Colleagues and friends sometime disagree. Here are differing views from two Atascadero District Teachers Association members.
I’m in favor of homework. I have taught mathematics at the junior high level for 26 years. A classroom setting is designed for learning concepts. Homework should reinforce those concepts. It helps students practice the skills they have been exposed to in order to become proficient and retain the material.
I assign homework Monday through Thursday for eighth-grade Algebra 1, and on Fridays, if necessary (30 minutes, maximum). I do not assign homework for homework’s sake. That’s just busy work.
Homework needs to be specific and meaningful for the subject. Sometimes students need a page of basic skills in math, history, science and English. Spiraling assignments help the retention factor.
If students aren’t assigned homework, consequences may occur, such as students not doing as well as they could on an assessment if they haven’t practiced along the way. If students don’t try or don’t turn in their homework, then they may think they understand the material, but they will probably make more mistakes during a test. When students do homework, they receive feedback the next day as the teacher goes over the assignment. They can ask questions and correct their work.
During my career as a math teacher, I’ve seen very few students who could get way with not doing homework and still do well on assessments. Those who believe homework doesn’t measure learning need to look at the big picture. We don’t learn by doing things correctly all the time. We learn from our mistakes. Homework is the safety zone where students can make mistakes and learn from them, so that when they practice skills in the next assignment, they will have a better chance of being able to understand concepts.
The more students apply themselves and invest in their education, the more they will learn to collaborate with their peers, self-evaluate their critical thinking processes, and become independent thinkers.
Jill Terry teaches math at Atascadero Junior High School.
I’m not a believer in homework. Excessive and inappropriate assignments do far more damage than mere time wasted. These assignments reinforce incorrect habits in students, create huge amounts of tension in families, and cause anxiety and frustration in students. Homework overload perpetuates an incorrect and intellectually lazy notion that more of something is always better.
Homework should target students’ specific needs and abilities, taking into account that students may have little control over their time at home and no support or assistance beyond that provided at school. Meaningful homework is assigned to reinforce a particular skill. Unfortunately, most homework does not meet these criteria. If every student in the class has the same assignment, it’s likely not targeted sufficiently to meet the needs of individual students.
Harris Cooper has well-researched guidelines that describe the maximum level homework for an ideal situation in which students are well supported at home and not overburdened with familial obligations or work. [To see Cooper’s guidelines, follow the “References” links at www.nea.org/tools/16938.htm.] He acknowledges that his research is insufficient to determine the impact of ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and special learning needs.
Many teachers assign difficult homework nightly with the misguided notion that they are helping their students. Homework, especially excessive homework, may be such a huge burden to students that its “benefit” is far outweighed by the stress and anxiety it creates. Even worse are large, complicated projects that require expensive materials provided by families and hours of time spent outside of school to complete. These types of costly, time-consuming assignments should be considered a civil rights violation for students and their families.
Nightly reading at independent or instructional level is most beneficial to most students, as it increases exposure to language, cultivates a love of reading, and creates a nightly routine.
Johnna McGuire teaches core and elective subjects at all grade levels at Atascadero Junior High School.
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