Redefining what homework could and should be
Raymond Steinmetz, a 7th grade math teacher at Portsmouth Middle School in Rhode Island, has been assigning homework to his students throughout his entire career. But now he believes that mandatory assignments, every day, may be creating more harm than good.
A parent himself, he understands the importance of family time, and thinks a compromise can be brokered around requiring homework after school, Steinmetz writes in eSchoolNews.
- To Steinmetz, homework could instead be assignments students can’t finish in class, should certainly be varied — even something such as playing a board game — and should be suggested, not required. Students should also be able to find answers online, so they can get immediate feedback instead of struggling or waiting until the next day to see what they did wrong.
Homework is so engrained in our idea of school that it’s difficult to find an adult who doesn’t remember a teary night struggling with a school assignment. That’s a pattern administrators and district leaders can break. While teachers individually make choices on what work to send home with students, administrators can set policies with a more district-wide affect.
Having students practice work outside of school can be helpful, giving them time to master material, and build upon lessons learned during school hours. But when practice feels like punishment or busy work to a student, that impact can be harmful.
This is one of the ideas behind flipped classrooms, where students learn material at home, but do the practical work — the assignment — at school with their peers and under the guidance and support of a teacher. More time spent working with peers in a flipped environment can bring about “active, effective learning and students’ higher order thinking,” researchers found in a 2016 paper published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.
Ultimately administrators need to find the right balance that can work for their schools. However, lessening the pressure homework places on students — especially those who want to pursue other interests outside of school — may be a direction to consider.
- eSchoolNews Is it time to ditch homework for good?