"Homework stinks."If you're a teacher, you've heard this before. If you're a parent, you've heard, or maybe have even said, this before. As a student, you've almost certainly uttered this phrase in response to the workload assigned by your teacher/s. Why is the phrase so universal among students and the practice so despised? While my thinking on homework continues to evolve, the phrase is approaching a truism for me. Even though my philosophy and practices are still not aligned, I am getting closer to the coherency that I would like to achieve.
I had the opportunity to complete my Masters Degree this summer and aside from that achievement, I was able to devote a significant amount of my classwork towards the role of homework in our classroom. I've had a draft post on the topic for some time now, but the topic is so complex that I just never could seem to commit the time needed to address in a way that I felt it deserved. So I'm going to 'eat the elephant' one post at a time, four in total.
What the posts will try and accomplish or address:
- Start the conversation. I'll try to get people thinking about homework and provide some background on homework, its issuance, tradition, and new thinking on the topic.
- Tackle the homework issue from a student and home partner perspective. Its impact on learning, personal interests, relationships, and motivation.
- Look at homework from an Teacher's perspective. What are teachers, administrators roles in homework and how do their attitudes and practices (issuance/grading) impact student learning and motivation.
- My verdict on the issue for my students. What I will try and do and maintain for the benefit of student learning and motivation.
Homework and its issuance have been a part of classrooms school culture since the one room classroom of Laura Ingalls. The issuance of homework is entrenched in not only teaching theory, but in the daily practice of the modern classroom. Homework has been considered the "job of childhood" (Cornos/Xu 2004) and just an assumed part of school life and learning. Many teachers assign homework as a way of helping the school-home connection, build responsibility (self regulation), to develop self-directed behavior, and as repetitive practice of concepts learned in the classroom. Some research has found that homework can develop student self efficacy, enhance learning, and improve performance on standardized tests. (Cooper 2001; Hong 2011; Ramdass 2011;Trautwein 2004, 2006)
Some however, have called homework 'the most reliable extinguisher of the flame of curiosity" (Alfie Kohn.The Atlantic 2009) Many teachers are starting to understand that despite increasing pressure to cover multiple content standards, navigate sometimes competing direction from administrators, and loss of class time that homework is not an answer to student learning. There is a growing movement that seeks to either alter or eliminate the practice of homework issuance. Here is a prominent example http://www.endtherace.org/
"Break the legs of an old tradition" - Italian proverb
- Why do teachers assign homework?
- What does homework contribute to student learning? Is it an effective practice and is it based in sound instructional theory?
- What, if any, conditions need to be met for homework to be a productive practice?
- Should homework be graded?
- What is the social impact of homework?
- Is the impact of homework the same for all students? Low income youth?
- Can teachers claim or demand time outside of their classroom? And does homework take away from student creativity or the development of their personal interests?
- Does homework facilitate deeper home partner relationships and involvement in student academics? Or does it add stress and frustration to students and their home partners?
- Does homework improve the home-school connection?
- What in terms of assessment or feedback does homework produce? Is the educational product valuable?
- Is homework the result of poorly planned lessons or mismanaged class time?
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