What is your position on homework? 7-A-2

Most teachers assign homework according to school district and individual school requirements. Homework is given in different amounts to different ages and stages. Some teachers assign it only 4 days a week and some teachers have homework that extends into the weekend. Some parents want more, some less, and some insist on none at all. There are those parents who are completely hands off when it comes to homework while others take over the job and do some or all of it themselves. What is the purpose of homework, anyway? Is homework really giving students opportunities to practice concepts taught in class? For some students, research says homework is harmful. What kinds of feedback is best to challenge students and not cause stress? How much should homework count towards final assessments and grades?

Recently a colleague sent this to all faculty and staff. It got us thinking about the homework policy we have, how, and if, it is followed, and how we as a whole school, as well as individual teachers, articulate homework policies to students and parents. Homework has been talked about and reconsidered numerous times during my long career at this independent school. I am not surprised that it recycles and always becomes a hot topic because we are not sure we know the right answers. New research, different students, tuition paying parents with loud opinions, and now a more connected curriculum makes us think about homework, yet again.

This article speaks to making homework effective and worthwhile. How much and what kinds of homework do you assign? Does your school or school district have a written policy? What is it? Can students be exempt from homework at the request of a parent? What are your personal thoughts about homework?

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10 thoughts on “What is your position on homework? 7-A-2

  1. This is such a great topic!! This is often a discussion held at my school and even often a debate between team members. My school district does have a homework policy for each grade level. In the policy it states the time in which each grade level should spend on homework each night. It also goes over the graded policy for missed or late graded homework assignments. I personally think homework has to have a purpose. It needs to be a true review of content that is beneficial for the children. I have seen so many teachers assign homework that is truly just busy work. I do think homework is on the judgement of the teacher, but I do think that teachers and parents should work together if homework becomes a concern. One year, a teacher on my team made homework optional. Parents had to sign a permission slip. On the permission slip they could choose to allow their child the freedom to do the homework, or not agree, making their child still responsible for all of the homework. I would say it was about 50/50. Some parents agreed, while others did not. I think that was too much paper work to keep track of. If teachers decide to not assign homework, I think they should offer an outlet where parents can find extra practice work if they wish. Perhaps this could be done through a link on a class website. Great topic!
    ~Jessica

  2. The two articles you had us read were great! Homework has always been a bone of contention for many parents and teachers. I struggle with the thought that homework is part of the student grading. Personally I would want a homework policy across the school district my children attended (if they were still in school). There is no consistency across how much homework a student receives or how the homework assignments are weighted as part of the class grading system. Homework to me is just that, practice on a skill that the student can do alone! If the student has shown mastery, why do they have to do 6 more pages of math problems? I personally have seen the anguish homework causes. My nephew, who has a learning disability and extreme anxiety, would have to spend 3-4 hours a night at the kitchen table doing homework. The teacher demanded that he copy each math problem from the book onto a piece of paper and then solve the problem. Copying the problem correctly was an extreme challenge in and of itself, let alone then solving the problems. What was the teacher grading? His ability to copy the problem or whether or not he knew how to solve the math equation? Since 3rd grade, this nephew has “hated” school for all the reasons he shouldn’t. Districts need to tackle this issue. You are so right when you stated that some parents do the homework for their children and in other instances there are students who have no one at home to help. Where is the righteousness in all of this? Teachers should be well aware of all of the issues involving homework that you presented in your post. It’s not an issue that is going to go away since some teachers are adamant about homework assignments. I feel it’s an easy problem to discuss and come to some form of agreement across all teachers in a school district. For me…. I would like to see stressless homework assignments that don’t warrant a grade or no homework at all.

  3. What a great blog topic! This is something that my school was just recently discussing at the end of last school year. I think that assigning homework depends on the subject area and the education setting. For example, in math, I think that it benefits students to practice using formulas, skills, or methods with the use of homework. Like the old saying, “practice makes perfect”. In any homework assignment, I feel as if it should be quality over quantity to ensure that it is meaningful. For schools that are fully asynchronous or online blended, homework assignments may not be necessary since students are completing lessons during their own time and place. For synchronous or face to face schools, it may be more necessary to have homework to practice. If homework is given, I think that the most important thing is to make it meaningful. Homework should be given and modified based on the students’ needs. For example, a student excelling may be given a few “challenge problems” where as a student struggling could be given a homework assignment that breaks down a process step by step. In my opinion, looking at each student individually (although time consuming) and based on the particular educational setting is key to successful usage of homework.

  4. I’ll start off by saying that I teach 3 different levels of classes: 11th grade physical science (low class), 11th grade college preparatory chemistry (high class), and 12th grade second-year advanced chemistry (almost college level).

    Amount & Types of Homework
    The amount of homework and types of homework I give my students depend upon the various abilities of my different levels of classes.
    In my Physical Science class we (Daren and I teach this class together- he is the special education teacher who is included in the class for his students) do give them assignments to practice the concepts of the lesson, but this work can typically be finished (or at least started) within our class period. We assign more “in class” practice work, because these types of students just won’t complete assignments after they walk out of our class. Most of these assignments are short and contain small amounts of content to practice (these students do not do well with culminating projects).
    In my College Preparatory Chemistry class, students have homework almost every day. With that said, I am reasonable. I understand that students have jobs, play sports, have their own life, etc., which is why I expect them to spend about 15 – 30 minutes a day outside of class working on chemistry (no more – but they must do it at least 5 days a week). Within this class, the types of assignments vary greatly. There are short practice worksheets, long practice worksheets, labs, presentations, projects, etc.
    My 12th grade second-year Advanced Chemistry class is my highest leveled class. Every student in this class earned a high grade in 11th grade CP Chemistry, and most of them want to study chemistry or science in college. These students “assignments” are longer and include a variety of formats such as: long practice problem packets, laboratory exams, and presentations. This class a lower number of assignments, but they are worth more points, than the 11th CP Chemistry class.

    Purpose of Homework
    While the amounts of homework I give to each class vary, the purpose is generally the same. The main purpose is to practice the concepts that were taught in class, and I feel my homework does accomplish this, because I have created my own curriculum and my own homework assignments (although I don’t have an issue with those teachers who use a “packaged” or textbook curriculum with assignments, I do not … mostly because I didn’t have the option). I can guarantee that students who do well on their homework assignments, will perform very well on my exams.
    I am also a strong believer that homework should be meaningful. This is why the amount of homework I assign varies between different class levels. I never assign extra problems “just because I can”.
    In addition, I grade almost every homework assignment (in some way) that every student turns in (almost every day). In fact, on average, I spend about 1.5 – 2.0 hours everyday grading my students’ practice/home work.
    I also think it is important to provide each student with some type of feedback. When a paper is perfect, I give them a sticker and write something positive. When only a few answers are wrong I will show the correct work process. When most of the answers are wrong, I identify points that the student needs to work on and request they see me after class.

    Policy on Homework
    Our school does not have a school policy, but many of the teachers follow the format below, including myself.
    Work that is 1 day late can be turned in for 50% of the original credit.
    Work cannot be turned in for any credit after it is 1 day late.
    While some may feel this is a harsh policy, I feel it is very appropriate for people (my students) why will be attending college within the next year or two. And, of course, there are exceptions to this rule for certain circumstances (illness, etc.).

    • I agree with you on this one, Tiffany. I also teach various levels of math and my expectations for each level is different. I like to give my “low” class the opportunity to do their homework in class so that my co-teacher and I can help with any questions. They should be able to complete this within the time given. My advanced class is a different story. I expect them to complete some work on their own. Not only does it reinforce content, but it also establishes work ethic, time management, and so much more!

  5. My kids would be extremely upset with me but I like homework for students, especially in K-12. It allows time for reflection, teaches students responsibility and accountability and helps with time management. These are all skills that they need to learn in the real world. However, I do agree that it should be limited to a specific amount as you don’t want to overwhelm and stress students out giving them anxiety issues. Our school does not have a policy on homework and some teachers actually give quite a bit in my youngest daughter’s classes. There is no option for parents to allow their students to opt out.

  6. Our school does not have a written policy on homework, but I spell things out pretty clearly in my syllabus. In a college class, the syllabus is a contract with the students. My syllabus tells what is due, when it is due, how many points it is worth, and the penalties for being late.

    In college, I feel it is important to assign homework. We discuss and learn during class, but I assess after each class period if they have learned that skill or not and how I need to proceed.

    I thought the article about the professional writing doing his son’s homework was very good. I know parents who do all of the homework for their children. I think this is a terrible thing to teach them.

    People tell me periodically that we shouldn’t give college credit for online class–how do you know it is actually that student doing the work? I tell them that the student would have to look hard to find someone willing to put in that much time and effort for them. I always have students in my Excel class try to cheat and send me the exact same file as someone else–they will always get caught! Students who don’t do their own homework will always do poorly on the test!

  7. When it comes to education it seems that America is suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance. While we hear constantly that America is falling behind academically in the world (not true IMHO) and that schools and teachers are failing; we then have a debate going on that homework is unnecessary, harmful to little psyches, and even contributing to the lack of learning by high achieving students. Somebody better warn China. Does homework help, hinder, or hurt students? The answer is yes.

    The effect of homework on students depends on many factors. The first article has a PHD who, as a good parent should, helps her children with their homework after school. Luckily for her she has the time, money, and wherewithal to accomplish that. Her ability to help her children will lead them to greater success, no matter that the teacher thought she had written her child’s paper. The same may not hold true for other parents who are unable to find the time to help their children. Whether it’s because they work two jobs, are drunk in the bar, or don’t have the mental capability doesn’t matter; in these cases homework can often hurt a child as there is no one to monitor their homework attempts or lack thereof. Students can be hurt as much by not doing work and getting a zero as they can by attempting homework and learning how to do the problems the wrong way.

    I think homework is necessary, should be meaningful, and graded. But student reality also needs to be taken into account. However, under the latest pressure to teaching and teachers through Race to the Top and Common Core, it is not possible anymore to take these factors into account. As a nation we need to decide what our collective education goals really are instead of just using it as a political football.

  8. The only policy my school has on homework is that is cannot make up more than 10% of the student’s grade in any given class. In my class, I allow homework to count for 5% of the overall grade. I feel like I need to factor homework into my students’ grades to ensure that they take it seriously – and that seems to work. However, what they don’t realize is that 5% is such a small amount that it rarely makes a difference – but that’s the way I like it. I want my students’ grades to accurately reflect their skills in my class, not whether or not they do their homework.

    Since I teach Language Arts, one piece of homework my students have every night is to read 8 pages in their independent reading book. This practice was agreed upon by all the Language Arts teachers in my building because we want students to develop the habit of reading outside of school. Also, research shows that they best way to become a better reader is to read. My students respond well to reading 8 pages a night because it’s not a cumbersome task – it literally takes about 10 minutes. Also, it’s flexible – they can choose what they read and I even tell them that they may read with a parent or read to a younger brother/sister. I try not to put any restrictions on this assignment because my goal is simply to get students in the habit of reading – no matter how they choose to go about it. I think that this homework assignment is meaningful because it’s developing a habit that is characteristic of a good reader. Luckily, I’ve never had any push back from parents on this and I think that’s because it is a reasonable request.

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