Thursday, August 22, 2013

Homework

The new school year has started. You are giving homework. Why?
This is a real question.

Think about the following statement...

Homework should be used as formative feedback about learning...
(Dr. Cathy Vatterott, Rethinking Homework: Best practices that support diverse needs, 2009)

Reread it. Think about your homework assignments. 
Do you give 50 questions a night, assign word definitions, create projects and essays or short answer questions that keep the students busy but you really don't have time to grade and provide timely feedback? When they turn it in the next day, you collect it and do a look over but don't do anything more. That's it. You assign a grade for completeness but do not look for understanding. Even worse do you walk around and make check marks in your grade book for completion, but you don't even take it up?  If this is you, why do you give homework? Just for a grade? Just to say that you give homework? Should homework be given if the purpose is not for feedback to the teacher about what the student is able to do?

and how about this statement...

When homework is used as assessment of learning, and students are penalized for incomplete or incorrect assignments, it's often easier or less embarrassing for them to not attempt the work. 
(Dr. Cathy Vatterott, Rethinking Homework: Best practices that support diverse needs, 2009)

Wow...shouldn't homework be about finding out whether they get it or not?  If its only about a grade or that you defend your homework because you are trying to teach them responsibility (really? I can spend long hours on this topic) then where does it fit with helping each child develop a deep understanding of your content. Do you allow do overs? How about require do-overs? How about...if they get poor grades for homework in the beginning of the semester do you adjust their grades on homework as they get better in the class?...or do they still have to carry those zeroes or 15s out of 100 that they received in the beginning? 

By the way, the scenarios I have given were all real, I just didn't mention the names of the teachers... below is a link to an article where two experts comment about best homework practices and then a youtube clip where Rick Wormeli comments about the need for re-dos and do overs. Caution, their comments, especially Rick's might cause you some angst...

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2013/03/response_best_homework_practices.html

Drive on!