Homework or No? #homeworkorno #savmp

Before I start writing this post, I would like to apologize to all who read it. I have several thoughts running through my mind on this topic and I am afraid this is going to sound rambling and disconnected. I hope not, but it may very well. But, here goes anyway.

Homework or no homework is one of those philosophical questions that some people are very, very passionate about. Whether for it or against it. When I taught, I was very much in favor of homework. I did it, survived it, and so will the students. I taught middle school math for 10 years. The math series we used at the time had 30 problems for the homework set, and my students received 30 problems most nights. That was what was in the book, so that was what they were getting. I was so wrong! I did such a disservice to my students. I stifled so much learning in those 10 short years. I wish I knew then what I know now. I think I would have been so much better for them.

I also worked with a science teacher possessed the mindset “the students are not going to do it anyway, so why assign it?” He too was wrong!

In the past 5 years I have read several articles, blog posts, tweets, and books  addressing the subject of homework. What kind to give, when to give it, why give it, should we give it, who to give it to, etc, etc.. Now I will add one more blog post to the long list of posts about this topic.

I think part of the problem with homework is the name itself. HomeWORK. The title of it carries a negative connotation for students right away. Not all students want to “work” at doing school after the leave school. If we tell educators they need to do some homework to make themselves better at what they are doing there are typically excuses like; “I have papers to grade”, “I have lesson plans to do”, “I don’t have time by the time I take care of dinner, dishes, the kids”. We don’t like homework either, but we do it to our students. Why don’t we call it homeLEARNING? Shouldn’t that be the purpose of it anyway? To continue the learning while at home?  For me, that sounds a lot more positive than, “homework.” I have heard several people over the last couple of years say “we do school to the students, not with them.” Homework is another of those things we do to them.

I do believe there are times when homelearning is necessary though. Sometimes we have to continue the learning at home because there was not enough time in the school day to get it all done. On those occasions when learning needs to continue outside of the school day, it needs to be learning that is important and serves a purpose. Giving homelearning for the sake of giving it should not be a valid reason to assign it. Most students are busy enough after school, they don’t need to be doing busy work. Are they going to always like the homelearning assignment they have to do? No, but most will do it if they know it serves a purpose. We don’t always like it either, but most of us do it if we know it serves a purpose. That purpose cannot be “because it is in the book.” There needs to be real, genuine learning that takes place as a result of the assignment.

The more we can make that homelearning relevant to the students lives, the more likely we are to get the assignments back. If they are just doing 30 problems out of the math book because that is what is there, we run the risk of them not doing it. Instead of that kind of assignment, what if we had them take 5 pictures of different angles they see around their home, upload it to a google drawings, then measure those angles. Parameters can be established like there must be 2 acute, 2 obtuse, and the 5th can be any angle they choose. Maybe then they begin to see the relevance of angles in their lives just a little bit.

I also believe these homelearning assignments need to be a time of practice. The students are still learning it. It is in the name; homelearning. We do an injustice to the students when we start assigning points to this learning. It should not be a time of “catching students doing something wrong”. Feedback on these assignments is more important than assigning points. I think this is a tough shift for students and teachers to make. All are used to points being assigned for homelearning. Students will ask, “how much is it worth.” Teachers will say, “if there are no points assigned for it, they will not do it.” I used to use that same argument, and I was good at arguing that side of it. If they are given the right feedback on it, that is worth more than the points. It is a difficult shift that really needs to take place.

I don’t know your thoughts on homework/homelearning, or if I changed your mind or not. I do hope, for just a minute, you thought about what your practices are. Let’s try to make it extended learing, not extended work. Let’s also try to make it valuable for the students so they see the need to continue to learn.

Until next time………….homework or homelearning? What are your thoughts?

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Tom Stoner

Christian, Principal, Husband, Father, Grandfather. I enjoy fishing, camping, reading, golf, and spending time with family (not necessarily in that order)

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