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Thoughts From Facebook

September 24, 2013

Last night, I posted the following question on my Facebook page before heading to bed:

I have spent the day contemplating the idea of homework (having this time to think is almost as good as spending time with my kids), and I have to say that the more I read the more torn I am. I’ve always been a strong believer in giving my students work to increase their knowledge and build skills but the research is mixed. I’m interested in your opinion. Does homework help students to learn concepts and skills?

Here is what the teachers said:

  • Quality over quantity…many don’t follow this. HW must have a purpose. Too many assign just to assign. I like the flipped model and try to use HW as a chance for quick preview or review activities.

  • Giving less and less. Better if it can introduce a concept and/or practice the basic format and easier problems (math). Let the good problem solving happen in the classroom-shift your class.

  • My thoughts: There is no “home”work. There is only learning–some collaborative and some independent (important to practice both). It always starts in class and sometimes continues into non-school hours. It is never isolated from the work that was started in class. It is not longer than 20 minutes per subject per night (8-12) or 10 minutes per subject per night (4-7).

Three moms chimed in:

  • In my opinion kids (even older kids) need time to play outside & inside after school in an unstructured environment. It is as crucial to their learning as their school work. I say cut the homework and let the children play!!

  • I don’t understand the concept of kids (8th gr and below) having “hours” of homework. My daughter is in 3rd grade at a private Catholic school and typically has about 20 math problems and a spelling assignment each night. At her age, I regard the assignments as practice for the test, just like one goes to football practice so as to do well at gametime. She is also expected to read independently each night. This feels fine to me. Beyond this, I feel like this is practice for such things as “follow through,” “personal responsibility” and other life/study skills that will be required more as the academic work steadily becomes more challenging.

    • My reply: It’s funny but we have standardized testing because we don’t want to leave anyone behind – but yet we assign boatloads of homework which turns kids off and inhibits a love for learning. As everyone has said – we should be aiming for quality not quantity so the kids not only enjoy learning but also have the opportunities to be kids.

Two dads contributed:

  • Quality not quantity for sure. I recall switching schools from 6th to 7th grade. I got hit with 3 hours of homework each night in the new school, and school became a giant PITA. Up to that point I had really enjoyed school and learning with minimal homework. A math workbook @ 1 hour/wk and independent reading was all that was required.

  • Homework builds accountability and time management skills. Isn’t that what school is about preparing kids to deal with work/family life after school?

But my favorite posts were from two former students now in college:

  • If the hw helps apply what you learn and discuss in class, then definitely yes! It’s super helpful setting the concepts in my head on my own, as its repetition plus your own thinking. I don’t find homework that requires me to teach myself all new material in order to complete it helpful at all. It’s stressful and makes me REALLY not like the professor or subject. So it depends on the type of hw I guess! I prefer activities for learning over straight studying.

  • This newest article in the series (in The Atlantic) was an interesting one for me.  It made me think about my process and how much of my homework I ever actually completed in high school…. :

Let’s keep the discussion going.  What do you think?  Does homework help students to learn concepts and skills?

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From → Homework

2 Comments
  1. Taylor Heidinger permalink

    I have a few opinions about this, but I’m going to stick to Elementary as that is where I want to teach once I graduate. I believe that homework has a time and a place and if it is given too often, students will no longer see the value in it; some students will start to have a negative view of homework. If homework is given sparingly it will help to enforce the major themes or topics form that lesson, and it will not be overwhelming for the students.

    In one of my classes at University, the first topic we discussed was essentially about using social media to our advantage. Since kids are tied to wanting to be on the computer, wanting to use other technologies, we need to find a way to use that as a teaching method. One way was to start a classroom blog and allowing the students to have their own blog – depending on their age, if they can demonstrate responsibility, etc. The classroom blog would be an area where students could pose and answer questions, find links to important articles, and have meaningful discussions with other students; those questions and discussions can then be further addressed in the next class. When talking about this approach in class, it was made very apparent that the students absolutely loved blogging. So this is a way that homework could be given in a way that does not seem like actual homework.

    Finally, I will go to my experience in my first practicum as a classroom assistant/observer. When my Teacher Associate would assign homework, it was usually because a student did not complete whatever they were working on in class. But most importantly, when homework was given otherwise, each student was given a slightly different assignment that was based on their knowledge. My TA was aware that not all students learn at the same rate and that some could grasp concepts more easily than others. Although this may create more work for the teacher, the students are being assigned homework that they can actually complete.

    So, I personally do believe that homework can help students learn concepts and skills, if it is used in a way that students appreciate and respect.

    • Taylor – I loved your line: “If homework is given sparingly it will help to enforce the major themes or topics from that lesson, and it will not be overwhelming for the students.” I think the key word is “sparingly” because students grow weary from the daily grind and that lack of passion impedes learning. I also completely agree with the need for differentiation. Good teachers understand that one size does not fit all. Question – how did you and your Teacher Associate figure how what each student would do?

      Thanks so much for adding to the discussion!

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