Friday Focus!

September 11

Schooling occupies only about 13% of the waking hours of the first 18 years of life, which is less than the amount of time students spend watching television. (Fraser, Walberg, Welch, & Hattie, 1987, p. 234)

I have never been a huge proponent of abundant amounts of homework; my tune has typically been that it should be assigned in small, meaningful amounts. Yet homework certainly has an increasingly appropriate place in education as students move up in grade level. Certainly, homework extends learning opportunities beyond the classroom and is vastly more enriching than any form of television. Used properly, homework refines and extends student knowledge. In assigning homework and establishing homework policies, I defer to Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) and pass along their suggestions in this area for your scrutiny.

Those of you who studied Marzano’s high-leverage strategies thru focused choice, may well recall much of the following. First, parent involvement in homework should be kept to a minimum. Some studies suggest that when parents assist with homework, minimal and even negative effects may result. Also, the purpose of homework must be identified and communicated. The two obvious purposes should be practice and preparation or elaboration. When assigned for practice, the material must have a high degree of familiarity. Practicing a skill that is unfamiliar may only reinforce errors and misconceptions. It is also important that assigned homework be commented on. Studies show that the effects of homework vary greatly depending on the feedback provided by the teacher. Finally, I find myself in trouble with the authors’ three tenets of classroom practice in assigning homework (Marzano et al., 2001):

  • Establish and communicate a homework policy. Please use the time on Wednesday September 16, to explain to students and parents the purposes of homework, the amount you expect students to complete, consequences for not completing homework, and the amount of parent involvement that is appropriate.
  • Design homework assignments that clearly articulate the purpose and the outcome. Clearly identify the purpose of any homework assignment and communicate that purpose to your students.
  • Vary the approaches to providing feedback. Although the goal is to provide meaningful, specific feedback for all assignments, reality suggests that not all homework will receive the same degree of teacher attention. Try to employ different strategies in this area to help you manage the workload and maximize the effectiveness of homework.
  • A good “rule of thumb” is that students’ homework should not exceed 10 minutes per grade level per day (e.g., a grade 8 student should receive no more than 80 minutes of homework per day).

I realize that among a staff of 36 teachers, we will inevitably have multiple and divergent views on homework. As for myself, I would endorse small, meaningful amounts that have a clearly identified and communicated purpose and that are commented on in some manner by teachers.

Have a great weekend!

Jamal