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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Meaning of Homework

During the October 13, 2014 #PSCchat, @NDiSilvestro and I set out to spark a discussion on how principals and school counselors can better address homework in schools. We anticipated that this topic would generate a range of responses, and those who participated certainly gave us much to think about. Several themes emerged from this Twitter chat, so I'd like to highlight a few in this post to keep the conversation going. 

It seems that most who participated disagree with homework that simply asks students to recall information and seeks other lower-level learning. If students can find answers to homework using Google, then it probably offers little value. I shared the example of my then third grade daughter who completed a "Snow Day" packet of about eight double sided worksheets in its entirety by asking Siri each of the questions. Although deep down I applauded her resourcefulness, this assignment did little to improve my daughter's learning of the different math and ELA concepts covered in the packet. This was simply busy work. Another theme that emerged during the chat was the negative influence homework can have on grades for those students who don't have the proper supports at home, especially at the elementary school level. Should missing or incomplete homework assignments cause students to have lower grades if these assignments are likely assessing lower-level learning?

Although most shared their discontent with the type of homework I just described, many applauded assignments that are purposeful, meaningful, and require students to connect, collaborate, and create. If assigned, homework should be used to extend learning opportunities, not solely to practice skills or to reinforce concepts presented in the classroom. One example given included the power of blogging to get kids to identify a problem and develop a solution with their peers. Additionally, many shared the importance of daily reading at home, which isn't perceived as homework, but goes undone due to the time taken by lower-level assignments. I'm sure all of us have lived this, but as educators it's imperative that we continue to stress the importance of daily reading and eliminate any obstacles that might get in its way. 

So, what are your perceptions of homework? Do drill and kill worksheets still have a place in daily homework assignments? If not, what, if anything, should take their place? Please share your thoughts, as well as the approach you take in practice. 

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