Thursday, June 16, 2011


How important is homework?  Just as a few years of teaching led me to begin questioning grading practices, they also led me to question virtually everything about homework.  Why do teachers assign it and what purpose does it serve?  At various points in my career I have assigned homework so that content could be covered faster.  At other times it was so that students practiced a skill they had learned in class.  Maybe it was to wrap up something we didn’t finish in class.  Sometimes it was simply some reading to introduce students to some content so that we could have richer dialogue the next day.  But if we are trying to teach ALL students, is it realistic, is it even fair to have all kids read content so that we can cover more in less time?  Won’t that just keep the kids already behind, farther behind still?  If homework is to practice a skill, is it doing any good if the student hasn’t already mastered the skill?  Practicing a skill wrong only leads to more mistakes.  If the homework is to expose students to some new content and they are not highly skilled readers, what have we accomplished? 
As a high school teacher, homework is just part of the landscape; it often goes unquestioned.  It needs to be.  I don’t suggest that we need to do away with homework in high school, but we ought to ask the questions that force us to make its use more educationally sound.  Is homework serving our students’ best interests?  Could we alter the homework so that it does meet ALL students’ needs?

But we must also consider when homework should be assigned.  First grade?  Seventh grade?  And how much is enough?  What is gained and what is sacrificed by asking an eight year old to spend 30 minutes doing math problems they may or may not understand and writing vocabulary words?  Does it get in the way or does it enhance family life?  Are they learning from it or just slogging through?  Is homework one of the things that end up making kids lose their enthusiasm for school? 

Consider these questions as you give this a read….

1 comment:

Katie said...

Oh Homework -- I can remember various teacher's promoting their homework philosphy to students outloud.

The thing is not every kid needs homework for every topic. And when you're in elementary school you're forced to do the same homework as the child next to you who might have different strengths in learning and subjects.

I am an english/social studies child. I excelled in those topics and barely made it through Chemistry and physics. I needed reinforcement in the later topics, but just need "skill improvment" on the former.

Homework that forced me to collaborate in college was only useful when I was partnered with the same skill set -- other wise I was either dragging the other person down or doing all the work.

In college you're expected to learn outside of the classroom -- if we aren't preparing our students then college is going to be a major shell shock, and professors will have to spend their time teaching students to learn outside of their classroom when that should be a skill already learned.

I don't think homework should be given to just have an assignment, but given to reinforce a subject (yet that statement is still subjective) and clearly someone is looking for an objettive answer.