Last night over 100 educators, (who tweeted over 1100 times and even made #edchat a top 5 trending topic in Twitter Search) joined the conversation. The topic: Homework. Another great friend of mine, Tom Whitby, arranged for Alfie Kohn, a nationally recognized expert in the area of homework to participate. In his book, The Homework Myth, he, "systematically examines the usual defenses of homework – that it promotes higher achievement, “reinforces” learning, teaches study skills and responsibility. None of these assumptions, he shows, actually passes the test of research, logic, or experience."
Homework is one of those issues that there rarely middle ground. On one side of the debate are those that say we have to have it to keep students accountable and make sure learning takes place outside of the classroom. On the other side are those that say our traditional system of homework should be replaced with meaningful assignments like reflecting in blog posts and contributing to wikis. Here is a summary of some of the thoughts from last night:
- Homework is not beneficial if it is given solely for the sake of being given. It needs to have a purpose - a goal - and needs to fit into the larger scheme of learning. It needs to be something that all students can complete so not to turn people off who cannot, but it should be challenging enough that the upper-level students aren't bored with it. It should, therefore, be differentiated by students OR should/could be made non-mandatory.
- If a student is able to demonstrate that he/she knows the content and is able to use the information suitably, there is no reason for that student to be required to do homework on said content.
- My mind is racing after #edchat! I've never agreed with the philosophy of giving a lot of homework and never will. I think it takes away from the learning that happens in the classroom. You never really know the environment of your students while doing homework, which is another huge piece to this. I simply know that I see better results in my third graders when they are given little or no homework. If I do assign homework, it's something authentic to the students (reading a book they choose or writing in their writing notebook or researching a topic of interest and sharing it with me the next day or the next week).
- Great chat tonight! Lots of great info. My summary: as with most things in ed, tools/medium are not the real issue as much as quality learning and thinking. EX, real problem with homework is not always the work, but our ideas of what homework is because of past associations. Assumption is made that homework=busywork. If that is true, yes, ditch hw. If homework is engaging and relevant and given in moderation, I say keep it in. Nice counter points on student/family rights and overworking kids, though! Lots of great viewpoints shared tonight!
- Homework is a tool that reinforces what students learn in class. If students are not assigned some tasks to do at home, they do nothing and forget what they've practiced in class. It can be creative and interesting.
- As a relatively new teacher (6 yrs) with little overlap with my parenting years, I always resented the thought that teachers felt they needed to manage my parent involvement with my child by assigning homework. I also believe my children are not readers for pleasure because reading was always work at home for them. And I have never believed anyone should have to come home and continue working.
- As a teacher, I am investigating how I lessen the emphasis of homework in my classroom by suggesting rather requiring work outside of class that would be designed to further investigate or enrich what is going on in the classroom.
Two things kept coming up over and over. The first was about reading. Many who participated commented that they believe teachers and schools kill the joy of reading by pushing texts upon them and have a required number of minutes or pages per night. I would have to agree. I can remember growing up, lugging home my 500 page literature book to read some story that had some meaning about life and answer all the questions at the end. For me it killed reading enjoyment. I regularly would skip those assignments and read what I wanted. I have no problem with kids reading at night. But why try to leash them to texts they have now relation too? If I see a student checking out a book about monster trucks, basketball, Harry Potter, Twilight, etc, I am happy that they are reading.
The other issue that came up was meaningful learning. Homework needs to be meaningful. Alfie challenged us to think about this. What is meaningful work? Is doing all the odd problems in the math book meaningful? Is writing a 3 page essay about the Battle of Bunker Hill meaningful? Do I think our ideas and system of homework in this country are outdated? Yes! Do I think we should abandon it all together. Well, that depends. Students should not have hours and hours of work to do each night. That turns students off of learning and takes value out of education. Meaningful homework for me would be just what I described above. Have students respond to a blog post about something they talked about in class. They can then comment to each other and the blog becomes an extension of the classroom. The point here is to think about meaningful learning. Does the homework you assign add value to your classroom?
We were so fortunate and lucky to have Alfie Kohn take part in our edchat. He provided an interesting prospective and posed questions that really make you think about where you stand when it comes to homework. He made a chapter from his book, The Homework Myth, available and I encourage you to read it.
When you have some time read the entire transcript of the chat and head back here and tell me your thoughts on homework. What is your idea of homework? Should we keep doing it the way we are doing it or is change in order? How do you add value to your homework?
Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons. View the original here.