Friday, January 30, 2009

Philosophy of Homework

The other day I saw the following on twitter.

Having had the same thought on occasion as a teacher I responded with:

Being in a playful mood I included this at almost the exact same time Rob replied.

At least I hit enter before the 12 second Tweetdeck refresh rate showed the following comment from Rob. (I probably would have responded in similar fashion, judging from this earlier blog post):

I returned this logical thought:

Which was obviously familiar:

Now I do have some definite thoughts on homework. I know there are some who think homework is, if not useless than at the least it's importance is overblown. Such as this report by Dr. Marzano and this book The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Etta Kralovac and The Case Against Homework by Bennet and Kalish.

I am in total agreement that homework given out as busy work is a waste of time. However, homework that promotes learning should be given out, not only as a supplement to classwork, but as a supplement to further education in general.

My favorite use of homework, and I can't find the article now (I'm pretty sure I even blogged about it before), was a couple of teachers who videoed their lectures and had the students watch them for homework. Then the next day in class everyone would work on what would normally be given out as homework. Allowing students to do the boring part at home and do the hard part at school, where the teachers were available for questions.

I also remember reading somewhere that the students who are most successful in school aren't the high ability students but rather the high achieving students. Meaning those who have good habit such as getting homework done well and on time tend to do better in school. And not just because homework is part of the grade. (I really have to remember where I learn these “Pearls of Wisdom” so I can cite them as real references.)

It's funny how serendipity works.

Here I was taking a break from this writing for a while when I read about the 9 goals of education for students in Saskatchewan. by Dean Shareski

  1. Basic Skills

  2. Life-Long Learning

  3. Understanding and Relating to Others

  4. Career and Consumer Decisions

  5. Growing with Change

  6. Membership in Society

  7. Self-Concept Development

  8. Positive Lifestyle

  9. Spiritual Development

As Dean mentions in his article we spend too much time working on goal one and not nearly enough time with the rest. It's goals 2 through 9 for the most part that high achieving students use to be successful in school.

Back to the point.

If high achieving students are more likely to achieve success, shouldn't we as educators at least stress the importance of these successful habits? Shouldn't we make these standards and make them as important for students to achieve, rather than letting some teachers use them and some not as they see fit? Shouldn't teachers give out homework not just as supplement for classroom learning but also as a step towards learning skills that will help them become successful?


1 comment:

Rob Wall said...

Well stated, Brendan. I wouldn't count myself in the anti-homework camp. And I do believe that homework promotes some habits and attitudes that will lead to a better life later on.

I also believe that sometimes, rules are made to be broken. The original tweet I was responding to was from D'Arcy Norman who was writing about his son having homework to do before school, but not wanting to disturb him because he was creating books on his own. Exercising and one's creative skills is a worthy pursuit and I'm sure it would fit in Dean's list somewhere.

So where do I stand on this? What would I have done? As a parent, I like to think that I would point out to my child that I could see they were working very hard to make something but that there was also homework to do, and that there would probably be some consequences if the homework wasn't done. Depending on the age of the child, I might give them the choice about what to do. With younger children, I would have forced them to do the homework first and then the book making. I'm not sure how old the child would need to be before I'd leave the choice up to them.

This would only apply, by the way, if the child was doing something that had some educational (in the larger sense) value, not if they were flopped on the couch watching TV.