Friday, September 01, 2006

Thinking About Homework

I took Tony Winger's class on grading last year. Tony provided such thought-provoking ideas about grading that I found myself looking at everything from the meaning of my grades to what assignments I make and tests I give. Especially with homework, I wanted to make sure my assignments and expectations were valid, but most of all, I wanted students and parents to understand why I value homework. The following is what I came up with and put on my syllabus this year:
Homework is an integral part of your success in this course. Here’s why your teacher assigns homework:
1. Homework exposes you to information necessary to understand the concepts presented in this course.
2. Homework allows you to formulate questions you may have over the information you are learning.
3. Homework prepares you to be an active participant in class discussions.
4. Homework allows your teacher to monitor your academic progress in a variety of skills.
5. Homework prepares you for success on exams. Through completing homework assignments, reviewing the information in class, and participating in discussions, you will have covered the material several times prior to taking an exam.
I know I'm not done with thinking about homework, grading, blogging, etc. which is what I hope will continue in the 21st Century Learners class. I'd love some feedback.....


At 8:49 PM , Blogger Karl Fisch said...

I think this is a good and thought-provoking list. Pretending to be one of your students, let me ask some questions back about a few of these.

1. Why can't I be exposed to that information in class, why does it have to be outside of class?

4. Why is this important? Why does the teacher need to "monitor my academic progress?" What's in it for me?

5. I can see where homework might help prepare me for success on exams. But why are there exams? If you can't convince me of the necessity of exams, then this isn't a valid reason to assign - or do - homework. When's the last time you took a timed exam, sitting in a totally uncomfortable student desk, with an artificial time limit, and only being able to use a pencil or a pen - no other resources?

At 7:47 PM , Blogger Terry Sale said...

I've been thinking of homework more and more as primarily for purpose 3 -- preparing for discussion. At times I'll give an assignment based on the reading, and the students get a few points just for doing it. The real payoff is that they have something to bring to discussion. I also sometimes use the HW as a ticket to discussion; you can't talk unless you've prepared by doing the readng or thinking about the topic. (We've made the discussion ticket a standard item for AP Lit classes this year.)

In a more general sense, I still think HW is valuable because there just isn't time to do all the deep thinking students need to do during class time. It takes time to read a book or write an essay. Sometimes it's the homework itself that's a worthwhile activity, rather than preparing for something else. However...getting students to do that worthwhile activity can be a challenge. I guess the ultimate motivator would be to make the homework intrinsically interesting.

At 3:16 PM , Blogger bkitch said...

I also have heard Tony Winger's discussion on grading and what they reflect. Since I started teaching I have greatly changed the types of homework assignments I give my students. I really like your list, I think it is right on target for homework goals. I would also add that there is something to be said for work ethic. Homework does teach organization of time, resposibility and work ethic. This weekend I grade 150 quizzes and 76 journals. My learning from my homework comes in the form of knowing where my students are succeeding and still strugling (in almost profession, homework is part of the package).

At 9:51 PM , Blogger Lary Kleeman said...

I've increasingly found homework to be less of requirement for certain segments of the student population that I teach. Two of my classes, currently, I do not require homework...note, the operative term, "require". One is my "basic skills" class at,the junior level (Comprehensive English) and the other is the computer-aided composition class, Elements of Composition. Both of these classes, along with Creative Writing (when I teach it) are based on the workshop model of class instruction. That is, every minute of our class time is valuable and what you don't get done or accomplished within that time frame is the student's responsibility outside of class. I set achievable goals in the sense that most, if not all, students can get what's assigned done in class whether we are doing it as a group or individually. This workshop method doesn't mean any less work for me as a teacher. In fact, it means more...I evaluate the students each class period and I am more attuned to making the most of each class. The student buy-in is big. I think more classes across the curriculum should be taught this way.

At 2:25 PM , Blogger lgaffney said...

I am doing that same grading pilot this year, Karen, and I have found myself asking the same questions. I don't know if this is at all helpful, but here is how I have answered a couple of them...
According to Tony, homework is only graded on academic responsibility. I have a hard time with this because,just like you, I feel homework will help them master the concepts that I feel are integral to my class. Tony's response was that if they can demonstrate their mastery without turning in a single homework assignment, why do we care? What I find is that most (80%) still do the homework even though academic responsibility is only worth 11% of their final grade. Because of this, those that do the homework generally experience more success. I do, however, have some kids who do not do any homework and have an "A" in my class. Although I struggle with this because of my feelings about the link between responsibility and success, if they can demonstrate mastery without ever having to do the homework, I can be okay with that.

At 8:21 AM , Blogger Roger Hess said...

For me, it's simple: homework is for learning. We have all seen situations where students "do" the homework without getting anything out of it. They need to make sure they learn something along the way, rather than go on automatic pilot.


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