The Homework Controversy

Yesterday I posted about grading homework.  Now, I'm going to take a post to discuss my complicated feelings towards homework.

Let me start by saying that I certainly don't want to upset anyone that has chosen to read my blog and I've learned that, for some teachers, homework brings up some personal and deep rooted feelings.  These feelings are kind of surprising to me.  It seems I can chat about most topics with fellow teachers with more ease: discipline, curriculum, salaries, and even Common Core!  But when I broach the "H" word, things get tense.  I tend to tread lightly when bringing up this topic with colleagues or when presenting professional development.

Especially in math education, there has traditionally been a culture of "practice problems" every night.  Math Homework.  Every. Single. Night.

Before I became a teacher, I attended graduate school and had a teacher that introduced me to The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn.  It definitely shaped my feelings towards giving homework, and to be honest, if it were't for some peer pressure and pressure from parents, I probably would have skipped giving homework all these years.  But, I wasn't confident enough in that stance to really explain my feelings besides just saying that I read a pretty influential book.  So, I gave homework, but not every night.  I usually give homework about 2-3 times a week.  I finally settled on a pretty good system that I described yesterday and since I do Standards Based Grading, I don't have to worry about homework impacting a grade in my class.  So it feels better… but still not great.

I came across this article and it brought up my uneasy feelings towards homework again.

First the article says this:

" Let’s start by reviewing what we know from earlier investigations.[1]  First, no research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school.  In fact, there isn’t even a positive correlation between, on the one hand, having younger children do some homework (vs. none), or more (vs. less), and, on the other hand, any measure of achievement.  If we’re making 12-year-olds, much less five-year-olds, do homework, it’s either because we’re misinformed about what the evidence says or because we think kids ought to have to do homeworkdespite what the evidence says."

Then it goes on to say this:
Even if homework were a complete waste of time, how could it not be positively related to course grades?  And yet it wasn’t.  Again.  Even in high school.  Even in math.
Oh my gosh… why am I giving homework?  I'm still struggling with this one.  I would like to be able to assign students something to do once in a while if I need to, but not feel pressure to give "practice problems."  However, I don't think I'm there just yet.  But why?  Maybe I'm nervous my class will be perceived as less rigorous by other teachers, parents, and even the students?  

See, I told you my feelings on this topic were complicated!  I would love to hear your thoughts!


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