Monday, April 7, 2014

7 Questions to Consider Before Assigning Homework

Does the homework matter?

In the bigger picture of the school day, the school week, the school year, and the students' overall educational experience, will the homework have any impact? Is the homework relevant to the students' lives outside of school? Can you say that the homework truly matters?

Do you value family time?

Students spend the majority of their waking hours at school, away from their families. When you account for dinner, bath time, sports practice, creative arts, and other commitments, there is very little downtime in the evening for most families. Often, homework eats away whatever downtime is left. If we want to raise a generation that values family time, we need to respect their time with their families.

Are you maximizing instructional time during the school day?

As a parent who values family time, I want to be assured that teachers are maximizing instructional time during the school day. Are the learning experiences that you design during the school day valuable, relevant, and necessary? If teachers focus on designing rich learning experiences during the school day, homework can become a thing of the past.

Is the homework for students or their parents?

Consider what you're really measuring when you assign homework. Is the homework a measure of student learning or a measure of parent involvement? My 6-year-old daughter currently has a month-long homework assignment asking her to draw the moon each day as part of a unit on the phases of the moon. As a space nerd, I totally appreciate the homework. However, this homework is for me, not for my 6-year old. She is not independent enough to be expected to work on a month-long homework assignment, not even taking into account the lack of visibility on cloudy days and that the times of moonrise / moonset don't always align with bedtime. There have been several cloudy nights when we've relied on the Internet to draw the moon. What does this mean for our students who don't have the kind of parental help at home that is necessary for this type of homework?

Are we preparing students to be good citizens?

Some teachers assign homework in an attempt to "prepare students for the real world." I don't think I want to live in a world in which people come home from a day at work only to fill out worksheet after worksheet and struggle to find time to do something fun with their families. We need to foster good citizenship, which involves balancing time between work, family, and community engagement.

Is the homework differentiated?

If you've decided that the homework you're assigning is, in fact, valuable and worthwhile, have you considered that not all students need the same homework? If the purpose of the homework is to review important concepts or extend students' understanding, then of course not every student will have the same needs for review and/or extension.

Are you planning to give meaningful feedback on the homework?

If you're asking students to spend their time away from school doing schoolwork, I surely hope you are planning to spend at least that much time giving meaningful feedback and using the work to guide your future instruction. As a former classroom teacher, I'll admit that I did not do this well. Homework can easily pile up and become a low priority for the teacher. However, if this is your typical practice, I urge you to reconsider. Show students that you value the time they invested in the work by investing time of your own.


  1. I think your vision on this topic is very weak and short-sighted. I think your intentions are good, but dismissing the idea and practice of homework is irresponsible. It's setting kids up to fail.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the feedback. In this post, I did not intend to dismiss the idea of homework. Rather, I hope to encourage teachers to use homework thoughtfully, which in my experience is not the case in many classrooms.