#EduRead: The Case For and Against Homework

I stumbled upon the blog “Read…Chat…Reflect…Learn…” and the #eduread article from June 18 “The Case For and Against Homework” by Robert Marzano and Debra J. Pickering. I read the article, the discussion tweets, and few other blog posts, which gave me a lot of rich material to consider! I’ve been thinking about the how’s and why’s of homework for years, and for the first time I’ve been able to dedicate some uninterrupted time and thought to it, and I think I’ve reached a few conclusions. (This will probably translate into a series of homework blog posts – one and two.)

Before I add in my two-cents, below are a few quotes that stuck with me from the article:

  • Homework has decades of research supporting its effective use.
  • Cooper and colleagues’ (2006) comparison of homework with no homework indicates that the average student in a class in which appropriate homework was assigned would score 23 percentile points higher on tests of the knowledge addressed in that class than the average student in a class in which homework was not assigned.
  • Perhaps the most important advantage of homework is that it can enhance achievement by extending learning beyond the school day…. The study found that “students abroad are required to work on demanding subject matter at least twice as long” as are U.S. students (National Education Commission on Time and Learning, 1994, p. 25).
  •  Certainly, inappropriate homework may produce little or no benefit—it may even decrease student achievement.

Although I’ve never toyed with the idea of not assigning homework, the research presented in this article made me even more convinced of its weight. It’s so important to keep our students thinking after the school day ends, both for the good of the individual (building their mental muscles) and the community. Yet to ensure our students are actually thinking after school, we need to be deliberate in choosing appropriate and effective homework assignments.

Research Based Homework Guidelines -Marzano & Pickering

I found two lists to help teachers in this process in a number of different articles and blogs. The first list is from a section of the “Research Based Homework Guidelines” by Marzano & Pickering. The other is from the book Fires in the Mind, “Four R’s of Deliberate Homework” by Cushman. Each contains four key components, the first three from both lists overlapped, but the fourth components differed. I grouped the first three pairs together below to preserve the wording in case one speaks to you more than the other. Then I listed the fourth components separately. Note – I identified Marzano & Pickering’s list with a “+” and blue text. Cushman’s list is identified by a “*” and red text.

1) Introducing new content + Readying themselves for new learning *
I played with this a little over the last few years by ‘flipping’ the classroom and assigning online videos and activities for a week here and there. I fell back into old habits and didn’t stick with this even though it worked pretty well. I found that some students that previously did not do any homework loved this and completed it every day. It was also good for my English Language Learners because they could re-watch a video if they had difficulty with the language. I’m sure there are means other than online videos, but I can’t think of any right now. Ideas?

2) Practicing a skill or process that students can do independently but not fluently + Repetition and application of knowledge and skills *
This has been my go-to method although I didn’t apply an essential piece: they need to be able to do the work independently. Some could, some couldn’t. I’m sold on committing to ensuring that they are ready to practice independently before I send these assignments home. This will definitely be a big adjustment for me, but so very important!

3) Elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students’ knowledge + Reviewing material learned earlier *

This brings to mind one type of problem that I give regularly (and seemed to make a big difference). I ask students to identify the error is a worked example, then explain how to complete the problem correctly. Any other ideas?

4a) Providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest +
Now this is not something I’ve ever done. I’m wondering if I could find a way to implement this component as a long-term homework assignment. Has anyone tried this?

4b) Revising their work *
I’m not in total agreement with this for math homework. At least in regards to quizzes and tests, I’ve found that when a student has a mistake that student needs teacher-support to ensure accurate revisions of this work. I suppose if the student received enough support and/or feedback in class to address their mistakes, then homework revisions could be a possibility.

Homework-Alternatives*from Fires in the Mind by Cushman

 

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