Presented by Natalie Howell – Transcription Below
Hi, welcome to Illuminate’s Whiteboard Series. My name is Natalie Howell and I’m an implementation manager here at Illuminate Education. Today’s topic is Assessment & Grading Practices: Homework. This area is one of the most contentious and highly talked about areas of education right now. Homework is something that a lot of people feel is completely necessary. And then at the other end of the spectrum, people think that it shouldn’t be assigned at all. Definitely, there is a happy medium in between and there is a purpose for homework but it has to be done the right way for it to be an effective, instructional practice. So, for starters, what is the purpose of homework? If you ask a group of teachers, more often than not, the comment will be “practice.” And that is the purpose of a real homework assignment is for the students to practice what they learned in the classroom that day.
What Did They Practice After All?
Now, when you think about practice, the issue then becomes how do we as educators know that they practiced? And the response then becomes, “Well, we check their homework.” And teachers do that. They do a very good job of that with what they have available. But in the end, most of the time, that involves the teacher running around the classroom, quite quickly, to see if the student completed something, something that resembles the homework assignment. So, in the end, that five points the student might receive is based upon compliance, did they complete the assignment, not necessarily, did they complete the assignment accurately. And then teachers will proceed to go over the assignment. Oftentimes, they will use cooperative learning strategies or other such things, drawing pop sickle sticks, picking students by random with cool timers that they put on the board. But in the end, it’s only those few children that are called upon to answer who have an opportunity to demonstrate that they learned or mastered anything through that practice. And then teachers usually wrap it up with a quick, “Okay, guys. Any questions?” And if you’re a teacher, you know that the overall response there is crickets. Students are completely silent. And so as teachers, we take that as, “Okay. We’re good. Let’s move on.”
And in the end, there is no way with that kind of process that a teacher could possibly know that the students had practiced accurately. So, in the end, that becomes a purposeless assignment. So if you think about other common pitfalls having to do with it, they can often be excessive where students are coming home and doing hours upon hours of homework assignments. And sometimes it’s homework assignments, again, that don’t really have a purpose. And so people tend to look at that, whether it’s parents or students, as a waste of time. Oftentimes, the other question is, is it tied to standards? As teachers, we are taught to tie standards to everything that we do. We are going through standards every day and we are helping students master those standards. And if the material that is for homework is not tied to those standards then, again, that is a purposeless assignment.
Compliance vs. Learning Based
Is it compliance-based versus learning-based? Like I said, if you are going around the classroom and simply checking to see whether the student completed the assignment, that is compliance. That is whether the student did a behavior that you assigned to them, not whether the student actually got anything out of that assignment. So that really does not give you any data in which to drive your instruction for the day. So, how about some alternatives? How about some good formative assessments that will get you more immediate data so that you can use that data in order to drive daily instruction? Teachers can’t wait until a weak or two down the line for a summative assessment to get that data in order to reteach. The students have moved on and it’s very, very difficult in order to go back and work with those kids. If every day you can give a quick, formative bell ringer, an exit ticket, a warm-up, and you can gather that data, you can also add wonderful things like flexible grouping and all of these kind of activities in your room that will allow you to target your instruction to the specific student needs.
And finally, thinking about students and oftentimes what they go home to in the afternoon. It can be very difficult for parents, even very educated parents, to help their students with homework. So, wouldn’t it be better for the students to be practicing in the classroom where there is an expert in that content area so that if they needed help they could get it? Whereas, at home, they don’t have anyone to help them and they might have to resort to things like the internet or friends, which they might not have as much contact with. So, again, homework definitely has its value, but you want to make sure that you’re using it correctly and accurately and for a true purpose because as teachers, we don’t have time to do things that don’t move us forward in terms of making our students successful. Thanks for watching.
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