The Purpose of Homework

The following is an excerpt from:  (Rethinking Homework, 2009, Cathy Batterott, ASCD, pp. 96-98.)

Homework supports student learning in four ways:  pre-learning, checking for understanding, practice, or processing.

Pre-learning:  Homework is used to introduce a topic or background to a lesson.  It can also be to find out what students already know.  Pre-learning can be used to create interest in the concept to be studied.

Checking for understanding:  This is used the least for homework, but is one of the most powerful and valuable ways for teachers to get insight into student learning.  Students can be assigned homework that has them explain their understanding of the content.

Practice:  The most traditional use of homework is for the practice of rote skills, such as things that need to be memorized like spelling words.  Keep in mind that teachers sometimes makes mistakes in assuming the work is practice.  For example, if the student did not understand the concept in class, then the homework is really new learning and they become frustrated.  Additionally, if the teacher has not yet checked for understanding, then students may be practicing the work, but incorrectly.  Finally, when it comes to true practice (such as memorizing spelling words), according to Marzano, et al, 2001, practice is most effective when done numerous times, not in one night.

Processing:  Processing homework is when teachers want students to reflect on concepts, think of new questions, apply skills, and synthesize information.  

Discussion Question:  In evaluating your homeowork practices, which type of the four listed above do you tend to assign the most often?

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