Homework is repetitive and unnecessary. If classes are relevant, engaging, and meaningful, extra practice is not necessary for every student. Why make the students spend what little free time they have outside of the classroom doing busy work? Who’s doing the homework anyway? When the day students go home and complete their homework, who’s really doing the work? The students or the parents? What about their peers? If homework is uniform like a worksheet and every student should be getting the same answer, how do we know students aren’t working together? Isn’t that what we want? Teamwork amongst our students? But, who’s doing the learning if students work together to complete a homework assignment? Can we appropriately and fairly assess students on their understanding of concepts covered or graded objectives through homework completion? If students do the homework consistently but fare poorly on exams, tests, or quizzes, are they able to truly and genuinely showcase their learning? Why do we as teachers grade and assess homework and count it towards their letter or achievement grade? Isn’t homework practice? Should we be grading practice? Is the record of a football team negatively impacted if the team “loses” to themselves during practice? So then, why are students rewarded or punished for not practicing a skill? Not all students need extra practice and sometimes those students who do need extra practice, need a structured environment in which to practice. Homework is not the best way to help challenge and/or support students if we are grading it.
In Chapter 2 of Grading Smarter Not Harder by Myron Dueck, the author details and explains why homework should not be counted or assessed in the same way we grade objectives. Homework should not be a factor in the overall grade a student receives in a course. Homework is practice and will look different for each student. Some students need more practice while others need less. As teachers, we need to help students learn how much practice they will need to do for particular skills, concepts, or objectives. We should not objectively grade the homework practice students do. It should count as part of their effort grade only.
- Uniform Homework: Assignments or homework used as practice or follow-up regarding an in-class lesson. It is usually designed as a worksheet or series of problems for which every student should have the same assignment. This means that each student would have the same answers. How do we know who did the work if students collaborate to complete the homework? Therefore, teachers should not grade uniform homework. In fact, uniform homework should not be assigned. Students should choose to do the extra practice or not based on how they want to prepare for in-class quizzes or exams. Uniform homework should also come with an answer key so that students can check their work as it is just practice anyway.
- “Grading Homework Confuses Completion with Understanding,” Myron Dueck states on page 45. Just because students complete the practice work as homework regularly does not mean that they have mastered a concept or skill. It simply means that they have figured out the school conundrum: If you do the work, you will get good grades. We, as teachers, are trying to help our students learn new concepts, grasp new skills, and grow and develop as students, thinkers, collaborators, etc. We should not be grading homework in any objective or standards-based manner because then students will become confused by the purpose of school and education. Learning is a process and not a videogame in which points affect your outcome.
While I was already aware of the big ideas Dueck conveyed in this phenomenal chapter that every teacher who is unfamiliar with objectives-based grading should read, it did give me some food for thought. Huh, having a growth mindset going into this second chapter of the book really helped me glean a cool idea that I will implement in the classroom next year.
- I will create regular check-in assessments on Haiku that students will complete in class following the introduction and practice of a new skill. Mostly this will apply to STEM class, but could also be useful in Humanities class as well. I will input the answers so that it can be corrected as soon as the students complete it, providing the students with instant feedback. They will know right away if they completed the appropriate amount of practice outside of class. Apparently, there is data to support the idea that frequent quizzes help increase learning. On page 56 of Dueck’s book, he cites a study done by Kent State University that found that “frequent testing that involves recall of information from memory improves learning.” Who would have thunk that? Not I. I had always been under the impression that over testing is redundant and a waste of time. Perhaps I was wrong or maybe this study is wrong. Well, since I’ve tried my way for so long, it might be time to try an alternative method. I like it. Change is good.
Although this book is preaching to the choir as I read it, it is filled with valuable and useful information for all educators. I can’t wait to read what Chapter 3 has in store on Unit Plans.