Saturday, January 2, 2016

What's your homework policy?

Did you assign homework or projects over winter break?  Did you do grading over winter break?  Which of these images most accurately reflects your ideas about assigning homework?  Is it:
Image result for homework
Image result for too much homework
The amount of homework I assign varies according to the advertised rigor of the class.  I don't assign my mainstream/on-level/regular ed students any homework.  But I expect my AP students to read, take notes, and study every night.  (Except over breaks, where district policy forbids it.)

Alice Keeler (of Google Classroom and other matters EdTech fame) has strong feelings about homework and you can read them here.  (The post headline "Stop Giving Homework" gives away any secret about what she believes.)

I've read her ideas carefully, and I can say with confidence that I don't accept them...yet.  But I'm starting to think that maybe my ideas about homework should move more to what she's advocating.  To that end, I started working with my AP students on setting aside time (about 20 minutes per 90-minute class) for students to create textbook notes on a common GoogleDoc.  I'll continue to monitor and make adjustments when we return after winter break.  And I'll work on creating more opportunities for students to study collaboratively during class time.


Ken Halla said...

Flip your classroom, ditch the textbook and do the "problems" in class. My scores have not suffered one iota with this and the kids are much more eager for the class because they feel they have interesting homework and I have more time for them in class. A win-win!

Anonymous said...

It's a good idea to challenge our practices and I appreciate this post and Alice Keeler's for doing that. In my experience, though, when people in the education world want to give an example of the bad use of homework, they turn to the subject Ms. Keeler teaches and mentions, mathematics. The reason is that we all know of instances where students were asked to do ten or twenty problems that drew on the same idea. Either the student knew how to do the problems and was wasting time with so many, or the student did not know how to do the problems and couldn't learn through repetition, and might even learn something wrong and would then have to unlearn it. Thus the idea of the flipped classroom, where students do problems in class and can get corrected right away.

A good US History class often involves discussing ideas. If I send half my class home to read excerpts of an article with one interpretation of a phenomenon and the other half home to read from a contrasting article, they can come in and explore the competing views. Sure, I can have them read the articles in class, but at the cost of discussion time. I don't think this homework is deleterious, frustration-inducing, or otherwise like what Keeler describes. So yes, by all means, let's subject our assignments to scrutiny, take advantage of technology, and avoid overburdening students. But's let's not turn the discussion of homework into an oversimplified argument between always and never.