Is it Homework or Busy Work?

homework stress

It’s The Age Old Debate

Depending on which camp you belong to, you are either starting to get fired up about students needing practice at home, OR you are thinking “down with homework!”

To be honest, I see the merit of both arguments and there is a lot of research out there that supports practice and also says additional work doesn’t improve student outcomes. I could reference and review all of this research but you probably don’t want to read it and I’d really like to get to my primary point here. The real debate shouldn’t be”practice v. no homework.” It should be about what KIND of work you are assigning.

Is What You’re Assigning Worthwhile for YOU and YourLearners?

Instead of taking a firm stance on either side of this argument, I’m gong to propose a new one. I don’t think the argument should be “homework v. no homework.” I think it should be “meaningful v. busy work”. I cringe when I hear about homework quotas or required amounts of assigned work that is to be done at home for students.

Your studentsare the victims of these mandates.

Is the homework you are assigning worth it? Most of the time weend up creating assignments out of thin air, with very little thought or planning in terms of continued growth or mastery from the classroom. When homework is mandated, the purpose of this work is diminished.

Homework (or as as a mentor of mine oncecalled it, “Continued Learning Opportunities”) should either extend knowledge from the classroom in short amounts (seriously like 15 – 20 minutes tops) OR it should help students complete unfinished work they did not get toduring the allotted time.

Yes…this meanssome students won’thave homework if they finished their class work. But why should they? Just because you want something else to grade?? It doesn’t make any sense. If they accomplished what you feel the needed to accomplish, they’re good. The question is, did you assign what was needed to get them where they need to be?

Questions to Ask When Assigning Homework:

Is it worth the student’s time? –If the homework is meaningless repetition and does not extend learning or help the student complete learning they started in class, its probably not worth their time.

Is it worth your time? –I know some of you are saying, “I just do homework for participation.” But if no corrective feedback or meaning is given to the actual work being done, is it worth your time to assess and grade the work?

Is it busy work or meaningful work? -If the homework you are assigning was manufactured to exist “just because it is supposed to,” save yourself and your students the time and pitch it. If the assigned work doesn’t have meaning or thoughtful purpose, quit wasting your learner’s time, and quit wasting yours!

In My Classroom

For my students, homework is only assigned to them if they fail to complete an assignment during normal class time. Even then they are given the opportunity to complete it the next day. It is only when they are not able to complete it during class time during a given week that it becomes homework.

This creates a culture and environment where studentsend up assigningthemselveshomework andowningtheir decision to not utilize their classroom time properly. This increases ownership and makes the learning more meaningful. The learning opportunities provided to my students are laidout and put into amastery based systemso that their entire learning journey is mappedout and clear to them. This journey does not require busy work, or “extra” practice, because that is built into the system.

Next Time You Want to “Make” Homework for Your Students

Please think about what you are actually assigning them. Think about the meaning and the purpose behind it. And most importantly, ask yourself, “is this helping my studentslearn more, or just keeping them busy?”

I’m going to be frank with you here; the answer of, “because i’m supposed to assign homework” is complete BS and should NEVER be acceptable,regardless of mandates that may exist.

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