Grading homework-a waste of time?

(Hear author read this post)

My school has recently engaged in discussions regarding homework.  We are reading articles, forming committees, and sharing ideas.  We are discussing what role homework should play in our school, in student learning, and in our grading practices.  This post is really just me thinking out loud about homework.

In the interest of transparency, I do not assign very much traditional homework.  I do however encourage my students to work on their class projects outside of class.  Below let me put forth some reasons I believe grading homework and in large part even assigning homework is a waste of time.

  1. Homework usually focuses on vocabulary and skill building.  Students who “get it” likely do not need additional practice, students who do not “get it” practice bad habits.  Instead, practice could be done in the presence of a teacher who can give immediate and detailed feedback.
  2. Grading homework usually assesses students’ compliance, not their understanding.
  3. If students do not have a home environment conducive to completing homework, you are putting those students at an additional disadvantage.
  4. Most 8 hour a day jobs do not require employees to take work home with them.  Students spend 8 hours a day at school an we expect them to spend additional time on school work?  Why not let kids be kids.
  5. “Homework teaches responsibility” is a big steaming pile.  Homework rewards already established responsibility.  Ever notice how the kids who don’t turn in homework on time at the beginning of the year are the same kids who don’t turn it in at the end?  If assigning homework taught responsibility, we would see an improvement.  Additionally, I guide students to increased responsibility during class by helping them set goals on projects and reflect on their success in meeting those goals.
  6. Grading homework is like passing judgement on a half finished sculpture.  Homework is part of a process, it is not the end goal.  This is not to say that if you assign homework you ought not provide feedback.  Importantly, feedback is not the same as grading.  If you grade homework (which I assume is assigned to help students learn), you are really grading if they understand on the first try.  Instead, treat homework for what it is: practice.  Practice ought to be a time when it is ok to fail.  Of course, this practice/feedback is better if it is more immediate (see number 1).

Traditionally homework has not been used to promote the most lofty goals most teachers have for their students.  Yet, because we place so much emphasis on homework and homework completion, we send powerful messages to students about what it means to be a successful student.  The next time you assign homework I hope you will carefully consider the implicit messages you are sending.  Do you want your students to learn, or comply?

I am sure many of you have many reasons for either assigning or not assigning homework.  I hope to read all about those reasons in the comments!

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12 Responses to Grading homework-a waste of time?

  1. Joe Bower says:

    Great points. Take a look at my take on homework. We are on same page http://www.joebower.org/p/abolishing-homework.html

    plus, if you haven’t read Alfie Kohn’s Homework Myth, you should. It is the definitive work on the subject.

    • jerridkruse says:

      I have followed your thoughts on homework and agree greatly. I like how you talk about detrimental effects on students. I tried to articulate how homework doesn’t accomplish the goals we have for students. Our ideas compliment each other very well! Great minds, right?

  2. Lisa says:

    I have been teaching for 11, going on 12 years now and still struggle with homework. On one hand I feel they need to be accountable, read, write, and practice. But, on the other hand, it takes up way too much of my time and I know most of the students either hate it, refuse to do it, or just don’t have either the time or desire to do it. I teach science and some things they do need to “practice” on is constructing graphs, determining IV & DV, and simply memorizing material. I am researching the internet to help solve my situation. How do I choose what to grade and what not to grade or if even to grade at all. I currently have homework 35% jof their grade.

    • jerridkruse says:

      I can relate to many of your frustrations. I have a couple of ideas or things for you to ponder:

      1) Rather than having your students practice graphing at home where you cannot provide instant feedback and guidance, why not have them practice during class? When considering this, I wondered what i would do with the students who did not need much practice. I created more challenging problems for them to work on. So during class, all the students were working on “practice problems” for graphing, but as they finished one sheet, they moved onto the next, more difficult sheet. I was able to walk around the room helping those who were struggling and monitoring those who were moving along.

      2) If homework is truly practice, why do you have it as part of their grade at all? Practice is not the big game. Some students need to practice more than others. We don’t punish the starting point guard because he didn’t stay after practice to run wind sprints. Just some food for thought.

    • Shane says:

      Why Would You Want To Be A Teacher

  3. waste disposal units…

    [...]Grading homework-a waste of time? « Teaching as a dynamic activity[...]…

  4. Sam says:

    Please grade homework! I’m not a teacher, I work in industry. Ever since these ideas about not grading homework have emerged young employees are utterly unprepared for the workforce. They lack the accountability, skills and work ethic that graded homework trains young people to make into habits. I take high level graduate level engineering courses and my professors would never think of not grading homework (it often accounts for a 20-30% of a grade). I’m thankful for graded homework otherwise I’d never learn the material. Don’t ruin our kids!

    • Mella says:

      so i have to ask a few questions…would you have done the homework if it wasn’t graded? and how many poor test scores would it have taken for you to start doing the homework? I agree homework should be a requirement however is putting a grade on it sending the right message to students? “You didn’t understand this material the first time through it -shame on you -now you are penalized”…but what if they get it in a week? should a grade be changed? ALso, back to my initial questions–would you begin to do the homework so that you would perform better on the assessments–isn’t THAT teaching accountability and work ethic?

  5. Shane says:

    Homework Should Be Baned

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