Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Homework...One of the things that makes you go hmmmmmmm

Homework has always been a part of the instructional program of schools. The argument for and against homework has been widely debated, researched, and published. Is homework necessary to apply or practice what has been taught, or to prepare for what is expected to ensue during your next class meeting? How much is enough? Should it be required? Should we grade homework? Should we differentiate it?

Most parents and students will agree that homework is plentiful and time consuming. Many will also agree that there is inconsistencies among educators regarding how it is used, assessed, and applied to the instructional program. While variation may be a result of the curriculum of the course, it may be this variation that impacts the perceived value. The conversation of homework among educators varies and evolves. The most common justification for homework typically involves the need to check for understanding, provide opportunities to apply what has been learned, and compensate for limited instructional time in the classroom compared to the curriculum pacing requirements. On the surface these are valid and honest. One would assume that this rationale would result in a perceived value regarding the necessity of homework as we know it. However, it may not..

A hot topic in the evolution of homework is the "flipped classroom". This idea flips the process by having students review content through reading or viewing video segments for homework. In class the students apply what was learned through application under the oversight of their teacher and collaboration with their peers. This process allows a level of individualization and collaboration. It creates a paradigm shift in the classroom by having the teacher facilitate the application of skills, strategies, and content with less of a focus on whole class, direct instruction.

The conversation regarding homework has also focused on its role in measuring student achievement. In the era of high stakes testing and the mathematical measurement of achievement through standardized testing we have found ourselves creating a culture of students who focus on achievement through grades at the expense of deeper understanding. The dialogue regarding grading of homework varies. Educators approach this in varying ways by grading homework for completion, accuracy, or both. Others have aborted the need to grade homework and have made it optional for students. The reflective feedback among educators and researchers has raised the question of its relevancy as a measurement of student learning vs. student effort. Should effort be a percentage of student grades in which the grade represents student achievement?

There are bodies of research that insists learning requires the opportunity to take chances and make mistakes. Learning is ignited through reflection, receiving feedback, and making corrections. Should homework provide students the opportunity to make mistakes without a punitive consequence? Would that opportunity increase the perceived value with students? Would teachers observe similar or greater growth by increasing feedback and decreasing grading? Can we maintain the effectiveness of homework with a decrease in extrinsic motivators and would this approach increase intrinsic motivation? This topic requires further discussion and reflection. I invite your thoughts in the comments.