homework, teaching
Like everyone else, I came across the article on why college students leave engineering.
I was reading it with my jaw hanging open. Specifically this:
The typical engineering major today spends 18.5 hours per week studying. The typical social sciences major, by contrast, spends about 14.6 hours.
My first thought was: Where the heck can you go to school and study for 18.5 hrs/wk and still manage to pass enough classes to get an engineering degree?!
My second thought was that it explained something that has been puzzling me. Last semester, my students complained about the amount of homework I assigned for my 1-credit class. There was about 1 homework assignment per week, and I figured this meant they’d be spending an average of 1-2 hours outside of class on assignments.
When I started school, the rule of thumb was that 3 hours per week outside of class PER CREDIT was required for an A, two for a B, one for a C. This meant that if you planned to go to school full time (which was 12 credits per semester) and get an A average, you needed to be spending about 36 hours per week just on homework in addition to your 12 hours of seat time in a classroom.
I also learned that, for some classes, this was a significant underestimate (usually math, engineering and physics classes) while for other classes, it was an overestimate. I remember one senior-level sociology class that I took where I spent, on average, three hours per week on homework and still came out with one of the highest grades in the class. This is why I always felt it was a good idea to have a nice balance between technical and non-technical classes: it would even out the homework load a bit.
My understanding of a typical homework load is obviously a couple decades behind. (Although I am not sure I plan to change my tune any time soon.) However, I did feel good about one point in the article:
STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) have also had less grade inflation than the humanities and social sciences have in the last several decades.
Apparently you can study less in engineering than you used to have to obtain a degree, which I have to admit bothers me a bit. However, it’s still harder than humanities and you’re more likely to actually have to earn those grades. Despite the fact that we’re probably pushing STEM fields more than we really need to, I do hope employers take that into consideration. STEM students have to be more committed to make it through their fields, which are also more technically challenging. I’d think that should be worth something.