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Guidelines for interpretation of results from Item 1 (the “Workload” item) on the 2006 revision of the FCQ

The new FCQ form was introduced in the fall of 2006. The previous form’s question about workload asked the respondent to rate the course’s workload relative to the credit given for the course, on a 1-9 scale, with 1 labeled “too light,” 9 labeled “too heavy,” and 5, the midpoint, labeled “OK.”

The new form’s workload item does not ask the respondent to judge the appropriateness of the workload, but rather simply to estimate the number of hours per week spent on the course. The actual wording is “Estimate the number of hours per week you have spent on this course for all course-related work including attending classes, labs, recitations, readings, reviewing notes, writing papers, etc.” (Emphasis in the actual item as written.) There are six response options: “0-3,” “4-6,” “7-9,” “10-12,” “13-15,” and “16+.”

Based on studies we have done on responses to the new form (click here for full details), we have developed the following guidelines for interpretation:

  • Responses probably should not be interpreted literally, only comparatively. We suspect results underestimate actual time spent.
  • Courses should be compared only to other courses carrying the same credit load – 3-credit courses with 3-credit courses, 5 with 5, etc.
  • With respect to lab/recitation sections, it is difficult to say anything other than that results should be interpreted very cautiously. Lab/recitation sections probably should not be compared to lecture/seminar sections. We suspect that workload ratings of lectures that have labs and/or recitations underestimate the total workload of the course, and we’re almost certain that ratings taken from the lab/recitation sections do so.
  • Because summer sessions vary in length, workload results from summer sessions should only be compared with other summer sessions of roughly the same length. Similarly, Maymester terms should be compared only to other Maymester terms, and full fall or spring terms with other full terms.

For full details, see the full report.

Last revision 08/02/13


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