Case Study: Group Homework

Deborah Meizlish
Center for Research on Learning and Teaching

University of Michigan

Part I

In an introductory Economics course, the instructors required that students work on homework in groups.  They believed that groups were an important pedagogical technique to foster greater student understanding of the material.  Then the following happened:

On one homework set, the instructors took a problem used the previous year, altered the parameters, and reassigned the problem.  When they received the completed assignment, they discovered that one group had turned in a solution using the previous year’s parameters.  In confronting the student group, this is what they discovered.  The group had four students.  Apparently, two students had copied the answer from a friend who had taken the class previously. The other two students argued that they should not be punished because the group had divided up the problems and these two had not solved the problem in question.   

What are the components of this problem?
What is an appropriate method for dealing with these students?

Part II

After spending weeks dealing with this situation, the instructors of the course decided that the best approach for avoiding this situation in the future was to develop original problems and to eliminate the use of group homework.

What other solutions are available to these instructors?

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Last modified: 05/17/2011