The Great HW Debate
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The homework trap and what to do about it

The homework trap and what to do about it | The Great HW Debate |
There’s more to the debate about homework than the mountains of work that some kids get. Here’s a different part of the discussion — and how to help homework-trapped kids.
Laura Jane's insight:

"Homework-trapped children" is a new term to me. The students who can't finish their homework are perceived as lazy and unmotivated. We need to look deeper into this issue with the end goal of finding a solution, not merely placing blame. We are so quick to make calls home, give bad grades, and deem the child a poor student. However, this leaves the child feeling sad and helpless, and the teacher feeling frustrated. Nobody wins in this situation.


The article suggests asking students to do as much as they can in a specific amount of time. I remember my jaw dropping when my 7th grade science teacher told us it was okay if we didn't finish the homework. She said that if we spent more than half an hour really trying and still couldn't get it, to just write a sticky note to her with the assignment and you wouldn't be penalized. This should not have been such an anamoly. This is what we should be doing as teachers.


When we create a feeling of dread associated with homework, it pushes students away from feeling motivated. We need to do the opposite, to raise our students up to a place where they feel confident in the learning abilities.

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Rescooped by Laura Jane from Eclectic Technology!

Alternatives To Homework: A Chart For Teachers

Alternatives To Homework: A Chart For Teachers | The Great HW Debate |

Via Beth Dichter
Laura Jane's insight:

I stole this from Jamie, and couldn't agree more! What a great [and practical] resource to have as we go into the final semester of our internships. This chart is chock full of ideas for creating more authentic and less monotonous homework for students. It focuses on reinforcing, and not memorizing. 


These strategies could work for all grade levels, to different extents. This again addresses the quality vs quantity debate. One of my favorite examples is to reinforce a skill that has been taught. It suggests that, instead of asking students to solve 10 word probelms to prove that they know a skill, to have them work in groups to solve, model, and present one deeper thinking word probelm.


This allows students to work in harmony to formulate their ideas, and is a more productive approach to learning. Although some cognitive struggle is good, too much leads to frustration and defeat. Allowing students to work together helps them to actively participate in student-centered learning, and they can better understand what they've learned. I will definitely be printing this chart to put in my lesson planning binder.

Beth Dichter's curator insight, June 17, 2013 10:50 PM

What if instead of giving homework to our students we asked them to come up with ideas? This chart provides a variety of alternative ways to look at homework. The post describes this as "Rather than simply a list of alternatives to homework, it instead contextualizes the need for work at home (or, “homework”). It does this by taking typical classroom situations–the introduction of new material, demonstrating a procedure, etc.), and offering alternatives to traditional homework assignments."

Consider asking your students what they would suggest doing instead of homework. What might you be able to add to these suggestions?


Nancy Jones's curator insight, June 19, 2013 9:40 AM

Love this! 21st century learning isn't as much about technology as it is thinking .allowing choices and options like this not only allow students choices but the opportunity for deeper thinking.

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When Homework is a Waste of Time - TIME

When Homework is a Waste of Time - TIME | The Great HW Debate |
When Homework is a Waste of Time TIME Although surveys show that the amount of time our children spend on homework has risen over the past three decades, American students are mired in the middle of international academic rankings: 17th in reading,...

Via Corinne Tomaszewski
Laura Jane's insight:

What an insightful article! This TIME article ties perfectly into the "great homework debate" that has been going on amongst educators for the past couple of decades. The article states that despite the increasing number of hours that we're expecting students to spend on after-school academic activities, we are slipping in international educational ratings. We are now considered to be [internationally] 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math. These statistics make it seem like maybe our well intended activities aren't producing effective results.


In a 2008 study, a third of parents rated the quality of their childrens' homework as "fair to poor." 4 of 10 parents said that they believed their childrens' homework was merely busy work. If we don't put thought and effort into the homework we are assigning as teachers, how can we expect our students to get anything out of it?


This article then discusses some new techniques from Washington University that we can implement in our own homework assigning. The first ofthese is "spaced repetition." This is a method in which student encounter the same information, but in smaller doses, and spread over an extended period of time. This is thought to be effective becasue it re-exposes students to information about the same topics throughout an entire semester, and is a more authentic approach to education. According to this method, an INEFFECTIVE homework assignment would be to read about the Civil War for 2 nights, complete homework and assessments about the Civil War, and then never talk about it again. An EFFECTIVE homework assignment would be to have students talking about minor details of the Civil War throughout the semester, and eventually being able to bring all of those little details together in order to form a big picture idea.


My final takeaway from this article is the concept of cognitive disfluency. We often believe that we have best mastered concepts that came easily to us right away. However, we actually learn something better the more we struggle with it. Deeper understanding of a topic comes from roots of confusion and frustration. I think that this is something that we need to begin to focus on more with homework. Instead of simply praising students who "get" a topic right away, we should be focusing on getting the students who didn't "get" it to a point where they do understand it. This involves re-teaching and assessing individual needs. If we do this, we will create much more effective homework, resulting in much more effective learning.

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The great homework debate: Too much, too little or busy work?

The great homework debate: Too much, too little or busy work? | The Great HW Debate |
Parents from around the country sound off on whether their kids are getting too much or not enough homework, or if the homework just amounts to busy work.
Laura Jane's insight:

An interesting read that addresses multiple perspectives. As a student who is not a parent, I really don't have much understanding of what it's like to deal with an overworked child. This article features a mother of seven, who says that she feels like a drill sergant. She expresses her frustration, saying that elementary students are already spending 7 hours in school each day, and that their brains can't process that much added information. They don't have the attention span for it, and they really shouldn't have to.


She goes on to say that the concept of homework is so ingrained in our society that we could never get rid of it, regardless of how practical it is. This is exemplified by a dueling perspective, that lessening homework loads would just further our slip internationally, and make our students less competeitive. 


This all comes back to the recurring theme: quality over quantity. Expecting students to spend hours each day after school doing busy work that isn't well thought out by the teacher can lead to negative feelings toward the teacher, and the subject matter. Nice to hear a parent perspective on the issue.

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Poor Students Need Homework

Poor Students Need Homework | The Great HW Debate |

If affluent kids stopped doing homework, they'd be fine. But for students who are struggling to catch up, it remains indispensable. Truth to tell, young affluent childrens' educational opportunities and life chances would probably be undiminished if their teachers limited homework to a humane 30 to 60 minutes a night.  Their gifted and talented middle schools could even ban homework altogether with little to no ill effect. I’m more concerned, however, about homework falling broadly out of favor as more and more affluent families push back against it.  Per Dewey’s maxim, education 'best practices,' fads, and trends tend to roll downhill from what ostensibly works in well-funded, affluent schools to those serving low-income kids of color.  After all, if it’s what the best and wisest parent wants, it must be good for all children, right?  Not necessarily. For the low-income kids of color thatI have worked with, thoughtful, well-crafted homework, especially in reading, remains an essential gap-closing tool. The best and wisest parents may have a good grasp of what their children want.  But they may not be the best judges of what other people’s children need." | by Robert Pondiscio

Via Todd Reimer
Laura Jane's insight:

The blunt title of this article is what caught my attention. We focus so much on being "politically correct," but this article cuts right to the chase.


Moving on... I think this article has some truth to it, but I don't think they went about expressing it in the most eloquent way. I know personally, from working in a school with many students coming from low income families, that being "poor" has little to do with academic success. What DOES affect success is parental involvement and emphasis of importance of education. 


This article does get into the quantity vs. quality debate, but offers the unique perspective that wealth is a factor. Good read.

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