I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework. ~ Lily Tomlin
Homework. You will find no shortage of discussion, debate, and argument about whether or not we should be assigning homework to our students. The purpose of this post is not to make an argument for, or against, the assignment of homework, but to encourage deliberate reflection about any assignment — be it classwork or homework. If we are going to ask students, and families, to invest time outside of school, I believe we owe them the consideration of thoughtful, meaningful and relevant assignments.
(Add your suggestions on this post, or add your comments to the linked Google Doc)
>> What is the purpose of the assignment?
Can’t identify a specific, and relevant, purpose? Rethink the assignment. Be sure to communicate the purpose to students.
>> Does the assignment reflect respect for student time? How long will it take students to complete the assignment? Can the same objective be accomplished with less time?
Assigning “busy work”, or excessive amounts of homework, demonstrates a lack of respect for student and family time. As adults, we frequently express resentment about meetings or projects that we feel are excessive or a waste of time — students are no different.
>> Do the students possess the knowledge/skill to complete the assignment on their own? What options do the students have if they get stuck? Do all students have the necessary resources to be able to complete the assignment?
Be certain that students have the requisite skills needed to be successful. Don’t set them up for failure. Carefully consider the resources available to all of your students and be sure that assignments provide an equitable opportunity for student success.
>> Do the students have any choice in how they complete the assignment?
Allowing students choice and creativity in how they address assignment objectives harnesses their interests and passions and leads to increased levels of engagement.
>> Is the assignment engaging? Are there any real-world connections? Is it relevant? Does it allow for student creativity?
Assignments that are simply more of the same…worksheets, repetitive practice, rote memorization…are likely to be received with very little enthusiasm, or effort.
>> Will the students receive feedback on the assignment?
If not…reconsider the assignment.
>> Will the assignment be graded? Is the assignment being given solely for the purpose of assigning a grade?
If yes…reconsider the assignment. Don’t give homework just to have an assignment to record.
>> Is the assignment purposeful? Will the students use the completed assignment in class? Is the assignment interactive? Does it provide students the opportunity to work with peers, family members, other adults, etc?
If you are going to assign homework, consider asking students to do something they will use in class. They might collect data for a project, interview a family member, find an article for a class discussion, etc. Think relevance.
>> Is the homework optional?
Something to think about. Give students a choice.
>> Does the assignment set students up to be successful?
Success leads to self-confidence, and self-confidence leads to improved effort. If you predict that a majority of students will not complete the assignment, consider addressing your objective in a different way.