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've had many math classes that graded practice problems in this same way, and I never bothered to do them neatly either. The grader wasn't reading through each problem to give feedback anyway, so it didn't matter. Neat handwriting may be a noble skill, but I guarantee that proper prioritization and time management are more useful ones.
This leads me to your solution: stop trying to make sense of their work! I have never seen an instructor give feedback on homework like this. That's not the point of it. You're just going to give the same feedback 20 times anyway because half the class made the same mistake, so it's a poor use of your time, too. The purpose is to get the students to attempt the problems so that they know which ones they understand and which ones they don't. It's then their responsibility to ask for clarification the next class. This does not require or even benefit from you being able to read their work.
Summary:Practice homework is for practice, and a small amount of points are given to encourage people to actually practice. It's not meant for you to dissect and comment on, so don't worry if you can't do so. They should know if they got the problem wrong and can seek help if they need it.
Here's an example from a course I had:The homework carried low amount of points (5% or 10%, can't remember now), but it was so spaced out that we'd get graded homework around 1 week before midterm exams and then the other set of homework assignments sometime before the final exam.
The assignments themselves were also quite similar to what we would normally get for the exams. So by turning in a good, readable, homework, you'd get good feedback with enough time to fix all the things you didn't understand before the exam which carries a lot of points. On the other hand, the amount of points carried by the homework was low enough so that cheating on homework wasn't very interesting.
In the situation where the homework only count for 5% of the grade, these might not be sufficient incentives, though. In which case your frustration might never be alleviated. Remark this to the students, and if all else fails, talk to the professor. In most cases, if something is truly unreadable, you should have some backing to give a zero grade on that particular assignment.
I've seen it done by some students at Utrecht University, while I was a fellow student, and as Master/PhD teaching assistent. I think this was never frowned upon, and personally I'd have a slight preference even for LateX-ed homework, because it is guaranteed to be legible (although I've also seen homework that was poorly LaTeX typeset).
It's pretty hard to imagine any instructor being upset because your submission wasn't handwritten, especially if you're using online submissions as PDFs. Pencil doesn't always scan very well and the cellphone-to-PDF images are worse. I teach EE and I warn my students that if I can't read it, I'm not grading it and I'm not asking a grader to do it, either.
To contrast with the apparent consensus; I was a math teacher at a university in the US for several years. Periodically I would have someone turn in their homework in LaTeX. This sounds good, except about half the time they didn't really know how to write LaTeX, so there were a lot of using words in math mode, not knowing the appropriate symbols, jot formatting properly, and so on. Those students' work was very hard to read and I would much prefer to have gotten handwritten assignments from them, even though their handwriting was pretty terrible.
Course home Home Administrivia Overview Using course email Context Forum Assignment Forum Schedule Schedule Assignments Homework Labs Lab information Getting lab accounts Unix tutorials Homework (General)All submissions must be typed and submitted as PDF files; handwritten assignments and non-PDF files will not be accepted.Unless otherwise specified, submit homeworks online at the following URL: At the top of your assignment, pleasebe sure to write yourname, email address, UWNetID,the homework assignment number (e.g. "Homework 1"),due date, any references that you used (besides the course texts and assignedreadings), and the names of any people that you discussed the assignment with.Please note that the future schedule is for approximate planning purposes only. The future schedule is subject to change based on our progress and other factors.Non-graded Immediate Tasks (Start of Quarter)Join class mailing listDue: January 3.Sign ethics formDue: January 10 (at the end of class). (Must be on time, late policy does not apply.)Sign up for coffee/tea (encouraged, but not required). Signup with the sheet at the CSE reception desk starting Jan 5).Due: January 10.Textbook-Style HomeworksHomework 1Description: hereOut: Jan 6Due: Jan 14, 5pmHomework 2Description: hereOut: Jan 31Due: Feb 14 (
Gradescope allows you to grade paper-based exams, quizzes, bubble sheets, and homework. In addition, Gradescope enables you to grade programming assignments (graded automatically or manually) and lets you create online assignments that students can answer right on Gradescope.
To create a homework assignment, click the Create Assignment button on the bottom right of the Assignments page. This prompts the Create Assignment page and workflow with the various assignment type options. Select the Homework / Problem Set option and click Next to pick the settings for the assignment.
There will be 4 to 8 homeworks throughout the semester. You are encouraged to work on the homework problems with other classmates. However, the final write up must be performed individually, in own words, that means copying solution from each other is NOT permitted. Using internet to find solutions to homework problems is also NOT permitted and will be treated as plagiarism (see Class Policies for more details). Exam questions often are similar to homework problems, so this is your chance to make sure that you understand concepts and can work out problems on your own within the time pressures of the exam, not just in a group context. 2b1af7f3a8