Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Homework and Grading for Learning

While following #edchat last night on Twitter there was a lot of discussion around homework.  So it got me thinking about some of the things I have read and how it has impacted my view on the use and effectiveness of homework.

First of all I want to touch on the impact that homework has on student learning.  Marzano's research showes that homework has a much greater impact at the secondary level than at the elementary level.  The biggest benefit of homework at the elementary level is that it develops good study habits and can reinforce the idea that learning can take place outside of school.  If that is true do we really need to have students complete 50 math problems, or spend hours on homework - I would say NO!!  Just because parents want to see homework does not mean we should be send stuff home.  We need to get out of this mindset for our students sake.

Homework should be practice around content that students already have a high familiarity with, not skills they can not do on their own, or it should extend learning that has already taken place in the classroom.  In either case a teacher should not send work home if they are not positive the student can do it without assistance.  If parents need to help their students with their math homework it should not have gone home.  In general if homework goes home I prescribe to the less is better mentality.

I believe if we are truly grading for learning we should not include homework as part of the grading process.  Homework in essence is practice, and students should not be penalized for practice.  We don't penalize a basketball player for shots they miss when practicing, nor do we penalize the musician who misses a note while practicing.  Homework is a formative assessment, and should be used to guide instruction.  Students should be encouraged to challenge themselves, and if their only goal is to accumulate points they won't do that.  NO PENALTIES FOR PRACTICE!!  Coaches and music directors learned this a long time ago.  We need to apply the same principles to the classroom.

Extra credit is another way to accumulate points.  It is very rarely about student learning.  More work should result in a higher level of achievement, not just more points.  Students should all have the opportunity to show they can achieve at a high level.

Ed Leadership's November issue has some great articles about effective grading practices.  Another great resource is the book A Repair Kit for Grading - 15 Fixes for Broken Grades by Ken O'Connor.  I would contend that they way we grade students negatively impacts a majority their learning.


  1. What is your position, then, on having parents edit student work, especially writing and essays? I have had parents challenge me that I am giving them, the parents, homework. But, I feel if another set of eyes reads a paper, I can focus on the content without the distractions of mistakes with conventions. Your thoughts?

  2. If parents are just identifying mistakes I think that it is ok - I read this somewhere and it made a lot of sense; "the person doing the editing is doing the learning"