My thoughts on homework…

I recently wrote a blog post titled “5 conversations to improve your school right now!” The 5 topics I recommend each school to discuss are:

1) – Homework in schools
2) – Cell phones and technology in schools
3) – School public relations
4) - Teacher and administrator relationships
5) – Meetings

John Spencer (@johntspencer) is an Educator I have a lot of respect for, and after reading my post he challenged me to share what I really believe about homework. I have some very strong feelings about homework, and I honestly believe each and every school should take the time to evaluate their homework policy, as well as the way students are assessed. Here are my thoughts:

- More times than not homework adds little value when it comes to student learning…

- There is pressure from society to continue giving homework because that is the way it has always been done…

- Homework that is assigned rarely has any true relevancy or purpose for students, thus completion rates are negatively effected…

- When a student receives a zero for not completing homework, he/she is NOT learning about responsibility and “the real world.”

- Grading homework on completion typically inflates grades and ultimately distorts overall content mastery…

- Homework should be an extension of the learning environment that provides students the opportunity to explore and discover…

- Homework can be a valuable tool in schools, but I believe too often homework is misused and ultimately detracts from the learning environment…

- More homework does NOT equal more learning…

- Students should not spend all night every night doing homework… I don’t know any Educators who work 8 a.m. until 10 p.m…. why should students be subjected to that…?

- The natural love and curiosity of learning are destroyed by too much irrelevant and unproductive homework…

- A school without homework and grades would be a school where student learning and success increased…

- Not enough Educators are having this difficult conversation about the role of homework in schools…

What are your thoughts…? Let’s keep this conversation going in an effort to move the homework discussion forward.

 

This post is also posted at Life of an Educator

22 comments for “My thoughts on homework…

  1. August 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I hope you’ll share some stories about effective homework practices in your school as the year moves along–it will be great to add stories to the thoughtful tenets above. Thanks for continuing the dialogue on this important topic, Justin.

    • August 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Maureen,

      Thanks for the encouragement, as I hope to share both sides of the homework story as my school year progresses. Stay tuned!

  2. August 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    The most useful example of homework is when it is assigned because it is necessary. Necessary means work that can NOT be completed successfully in the classroom.
    Examples of this include things like:
    1) Your homework is to measure the space in your house, divide it by the number of people living there, and compare it to the United Nations standard for space per person in refugee camps (4.5 to 5 square meters per person.)
    2) Survey some household members to find out ….
    3) Collect data on your television viewing habits, your nutritional intake, the amount of activity you engage in, the hours you spend sleeping and bring them to class next week.

    This is all useful homework because they can’t find the answers easily while they’re at school. (Yes, I teach math).
    There’s definitely a place for homework though. Not everyday… certainly not for hours and hours at a time… but there’s a place for it.

    • August 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      Janice,

      Though I don’t make mention to it in my post, I would agree that there are times where homework is appropriate. Your examples are great examples, but I would caution you about only viewing homework as something that can’t be completed in school. Too often I think we “extend” the school day for students because we figure we can use the “after hours” to get more accomplished while not sacrificing actual classroom time. At times this can be appropriate, but we have to be careful about how we use this thinking.

      Thanks for continuing the conversation!

  3. August 20, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    I definitely agree with most of the above opinions. In our school, homework is only used as a means of gathering additional information not readily available at school or for individual students to go broader and deeper into a topic which interests them. Having a blanket homework policy is almost as detrimental to individual learning potential as the notion of standardized testing as a means of assessment.

  4. August 20, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I teach primary school kids and do homework like this.

    http://allanahk.edublogs.org/2011/08/04/home-school-partnership-1-homework/

    The children decide how deeply they want to get into it.

  5. August 21, 2011 at 2:30 am

    Homework is the practice. Summative assessments are the games. We don’t keep score at practices…only at games.

  6. Holly Bilski
    August 21, 2011 at 6:21 am

    You seriously don’t know any educators who work “8 a.m. until 10 p.m”? Okay, perhaps they work 6 to 8. In any case, they work their butts off. But you are right that no one should take work home unless it’s necessary. And in most cases, it’s not.

    • August 21, 2011 at 11:42 am

      Maybe I travel in odd educational circles, but I know tons of educators who work all evening and on weekends. For some it is work they couldn’t get done during the week or during a 45-minute prep. For others, there is just so much to do, we need evenings. Of course, there are now thousands of educators who spend most nights writing blog posts and twitter posts ;)

      Then, let’s consider many professions. Every lawyer I know brings work home to complete. Every doctor does rounds, etc and then has to maintain charts that night. The expectation for large parts of the American workforce is to work many hours beyond the paid day.

      Now, I agree with most of the other points about homework. Way too much of it is either meaningless or inappropriate. In fact, I agree with everything else that Justin wrote here. The argument about bringing work home just doesn’t ring true for so many.

      Justin, thanks for sharing your thoughts and pushing us to think.

      • August 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

        Larry,

        Thank you for taking time to comment. Please see my comment to Holly because it addresses some of your points as well.

        There is a part of me that considers blogging/tweeting a part of work, but then there is another part of me that considers blogging/tweeting to be part of my relaxation and enjoyment!

        I know it is difficult to divide the two, but it varies from day to day :)

        Thanks for the comment!

      • June 17, 2012 at 6:35 am

        no worrys but what have you been up to;):( blablabla

    • August 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      Holly,

      Thank you for taking time to comment. Please don’t forget I am an Educator, thus I have some experience with how long Educators are working after hours. I completely agree that Educators spent a significant amount of time out of school preparing, grading, and many others tasks, but I honestly don’t think most Educators are working 14 hours per day on a regular basis. Lastly, if an Educator is putting in 14 hours a day on a regular basis I would encourage this Educator to consider changing something he/she is doing, because that is frankly not healthy and will undoubtedly have a negative effect on student success.

      For students and Educators, “getting the job done” is extremely important, but just as important is a healthy out of work life. We all need time to do something other than education stuff, and my point here was that students need to learn that healthy balance while in school, rather than being inundated with school work from the start of their day until the end of their day.

      Thanks for continuing this discussion!

      • August 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm

        Justin,

        I know a huge number of teachers at my school who work days that long. I think you have so many excellent points in this article but if I sent that to them, I think they wouldn’t be happy to read that.

        I do however agree that growing young people shouldn’t be spending that amount of time on homework and should have time to spend with their families and siblings and time spent relaxing–play is part of learning.

  7. August 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Wonderful post Justin!

    Discussing the work ethic of teachers misses the point that there isn’t really a reason why students should spend so much time on homework… especially since they tend to go home to other activities such as sports or music.

    I wrote a post here on CP about the Flipped Classroom (that requires homework) and was challenged to respond to my thoughts on homework. I responded on my personal blog here: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/homework/

    As per usual, my thoughts seem to resonate well with what’s shared here. The one thing I would add as a key point is that homework, when given, should be personalized to ensure success and relevance… a blanket assignment based on classwork and sent home where support levels for students are unknown, and sometimes non-existent, is as likely to be frustrating or detrimental to the learning as it is to be helpful.

    With respect to your statement:

    “- A school without homework and grades would be a school where student learning and success increased…”

    I’d love to see some data on this. I would intuitively agree, given the nature of most homework that tends to be given out, but I’ve never seen any data to support this.

    • August 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      David,

      That makes two of us when it comes to seeing the data! I really enjoy the flipped classroom model, but I also recognize there are circumstances where this model just won’t be effective because of student demographics and the socie-economics of the community. Though I don’t think homework should be completely eliminated, I feel that for the most part homework is not being utilized effectively or appropriately. There are definite examples where homework is being used in a relevant and meaningful way, and with those examples I see the added benefits of homework. Perhaps the homework conversation should be about the transformation or evolution of homework in schools…

      Thanks for the comment David!

  8. Danielle Richert
    August 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    The point that resonates the most with me is the fact that a score of zero does not teach personal responsibility. In fact, it often seems to allow students to be less accountable. Haven’t we all had the student who figured out the impact of a zero on his/her overall grade before deciding if he/she will or will not complete a particular assignment? I believe that the zero score does not give any clear indication of what students understands; it only gives us an idea of their task-completion habits.

  9. Carol Jackson
    August 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I agree philosophically with all of the statements about homework. However, and I hate to even use that word, in my content area of high school English, homework consists of reading material or writing responses to material already read, and I give it almost every class. I feel justified in this because class time can then be spent in elevating and enlightening debate and discussion. It is this discussion that allows students to expand their thinking by hearing what others have to say, and it can only be done if students come to class already having read the text. The alternative is to allow class time for reading and writing, and while that does happen sometimes, especially with writing, I feel that the time we have together is better spent in academic debate and scholarly discussion. This pushes students in the higher order thinking skills in ways that will never happen at a study desk at home. I realize that this might not be what you are referring to in the generalization of “homework,” however, since it is assigned to be done outside of class, it falls into your category.

  10. Pam Hernandez
    August 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I appreciate this blog post and agree with Justin. As an educator and parent I have been amazed and frustrated by the time consuming, irrelevant, boring, stuff my son has brought home. One of his teachers engaged the idea of the flipped classroom at the end of last year and not only did the complaints stop, but we had more family time together and it was much more enjoyable to share the learning process with him.

  11. August 21, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I love the little thought-provoking tidbits on the real value of homework. Glad I came upon this post, Justin.

    One thing I dislike about the traditional way of handing out homework is how both teachers and students dread it. For the teacher, it means additional homework packets to prepare and additional items to grade. For the students, it means losing valuable time that can be otherwise spent with the family or on extracurricular activities. Forgive the analogy, but it’s a lot like an unhappy marriage wherein both parties stay because “that’s how things should be”.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. I say that we teachers must find more meaningful use of time (ours and our students’).

    More of my thoughts on this topic in one my blog post below:

    http://luria-learning.blogspot.com/2011/06/perfect-homework.html

  12. August 22, 2011 at 4:02 am

    Thanks for posting this great discussion question. I came across it while writing my own post about homework. I’m an educator and now a mom. In thinking about this topic I think meaningful homework serves several functions:

    - It allows independent practice of newly mastered concepts
    - It provides students with the opportunity to integrate new learning in other contexts (e.g. applying learning to the “real world”, “my own life” or current events.)
    - It gives students practice in self-discipline, organization and time-management (especially at the secondary level)
    - An added benefit can be communication with families about what students are learning in class.

    I am becoming more aware of parent issue, now that I am a mother. I realize that many times I must have given incomprehensible homework to my students. We want parent to be more involved in supporting student learning, but rarely give them the basic information they need to help.

    Read more of my thoughts here: http://sfpsmom.blogspot.com/2011/08/great-homework-debate.html.

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