Saturday, March 13, 2021

Reading Evaluations of Teaching - Time Spent Doing Homework?

 I've spent much of the day reading evaluations so that I can do yearly reviews for my departmental colleagues, and I'm weirdly fascinated by one of the questions and the responses.

The question asks students to estimate how many hours per week they spend outside of class on the course.  And it gives them several options, ranging from under one hour to two hours or more.

By way of background, we teach three and five credit hour courses in my department, mostly (where each hour in class is one credit, and .  When I was in college, I was told I should plan to work outside of class about 3 hours for each hour inside of class, except for labs, where you'd work about an hour or an hour and a half outside for each hour in lab.  Or so we were told.  (I'm not sure I ever did; I wasn't the best undergrad student.  But by the time I went back to school, I did at least that.  And my grades reflected the change.)

Most students choose the fewer than two hours a week option.  (Though in my one course last semester, 8/10 students who responded said more than two hours a week.)

Does this mean our students are smarter than before?  

That we aren't demanding as much work as when I was a student? 

That we may be assigning work, but it's not getting done?

Are they responding to more honest expectations?  (ie.  maybe the people who told me to study 3 hours outside for every hour inside were wishful thinking?)

That students work more efficiently than we did?  (This HAS to be part of it.  Just being able to type things up on a computer and make changes easily is SO much faster than painstakingly typing on a typewriter and having to make corrections with wite-out or whatever.  Also looking stuff up is MUCH faster now.)


How should I think about those responses?  I tend to think that students spending more time working outside of class reflects the course's rigor.  But maybe that's wrong?

In the end, it's an interesting, but sort of useless question for me, I guess, in reviewing colleagues.



  1. As an undergraduate, I seldom worked three hours outside of class for each hour in class. I read very quickly, and write quickly as well, which was probably why. If I'd had a computer, yes, even more so (less so?).

    In graduate school, though, I did well more than nine hour of work outside of class for every three hour class.

  2. Undergraduates generally have more competing demands now (full time or several part time jobs, more extracurricular expectations to get a job, parenting children or caring for parents) than when I was in college. Of course, this varies by institution but is very true in my university. Undergrads in our department generally take 15 credit hours (no labs), which would equal a 60 hour work week by these calculations. I don't think that is possible.

    I do agree they are likely more efficient now. But if they ever did 3 hours a credit outside of class, I don't think that is possible for most students today.

    1. Anonymous12:25 PM

      I'm pretty sure I remember that the 3 hours of outside study for each one hour in class applied to the 4-course or 12 credit hours system. That adds up to 12 hours in class, 36 hours outside, for a total of 48. I could just about manage that, and a 10 hour a week job and an amount of socializing that I think today's students would consider pitiful.

    2. I think you're right in all sorts of ways.

  3. They have tools to make things faster now, and no one's hauling a pack of index cards to a hardcover version of the MLA Bibliography. That said, it's also possible that a bit of grade inflation has crept in along with the pressure of teaching evaluations.