As a middle-school teacher, the issue of assigning homework was something I always grappled with. I often wondered: When assigning homework, were my students really making the connections they were meant to be? Was the homework only helping the stronger students? Was the homework meaningful to the student’s learning? Was it at the appropriate level for them to complete independently? Was it fair to assign homework when I knew many of my students had other familial responsibilities? Would my class not be considered rigorous if I didn’t assign homework?
Alberta high school math teacher, David Martin, has grappling with some of the same issues. He feels homework seems to “buoy the strong and discourage the weak.” So, he has recently stopped assigning homework altogether.
An excerpt from the article presents common arguments for each side of the debate:
The news reinvigorated a debate about the value of homework — a conversation that has bubbled up and receded over the past five to seven years, gaining converts along the way. Even still, the issue remains divisive, with some parents campaigning hard for a homework-free experience that would give them their life back — and others worried about their children falling behind or failing to learn the discipline and time management required in high school and beyond. As one Collège de Saint-Ambroise parent said, “I’ll see how the year goes, but I’m very afraid. Homework is a way for us parents to evaluate whether things are going well, and to guide us in helping and supporting them.”
What are your thoughts on assigning homework?
Link to the full article:
I (Clare) was in my department yesterday and ran into a number of colleagues. Most were bemoaning their heavy marking load. This is the end of the semester and most seemed snowed under with the grading papers. A few weeks ago I observed a number of student teachers submitting their assignments. They too looked tired and were complaining about their assignments and workload. Yes assignments are work. Yes as instructors we need to grade student work. But there is something wrong with this picture. Many of the student teachers do not find their assignments useful (as a few commented – “they are just make- work projects”) and faculty spend huge amounts of time marking projects their student teachers found wanting. We definitely need to have assignments but I think it is time to discuss what are useful assignments for student teachers. The corollary issue is how can marking assignment be useful for faculty?
A number of years ago when I was Director of the Elementary Preservice program at OISE we created a survey about assignments which we distributed to around 600 student teachers. The results were surprising: they did not like having to self-assess, they disliked group projects, and they would rather have fewer, more in-depth assignments, than many little ones. (Most criticized were submitting long lesson plans with reflections. Many admitted they simply made up the reflections.) What was not surprising is they valued assignments where they had choice in both the topic and the format. If we (faculty and student teachers) are going to spend significant time on assignments then let’s use our time more fruitfully and productively. We cannot do away with assignments but I think we can reconceptualize them to be more useful for everyone involved.
We are well into phase two of the study on literacy teacher educators in four countries having interviewed 27 of our 28 participants. In this phase we have been looking at goals for their preservice literacy courses, teaching style, and pedagogies. One of the most interesting series of questions has to do with assignments. I have found that asking professors about their assignments tells a great deal about their goals. We have classified assignments into a few categories: digital-related assignment (e.g., digital essay), literacy autobiography, reading logs, lesson plans, curriculum units, portfolios, case study of a child, and assessment-related. There has been remarkable consistency in the types of assignments. Interestingly, almost all feel that the workload is demanding. A question we as a research team and as experienced literacy instructors are asking ourselves, Is the workload too heavy? Clare