More on Homework

1 2 3A couple of years ago when I wrote a post for Grant Wiggins’s now defunct group blog The Faculty Room, I found myself in the midst of a tangle with Alfie Kohn about homework. After reading Shelly Blake-Plock’s post about homework today, I realized Kohn and I were talking about two different things: he was talking about busy work, worksheets, and the like, and I was really talking about preparing for class, although I couldn’t articulate what I meant at the time. Most of the homework my students have is class preparation: reading, answering questions we are going to discuss in class, anticipatory assignments, and the like. Wish I’d been able to explain that was what I meant at the time. However, I’m not sure it would have made a difference, at least not with that particular audience. I have found it interesting how many parents view a large amount of homework, even busy work, as a good thing—it proves their students are learning—and a lack of homework as a bad thing—students must not be learning anything. As in almost everything, it’s the quality, not the quantity, that counts.

Creative Commons License photo credit: D’Arcy Norman

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8 thoughts on “More on Homework

  1. I remember the post well.

    The main issue with homework is certainly the amount of busy work assigned. Reading, studying, preparing for the next day's lesson is all relevant.

    Word searches, math problems 3-33 odd with no feedback and writing spelling words 3 times each, fall well short of relevance and in most cases causes the student to view work at home with in a negative light.

    • Hi Gerry. I wish I had known to capture the post before it had been deleted, but I'm glad someone remembers. I saw that you are presenting at GISA. I remember well that Joe Scotese articulated what I meant when I said "homework." I can't recall his exact words, but something along the lines of how inefficient the learning would be if we read entire novels in class. Then I found Shelly's post, and it said so eloquently what I didn't say back then.

  2. Two reasons I assigned homework: 1 to complete work we did not complete in class, and 2 independent practice. Decide why you are asking students to do out of class assignements–it should be reasonable, useful and in line with all your classroom goals. Don't listen to others about why they do what they do. As with other ideas about managing your classroom, you know best, you are the professional on site. Go with your best thinking.

    • Andy, the context of Alfie Kohn's response to my blog post about homework helps here. He attacks homework of any form, and I just don't know how anyone teaches material without homework, but after reading Shelly's article, it occurred to me that I wished I had had it when I was under fire at that blog for giving homework. Too many people listen to Alfie Kohn, in my opinion.

      • "Too many people listent o Alfie Kohn, in my opinion."

        ITA – too many people listen to all kinds of non-credentialled opinions and endow them with the mantle of 'fact'.

        Very little of anything Alfie publishes is more than his own opinion, based on ??? years in the classroom, or education degrees, or ???

        There is a fine line between has-been and never-was.

  3. Most of my homework is work that should have been completed in class. The exception to that is when we do a writing project and then they need to complete their many many drafts at home.

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