This is an interesting question, and depends on the particular needs of your students. Way back when I was in the classroom, I taught in an alternative model high school aimed at dropout prevention/recovery that used its increased daily contact time (via a block schedule) to mitigate the impact of incomplete homework assignments. For the most part, my kids had a long history of not completing much (or any) homework, which played a central role in credit deficiency and how they ended up with me. Homework went undone for a variety of reasons: knowledge and skill deficiency from gaps in formal education and/or insufficient instructional/academic support, after school jobs to supplement parental income, after school jobs AND responsibility for younger siblings, difficult home situations, lack of instruction/influence/example/skill in personal responsibility (yes, I believe it is something that needs to be taught to and witnessed by students, not something we should assume every student understands), etc. For me, I needed to use class time to both provide additional instruction and support and to provide opportunity for work completion because it may be the only time the kids had to dedicate to academics. I also learned much, much more from working one on one with students and collecting formative information while observing independent class work than I did from grading homework. This is not to say that homework isn't important, but in my particular situation it was less valuable than other strategies and methods I employed to help my kids succeed.
I've been helping a 6th grader with homework for three weeks. His school has a great site where all the teachers have their own page and seem to be encouraged to post their homework assignments. There is a wide variety in these sites.
One teacher posts her daily homework assignment for the week on Monday. They are uninteresting assignments for math: pp123-124, #4-28, even only (skip #22)
Another teacher rambles on in prose, with some assignments mixed in. It's hard to find what she wants.
Another posts what they will be doing in class, briefly. She adds homework assignments on the day before they are due, sometimes. Other times she relies on students to remember what she assigned that day.
One posts the documents students are to complete for homework so I can download them, which is wonderful. None of the others do this, though they mention the assignments.
The student with whom I am working has some behavior issues related to organization, as near as I can tell. He does have an IEP, though I don't have access to it, and parents don't seem very clear on its goals.
So, this student is eager to do well, works hard with me, and his parents are making every effort, including paying me handsomely 3 days a week to help out. It would be much easier for all concerned if teachers could get together and decide on exactly how their online notes could best be presented.
I think meaningful homework which students understand, supported by every effort to make it easy for the student to access the assignments is fine. Assignments which are unsupported and not well-thought-out are a waste of everyone's time.
And while I'm on the subject, I believe that grades should reflect what a student can and cannot do, does and does not know at the time of the report. Cumulative grades which reflect an average of work while a student is supposed to be learning are less helpful. Just my two cents.
Can't wait to read what others think on this question!
Bonnie, you made an excellent point about "meaningful homework. I can honestly say that most of the homework I observe teachers give students is far from meaningful. It is usually "busy work" that teachers give so they can fill their gradebook with grades. I'm not sure why educators think that this kind of experience for students is enhancing their learning.
I also wish teachers would see the value in maintaining a website to help enhance communication between the school and home. Not only can teachers provide needed documents (for those who are less organized) for viewing at home, but it is also the place to add extension activities as well as sites to help review information. Are the teachers in your district required to create and maintain a class website?
Bonnie, I absolutely agree that the homework needs to be meaningful. Having said that, how would you define "meaningful homework"? I see it as preparation for the work to come. That could include the "lecture" for tomorrow's collaborative work in class, or gathering materials, etc. I am starting to see some advantages of the "Flipped" classroom for some curriculum areas. I know there are drawbacks to the "Flipped" classroom, but I see opportunity for learning for the students as well. The problems can be worked out.
What are your thoughts?
Like Marshal, I work with students who struggle to do homework. We also are on a block schedule. I made the decision to mitigate missing homework by focusing on what we learn in class. Any student who is unable to complete their assignment during class has "homework" to complete the work outside of class. I have been pleased at the high percentage of students who are willing to complete work and turn it in. My policy is to accept such "late assignments" without any penalty in scoring it. My philosophy is that I teach students more responsibility by having them complete all assignments than any responsibility I will ever teach by a "score drop." An example of real life ... If a computer programmer gets 80% of his progect completed, he cannot ship the incomplete work. Friends in this field have explained to me how they must work extra hours to ensure the project is finished prior to shipping.
Glen, I am wondering if you have seen an increase in the amount of work that is turned in when students know that they won't lose points for late work?
I think that it is wonderful that you value not only teaching your students how to be more responsible, but also don't punish them because some can't process information as quickly as others. I know that some kids choose to goof around instead of getting their work done, but by making that choice they are also choosing to have homework You aren't giving it to them, they are choosing this. Do most of your students get their work done in class?
I am also wondering, have any parents expressed any concerns or reservations about your homework policy?
I find more students complete and turn in their assignments. I have been surprised at how few students wait until the end of a term to turn in all late work. Generally there are only one or two late assignments turned in at the end. On my last day of grading for the current term, I only had about 20 students turning in late work (out of 205 total students.)
In the last two years (just over 400 total students), I have only had one parent complain about my policy. She insisted her son be docked 10% on every late assignment. My response to her was "I am so happy to assist you in educating your son, I will follow this direction." She was thrilled I was willing to support her. The rest of the parents LOVE knowing I will always accept and not dock a student's grade for late work. The best part is how these students told their parent the work could no longer be turned in. My reputation is preceding me as parents now know the program and discuss it with students at home. I truly feel like the parent and I are part of the same education team supporting their child's learning.
I have to agree with you Marshal. While I feel that homework can be a worthwhile learning experience, I also see it as time that could be better spent teaching and working with students on an individual basis. Very rarely have I seen teachers provide homework that engages learners -or even extend learning; instead it is rote recall at a knowledge level of thinking.
I also agree that there are many circumstances today that truly does inhibit students from completing daily homework. Kids have so many things on their plates nowadays (and I don't mean just sports practices) that it is difficult to find time, or even quiet space to work.
I am wondering Marshal, did you have any parents or other teachers question your choice not to give homework?
I teach high school history and unfortunately, we do not even have enough textbooks to be sent home to students. So homework has to be creative thinking. I appreciate Bonnie's "meaningful homework" remark. Many times we send home busy work. For the first time since teaching, my homework has been study or reading (study for test or give hand outs of primary sources to read). Like Marshal, many of my students just don't do it. I'm pretty sure I've heard every excuse in the book. However, If I was to assign them something online or technological, they would more than likely do it. My only problem, not all students have access. So that won't work.
If homework does not reinforce what students have learned, then what is the purpose anyhow? I can expect my students use higher levels of thinking through investigation online, yet they can't teach themselves. That's what I get paid to do. I need to rethink my homework plan for next semester as this semester I'm not giving much.
Some great answers from teachers. In my short stint as a classroom teacher, I was told to give 25 math problems a night for homework. To do more than evens/odds, I would say do the factors of 82, multiples of both 2 and 3.... so a math problem was done (in review) in order to determine what math problems were needed for homework. I agree with what has been said previously about meaningful work and feedback.
The next math Director said give homework that will cover what was done in class. In this case, I reduced the problems to one review for each example... so maybe a total of 10, but usually closer to 5 a night.
To shift the comments slightly... with "Race to the Top" in the United States with Student Learning Objectives and a more critical accountability, justification and evaluation system, how do parents, politicians, and administrators view homework? Is the "assessment" of daily knowledge of "only" five math problems sufficient for instructor accountability? We need to take into account students' ability and method of learning, so for some, few problems is ideal, while others may need a larger amount to assure "muscle/mind" memory for long term memory success. With technology skills, I know I can only show my wife one item a day... I do it twice and then watch her do it twice. In our Technology meetings,we are shown 4-6 new applications in an hour and are expected to "know" it. With our background and learning styles, we are able to pick it up.
So... homework according to who needs it. How does one determine that?
My thoughts on this action that they have decided to ban homework are actually not against this movement at all. France thought out the process well because although they are banning homework, they have in return added days to the school calendar, provided more jobs for teachers, and are even giving more attention to students who aren't doing as well as others. I have even observed that as students get older they tend to do less homework anyway, so by not requiring it nothing would be lost. As long as instruction in the classroom continues to provide students with what they need students can still succeed successfully without it.
I think it is interesting that just a few years ago in middle school I would be celebrating if I was in France. However now that I am in school to become a teacher, I see the importance of homework. I remember learning concepts in the classroom and doing classwork with my peers, but then when I got home to do homework, I wouldn't remember how to do it. I would then look back over what we learned and teach myself in my own way, remembering what we went over in class. This helped me tremendously over the years and has made me a better student in college now that I can successfully teach, or reteach, myself concepts. I think a limit to the amount of homework sent home each night would be helpful, but abolishing it completely seems kind of counterprodutive. Students need homework to develop individuality in doing their school work.