Sunday, September 28, 2014

To Give or Not to Give Homework. That is the Question...

Homework (n) - a learning task that evokes tremendous excitement, felt no student ever.

Throughout the history of education, homework tasks have been given, and depending on who you ask, homework has multiple meanings. If learners struggle academically, homework has a negative meaning.  If they excel, it can be a bore or just another chore. 

If teachers want to give homework, they should keep in mind the goal of homework, to reinforce skills that students have already be exposed to.  Failure to meet that goal will certainly send students and parents toward a different goal, wondering why the teacher would assign something so difficult.  When teachers assign homework, they should always consider the following criteria if they want parents and students to find it beneficial.

  1. Familiar Content - Homework should be over content that is familiar to the student.  Work that is unfamiliar to students can cause frustration or create bad habits or incorrect understanding.
  2. Time Considerate - Homework should be something that the student can do in a relatively short period of time.  Consideration should be given when deciding how much homework to give students.
  3. Feedback - Homework works best when teachers review the task and give feedback.  Research shows that homework that is not reviewed by the teacher has little effect on learning. (Marzano. Classroom Instruction that Works. p 64.)
  4. Parent Support - Parents deserve to know what level of help is expected of them to give to their children.
  5. Relevance to Students - Students deserve to know how homework will help them in their future learning.


When encouraging parents to get involved with teaching their children good study habits, here are tips from the US Department of Education  on ways parents can help their children successfully do their homework.  The last thing parents want from homework is to be confused about the role that they serve when it comes to homework.

Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework.
Avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions, such
as people coming and going.
Make sure the materials your child needs, such as paper, pencils and a dictionary, are available.
Ask your child if special materials will be needed for some projects and get them in advance.
Help your child with time management.
Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Don‘t let your child leave homework until just
before bedtime. Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects,
especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.
Be positive about homework.
Tell your child how important school is. The attitude you express about homework will be the attitude
your child acquires.
When your child does homework, you do homework.
Show your child that the skills they are learning are related to things you do as an adult. If your child
is reading, you read too. If your child is doing math, balance your checkbook.
When your child asks for help, provide guidance, not answers.
Giving answers means your child will not learn the material. Too much help teaches your child that
when the going gets rough, someone will do the work for him or her.
When the teacher asks that you play a role in homework, do it.
Cooperate with the teacher. It shows your child that the school and home are a team. Follow the
directions given by the teacher.
If homework is meant to be done by your child alone, stay away.
Too much parent involvement can prevent homework from having some positive effects.
Homework is a great way for kids to develop independent, lifelong learning skills.
Stay informed.
Talk with your child‘s teacher. Make sure you know the purpose of homework and what your child‘s
class rules are.
Help your child figure out what is hard homework and what is easy homework.
Have your child do the hard work first. This will mean he will be most alert when facing the biggest
challenges. Easy material will seem to go fast when fatigue begins to set in.

To Give or Not to Give Homework

The answer to this question can best be answered by this 2-part question. What purpose does homework serve in helping all kids learn, and how will the teacher gauge if the students learned from it?  Every learning task must have a purpose for supporting learning. Homework that is given flippantly or is not monitored to support learning should not be given.

Finally, deciding whether or not to give homework is often based on whether educators think kids will do it or not.  The excuses of home support or work ethic provide quick roadblocks to this issue. If this is the case, it all comes down to relationships and accountability.  If we can build strong relationships with kids, show how homework will benefit their learning, and hold them accountable for doing it, homework will get done in a way that enhances learning.

Drop a comment to share your thoughts on homework.  Your comments are extremely valuable to those who read this post.

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