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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Should we assign homework?

Should we assign homework?

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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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David Wees's picture
David Wees
Formative Assessment Specialist for New Visions for Public Schools
Blogger

There is a big difference between a professional who choses to do work, and who is by the way PAID to do that work, and the homework that students do. That difference is about choice.

Training students using homework for a world which expects us to work too hard seems counter-productive to me.

Vyntz's picture

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.

Tim Hutchinson's picture
Tim Hutchinson
6th Grade RSP Teacher, Vista CA

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.

Thiago Fernandes's picture

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.

Jennifer's picture
Jennifer
7th Grade Teacher from Winfield, Tennessee

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.

hockey186466's picture
hockey186466
Elementary

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.

Richard DeMerchant's picture
Richard DeMerchant
Education Officer, BC Ministry of Education

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.

Casey's picture

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.

John Bennett's picture
John Bennett
Emeritus Faculty in the School of Engineering / University of Connecticut

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!

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