Homework Is Hard

I found this tweet really thought-provoking. Homework is a hard problem to figure out! There are no easy solutions. But I did have a few specific reactions to this:

First, if I have an idea for something that takes 5 minutes and guarantees that students will be successful the next day, I will do it in class. I don’t ever want to give homework that is critical to students’ success in my class. I think that’s a good mantra for teaching in general: if it’s important, do it in class.

Second, something I learned from Michael Pershan’s review of the research on homework is that many families want homework similar to what Zach describes in his tweet. Something that is short, consistent, and helps them understand what’s happening in school. It helps families feel like they understand their kids’ school experience without causing undue stress.

Third, the crux of the challenge for me is time. In math, there does not exist an assignment that takes 5 minutes for everyone unless I simply say “spend 5 minutes on X,” which has its own challenges. There are some assignments that will take one student 5 minutes and another student 45. I teach 7th grade, and I am very confident that giving 45 minutes of homework for a single subject at that age is unproductive. Most families don’t want tons and tons of homework. Michael’s research review validates this: there is not a strong association between the amount of homework given and the learning benefits. Giving homework consistently, however, is associated with learning benefits.

So there’s the pickle. I want to do important things in class, so homework can’t be critical to student success. Families want homework to understand what’s happening in school. But I need to keep the time constrained so it doesn’t take forever for some students. I don’t know the best answer.

4 thoughts on “Homework Is Hard

  1. Xavier Bordoy

    We need to ditch homework. We have to plan our classes without homework.
    In my opinion the only objective reason teachers give homework is the lack of time for seeing all the topics with moderate pace.

    If we have more time, surely homework would have no sense.

    In the countrary: would you want your boss give you homework? Your job ends when you go home. Period. If you don’t want to have homework, expect the same for students.

    Perhaps I’m a bit radical here.

    1. dkane47 Post author

      I’ve been a no-homework (or very minimal homework, there are occasionally exceptions) for a while now. I would appreciate if schools explicitly took on your philosophy. But the challenge remains that some families want homework. I wonder if a good answer is more communication from teachers — a teacher down the hall from me sends home a monthly newsletter which could help families to understand what’s happening in school.

  2. Xavier Bordoy

    Yes, Dylan. We need more communication, between teachers and families, teachers and teachers and teachers and principals. And overall teachers and students.


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