Scattergories Style Grading: A Solution to Obvious Homework Solutions

This week I read an interesting article about homework and the Internet (shared by Lucas Wiman). The gist is that the Internet has trivialized homework¬† because students can find answers for virtually everything online. Rather than spend their time thinking about the solution, they Google for similar problems and copy the work. I found this to be largely true last semester when I TA’d a course on project management—note: I am not implying that the students cheated! Read on! Whenever students asked for help, I referred to the book then Googled for additional hints. In my searches, I inevitably found the answer or very helpful related information.

It’s true that not all solutions are available online, nor are all questions conducive to Googling, but enough are that it has changed teaching. To discourage rote copying, I propose a simple tweak to grading: award credit only to unique answers—basically, like Scattergories.

Now, giving 100% credit based on originality is probably a little harsh, but 25% for a unique solution seems fair. Suddenly students have two options: 1) copy the answer from the web and receive now better than a  75/100, or 2) use their creativity to arrive at their own solution and receive full credit. Even if students choose a mix of personalizing the web solution, the learning objectives will be met because they have to think more deeply to understand the problem and update the solution in a unique (yet still correct) way.

What do you think? Original answers only ;–)