Important Considerations When Assigning Homework

To assign homework or
not to assign homework?

Author: Heather Iseminger

Much like Hamlet’s timeless, “To be or not to be,” the questions surrounding homework can haunt a teacher’s nightmares – bringing a thousand more anxiety-ridden doubts to deal with in the morning.

Is it mean to assign homework?

We ask ourselves:

  • Do I even assign homework?
  • How much is too much?
  • What age student should have homework?
  • What kind of homework should be given?
  • How much time should it take?

The questions are endless as we strive to use homework effectively. Students today, even our tiniest learners, are busier than ever. Between hours in the classroom and countless afternoon activities, which can include household chores or jobs, homework can be an insurmountable burden for the children under our care.

Yet, with increasing expectations for student gains, teachers are under enormous pressure to pack as much learning into the school year as possible.

So what can we do? How do we make the best academic choices for our classrooms? These are just a few tips to help begin the homework conversation:

1. Know your students.
The emotional well-being of our students affects their learning. Homework should not increase academic demands to a level that negatively impacts the students’ mental health. When determining the type and amount of after-school work to give your pupils, it is important to consider their ages and responsibilities.

For younger students, this may mean considering their need for simple play as children, as well as how much help they may or may not receive at home. For older students, thinking about their after-school commitments is vital. Are they expected to take care of younger siblings in the afternoons? Do they work part-time? Recognizing specific student needs should impact the homework we assign.

2. Understand cultural expectations.
Where we teach also has a direct impact on homework expectations. Countries and regions around the world differ greatly in their pedagogies when it comes to the type and amount of work kids accomplish outside school hours. What is the expectation of education in your community? Adapting and respecting that culture will often help foster better relationships with the parents of our students, increasing the support needed for student learning.

3. Learning goals should drive homework decisions.
Homework should never be “busy work.” Assignments merely for the sake of work will not impact student learning in positive ways. Instead, students get frustrated and angry when asked to accomplish tasks not directly connected to what they learn in class. Students often respect work that is meaningful and reasonable. Homework should only enhance the learning outcomes the student needs.

These ideas serve as an entry point for the homework conversation. It is vital for us to dig deep so we may ensure what we assign to students has a positive impact on learning.

Two articles that may be beneficial when thinking through different components of homework are “Tips for Tackling Anxiety” and “How to Help Students see the Value of Education.”

About the Author

Heather Iseminger

Heather Iseminger is a self-proclaimed hoarder of words and caffeine addict. She holds a BA in English Writing from FSU, as well as a Masters in Education. She and her Prince Charming, Mike, have been married almost 25 years and have two children, Ella and Caleb. Five days a week Heather’s in her high school English classroom with coffee in hand, surrounded by the students she adores. When she’s not juggling family and teaching, she’s an award-winning freelance author and blogger. You can find her heart at Petals of Joy on Facebook.

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