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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Should we assign homework?

Should we assign homework?

Related Tags: Assessment
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128 Replies 7880 Views
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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Mrs. Denise Young's picture
Mrs. Denise Young
School Librarian, East Hoke Middle School

Homework, even though it is for practice should be graded. From my experience as a classroom teacher, if students know that homework is graded, they tend to pay more attention in class, ask more questions if they don't understand, etc... A grade is valuable to students, if they know they are not being graded they undervalue homework and don't put the effort into it that they should. In middle school, we are able to weight the assignment categories, which gives the teacher the ability to have the homework grade count appropriately in the overall grade.

Kay Butler's picture
Kay Butler
HS Mathematics and MS/HS Pre-Engineering teacher, from South Louisiana

1) Time-management for students who are "over-scheduled with extracurricular activities" - several of my top students are cheerleaders or participants in various sports, as well as members of several school organizations and/or participants in non-school activities. They learn to make use of available time, even if it's small periods of time - they borrow text books to work on homework during lunch or during the half-hour before practice starts after school (time set aside for athletes to work on homework or receive tutoring), as well as on the bus when traveling to out-of-town games! This provides positive modeling and encouragement for their peers who frequently follow their example.

Our students also know that most of our teachers are willing to allow extra time on game days or when several things taking place on the same day - all they have to do is let us know (preferably ahead of time). Frequently, I will reduce an assignment or give the whole class extra time if there is a big game or track meet or concert, etc. I am also willing to work with my students who take private dance or music lessons, have a job, or participate in church or family activities. I see my job as one in which I need to help my students learn to work with other people, making accommodations or compromises that will help all parties meet with success in reaching their goals. My students know that I value their extra-curricular activities and family time.

To help prevent "overload," I also tell my students that they can stop after they have they have put in a good solid hour working on their math assignment if and when necessary and after 90 minutes for sure - I do not want my assignments to cut into time needed for other classes. However, I let them know that I expect them to go back and finish incomplete assignments on those days when they have less work. I have all of my students mark where they were after spending an hour on their homework and / or record the total amount of time required for assignments. This provides real data for graphing, as well as comparison of homework times - I recommend that my students come see me for help during lunch if they frequently require more time than the class average (data is collected discretely - they submit the requested information on small slips of scratch paper.

2) Grading of homework - I do not grade first attempts for accuracy - my students are given participation (aka work ethic) points for completed classwork and home learning assignments (total weight is no more than 15% of their total grade) - if students cannot figure out how to work a problem, they receive full credit if they "set up the problem" and jot down a comment or question as to why they could not complete the problem. Students are allowed to work in small groups to discuss their solutions at the beginning of class on the due date while I walk around and ask questions and answer questions as needed. They are expected to correct their errors and complete unfinished problems during this time also. If they have uncorrected errors or incomplete work after the allotted time, they are encouraged to come in during lunch or after school for additional assistance. Student work is date-stamped on the day it is due and submitted either at the end of the week or on the day of the assessment for that content. At that time, it is checked for completion (work ethic) and spot checked for accuracy (content). Frequently, a review set is assigned the night before a quiz or test - these are almost always spot-checked for accuracy to encourage appropriate student involvement in learning. Since students frequently "borrow" their friends' work, I do not believe in giving large content grades for out of class assignments. Sometimes I allow students to use their in-class and out-of-class assignments while completing the first assessment on new content, especially when it's difficult.

Jack Carlson's picture
Jack Carlson
9-12 Alternative school Math/Science/Computer Apps

Two main things: 1) don't make it into "busy work," which is especially common with your G-T kids. They've already done it or don't need to do it in order to learn the concept. 2) Follow up with your other kids to make sure they understand (checking for understanding). This is also where a "flipped" classroom can help - you can spend your time helping or directing those who don't get it, they can help each other, etc., and you only assign additional work as needed to those who need it. The result will be more understanding, more mastery, less boredom.

Mario Patiño's picture
Mario Patiño
NBCT, science educator

[quote]

Doesn't homework, or work outside of class compare to a professional bringing work home, or staying late at the office? I think in order to be successful, students must learn that doing more is always better than doing just enough to get by.[/quote]

Welcome to the world of an educator, when don't we take our work home with us? In the Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers he describes that in order for someone to be great at something requires thousands of hours of practice. Is this what we want as educators? In relation to this posting, unless the students are using the information they are "practicing" outside the context of the classroom/course-there is a high chance that they will forget what you asked them to practice/or memorize.

I don't give homework, this is a responsibility that the students take upon themselves when they see the value in self-directed study.

Mrs C Swait's picture
Mrs C Swait
Researching parents/pupils/teacher/institutions thoughts on exam revision

[quote]Two main things: 1) don't make it into "busy work," which is especially common with your G-T kids. They've already done it or don't need to do it in order to learn the concept. 2) Follow up with your other kids to make sure they understand (checking for understanding). This is also where a "flipped" classroom can help - you can spend your time helping or directing those who don't get it, they can help each other, etc., and you only assign additional work as needed to those who need it. The result will be more understanding, more mastery, less boredom.[/quote]

Excellent comment. Have a look at what we are doing at ProRevision Jack. Like, Share, Comment on Twitter @ProRevision and brand new FB Page ProRevision. We launch our online subscription revision software for schools in a couple of weeks. Hopefully you will find it embraces exactly what you are saying, but using a bit of technology to help by allowing teachers to be delivered an online marked and analysed assessment on the few minutes revision homework each child does in preparation for their standardised exams. The pupil spends minimal targeted time with that sort of homework, leaving them free for more creative work and reading at home. ProRevision supports the teacher to be more targeted during class addressing only what each pupil actually needs as regards exams, and so allowing more time for creative non-exam geared teaching and learning as well. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Website on line in September with more information.

Elena's picture
Elena
Eighth grade ELA teacher from New York, NY

I am very new to the profession (2nd year) so I know very little about this. However, last year I had to assign vocabulary chapters from a workbook to my students every night for homework and then test them on Friday or Monday. Every Language Arts class had the same assignment which didn't allow for me to own my assignments. I found this practice to be useless. First, twenty words a week is too much especially for ELL's and Sped kids. If the homework is relevant and will help them attain mastery then fine. For example, this year maybe I'll assign finishing up a body paragraph so that we can continue the process of essay writing the next day as a class. Of course, reading for 30-60 mins is a requirement.

Mrs C Swait's picture
Mrs C Swait
Researching parents/pupils/teacher/institutions thoughts on exam revision

Thanks Elena. As I believe you are implying and as I said above in reply to Jack's as well as Mario's observations and comments, the homework teachers give should be supportive of learning, creative and subject enhancing. But the hours he quite rightly says needing to go in to drill down to what needs focus and memorisation etc... is needed as well. I hope you too will go to our FB Page ProRevision and have a look at how we propose to address that pure subject material knowledge needed to support the best possible standardised exam results, while leaving you free to creatively structure other homework and class work. I would be interested in your comments and whether you feel this will prove a useful tool. Like, Comment, and Share the page with others and please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts.

Mrs C Swait's picture
Mrs C Swait
Researching parents/pupils/teacher/institutions thoughts on exam revision

[quote]I was researching this issue last weekend and found a study that showed a positive correlation between homework and test scores in math. I do believe that math is the one subject where homework is needed.[/quote]

Have a look at website next month and FB Page in the meantime for ProRevision. It is an online subscription tool for schools to facilitate the most effective revision time specifically for standardised exams. Look forward to your thoughts, I think it may well prove a useful tool for you too. C

xta's picture
xta
High School English Teacher

It seems that one of the benefits of a "flipped classroom" is that the "work" students do at home is not the practice but the ingesting of content. By flipping the format, kids get more practice with the teacher, the one who knows whether or not the student is doing the work correctly.

Kadidia Doumbia's picture
Kadidia Doumbia
Middle School and Upper School French teacher

I agree with Ryan. Homework should not be given just to be given.
Personally, I don't give homework everyday and I try to do as much as I can in class. Nevertheless, some lessons may require more work out of the classroom, then yes homework is necessary and students always come with some questions which is good.
We want students to enjoy learning and to enjoy the courses they are taking.

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