Friday, December 11, 2015

Let's Fix Homework

In a recent post, I shared some of the research that has been done about homework and it's effectiveness (or lack thereof) for helping elementary, middle school, and high school students learn. This has led to a lot of conversations with fellow educators, both face-to-face, and via online connections. It's clear to me that this is something teachers feel pretty strongly about...and to be fair, I have some strong opinions on this topic as well.

I think we can do better than what we've "always done" with homework. I don't think that much of the homework assigned in schools today is doing what we think it is doing. And, if I'm going to say it baldly, I think some teachers are being downright lazy in the work they assign to their students.

If we're serious about helping students learn, let's make sure that the work we assign is really going to help students learn. And that goes for in-class work, certainly, but for out-of-class work too.

Teacher, how confident are you that the assignment you are giving your students is really going to help them learn? I mean, really help them learn, and not just be "something for them to do" or "something that I can grade and put in the grade book."

My friend, Alice Keeler, recently tweeted about something that got me thinking. She is a fantastic teacher, and is thoughtful about her teaching practice. In a series of tweets, she pointed out that throughout her professional training as an educator--both in undergraduate teacher education courses as well as her Masters degree--she was never instructed in how to create "good" homework. And as I reflected on this, I realized that the same is true for me. We mentioned homework in passing in several courses, but we never really talked about how to really create homework that was well-designed to help students learn. And now that I'm a teacher educator...I'm thinking that I'm probably doing a disservice to my students--future teachers--and even to the students and families they will eventually serve; we better talk about homework now!

This makes me wonder about how many of the hundreds of thousands of professional educators in the world today have ever really thought deeply about the quality of the homework they assign. Are we really assigning homework because we are sure it will help students learn? Or are we assigning it because we feel like we "ought to" or out of some vague sense of, "Well, I'm sure homework helped me I probably should assign some to my students too...?"

We can do better than that, teachers. Let's fix homework.

Image by Corey Seeman [CC BY-NS-SA 2.0]


  1. If it doesn't serve an intrinsic purpose to the learner, don't assign it. Homework should be self-chosen extended learning opportunities.
    Thank you for posing these good questions and providing this learning forum.

    1. Thanks for reading, and taking the time to comment, Robert! Glad this resonated with you. I hope this will become an ongoing conversation...we can fix homework...and I believe we *must* become more mindful about the work we assign our students.