Homework has consistently been a subject of discussion lately. Does it add value? Does it have a purpose? Why should it be given? Why shouldn’t it be given? Let me explain to you how I feel about homework.
Homework does have a benefit if, and only if, there is a practical and reasonable reason for it to be given. Giving homework just to get a grade in the grade book does not benefit the student. Giving homework to have a student see how a learned concept is applied to real life situations does benefit the student. Homework needs to be first and foremost in the best interest of the student.
I have been anti-“homework for the sake of giving homework” for nearly my entire teaching career, which is about 9 years now. I recall a meeting with a principal where I stated directly that I am not a fan of homework and she nearly lost her mind. I then explained that homework should not simply be given because a teacher needs to give out homework. I explained to her that I see students reinforce the wrong process or technique multiple times in an assignment and a teacher is forced to reteach the material, a student gets a poor grade, the student gets frustrated with school, and then a student loses interest in the material. The principal did not care to hear that or listen to my beliefs.
Now, 9 years later, I am sitting here writing my beliefs on homework to an audience that will listen and may or may not agree with me. I can say that my beliefs are what I feel is for the best of my students. My students come from a background where they are involved in many outside of school activities, and each one of these activities is important to their social, physical, and mental growth. I would never suggest to my students to stop any extra activity if they are still maintaining positive academic growth. Students need these activities to help develop their entire being, and I am a big supporter of these. These are the activities where I want students to apply what they learn in class. I want students to start thinking about how their dance moves connect to science. I want students to see how music connects to math. I want students to build upon their interest in sports to discover the history of that sport. This is the homework I want to see in schools.
The best way to reduce homework in schools is by having a solid relationship with your students. Taking an interest in the activities of your students can help you build “homework” that relates to those activities. Have students design a math problem or explain a science concept that connects that activity to your class. If you’re discussing fractions or ratios in math, have the student describe how they used ratios/fractions while helping to prepare dinner. Also, explain energy transfers in the cooking process. Have students research some aspect of a household chore. Make the learning relevant to their lives. Give students homework that means something to them.
I am not anti-homework…I’m anti-busy work. I want students to find value in their out of school assignments. I want students to see how their learning extends from the classroom into their out of school lives. We need to make homework feel less like a burden and more of an opportunity to grow. Growth work…not homework.
One situation that will stand out to me regarding homework is when I was at a school and there was a student that didn’t do his homework for many classes, but when I assigned homework, he always had it done. I asked him why does he do the homework for my class and not the other classes. His response was “You don’t assign homework that often so I knew it was important.” That right there made me think…homework can be seen as important if the teacher treats it as important. The student knew that I saw the importance of that assignment and that it needed to be done. He didn’t recognize other assignments as important because it just had to be done for a grade. He lost interest in the class and work because he didn’t see value in it. We can lose students if we assign work that is not important to the class.
Homework does have value. Homework does have a place in education. Homework needs to be given with a reason and purpose. I believe that the way we as educators look at homework needs to be evaluated. If we give homework as a way to assess what we have taught, perhaps we need to improve how we assess. If we give homework to extend the learning in the classroom and have students apply what they have learned, we are turning towards the right direction of purpose and function of homework.