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Education, Students, Teaching

Chasing Homework

the chase

cc flickr photo by jot.punkt

I recently met with a student who had failing grades in all of their core classes.  Before calling them into my office, I printed off their grade report and reviewed a litany of missing assignments and zeroes.  Even I felt overwhelmed and a bit discouraged as I viewed the damage.  For this student, the focus of school had shifted.  It was no longer about learning, it was about turning enough of the “m’s” and zeroes into a point value that would lead to passing grades.  As I looked at the sheets of paper in front of me, I knew the questions I would ask:

  • Do you have the assignments you are missing?
  • Are you staying for tutoring?
  • Do you have a plan for completing all of this work?

Not exactly compelling questions for generating a meaningful conservation with a teenager.  Instead, this student and I will spend the next few weeks chasing homework.  Please don’t misunderstand – I am not excusing the student from their responsibilities and I am not advocating the complete elimination of homework (although I know some readers will make that argument).  However, it does not take a great deal of reflection to see how homework assignments can quickly lose any intended purpose and merely become a means to a grade.

A few things to consider if you are going to assign homework:

  1. Is there a clear purpose and direct benefit to the student?
  2. Will the students receive feedback – written, verbal, or other?
  3. Do the students possess the knowledge and understanding to be able to complete the assignment?
  4. Will the students use the assignment during classroom instruction (i.e. collected data, journal entries, reflections)?
  5. Can the assignment be completed in a reasonable about of time?
  6. Does the assignment provide information that will guide instruction?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you may want to reconsider making the assignment.  Remember, it is about learning, not grades.  Stop chasing homework.

About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


5 thoughts on “Chasing Homework

  1. I am all about skipping the HW! However, it seems to be an expectation in my school community. I wonder, though, who would agree with me that time at home for our students would be much better spent with families and reading. That’s what I’d like to assign each night – reading. The quality of work I get back each morning is mediocre and, let’s face it, it’s a chore to correct. HW should be purposeful and, dare I say engaging for the students – something they would enjoy doing at home to challenge their learning.

    Posted by @Eliza_Peterson | September 16, 2011, 3:31 am
  2. Amen. The DuFour folks would remind us that if the homework is indeed important enough to be homework and to be completed, then giving a student a zero and not expecting it to be completed, is, for some students exactly the answer they want… “Give me the zero and this too shall pass.” Also, however, is if the work is important and MUST be completed, then what is being done (in various ways) to ensure it gets done. I know sometimes you’ll hear the “well, how can you teach responsibility if we keep spoon feeding them…” or something along that line. There is often a “blur” of ‘spoon feeding,’ teaching responsibility, and ensuring learning takes place… If the “responsibility” for the student is the LEARNING vs the “control” issues that often cloud the learning… then it IS our responsibility as coaches of learning to figure out what is the hook to ensure learning happens… LEARNING… not just learning that a bunch of zeros and “m’s” is what determines a grade… a grade that reflects attendance instead of real learning in the subject. Learning as defined that these topics are so critical vital for you to understand, I will do whatever it takes for you to ‘get it’ (to learn it).
    I really appreciate your posts. Always ‘right on mark’ in my thinking! Thanks!

    Posted by Cathy Molumby | September 16, 2011, 1:55 pm
  3. How about giving the students some input on what the homework will be. Better yet, have each student be responsible for designing their own homework. This would be consistent with project-based learning. Alfie Kohn is a proponent of the no homework philosophy. Check the summary of his book “Feel-Bad Education” at http://bit.ly/pGo7f3.

    Posted by Douglas Green (@drdouggreen) | September 18, 2011, 3:28 am


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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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