February 20, 2012

Top 5 reasons I don't assign homework

The homework debate is one that may plague educators for decades -- even centuries -- to come. It perplexes me, because the research is so overwhelmingly against homework's effectiveness.

After much consideration and exhaustive research, I stopped assigning homework a few years ago. Homework simply doesn't fit into a Results Only Learning Environment.

Although I could write endlessly about the deleterious effects of homework, I'll get right to the top five reasons I don't assign homework.

5 -- Virtually all homework involves rote memory practice, which is always a waste of time. In the age of the Smartphone, who needs to remember by rote?

4 -- Homework has nothing to do with teaching responsibility (HW advocates love this claim). Not only is there not one reliable study to prove that homework builds responsible children, based on what we know about responsibility, the assertion is illogical. Responsibility implies autonomy, and homework offers none of this. Students are told what to do, when to do it, and when it must be returned. Where does responsibility come into play?

3 -- Homework impinges upon a student's time with family and on other, more valuable, activities -- like play. As Alfie Kohn states in The Homework Myth, why should children be asked to work a second shift? It's unconscionable to send children to work for nearly eight hours a day, then have them go home and work for 2-5 more hours; we don't live in 19th century London.

2 -- I can teach the material in the time I'm with my students in the classroom. The endless cry of "I can't teach all of the standards without assigning homework" is a tired excuse used to hide ineffective methods. Creating engaging activities in place of lecture and worksheets, along with less testing will eliminate the need for homework.

1 -- Students hate homework. I want to help  my students develop a thirst for learning. I want them to read for enjoyment and exploration. I want them to extend their learning when they choose, because they are interested in what we do in class. If I force them to do activities that they don't choose, they will hate them. If I penalize them for not completing something they see as valueless, they not only don't learn, they get a bad grade and hate learning even more.

My colleagues often attempt to persuade me that homework is an integral part of teaching and learning. I'm simply  not buying. So, what's your take on the debate?

Don't miss ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, due in February 2013 by ASCD, the world's top educational leadership organization