According to Wormelli, “You falsify a grade” by including homework into the grading.  Instead grades should be evidence over time of what they know against the standards.  “Homework is to practice things already learned.”  Homework should not be included because it influences the true accuracy of the grade.  Please reflect on how much homework influences the grades of your students.  Can a student do well on tests/quizzes and not do the homework and get a poor grade in the class?  Does that poor grade truly reflect what the student knows?  

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?

Quality Homework Tasks

The following excerpt is from:  Rethinking Homework, 2009, Cathy Batterott, ASCD,.

Designing quality homework tasks requires teachers to give attention to four main aspects, each of which has an impact on student motivation and perseverance.

1.  Academic purpose--Tasks should have a clear academic purpose.  Student often do not complete homeowrk because the task is not meaningful.  Teachers should ask themselves if the homework assigned is actually helping students learn, if it is not, then it lacks academic purpose.  One way to help students understand the purpose of homework is to share the reasons for the homework with them.

The reason for today’s homework is to…

  • Check whether you understand something you have already learned
  • Allow you to analyze something you have already learned
  • Allow you to reflect on your learning
  • Introduce new information to you that we will study soon.

2.  Competence:  Tasks should have a positive effect on a student’s sense of competence.  Homework should be designed to support classroom learning and to instill a sense of competence in the learner.  Homework that cannot be done without help is not productive homework.  Poor grades on homework contribute to students sense of failure.
3.  Ownership:  Tasks should be personally relevant and customized to promote ownership.  Students are often unmotivated to do homework because it is not perceived as important.  Research shows that homework should be inspired by students own interest.  They need opportunities to self-evaluate, to reflect, to set their own goals.  Quality homework allows for choices, offers students opportunities to personalize their work.  It allows students to share information about their lives, tap emotions on a subject, and to create products.
4.  Aesthetics--Tasks should be aesthetically pleasing.  This refers to the presentation of the task and how engaging it appears, uncluttered, visually appealing, and easy to understand.

Diagnosing Homework Completion Problems

When it comes to figuring out how to get students to complete homeowrk, it is important to first diagnose why the homework is not getting done in the first place.  

According to Vatterott, 2009, on p. 126 of Rethinking Homework, there are typically five reasons why students do not do homework:

  • “Academic–Task too hard or too lengthy for the student’s working speed
  • Organizational–Getting it home, getting it done, getting it back
  • Motivational–Burnout, overload, too much failure, frustration with tasks
  • Situational–Unable to work at home, too many other activities, no materials available at home for the assignment
  • Personal–Depression, anxiety, family problems, or other personal issues”

Once the reasons for lack of homework completion are specifically diagnosed, then proactive and strategic plans can be put into place to support your students.

One strategy is called “Homework Chain” and it is used for students with ADHD who have difficulty with organization.  Try to work through this with a student that you suspect may have a series of gaps or links in this chain of homework completion.

Homework Chain:  Which links are weak or broken?

  • Realize an assignment has been given
  • Understand the assignment
  • Record the assignment accurately
  • Understand how to perform the assignment correctly
  • Check to bring correct books home
  • Arrive home with materials and the homework assignment
  • Begin the homework session
  • Complete all homework
  • Check that it is complete, accurate, and neat
  • Set completed homework in a special place
  • Take completed homework to school
  • Arrive at class with completed homework
  • Turn completed homework in on time

Source:  From Motivating the Uncooperative Student:  Redeeming Discouragement and Attitude Problems by John Taylor, 2007.

Student Homework Feedback (Attach to homework)
How much time did you spend on this assignment?    __________minutes
If you did not complete this assignment, please check the reasons why below.
_____I could no longer focus on the task
_____I was too tired
_____I did not understand the assignment
_____I did not have the necessary materials to finish the assignment
_____I did not have enough time due to outside activities
_____Other reason (please explain)