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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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Leonard Klein's picture
Leonard Klein
high school chemistry and technology teacher

As I was told that sports and homework do not go together as comparable, I suggested that folks who play sports practice a lot every day and thus maybe homework was worth while and was told that was not a valid comparison, I think there is more to test scores than homework and class work. Also if one wishes to learn something one must practice and that use to be what homework was, practice. If the students were doing their job maybe they would not need the practice. It is not all about the teacher the students have a part in this as well.

Also I am speaking from the stand point of a high school teacher. If the class moves at a speed above glacial then homework is needed most nights. If students would concentrate, focus on the work at hand, usually it would not take large amounts of time. If the student chooses to text, listen to music and try to multitask while doing homework, maybe it will take longer.

Corah's picture

I'm an elementary school teacher (4th grade). I give math homework almost every night, not a lot usually 8-16 problems on the subject matter that we learned that day. The next school day we go over their homework in class and answer any questions that they might have had. Since I am an elementary teacher I know exactly what homework my kids have and can gauge how much time it should take. I can see where this might be a little more hairy in middle and high school.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think we would do a lot better if we thought about the classroom as "group time" when tasks should be geared towards what the group can learn best from each other, rather than working like veals in cubicles at the desks only. Group projects, discussions, sharing thoughts, interactive lessons- good group things. Reading the textbook?- good at home, alone learning time. Khan academy videos could "teach" methods at home, while teachers help students work through problems together in class.
I just think we sometimes waste a lot of class time doing things that could best be done by individuals, and we could make the classroom a much more interactive and exciting place if we restructured the teaching just a little bit.

Annette Loubriel's picture
Annette Loubriel
Homeschooling

Excellent input. I agree. In fact, this goes along with the proven benefit of project based learning. I think the success beneath learning while working on a project with other people trying to solve one problem or create something puts all the senses into action. When we have a chance to integrate all our powers I guess one acheives a greater benefit. Also, your comment is very important because it points out the fact that we are in a different age as that from which the actual education system was created, therefore, we have those resourses (e.g. Khan academy, and more) that have riddened the teachers of these time consuming tasks. In this way, our 21st century environment, if we start using it, detaching our umbilical chords from those illustration era dynamics, we can bring education to the level that our communities are requiring it to be.

Ghostwheel's picture

[quote]As I was told that sports and homework do not go together as comparable, I suggested that folks who play sports practice a lot every day and thus maybe homework was worth while and was told that was not a valid comparison, I think there is more to test scores than homework and class work. Also if one wishes to learn something one must practice and that use to be what homework was, practice. If the students were doing their job maybe they would not need the practice. It is not all about the teacher the students have a part in this as well.

Also I am speaking from the stand point of a high school teacher. If the class moves at a speed above glacial then homework is needed most nights. If students would concentrate, focus on the work at hand, usually it would not take large amounts of time. If the student chooses to text, listen to music and try to multitask while doing homework, maybe it will take longer.[/quote]Or if the student has dysgraphia, dyslexia or another LD that does not have to do with focus in the slightest, it will also take longer. Most teachers I have had experience with do not remember to take that into consideration even if the child has an IEP. They just assume the student is texting, listening to music, trying to multitask (not meaning that as an insult, just referencing that that is a common assumption by many teachers) or just plain not focusing. Good grief, don't some teachers think that people who have trouble reading would change that if they could? Perhaps everyone posting here is not of that genre of teacher, and my hat is off to you if you are. But what is considered 10 minutes of homework to a student who reads well, has the ability to write with pen and paper, can stand the noises that naturally occur around them, has no afterschool activities or obligations (as in having to pick up their siblings from school, chores, jobs, physical therapy, etc-these all divide your attention), it can be an hour to two hours for many with any of the above situations. Sleep is what falls by the wayside. My daughter's high school friends rely on 6 hours of sleep or less in order to get their homework done. None of them have time for socializing during the week and usually not on weekends. They only get to hang with their friends at breaks.

My point is that teachers need to consider their audience. Again, if everyone here does that, kudos to you. Out of the 40 teachers my children have had so far, we have had 6 that understood that homework should not take up 60% of your waking time after school. That's only 15%. 85% of the teachers didn't care how much time was taken up with homework, they just wanted it done. And that includes teachers who seem to think that their class is the only important class for my high school student. A fifteen page report on the Black Plague due the next day is not 10 minutes of homework, I don't care HOW good you are.

For all you teachers who get it, who flip your classes so you can help the kids who need it, who only give 7-10 math problem for practice, who allow students to mix reading books they enjoy with books that are required, who remember that your class is not the only class middle schoolers and high schoolers have, who remember that all kids are not created equal, even if we would like it so, THANK YOU! Homework should not be the misery that I see around me every day.

P.S. The quoted post did state "If the students were doing their job maybe they would not need the practice." The students who get 105% on their tests (with extra credit) STILL have to do the same homework as everyone else. They don't need the practice, but still must do the homework. Also a case where taking the audience into consideration would be helpful.

Corah's picture

I know of no teacher that would give a 15 page paper due the next day. I put up the dates of my tests, announce them periodically and still my students are astounded that we have a test today. Whose fault is that?

Kristin Tarnas's picture
Kristin Tarnas
Fifth Grade Teacher from Hawai'i

I struggle with this dilemma as well. Our school has a homework policy that prevents me from dropping homework completely, even though homework can certainly vary between teachers (another interesting subject).
Parents tend to connect heavy homework with a strong curriculum (I will set aside the word "rigor" for another discussion). Parents have often mentioned to me that they appreciate homework because it helps them feel connected to their child's learning. I know there are other ways for this to happen, for example, taking me up on my offer to visit in the classroom anytime. I have read and heard from Alfie K. on homework and have wondered how to do some of my own research in the classroom to get a personal sense of results, but at this point I am just reading and pondering. There are certainly assignments that seem more valuable and justifiable than others, even Alfie acknowledges that some homework for specific and thoughtful purposes is effective, just not regular homework for homework's sake. I am enjoying reading the different perspective here. How could this research be done accurately in single classroom, your thoughts?

BerniceC's picture
BerniceC
Middle School teacher on sabbatical

Having been an elementary, middle school and high school teacher for the past 18 years and a parent for nine years, I believe assigned homework, other than reading, is a waste of everyone's time. A waste of the teacher's time in assigning, reminding, checking, rechecking, calling home when incomplete, arranging detention for unfinished homework, etc; a waste of parent's time in trying to figure out what is asked, nagging, reminding, double-checking, etc.; finally, a waste of the student's time WHEN he/she actually completes the busy work!
Reading, on the other hand, exposes children to print, opens a world of opportunity, exposes the child to worlds not necessarily ever viewed and creates a fantastic hobby. Not to mention the fact that reading creates better readers! This doesn't mean that the child has to read independently or has to read books: in our society there are a multitude of opportunities to be exposed to language! Enjoy!

Leonard Klein's picture
Leonard Klein
high school chemistry and technology teacher

As a STEM person when I as assigned reading it did not always do wonderful things for me. The assigned reading, like The Scarlet Letter, did nothing for me. However practicing chem, math and physics helped me learn those topics, ones that I was most interested in. So it seems that homework is in the eye of the beholder and more helpful to some than others. Now a teacher has to decide what is useful and what is not.

I agree that doing 100 of the same type of problem with no clue of the correct answer is not a good plan. Reading Shakespeare for me was a waste because I can not understand the plays when I read them, watching them as the video or the play in person is comprehendable. So choose what is appropriate for the child not the class.

BerniceC's picture
BerniceC
Middle School teacher on sabbatical

My apologies - the reading material should be the choice of the student when assigned as homework, not an assigned reading. Sorry for the confusion. That way, students can be reading science journals, reviewing material from core subject areas, assessing the value of information presented on a website, reading a newspaper, magazine, etc. These are all acceptable 'assigned reading' homework activities. Of course, it depends on the age and ability of the individual child. When explaining assigned reading to my students I am always very clear; unfortunately, I wasn't as clear with my previous posting.

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