November 7, 2010 by readlisaread
I have raged at the battle of Homework many times in my career. Over the 15 or so years I’ve been at this game, I’ve fought with parents, students, administrators, peers….really, anyone who wanted a piece of the action. I’ve even fought with myself about it. Finally (and, if you are a teacher, you know what all the facets to the argument are) I’ve come to the stage of believing that assigning homework is useless (for everyone); suggesting homework is occasionally “heard”, but seldom followed through; refusing to acknowledge that such a thing as homework exists is unrealistic.
So, the last few years when I’ve had an academic class (usually Math or Social Studies) I’ve sent unfinished work home for homework, but in the main ignored whether it was returned–the idea being that the students aren’t any more or less likely to do homework if I offer rewards or punishments.
I had a refreshing experience the other day. I had created a kind of random and loose in-class activity. Students in my Social Studies 9 class were given an 11X17 sheet of paper with instructions on one side and a roughly organized concept map-starter on the other. They were to find the names of prominent figures of the Age of Enlightenment (of believe me, it’s just as gripping as it sounds) from 3 sources: their peers’ assignments (hanging in the hall), the computer (Wikipedia here we come) and the textbook for the course (2 months into the course, this was actually the first time we had used it). My plan was that they would complete this “quiz” in the class. About 45 minutes in, I told them they needed to start wrapping it up, class would be over shortly. With the exception of 2 students who handed me their (pretty well completed) pages, 30 students BEGGED to be allowed to take the work home. How could I argue? Alright, I said, you may…..but you will be graded on the amount you did in the time you had, so, if you are taking it home, don’t assume that you will get a higher mark than someone who finished theirs in class.
Not a word of complaint, and all 28 of them took their work home, and all but 4 returned it the next day. 24 out of 28? I don’t think I got those kind of returns on “mandatory” homework, back in the day.
I wrote in my last post about engagement and the Bright-Shiny. I don’t think I would have had them begging to take their work home if the assignment had been “read chapter 3 and answer questions 1 to 7”.
Engagement…..yes, I see.
See this post by another blogger on the topic. You might recognize my comment, an expanded version of this post….