Have you ever watched someone do something over and over again that made you angry? Maybe you whispered something to your friends about it but didn’t address it publicly. That has been going on in my head for months. I have watched Alice Keeler make the blanket statement that homework should not be given again and again. There is no gray in her statements. The first thing you see on her blog about homework is an image saying stop giving homework. You can check her view about homework here on her blog.
I have thought for a long time about why her statements bother me. I have come to the conclusion that she is considered an expert in the education community and her words carry weight with educators. She has over 60,000 followers who retweet her words reaching more educators than follow her. To be completely honest I respect Alice’s Google ability. Her knowledge of computer shortcuts and spreadsheets is second to none. I retweet her tips and shortcuts soaking up the knowledge she shares. However, if I let her declarations about homework being the devil go by without responding to them publicly that is tantamount to agreeing with her in my eyes.
In my teaching, I rarely give out homework. It doesn’t matter to me whether you believe in homework or not. If you want to read an article that shows the research on the pros and cons read this article by Marzano and Pickering published on the ASCD website. It gives an impartial view on homework backed with a boatload of research. The point to my blog and my recent interactions on social media is that you have a responsibility to be a critical consumer of information no matter who it comes from. If that information is detrimental to the profession you have a duty to speak up.
It is very rare in education that we can make black and white statements ignoring the gray. Justin Johnston stated this clearly in his tweet (image on the left) during one of my interactions with him and Alice. We know that traditional homework is boring and unnecessary. We know that homework should be something engaging. It can be something from simply reading to documenting the main idea of the television show you watched that night. Homework can be repurposed in millions of ways. It can be reworded as flipped, practicing at home, learning at home or any other phrase you want to switch it to. The bottom line is that if teachers want students to do things at home this is not always a bad thing. It is irresponsible to be a “thought leader” who is accepted to present at the top education conferences and make absolute statements such as “stop giving homework”.
If I was an administrator I would absolutely defend the practice of my teachers giving homework to their students. I would make sure the homework was not graded (or graded so low that the score would not affect the student) because we are assessing the standards not assessing responsibility. If the student can master the standards without doing homework than by all means stop doing the homework. On the same side of that coin is the belief that if a student is struggling and not taking the time to put in the extra work to master the standard that is a problem.
I do understand the equity issue of homework. This is a problem. Some students work, don’t have the internet, or live in a house where getting quiet time to complete assignments is next to impossible. For those students, we have to offer them time during study halls, before class, after school, or during class to accomplish any outside the room tasks.
Homework needs to be relevant, purposeful, engaging, and something that can be done without the help of an adult. It is our job as teachers to teach the students. Not parents, caregivers, babysitters or grandparents. We need all the support we can get from them but they should not shoulder the burden of teaching the concepts to the students at home. That is our jobs.
This marks the end of my journey debating online the merits of homework. When I see tweets debating the subject I will post this blog. Hopefully, it will show people that blanket policies and statements are never the way to go. As always come join me on #slowchatpe on Voxer to discuss the questions of the week
Q1: How much homework do you give out? #slowchatpe
Q2: Have you researched the pros and cons of homework? If yes what have you found? #slowchatpe
Q3: How has your research dictated whether you believe that teachers should have the ability to assign homework? #slowchatpe
Q4: What is your school’s stance on homework? #slowchatpe
Q5: Are students punished for not doing homework in your school? #slowchatpe