Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

How much should homework count?

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I saw this on Twitter via @Mr_Abud, and it got me thinking: What is the role of homework in my class? Years ago I read Alfie Kohn’s (@AlfieKohn) Homework Myth and adjusted my practices (I think) accordingly. This tweet from Gary was timely as we’d just had a PD session on differentiation with Sandra Page, in which she played a video of Rick Wormeli (@RickWormeli) in one of his classes.

Here is Rick Wormeli on “How much should homework count?

There are more similar videos on the Stenhouse Publishers YouTube Channel.

Some key points from the video: 

  • Homework could be referred to as ‘practice’.
  • Homework, if given, should be differentiated.
  • Homework should be a ‘safe place’.
  • Homework is formative# in nature, so it is not appropriate to give a ‘homework’ report.
  • A student who aces assignments without doing homework still deserves the top grades for the criteria they are being assessed against. If they know it and can demonstrate this, why do they need to do the homework?
  • Weaving homework into a grade for an assignment or class is knowingly falsifying the grade.
  • Homework (incorporated into the grade) dilutes grade accuracy.

……….o0O0o……….

What is my philosophy? 

I don’t like homework for homework’s sake and try to make sure that what is assigned in my class is achievable, engaging and useful*. I ask students if they found a task worthwhile and how long it took**. There is a sign in my room that states “This is your office, these are your office hours,” with the understanding that we will do most of our work in the school day. 35 hours a week in school (plus extra-curriculars, plus travel) should be enough!

If a significant number of students are struggling to get their work up to standard – despite class and homework time – then that is more likely a reflection on me as their teacher.

  • Have I underestimated the time it would take?
  • Is there a problem in the instructions?
  • Is there, as can often be the case, a tech-related issue such as with Excel, blogs or other tools that needs to be remedied?

If so, we discuss it as a group and if needed re-set the deadline.

From cheezburger.com

There is still a need for (some? all?) students to work at home. This is often finishing an assignment, although some do come to work in my lab at lunch or after school. More recently ‘home-work’ has included reading resources, a video to watch or pre-question to prepare for class (a bit flippy). Pre-assessment of this can help in grouping for the lesson, or to see where the focus of our efforts needs to be. Homework is also consolidation – updating a GoogleSite page for IB Bio or completing a short formative Quia quiz – as a way of keeping track of where the student is with regard to the content, skill or concept.

The homework itself is checked but not graded (as in ‘counted for the final semester grade’). I do include scores for formative tasks such as Quia quizzes in PowerSchool as way of communicating with students (and their calendars), as well as admin and parents. We report ‘Learning Attitudes‘ in our school as descriptors separate from numerical achievement grades – keeping track of how self-directed a student is helps in writing this part of the report. I look for correlations between completion of formative ‘practice’ tasks and achievement in summative tasks when writing these Learning Attitudes comments.

If a student works well in class, is a good scientist, respects others, achieves highly in summative assessments but does not do the homework then the homework was probably no use to them. Why penalise?

Some students like to work at home, in their own space, making sense of the work in their own way. Others prefer to check out when they walk out. We try to make tasks engaging and differentiated, though we do need to meet the requirements of the criteria and prepare them well for IBDP or their terminal assessments. Some students get fed up of lab reports even if the lab itself was exciting – to what extent do they complete this at home or at school? How do we get the most ‘bang for our buck’ with instructional time?

Again, more questions than answers.

……….o0O0o………..

Some notes

*Emphasis on “try”. It doesn’t always work.

**Yup – some take ages on short tasks and a few really go to town on the biggies. Some students are true perfectionists or stressers and need coaching to stop burying themselves in work. They need to sleep! Others get so engaged in a project that they want to spend the time on it. I often find the learning resources teacher (SEN) a useful barometer for the students who need support and check up with him too.

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#Check this out, too:

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EDIT, Jun 10 2013

Here’s a vRant from Tom Stelling on Homework, and why he’ll give it but not grade it.

Also, here’s a interesting graphic based on reading Hattie’s Visible Learning. Overall, homework has an impact of d=0.29: pretty pointless. However, this is a mean impact; when the homework for elementary-aged students (d=0.15) is factored out, we are left with d=0.64 in secondary. This is an enhanced effect. Find out more about this with Tom Sherrington’s post: Great Teachers Give Great Homework.

Hattie Barometer: Homework. The notes underneath are for a #PYPChat session. There is no need to give homework in elementary, so why do it? As the father of a 6yo, I dread the day she comes home with a worksheet… unless she really wants to do it!

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Author: Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

One thought on “How much should homework count?

  1. Pingback: I don`t understand your way to give me grades! Really, teacher! | andraborcea

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