Magazine article AMLE Magazine

In Every Issue: PERSPECTIVES

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

In Every Issue: PERSPECTIVES

Article excerpt

QUESTION

To assign homework or not to assign homework? To grade homework or not to grade homework? Educators, parents, students-they all have an opinion. So, what is the value of homework and should it be graded?

CATHY VATTEROTT

PROFESSOR ST. LOUIS, MO

Giving Feedback

When you ask teachers about the value of homework, they often say it teaches responsibility-to complete the task you've been given and return it on time. That may encourage obedience and responsibility for working, but the more important purpose is to encourage students to take responsibility for learning. When properly designed, homework encourages students to self-evaluate and reflect on their learning. "What do I know and how well do I know it? What am I confused about?"

For the teacher, whether homework is for practice, to check for understanding, or for application, homework is feedback about learning. Homework allows teachers to assess student understanding, diagnose problems, and prescribe remedies. Homework creates a private conversation between the student and the teacher. But students will only have that conversation if there is no shame or penalty for not understanding. "I didn't do it-it was a stupid assignment" often means "I couldn't do it-it made me feel stupid." Struggling students would gladly take the zero. Then the question becomes: "Why grade homework?"

The most common reply is "If I don't grade it, they won't do it." But teachers can wean students off their addiction to points. The other common reply is "Homework grades help poor test takers." But a passing grade is no gift to a student who goes on to advanced classes without mastering prerequisite skills. A better solution is to rethink the test and create alternatives.

The current consensus is that homework is formative assessment that informs the summative assessments. Does it "count"? Yes, because it helps you pass the assessment. Should homework be graded? No. Should homework receive feedback? Absolutely!

Teachers who don't grade homework still monitor completion of assignments and communicate with parents about missing work. They just don't count it as part of the student's grade.

Coaches don't keep score during practice, but they do give lots of individualized feedback and they do require their athletes to practice.

CATHY VATTEROTT is professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

vatterott@umsl.edu

www.homeworklady.com

LEE JENKINS

EDUCATION CONSULTANT, FORMER EDUCATOR SCOTTSDALE, AZ

Removing Pressure

First, the premises:

* Homework is a method; it is not a subject.

* No method works on 100% of the students.

* Homework is good for some students, but not all.

* The issue is not whether you complete your homework, but whether you learn the content.

* Homework refers to daily assignments, not to long-term projects.

Next, the problems:

* Teachers say that most homework in secondary schools is copied.

* Teachers often do not have adequate time to prepare lesson plans because they are grading homework.

* Almost all classrooms have students who score an "A" on exams and are given a lower grade because they did not use the preferred method (homework) to learn the content.

Now the possibility:

* Assign homework.

* Do not collect it.

* Give a 2-5 item homework quiz, selecting some of the problems verbatim from the homework. Roll dice to see which questions to use. …

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