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.
- 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.
- Grading homework usually assesses students’ compliance, not their understanding.
- If students do not have a home environment conducive to completing homework, you are putting those students at an additional disadvantage.
- 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.
- “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.
- 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!