Homework is only a tool. It’s how we use (or misuse) homework that makes the difference. The three questions below can be helpful guides to determine if your homework is a force for good or evil:
- AUTHENTIC: Would a student be required to do this task on personal time in real life?
All homework assignments should be authentic, or related to the requirements of real life. Some professions, such as general dentistry, don’t require any “take-home” work. However, orthodontists, architects, and editors have quite a bit of “take-home” work. Consider the professions related to the task you’re assigning. Would this task be done on personal time? If so, go ahead and assign it. If not, think twice. Be sure to communicate these connections to students; it will help them make more informed choices about their careers!
- DELIBERATE: Does this task encourage students to engage in deliberate practice?
Deliberate practice requires you to design tasks that require specific and sustained efforts on individual areas of weakness. Have you identified a particular student’s weakness and targeted it through the assignment of the task? If so, go ahead and assign it. If your homework is monolithic and one-size-fits-all, then think twice.
- ENGAGING: Would YOU be excited to complete this task?
Completing 50 rote math problems that look exactly the same doesn’t exactly inspire passion. Defining an arbitrary list of words doesn’t correlate with a love of reading and writing. Put simply, would you have the forbearance to complete the task you’ve just assigned? If not, don’t expect your students to be enthralled either! (Check out Nick Provenzano’s attempt to complete all the homework he assigned to students HERE.)
If your homework is authentic, deliberate, and engaging, then it’s likely a worthy tool within the educational program you’ve designed for students. Extending learning in safe, meaningful ways can help students accelerate their progress.
However, if you’re homework is arbitrary, a source of “grades,” or a way to penalize children, just skip it.
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