The following are comments I made to Tom Whitby’s post titled The Homework Option Plan, which, in turn, addressed another, unnamed blogger’s post dealing with grading homework. If someone could write a post about my comments about Tom’s comments, we could extend the recursive nature of these posts for quite some time.
Great post, Tom. Homework sometimes seems like a third rail in teaching. Now that I mention it, many things seem third-rail-esque in teaching to include: access, assessment, classroom management, curricula, developmental appropriateness, diversity, equity, grading, language, literacy, pedagogy, and support. It is a testament to the tremendous import teaching holds for our country, and the immense complexity involved in doing it well, that nearly everything associated with it receives such scrutiny.
But back to homework. My homework philosophy (for high school students, as a secondary math teacher) evolved appreciably over the past several months. It started out where homework is assigned and graded to prepare students for college (where homework is a part of most courses) and evolved to homework is an important element in student learning, however, it is optional, and not graded since doing so can inequitably impact students.
Now, as I near completion of my credential program, I’ve settled on the following homework policy.
1. Homework is assigned, typically 3-5 times per week, for one or more of the following reasons:
– reinforce a lesson or concept introduced in class,
– expand or extend upon something introduced in class,
– allow investigation of alternatives to that introduced in class,
– develop higher order thinking, and
– prepare for the next lesson / topic, or an assessment.
2. Homework should take no longer than 20-30 minutes; if it does, see me for help.
3. Homework is not graded, however, not doing homework can negatively impact your grade.
4. Homework is not reviewed in its entirety during class, however, a limited number of problems, as selected by a student tally, can be covered at the outset of the following day’s class.
5. Homework solutions to all assigned problems will be available for students the day after they are assigned.
I also have the following current philosophies re: homework, taken from Homework Harangue written late last year.
– Homework will not necessarily make a student who does not understand a lesson suddenly get it, without significant effort by the student. However, it does offer the opportunity for a student to keep trying to learn, and to seek help in learning, especially those who are not adept at taking notes, or have special challenges.
– The written structure of the assignment should lend itself to re-learning the lesson, even for the most challenged students.
– Homework can help students develop methods of self-sufficiency, especially if the teacher provides suggestions and support (e.g. students can find ways to network among themselves or their community).
– Homework should neither be excessive nor a punishment; it is not a rite of passage.
The only lingering issue I need to address is a request by a few students that homework not only be assigned, but graded, to force them to do the work; counterbalancing their comments, a larger number of students appreciated not having homework graded. I need to contemplate this a bit more, since I noticed that most, if not all, students stopped doing homework when I implemented this policy when I took over my classes midway through the year. At the same time, I do not think it negatively impacted grades, whereas, grading homework definitely lowered grades for the vast majority of students in class.
What are others thoughts of my policy? Especially regarding this last issue?
PS See Assessment and Grading Policy for my view of homework in context of an overall assessment and grading policy.