Sunday, October 17, 2010

Encouraging Teachers to Make Homework Count

During my conversations with parents sometimes, they often point out concerns about one class or another if that particular teacher is not assigning homework. For some reason, there are parents who equate the value of a class and its teacher based on the amount of homework assigned. While there are all manner of reasons and arguments about the effectiveness and usefulness of homework, school leaders must be very careful to cave in to the systemic pressures of requiring or expecting homework to be assigned by his or her teachers. Homework in itself is not a sign of teaching effectiveness. The lack of assigning homework is also not an indication that a teacher is not doing his or her job. Homework must serve a legitimate purpose, and that purpose must not be an indicator of effective teacher performance.

I recently read an article in Educational Leadership entitled “5 Hallmarks of Good Homework.” It was an excellent description of what homework that is effective should look like. As school leaders, we can help our teachers understand what effective homework should look like by reminding them of the following:

  1. Homework should have a purpose. It should be for practice, understanding-checking, or application of what was learned during the course of the day. As administrators, we should see homework as extension of what is happening in the classroom. To expect that teachers always assign homework is not a legitimate expectation, but we should expect that when students are given homework, it does serve a purpose.
  2. Home should be efficient. We should discuss with our teachers the importance of providing their students with homework that is reasonable, and that can be completed reasonably. For example, asking students to create a model castle without providing all students with the same resources to complete that project might not be inherently fair.
  3. Homework should allow students to form a personal relationship with the content. School leaders can help teachers find ways for students to make the assigned tasks their own. This might mean providing additional resources to help the teacher do this.
  4. Homework should assist students in feeling competent regarding school content. School leaders should work with teachers to help them understand that homework tasks that make students feel inadequate are not productive. Student homework should do the opposite. It should assist students in being more confident and competent in carrying out tasks.
  5. Homework should have aesthetic appeal for students. School leaders can assist teachers in understanding that how a homework assignment looks to a student might actually prevent him or her from completing it effectively.

As principals, we need to remind parents when they question homework or the lack thereof, that homework is only part of the education of their children.

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