Friday, November 23, 2012

Guest Post: Homework Balance

From my elementary principal: 

I enjoyed the recent book study discussion and felt that the homework belief statements brought up interesting perspectives for each of us to consider and challenged our core homework beliefs.  It was also a bit surprising to me that even though we assume different roles within the field of education, we were able to put our personal beliefs on the line, listen to each others' perspectives and find a sense of commonality.  In my opinion, the overriding thread of commonality stems from the guiding principle that we as educators should do what is best for children / our students.  In relating this core belief to our homework discussion, I tend to believe that assigning homework can serve a beneficial purpose.  Perhaps, it can provide additional practice for students who need to spend time outside of school working to further develop a particular skill that has already been taught.  This educational practice can result in a positive outcome for our students and it applies to all academic areas within all grade levels.
However, I believe there are also circumstances when homework can do more harm than good.  For example, I think back to the days when I began teaching and it was common practice for me to expect that my students to do the same amount of homework, to complete the homework task at the same level of proficiency and everyone was expected to complete the assigned task by the same due date.  It didn’t take long for me to recognize the following pattern:  some students worked to over-achieve, others planned it out so that they would meet the expected criteria, a few did just enough to get by and other students forgot (intentionally or unintentionally) about the assignment altogether.  Looking back, I feel that my practices contributed to the repetition of this cycle and I continued to do so until I realized the homework piece was as much about me as it was my students.
In conclusion, the topic that came up numerous times in our discussion was the need to find a reasonable “homework balance”.  I believe that in order to find the right balance of homework, teachers should take into consideration a number of the following factors: the age of his/her students, the relevance of the subject matter, the amount of homework / length of time it will take to complete the homework, the difficulty of the homework, the unique learning stages of his / her students, etc.  The list of considerations goes on and on...  I recognize
the difficulty of finding this “balancing” act and believe that we must deliberately select homework assignments that are intended to provide students with meaningful practice opportunities.

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