(Note #2: This is my fiftieth post and it is coming exactly one year after I started blogging :)
Homework is a big deal. It is something I have a lot of thoughts about. It is also something I have trouble organizing in my head...so this may be an unorganized post :)
I give almost no homework. Rarely (like maybe twice this year) I have asked a specific period to complete ONE thing outside of class. Also once this year I gave all students a "project". I gave lots of class time, but it may have been necessary to do work outside of class as well.
I am often asked why I don't assign homework. Actually I was recently asked, "How can you not assign homework in math class?" My answer to this question is multi-dimensional.
What is the Purpose?
(Man, this issue is so complicated. I have put it off for a year, and I'm considering just deleting this post right now...)
I guess this right here is the critical issue. All the other stuff doesn't matter. What is the purpose of homework? Traditionally, homework in mathematics was used as additional practice. I prefer to do practice in class so that:
- I can ensure it is getting done
- I can ensure students are doing their own work
- I can ensure it is getting done correctly
- I can question and guide when necessary
- Students can have conversations about what they are learning
So I'm going to discuss the other issues as well, but I do think this is the biggest. What do you see the as the purpose of homework? (Please leave comments, because I truly am curious.)
Who Will Do It?
When I first started in my district, I assigned maybe 5 additional problems a night. Maybe 10% of my students completed them. MAYBE. Which students were they? The students who did not need additional practice. The students who needed more practice chose not to do it.
How Will It Get Done?
Previously, in a different district, I assigned homework almost nightly. Ranging closer to 10 to 15 problems a night. I would say my completion rate was closer to 80% there, but by completion I mean students who had the work written out on their own paper by the time class came. What was happening right before school? Massive copying sessions in the halls.
I do not want to put my students in a situation where they are going to want to copy. I want them to see the value in what they are doing (one reason why I think they copy) and I want them to believe that they are capable of doing it themselves (another reason why I think they copy).
What is the Consequence?
If students choose not to complete homework, what is an appropriate consequence? I firmly believe that it should not affect their grade directly. That is something I am not willing to compromise on. So what other options do I have? Without an entire school-wise system, the only option I can think of is to assign a detention. What happens then? I spend extra time (and a lot of if) for several days tracking down students who need to serve a detention to get their work done. And what if they refuse to serve it?
Do They Have Time?
I am so grateful for all of the time that I get to spend with my students. I see them and interact with them for 51 minutes each school day. I think that is more than what some parents get to spend with their children. High school students can get so involved. I think some of them stretch themselves too thinly, but I do think it is good for them to be involved. So if I get more time with my students than their parents, who I am to take away some of the time they might actually get?
Initially I wanted to tackle some of the views society has about homework (including the one exhibited by the poem linked at the beginning of the post), but I'm too worn out right now. Perhaps another time.
Please feel free to comment away. I would be happy to hear both your agreements and disagreements.