Should Teachers Assign Homework? or, Does “Bad” Homework Drive out “Good” Homework?

A second grade teacher in Texas sent a letter home to parents announcing she would not be assigning homework telling parents there was no research supporting homework and “…encouraged parents to spend their evening doing what she says has proven to correlate with education success – eat dinner as a family, read together, have children play outside and get students to bed early.”

A parent posted the letter on the Internet and the letter went viral – including an article in the NY Daily News  and supportive comments from CUNY professor David Bloomfield in Business Insider.

Is homework an essential element in the teaching- learning process?

One side of the equation is the teaching side; the teacher – the writer, director, producer and actor in a play with run of one day – creates the “play,” the lesson, a forty minute period or other fixed set of time to “transfer knowledge and or skills.” The creativity of the teacher, the motivation, the activities, the questions, hopefully results in student acquisition of knowledge or skills.

However, how do we “measure” the learning side of the equation?  Teach five spelling words each day Monday through Thursday and a spelling test on Friday, a “do now” at the beginning of each lesson, exit slips, all tools to measure the success of a lesson.

Let me be clear: mindless homework is a waste of time, and can be counterproductive.

Homework should be a link: one day’s lesson to the next day’s lesson as well as reinforcing the day one lesson; preparation for the following day’s lesson.

Homework can serve as an assessment of the previous day’s lesson.

Is it useful to give homework if the teacher does not assess the work and give feedback?  BTW,  this issue is at the front and center of the homework issue.  After all, what difference does it make?

In our increasingly cyber world homework can take place online – easier for a teacher to review the submissions.

Homework should be creative, it should not be rote, and to use a student’s favorite word boring.

We think we know a great deal about the teaching side of the equation – Danielson rubrics, student engagement, the quality of questions, the complexity of questions, “arrow of recitation,” (questions moving from teacher to student to student to student); what we’re unsure about is the “learning” side of the equation.  Of course we can ask students, and, some teacher assessment methods include student comments.

I am extremely fortunate to interact with my second grade granddaughter:  she loves to read, she likes to write stories and especially to draw. How much has she “learned” in school?” How much has she “learned” from her parents?  That never-ending nature-nurture debate.

Creative homework assignments can motivate the following day’s lesson, they can be exciting for the student, and just as we assess the quality of the lesson we should also assess the quality of the homework assignment. During common planning time teachers can share homework assignments as well as share the actual homework submitted by the students.

Ill-conceived homework should not drive out creative homework assignments.

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4 responses to “Should Teachers Assign Homework? or, Does “Bad” Homework Drive out “Good” Homework?

  1. For homework, I assigned 30 minutes or more of reading every night from a book checked out of the school library that the child was interested in. Then there was a monthly written assignment linked to the book.

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  2. why doesn’t anyone ever question basketball coaches or music teachers who insist that everyone come to practice?

    Why is the development of reading or math skills any different than learning to play scales or make a foul shot?

    That said, it would be a simple enough experiment to randomly divide 4th graders into several groups at random and have one group do no reading at home, another read for 1 hour a week, a third read 2 hours, a 4th 4 hours and a fifth be overworked by being asked to read 8 hours a week. And do this for, say, 2 months. Before the experiment starts have everyone take a reading comprehension test and another at the end of the 2 months. The change in the scores is a measure of the effectiveness of the homework. You could do the same thing with foul shooting accuracy and swim times for 100m.

    No one should doubt the outcome, the only question is the quantitative one about the functional relationship between time-on-task and improvement.

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  3. Bravo. Enough nonsense A small amount of meaningful and appropriate home work helps to reinforce for children what they learn during the day is meaningful, particularly when Mom and Dad ask to see it each evening. It also informs the teacher that the goal of the lesson was accomplished or further work on the topic is necessary.

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