How we handle homework has a lot to do with our learning philosophy. And although it may be impossible to get rid of homework all of the time for all grades, how we approach it can be adjusted.
Connie Hamilton and I put a lot of thought into how we can start changing homework for all K-12 students and help teachers make learning more meaningful within the school day. Considering the challenges, most families experience over-planning after-school activities or even lost time as a family as a result of too much useless work being sent home.
We toiled over what the essentials would be if we wanted to reimagine homework for the benefit of all. So we started with typical pushback to changing homework and tried to find solutions for it.
If you'd be inclined to dig deeper into our work, you'd learn about:
Explicitly addressing responsibility, accountability, and time management skills during the school
Working around homework policies that haven't caught up with the changes you're trying to make
Establishing positive relationships with students, so they are more inclined to want to do the learning you're requesting they do
Modeling instructional strategies for parents so they can understand what their kids are learning and can help in a more meaningful way that also suits their lifestyles
Customizing homework assignments and timelines to suit the needs of every child
Supporting innovation and creativity by allowing students to play after school and making that play intentional
Sequencing learning to make connections generates interest in learning before specific ideas are explicitly taught.
Meeting students where they are by harnessing social media for learning
Providing opportunities for student choice and voice in the products and content they decide is worth their time after school
Empowering students to track their improvement and display progress rather than grading nightly homework to be used in a punitive way
What we realized while we were writing this is much like grading, folks have a lot of deeply held beliefs attached to homework that has to do with teaching responsibility and holding kids accountable as well as making sure students get the practice they need to develop their skills. We agree that these are essential skills and ideas that need to be an honored part of the learning process; we just think they should be addressed more deliberately during the school day instead of at home.
There are so many responsibilities students have once they leave school that we often don't give any room for their interests and/or family time. We can respect those boundaries and value their home time by adjusting some practices we have during the day and what we expect once they leave to keep the learning going.
Since we are both parents and educators, we know the toll that hours of homework can take on a family and each child. Every person needs something different, and worksheets just don't take student needs into account. Sure, they're easy to assign and maybe even easy to grade, but they aren't effective in how they teach or offer practice. So we're hoping our suggestions help everyone involved.
What's the biggest challenge you face when considering changes in homework practices? Are you open to trying something different? Please share
This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in August 2016