Let’s Do Our Homework About Homework

A change in thinking about homework is upon us . . . and it can’t come fast enough.

Here are some articles to start this conversation:

Homework Alert: How Much is Enough? Council of Ministers of Education, Canada

Rethinking Homework by Alfie Kohn

Homework is Wrecking Our Kids Salon.com

Here are our thoughts about reframing the practice of homework:

In some areas, homework is tightly controlled and monitored, in other areas, teachers have a choice about whether or not to assign homework.  Whether you have a choice to assign homework or are expected to assign homework, here are some things to consider:

  1.  Homework Equity

There’s an assumption that once homework is assigned, it’s up to the student (or the student with the parent/guardian’s help) to complete it. Knowing how diverse our classrooms are, let’s think about that assumption in terms of equity.

  • Does the student have a parent/guardian who can provide assistance?
  • Does the student have a place to complete the homework?
  • Does the student have time to complete homework?
  • Does the student have the background knowledge to complete the homework?
  • Does the student have the language to complete the homework?
  • In addition to your homework assignment, how many more homework assignments is the student responsible for?

2.   Homework Effectiveness

For homework to be effective, it must add value to student learning, so consider these questions:

  • How is this homework assignment tied to prior learning?
  • How does this homework connect lesson content to the real world?
  • Are differentiated versions available for students who excel or students who struggle?
  •  Does the homework provide some challenge, but just enough challenge to be completed independently?
  • Is there variation in the format used to complete the homework? For example, in addition to written responses, are are there opportunities to illustrate, record, photograph, create, observe etc.?
  • How will you mark the homework and provide feedback?
  • How will your feedback enhance student learning?

3.  The Tricky Bits

Once issue of issue and effectiveness are considered, some tricky bits remain.

  • How will you handle the “bookkeeping” of complete, incomplete, late, marked, and resubmitted homework?
  • Is there a consequence for incomplete homework? If so, is the consequence equitable?
  • For how long does a student have to submit a late homework assignment?
  • If the homework is completed incorrectly, should it be reassigned?
  • How will you respond to a parent/guardian who completes the homework for the student?
  • How will you respond to a parent/guardian who questions the value of homework and asks to opt out?
  • How will you respond to parent/guradian or student comments about homework that is “boring”, “too easy” or “too difficult”?

4. Good Homework

Good homework should be meaningful. Vatterot (2010) sums this up:

“Meaningful homework should be purposeful, efficient, personalized, doable, and inviting. Most important, students must be able to freely communicate with teachers when they struggle with homework, knowing they can admit that they don’t understand a task—and can do so without penalty”

Clearly, homework is a complex issue. Perhaps we should move away from the homework as “the school day part deux” format and toward an “explorations and applications of learning”.

For more conversations about education, please visit: Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education  or contact us at Beyondtheapplecontact@gmail.com

About Beyond The Apple

Beyond the Apple provides everything a Professional Learning Community needs! Designed to follow Beyond the Apple's Tenets of Adult Education, our videos re-ignite the excitement of professional conversations among educators in the classroom, university, colleges and professional training. Our free teaching and learning resources provide a follow up with more information that is current, research based and practical.
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