The concept of homework as we have known it in the past is changing rapidly, since it often distorts the overall picture of learning. Flipped classrooms, the ability to use the same technology and tools both in and out of the classroom, and personalized learning are making ripples in the education world. And while most of us think about these things and how they apply to the classroom and what we do there, we don’t always talk about how that changes what we have our students doing at home (aside from perhaps discussions on flipped classrooms).
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your students and homework:
Keeping those things in mind, I always think back to when I was teaching university students in 1st and 2nd semester French courses. This was my very first year of teaching and the syllabus was delineated by the department head, not by me. Homework comprised a whopping 40% of each student’s semester grade, making it very easy for a student who failed every assessment and completely did not understand the material to pass the course if they completed their homework and attended class regularly. The homework for each class was almost always some workbook pages that followed up the textbook pages we had covered in class that day. The answers to all of the questions were in the back of the workbook. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to whether or not those assignments actually helped my students learn any French.
There are a number of books out there that address the idea of rethinking homework. One takeaway from many of these is that students are all different, and giving your students one-size-fits-all homework will ensure that you’re giving something that won’t work for everyone. Personalized learning addresses this idea in the classroom – but what about at home?
Having a selection of options for homework may mean a little more work at the outset for the teacher, but once you’ve figured out multiple ways to supplement your class time learning, it shouldn’t be too much of a drawback. Either assigning students different types of work or offering a selection and letting them choose are two options.
Assigning different types of homework to different students can sound like an absolute nightmare for collecting/sorting/assessing. And if you approached each assignment option as you would for an assignment you gave a whole class, it would be. Obviously, many different types of homework would only work for assignments that aren’t geared towards a specific skill (like a writing assignment, where clearly writing – with certain elements – is necessary), but are aimed at seeing if your students understood/can remember and apply a specific concept or information. When you’re creating homework options for this type of scenario, working with material that you can look at and say ” Does this work show the student understands the material/concept” in a pretty general way will be much easier than something where you’d have to grade many individual questions. Think of it as creating the work to fit a more general rubric.
There’s much discussion out there about the idea that some students just don’t need homework – and while I’m sure that there are some out there that might not, I’d vote in favor of some type of homework for everyone, rather than a homework optional scenario. This can address all sorts of logistical issues, especially how to/if to include completed homework as a portion of a final grade.
When you’re creating homework assignments for your students, think hard about the options available to you. Whether or not you assign a for-everyone homework or an option for the students to choose, these can get your brain churning about what homework can or can’t do for your students in a particular scenario, or if maybe no homework would be a better option.
What do you think of homework? Is it a ‘must’? How do you decide what type of homework to give? Weigh in by leaving a comment below, mentioning @Edudemic on Twitter or leaving your thoughts on our Facebook page.