It’s Time To Treat Homework Like Any Other Lesson
by Paul Moss
Imagine observing a lesson in which you see a teacher give the students 2 or 3 or 4 times more work than they can handle. Or more critically, that much more than actually will help them learn.
You’d be scratching your head.
You would walk out of the lesson disappointed, perplexed at the lack of quality teaching happening. But worse, as you wander the school you observe the same thing happening in every classroom you enter, even in the rooms of your best and most experienced teachers. Alarm bells would hardly be the appropriate metaphor.
A grand inquiry would follow, and understandably so.
The number of areas for concern would be many, but needn’t move past these two:
- How can students progress in the tasks if they can’t dedicate suitable time to complete them?
- How can students maintain motivation in such a context?
This is what potentially happens every time teachers set homework for their students. Whether homework should or shouldn’t be given is up to individual schools, but most secondary schools very much do. The amount of time a student can dedicate to homework is not infinite. It is limited. So assigning too much on a night is like giving too much work in a lesson. It’s unproductive, and just flat out poor teaching.
See also: Using Homework As Formative Assessment
So why does it happen? No teacher in his/her right mind would allow such a scenario to exist surely? Of course not, but it does because teachers don’t have the information to prevent it from happening. They don’t know how much work their students have already been given as they enter the classroom.
For example, a Math teacher thinking of setting a homework task has no idea what homework students were assigned in other classes. She may turn to the centralized calendar for hope, but alas, it becomes a pointless exercise, as she realizes the fact that many of her students have come from different English and Science classes, as well as various electives.
Her only options are to poll the students live (how reliable is that?) or to set the task blindly–randomly, if you will. She won’t be able to take the grumbling from the students that they have too much work on already as evidence, as she may not believe their motivations for their protests.
The very same situation occurs when the students leave the Maths class, separate, and venture to their next subject. The inefficiency of the situation is startling, and it’s incredible that it has persisted for so long in schools all over the world.
As a teacher and parent of 3 schooling daughters, I decided to do something about this ubiquitous schooling issue. I invented a tool that solves the problem. The tool is called degrumbler, and it lets a teacher see what work her or his class already has been given before s/he sets more, thus preventing overloading students, and getting more productivity out of tasks assigned.
Of course it has all the notification qualities you’d expect to keep parents and students always in the loop, but because it forces teachers to consider the amount of time students have spare to complete tasks, it reimagines the whole notion of homework, and how teachers should begin to see it in a similar fashion as to any normal lesson, a lesson in which overloading has no pedagogical place.
Regarding the tool, while I am really proud of designing it, I know that talking about it could be construed as simply a means to market the company. However, the tool is free for teachers, and I know the motivation behind building the tool was purely to better the education of students, and am at peace with the potential conflict of interest, as I can’t really see another way to spread the word about fixing the issue.
Note: This post was originally published on my blog