It was about this time last year when I gave my opinion about homework. To summarize briefly, I think that many homework assignments are a waste of time for the student, teacher, and parents. I feel that it’s okay for me to criticize homework because I’ve seen it from all three sides. I used to feel righteous as a teacher when I assigned homework to my 5th graders, but I now realize that a little self-reflection would have shown me that it did not in any way improve the learning success of my students. If anything, it created more friction in my classroom as I became increasingly frustrated with students who repeatedly didn’t complete it – and my students became increasingly frustrated with my inexplicable need for them to live up to my controlling expectations. As this article states, homework in elementary school has been shown to have no positive impact, but can very well contribute to negative attitudes toward school.
Many top educators, such as Alice Keeler (co-author of Ditch That Homework, along with Matt Miller), and Pernille Ripp, advocate for eliminating homework. I have been seeing more and more articles like this one from the Huffington Post about teachers, and even entire school districts, who have determined that they will no longer assign homework. It’s becoming apparent that the appeal of homework is shrinking, particularly for those who want to reform education in a way that is more student-centered and relevant.
I don’t like extremes, so I imagine that if we eliminate homework altogether the pendulum will eventually swing in the other direction. My feeling is that, if you are going to give homework, please make it meaningful. Consider the different abilities of your students, the different ways they spend their time after school, and the different levels of support they receive at home.
I know many of the reasons that I used to give for the “necessity” of homework, so I made an infographic to help those of you who find it difficult to let go. As you think about what is best for your students this school year, I hope that you will consider spending more time on finding ways to connect with your students and advance their learning than on chasing after incomplete work.