I had a reader ask a question about homework and gifted kids and I figured this was a pretty common question. Here’s my thoughts.
You Need A Philosophy
First, as an educator, you must have a philosophy about homework. Not just what you’re doing, not just whyyou’re doing it, but why do you believe the why behind what you’re doing?
For example, if I’m dieting I could say
- What I’m eating only whole-wheat bread.
- Why? Because whole-wheat bread is healthier!
- Why do I believe that? Uhhh. Because it’s, like, whole? 🤔 Well. I guess I don’t really know.
When we move past the mere “why” to the “why do I believe this why,” we often realize that we don’t know why we believe what we believe. (Phew. Take a breath.)
For too long, I just assigned homework because, well, “it’s what my teachers did in 1987.” This is a really bad reason to do something.
To move beyond “I just do this because I do it,” I had to develop a philosophy by reading what people have discovered about homework. And there’s tons of research about homework out there. Tons. I was quite embarrassed that I knew so little, actually. (Why didn’t we learn this in my credentialing program?)
Read Some Research
You might read:
- The Case For and Against Homework
- A Duke review of 60+ studies
- Time’s Homework Article
- A meta-analysis of homework studies
- Alfie Kohn on Rethinking Homework
Of course, the findings are complex, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. The complexity is worth teasing out.
Check Your Beliefs
Some folks assign homework because: it “teaches responsibility”, it’s “good practice”, or it “helps you with the next grade”.
Here’s all I’d say: why do you believe those things?
Does homework really help your least responsible students become more responsible? How do you know? Is it good practice for all students? Does it benefit the lowest-performing students? The highest-performing students?
Test it! Look at your data. Read what people have discovered.
In creating my own homework philosophy (which I will not share with you since you should go through the work of creating your own), I’d consider these beliefs:
- Homework is every kid’s (and many parents’) least favorite thing about school. I should have thought about this every single time I assigned homework.
- It’s better for kids to sleep, read, be with family, play outside, etc than to do school work all night.
- Not all kids have a place to do homework.
- Not all kids have parents who can help.
- Homework must be different for different students.
- If I assign homework, I must do something with it the next day.
Whatever you do with homework, make sure you have a solid philosophy behind it. Know why you believe what you believe.
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