May 23, 2011

No room for homework in the ROLE

Homework has been a staple of American education dating back to the one-room schoolhouse days. The effectiveness of this bizarre practice is rarely given a second thought. Pre-service teachers are instructed to give homework, and the habit is perpetuated. If you want to create a results-only classroom, you will have to commit to completely changing your approach to homework.

There is a myriad of research on homework, both for it and against it. I will not take space here to add to the research, but I would recommend Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth as the most thorough research on the subject and a treatise on what a monumental waste of time and energy homework is. For my part, I started phasing homework out of my class years ago.

Eliminating homework

Back then, many students were failing my class. In a failed attempt to help those students pass my class, I assigned less homework, because most of them weren’t completing it, and it was turning into something that was only lowering their grades. As my research on homework increased, I realized that my decision to decrease homework was the right one, even if my reasoning was somewhat flawed. What I realized when I began transforming my class to a Results Only Learning Environment is that traditional homework would not work – not just because it punishes students with constant zeroes but because it doesn’t fit into the project-based nature of a ROLE.

Traditional homework, which mostly requires note-taking, text work and rote memory, is not effective in project-based assessment. Plus, as Kohn demonstrates in The Homework Myth, there is little if any connection between traditional homework and achievement. This doesn’t mean my students will never work outside of class. They will, but they will choose when to do so and what kind of work to complete.

The Homework Challenge

Without getting too much into the homework debate, let me say that one of many inherent problems with homework is that it does not encourage autonomy, which, as you know by now, is of paramount importance in a results-only classroom. We want to tell students that their opinion is important, as is choosing how they learn. If we follow these declarations with “do-this-and-do-it-this-way” homework assignments, the results-only message becomes muddled, and any trust that has been built with students is eroded.

So, how do you let go of something you've done for so long? Easy. Check out my homework challenge linked here

Let me know how it goes.