A forum for discussing what's working -- and what isn't -- in standards and assessments.

Should we assign homework?

David Wees Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

Hi all,

I'd like to start a discussion here on the benefits or drawbacks to assigning regular homework to students.

I've had a lot of discussion with educators in the past year or so about homework, and met with mixed reviews of homework. Most educators I talk to support it, but much of the reading I've done seems either ambivalent about the practice or even quite negative.

I could start off with an opinion piece, but I'd rather that each person who has a position posts it here, and then I'll post my opinion later.

David

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I feel homework is absolutely

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I feel homework is absolutely essential. We are preparing students for the world outside of school. There are times when people have to bring work home.

6th Grade RSP Teacher, Vista CA

Special Ed

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The posts seem to be divided between those that think it is essential and those that see it as pointless.

To me it is a matter of whether or not the homework propels a student to mastery of a specific skill. When do you consider a skill mastered after the first successful attempt of the 21st or somewhere in-between? While many jobs require a worker to take work home, I’m not sure that homework is what prepares students for these jobs, and does not really justify the assignment.

In my opinion, whether a

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In my opinion, whether a student masters a skill or concept has nothing to do with homework. And in general, homework doesn't really help. Mastery and learning are a result of interest and resource [often also necessity]. Unless that student is stimulated by the work he or she is doing, which is beyond the control of a teacher, honestly, it depends on each student, homework will accomplish nothing. Or any other method of teaching, for that matter.

But even considering the student is interested, homework seems to be far too artificial to be that useful.

7th Grade Teacher from Winfield, Tennessee

I try to not assign homework

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I try to not assign homework for my students. Too many of mine are from poor socioeconomic background, or have disadvantaged home lives. I know when I send homework home with these children I will not get it back. So starts a downward spiral. I do want to hold my students to a higher standard, but I don't want to punish them for lack of parental responsibility.

Elementary

I have taught every grade K-5

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I have taught every grade K-5 in 13 years. I started in my early years assigning homework but have since taken a slight course change in that my students do have homework, but it is to read each night for at least 30 minutes and study their math facts. I have found that if they honestly do these two things they are more able to pick up the concepts and skills I am teaching them throughout the year. I may throw in an extra assignment here and there but it is rare.

Education Officer, BC Ministry of Education

Type of Homework

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Not having been in the classroom for a while I am writing this from a parent point of view.

In my opinion there are merits to assigning homework that is engaging and develops conceptual understanding of the material. Doing numerous "practice problems" instead of real problems are not all that beneficial in my opinion. I would far rather have our son engage in homework that is more focused on developing his understanding. For example, today my son was working on a diorama of the four seasons in the Arctic. I think his learning was enhanced by the fact that he was able to ask both my wife and I questions and we had worked in the north for 7 years. If he would have been asked to just answer questions out of a book I am not sure it would have been as good for him.

Math is another case in point. Having students play and analyze games with their parents can be a great way to develop conceptual understanding of mathematics. "Practice" seems to be less effective.

I will see what my opinion is next year when I go back to the classroom but at this point I really think the value of the "homework" is based on what is given.

No Practice?

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Although I think it needs to be kept in perspective, I think homework is a must. Not having homework is like telling a player that has dreams of becoming a pro not to practice on his own outside of school. I believe the getting rid of homework and responsibility is the societies efforts to lower the bar to those that refuse to do the extra. If we don't require anyone to excel, then we won't have to worry about dealing with those that refuse to become better.

Emeritus Faculty in the School of Engineering / University of Connecticut

Homework and "Home" Work

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One point mostly missing in these comments is that there is or should be work done at home (really outside school) as well as homework. Learning will be enhanced if the assigned readings are done, if the notes in class are organized in conjunction with the textbook, if the optional or suggested assignments are considered, if some time is spent online or elsewhere associated with classroom topics of special interest, if materials learned in other classes are linked in notes and reviewed as appropriate, if time is specifically spent on self-assessment and subsequent refinement of learning and problem-solving skills, etc. - done voluntarily routinely and so important to effective learning and the good grades / scores that will happen as well.

As for HOMEWORK, I agree with some of the comments made already: no busy work, practice where needed for learning (ideally optional in length following a self-assessment of individual need), time required mindful of other commitments, contribution to course grade consistent with time required. BUT I DO BELIEVE ONE TYPE OF HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT IS IMPORTANT: an assignment that builds or expands what is considered in class - ideally one that is open-ended and/or seeks opinions WITH justification / explanation. If the option exists face-to-face or using technology, these assignments can and should be at least occasionally in teams.

I KNOW YOU SAW I WAS EMERITUS UNIVERSITY FACULTY (where you might I expect you to think "of course that's appropriate for college but not K-12") but these are important skills and habits to develop and done with less intensity and time commitments, they should absolutely be facilitated in K-12 I believe!

Parent of 2 primary school children in Canberra, Australia

Let's not lose sight of the bigger picture

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As a parent I wrestle with this too. My take is that academic pursuits are excellent. I have a PhD in physics and am constantly on the prowl for more things to learn. However, my view is that we learn the very best parts of what we know by slowly absorbing it from complex and varied environments; not by force feeding desiccated strips of material in the belief that we can dissect the world and rebuild it one subject at a time.

My wife's and my approach is to apply a hierarchy at home. At the very top of the list is unstructured play, preferably with their friends outside but possibly including us. Then comes inside creative play and then homework. TV doesn't even make it on to the list except at weekends.

So, I think lifelong learning is critical but I don't think homework is the best way to encourage that. I also think we are creating habits, e.g. bringing work home and sacrificing other aspects of life while we chase academic excellence or increase our contribution to the economy, that are counter to a healthy and balanced life, especially if taken to extremes.

Cheers,
Andrew.

7/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher in Maine

Quote: BUT I DO BELIEVE ONE

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Quote:

BUT I DO BELIEVE ONE TYPE OF HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT IS IMPORTANT: an assignment that builds or expands what is considered in class - ideally one that is open-ended and/or seeks opinions WITH justification / explanation.

Agreed. I find that the "deepest" homework assignments I give can also be the simplest. Often times they are just: "Write me one paragraph about what you learned today" or "What did you find most interesting about _______ and why?" This is what I mean about making sure homework helps build upon students' in class understandings. An assignment like this really doesn't ask much of them (in terms of how labor-intensive it is) but gets a ton of "bang for your buck" in the connections it prompts them to make once they've left your room.

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