Comments 2

  1. Great comments, Dave. I tend to be suspicious of keeping something just because it’s something we’ve always done or because it supposedly builds discipline and character. I think we’ve probably over-used homework with these rationales. On the other hand, as a high school English teacher, I could get a lot deeper into a novel’s themes if the students read it at home. Something too tough to assign as homework, like a Shakespeare play, could take up a ton of class periods if we tried to read every word of it. So finding the balance was always my challenge. A newer concept involving homework vs. class time is the whole flipping the classroom thing. That kind of requires pretty solid out-of-class preparation by the students so they’re ready for class time to take them to the next level with the content. I’d be interested in your comments on this type of homework.

    1. I’m glad you raised the point about homework to teach responsibility or self-discipline. One of my twitterfriends has put it this way: “I hate homework given to teach kids “responsibility”. Give them an egg to take home and bring back. Same result.” (Here’s another post from my blog on that topic: http://iteach-and-ilearn.blogspot.com/2014/02/homework-and-responsibility.html)

      I raise the question of the value of homework in general because I think that much of the work that is assigned as homework is doled out without a lot of thought about the *quality* of the work. If it’s just busy work or low-level thinking, I’m not sure it’s actually adding value for learning.

      Now that I’ve said that, I think there *are* some valuable homework assignments. The sort you mention, Steve, seem like valuable ways to spend time (I’m generally in favor of reading!) and particularly if it’s going to be an integral part of the in-class learning in the next time the class meets up. In that way, I’m also very interested in the flipped classroom model; when the learning tasks are well-designed, moving the “content-delivery” parts of class (whether readings, video, podcasts, online lectures, etc.) to the “outside-of-class” time does free up time for more interactive work with the ideas in the content in the in-class times. And an added bonus: students are then doing that work with their teacher, instead of with a parent’s support at home…or perhaps even on their own. (This is a whole separate aspect I didn’t address in my piece; I have concerns about the inequity that comes with some parents over-involved in their kids’ homework, while other kids–through no fault of their own–simply do not have parental support for homework.)

      Two helpful resources to continue thinking about homework:
      1. This post from John Spencer (a thoughtful, reflective educator in Phoenix, AZ) has 10 reasons to consider for abandoning homework, and five alternatives to consider instead: http://www.spencerideas.org/2011/09/ten-reasons-to-get-rid-of-homework-and.html
      2. The article “The Case For and Against Homework” by Robert Marzano and Debra Pickering (Marzano is a well-known education researcher) is a balanced look at the pros and cons of homework, based on a synthesis of educational research into the effectiveness of homework at different grade levels. (I understand the authors’ perspective, but I confess, I was not dramatically swayed by their case “for” homework…which may not surprise you.) However, I think this piece provides some helpful suggestions for what “good” homework looks like: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar07/vol64/num06/The-Case-For-and-Against-Homework.aspx

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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