Nicholas - I've always wondered how I could run a secondary ELA class without homework. No reading at night? No writing outside of class? I don't get how it'd be done. Then the flipping movement rolls along and everyone wants to do "content at home, deep discussions at school." This time it seems okay to them because it's on video and has a new name? Hmmmm. Still not buying it. The clearest point I've found, and you clearly agree with me throughout this post, is that "homework" is too big of a discussion to be fully for or against. It's not the same thing to the all teachers of all classes on all nights. 1) It has to have purpose beyond "practice" and "getting them ready for later years when they'll have homework" 2) It has to be a reasonable amount (depends on class and book) I always defaulted to the amount of content in a book I think the class would be able to process the next day. 3) Any system has to include allowances for the differences in capacity to get the work done at home. (any education system without empathy is a failure in my book)
Would love your thoughts on my comment below, David.
Classes like literature require more preparation time for the students as you discussed on the video. Your need for them to prepare at home simply highlights a broken system where the school day requires the same amount of time for every class. If you had your students for two periods a day and were required to teach them fewer (unimportant? less important?) objectives would they need time at home to do the work? My guess is that many teachers use homework as a way to 'fix' a broken school system, but the fix comes at cost to the student. This would be a much better conversation face to face :)
Yes, there are a lot of breaks in the system, but I wouldn't try to sell other content areas short. Science needs its labs. History would be great if there was time for researching and exploring primary documents and topics of students' choosing. Extra time with small-group math tutoring? Bring it. have you ever seen an art class that's forced to spend at least 10 of its 45 minutes setting up and cleaning up? Everyone probably wants more time. I could see tossing tons of $$ at this for universal after-school care for young students and supported tutoring for secondary students. We pay athletic coaches for after-school, why not as many academic ones? When it's not busy work, the difference between students who are able and willing to do extra work is staggering. Yes, this would be better face to face. Coming to New England any time soon? :)
It doesn't look like it, hopefully my travel radius will dramatically increase when my wife gets a teaching job in the fall :)
Nick, this is one of the few times when I really, really disagree with you. I don't like homework and it's not because I confuse busy work with homework. I don't like homework, because it imposes a system of expectations on time that should belong to kids. I don't like the notion of a double shift for students. I don't like the idea that their school day has to continue past the point when they are finished. Can homework be meaningful? Yep. Can students read amazing novels at home? Absolutely. However, if it's truly that great, make it an extracurricular activity. Make it bonus work. Make it something that they can do for fun. Time at home should belong to the kids and to the family. Let them play. Let them interact in their own autonomous spaces. Don't push school into the realm of home. I Cliff-Noted my way through certain English assignments, because they were assigned as homework. These were supposed to be "great books." These were "engaging" projects. I took the shortcut route, because I would rather be playing video games, playing basketball or reading a Curt Vonnegut novel.
There's some medical evidence that learning needs to be reinforced at certain transfer points in order to make it into long-term memory accurately, and one of those windows is at 5-8 hours after the initial introduction. Do you think it would be worth assigning quick assignments in order to catch that window?
I agree with John here (which is somewhat unusual for me because most of the time I silently disagree with his writing - sorry John). I have always thought that the idea of asking kids to work on school for nine or ten hours a day is outrageous. Many of us would erupt in righteous rage if our bosses asked us to do an extra three hours of work at home in addition to our regular work day. (I know, I know ... teachers do extra work).As a teacher (11th grade US History) I always made a deal with students the first week of school - if you'll respect my time - by working hard, being attentive, being engaged - during school then I'll respect your time out side of school by not assigning homework. On the rare occasions when I did assign homework the deal was if you can demonstrate knowledge of the objectives without completing the homework then I'm ok with that. As an administrator, I tell me teachers to assign only meaningful homework that actually adds to a student's learning. Hours of busy work is a no no.
Hi John - I don't disagree with where you're coming from here, but I also don't know of a solution. I want students to engage with material on their own (instead of being lectured to) so that class can be spent sharing, processing, etc. How can we fit it all in? I'm always, sincerely, looking for solutions. Please share here or link if you have some ideas.
I do love this conversation. As a parent, I've despised the homework my daughter has received - about 95% of the time. BUT, that's been because it has nearly always been, as you say, busy work. She's a senior now, and I can count on one hand the times she's gotten thoughtful, engaging homework assignments. I think this topic is one of those that keeps getting brushed aside in many of the broader conversations about change in education. As a former K12 teacher, I did give homework. Although I tried to make it meaningful, I didn't have the knowledge I do now, about what "meaningful" really is. I look back, and am embarrassed by the kinds of homework I gave.My daughter seemed to (luckily) engage herself with topics from school - if she was interested in the book, she read it. If the science topics were intriguing, she told me about them, and we extended them at home. I guess my point is - I've seen the good, bad, and ugly and, for the most part, my daughter is still getting the ugly. I think these conversations, mixed with focused professional development for teachers, can make us rethink the notion of homework, and turn it into something that isn't old-school busywork! Thanks for the intriguing conversations/video.
I absolutely agree. I teach 8th grade English (And AVID and Leadership) and at the middle school level in our district, Math and English classes are 2 periods long and the rest of the classes are 1 period. Each period is 45 minutes. This year, they decided to create a single period English class for kids who have advanced test scores. So, I have 40 kids for only 45 minutes, which is enough time to get NOTHING done! They HAVE to read at home. We wouldn't have enough time to have engaging and thoughtful discussions about To Kill A Mockingbird if they didn't read some at home. I also use Edmodo---I post discussion questions for them to engage with prior to coming to class. Busy work is stupid. But you can't teach a 45 minute English class without assigning some things to be done at home.
I am currently a student teacher who is placed in an 8th grade Lang Arts classroom. I have been told numerous times that I should not bother assigning homework because the students refuse to do it. Because of this thought process, there have been full weeks dedicated to students coming in and silently reading or writing essays the whole time. I have always seen the need for outside reading and writing, but I have been discouraged. How do I encourage my students to complete their homework in a culture of none?
This issue goes to the very core of what education is about. As we measure everything, and am obsessed about doing so, the need to get through curricula forces education or of the classroom. This is upside down, children should be engaged to an extent that they seek more of the knowledge. No study has shown homework to be beneficial, in fact the opposite, and this is why we have some the unhappiest and stressed young people of all time. Allow children to be children, stop measuring, no pig ever gained weight by being constantly weighed. In cultures where education is more relaxed they have no fewer, or lower quality, Doctors or lawyers so what's the problem. It's time to allow education to be what it is supposed to be, the replacing of an empty mind with an open one.
Nick, you dismiss anti-homework advocates in the same manner you claim that they dismiss homework. Both arguments are fallacies of extension; however, after much research and experience, I think the benefits of homework fall far short of the drawbacks. As both a parent and teacher, I have seen both sides of the homework coin. I taught high school ELA and didn't assign homework. I called reading "homefun!" but gave reading assignment long enough in advance that students had myriad options for completion: over the weekend, during study hall, in class; as a result, reading felt more like leisure than an assignment. Although I lost quite a bit of class time to SSR, the students were so grateful that they were not required to complete work outside of class, the time we spent in class was far more productive.What I like best about NO HW: I was always certain that work was authentic because it was produced in class; and student grades improved because they were graded only by meeting/not meeting standards and not penalized for missing work.
I wonder about the structure of it all. As a teacher in a project based humanities community, my partner-teacher and I work to create an environment where the learning goals can be met in the classroom if students can drive their own learning and time is used efficiently. If a student achieves a goal in the time provided, then why assign homework? If not, I ask, "what do you need to know/do to meet the learning goal by the due date?". And then, "what homework do you need to assign yourself to get there?". So long as learning goals are supremely clear and viable, resources are present in the room, then "homework" is just a continuation of work in progress in order to meet a deadline. They totally get it.
I'm a pre-service English education teacher and I wanted to note that this is a topic that I hadn't really given much thought to yet. Now that I'm actually thinking about it, I agree that not all homework is bad because, like you noted earlier, as an English teacher, you have to make your students read AT HOME. There is no time in the classroom to read, so when else do you expect your students to get the reading done? I've observed a high school AP Lit class and I noticed that the teacher would make students who hadn't read the night before go to the library to read while the rest of the class was discussing the literature. It was an interesting idea because it gives the students the opportunity to read the story, but then they are missing out on crucial discussion time. My question for you is if you catch yourself giving out busy work and you seem to be in the habit of it, how do you stop and start to give out real homework? As in, work that leads the students to a goal rather than just for extra points?Thank you.
I'm a pres-service English education teacher and I was very interested in this topic as I had never given much thought to it before. I agree with you in saying that not all homework is bad because yes, as an English teacher, we require our students to read outside of the classroom in order for us to get discussions and work done the next day. My question for you is if I catch myself in the future handing out busy work, how would I stop myself? How would I break that habit and begin to give out work that leads my students toward a better goal rather than just doing work for the points?Thank you.
Please post your thoughts here. Thanks!