We are now into at least a month or two of school- honeymoon of when the students do as the teacher asks is way over. About now (or maybe even earlier) some students have decided to disregard homework and risk attending class with it not complete. Other students work hard to complete everything assigned regardless if they needed the practice or how late they will stay awake- completion is the goal.
What role should homework play in our teaching and learning culture? This is always a debatable question. In one’s adult life there are always moments when more time is needed to complete a project at work or something needs attention from work during one’s off-time. We may decide to engage in further learning related to up-skilling for professional purposes and take classes during our own time.
Students too often are not given choices about homework- they are simply told they are expected to do the set tasks. When they ask ‘why?’ they often are told practice makes perfect or we didn’t have time to complete the task during class. From a student’s perspective they may think that if there wasn’t enough class time than the teacher failed to manage time allocations and/or set impossible tasks for the given time period. Alternatively they may think that they have already mastered the skill because they scored 100% on the formative assessment during class time.
Whether to assign homework or not we as teachers need to have clear rationale for its purpose. Too often practice pages are assigned and students have no understanding or clarity for the purpose. Also if they don’t have the answers they can’t self check and reflect on what they know and still have questions about. In this study, 60 students were interviewed in India where there is a very strong cultural expectation of a lot of homework assigned. The impact led to students wished for a balance of assignments and stronger connections between what they were asked to do and how it related to what they were learning.
This dissertation by Deborah Jane Templeton (2020) notes that:
“The literature suggests tentative links can be made between homework and
academic achievement but that it remains an element of educational practice which is often a source of contention amongst teachers, parents and pupils.”
Similarly in this recent article published in the International Journal of Instruction, the author highlights:
homework can improve students’ academic success as well as their academic skills if homework is well-designed for students’ life-long learning process skills, suitable for students’ interests and needs, and their age (Bembenutty, 2011; Ramdass and Zimmerman, 2011; Rudman, 2014; Stoeger and Ziegler, 2008; Xu, 2005; Warton, 2001). When we consider homework frequency instead of time spent on homework, Dettmers, Trautwein, Lüdtke, Kunter, and Baumert (2010) and Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, and Muñiz (2015) found a positive relationship between homework frequency and academic achievement.Güven, U., & Akçay, Ahmet Oguz. (2019). Trends of Homework in Mathematics: Comparative Research Based on TIMSS Study. International Journal of Instruction, 12(1), 1367–1382. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1201164
Ultimately – to engage learners in doing their homework, particularly for those reluctant it is critical to have in place the following practices:
- Make sure the assignments are relevant. Also consider the level of challenge- is this something they can achieve on their own?
- Offer choice in how students practice their material or present their findings.
- Make time in class to review what they did to build collective ownership and buy in. Give students the answers for them to self assess! They can report their learnings and reflect on what they got wrong with the teacher but the teacher does not need to mark all the tasks.
- Make tasks reasonable and don’t assume students have hours to spend on your assignment. Be sensitive to what else they are being tasked to do and what expectations they may have at home as well. Ponder- how much do you enjoy taking work home? 🙂
- Consider re-naming homework and making it optional. Instead of assigning specific tasks for home have clear expectations around what they need to achieve in a given time period. If they need more time than class time permitted then they have the option of completing the task at home. For those that do in fact finish they have no additional tasks. This builds buy-in and helps students be more efficient in class.
Hope these strategies help you develop a more productive and effective homework protocol with your students. Reach out for additional ideas.