Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Thoughts On Homework

I don't like it...

At all...

But that's my opinion and I know I am in a minority for most teachers. :)

Over the past couple of weeks, I've received some emails from fellow AP Stat teachers with some suggested blog prompts and one question in common was regarding Homework and how I handle it.

I've tried about every possible Homework method... grading for completion, grading for accuracy, Homework quizzes, and every other idea I've read and I hated them all.

My philosophy is that if I use my time in class well, very little time should be needed outside of class.  My class is active from bell to bell, with very little downtime.  I have the opportunity to work with my students for over 250 minutes a week... that's a lot of learning time! 

Do they have "outside of class time" requirements?  Sure!  They need to study for tests and quizzes, work on some projects, come in for tutoring if their grade falls, etc, but I don't assign traditional Homework.

Here's an example of how my class works from this week:
Monday/Tuesday - we worked on the JellyBlubber activity to learn the different sampling methods.  Students took samples using each of these methods and graphed their averages on the board.

Wednesday/Thursday (Block Day) - We started class with a card sort of 32 sampling designs that they had to sort into the 7 sampling methods.  Great discussions happened during this time and the ideas from Mon/Tues were solidified.  We did some reading/writing in our Chapter Reading Guide to summarize what we had learned. We did an AP problem on Cluster vs Stratified to further clarify the differences between those and did a Gallery Walk to read how others explained the differences in the two methods. 

LONG WEEKEND... We had a PD day yesterday plus Labor Day weekend...

Next Tuesday - Our warmup will be a problem set with 10 sampling designs that they have to identify.

Why do I do this?  It's the idea of the Curve of Forgetting...

If I had only mentioned Sampling Methods on Day 1, then never again, the student retention would be low because it only went into Short Term Memory and quickly forgotten.  However, by reinforcing it on the Block Day and again next week, and then again when we study for the Unit Test, it moves it into Long Term Memory and each time the amount of "remembering time" is reduced.

I don't assign traditional Homework because I don't want them only to see the concept on Day 1 (and that night), never to see it again.  I use "Problem Sets" most days as a warmup so that we get that 24-hours-later boost in memory instead of using those problems for traditional Homework problems.

I also don't grade "Homework".  The grade in my class comes almost entirely from tests and quizzes.  That way, the kid that doesn't need as much practice isn't penalized, and since most work is done in class, I get higher completion rates than I did before.  :)

All in all, I'm happier without the "Homework" beast and my students and parents are happier, and to me, that's the part that is really worth it! :)


Sarah Koves said...

I would say I have to agree with you on just about everything. My AP Lit students have things they sometimes have to finish and reading, but there is very little of the "Take this home and to it."I am not quite to the only grading papers and test stage yet, but I am slowly making other work (I call it daily work in my gradebook) a smaller percentage.
Thanks for sharing.

Kovescence of the Mind

elsdunbar said...

I agree with you about homework as well! And I'm like you...I've tried various methods...and I'm not sure that it does what it's intended to do. The kids that don't need to do it-do...and kids that need to do it-don't. My thought is--what is the purpose of your homework? Typically it's given to practice something. Well, what if the students practice incorrectly, what if they just copy from someone else, what if they don't do it at all??? What does it do for us as the classroom teacher? Kids will not be taught responsibility b/c we gave them homework...
I've started to think about it in terms of the working world...we all go to our jobs...let's say a 9 to 5. Do what our job requires for those hours, and then we are "supposed" to go home and be with our families, enjoy our hobbies, do things not related to our jobs. Why do we ask students to do something different? They've spent their time at school, and then we ask them to do more school when they are supposed to be doing the at home things and being themselves.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Elizabeth Helfant said...

I agree and also think this is probably pretty consistent with brain research.

Not having a homework grade means the grade the student receives is more closely tied to what they actually know and can do -especially in the age of tutors where homework often indicated little with respect to the individual student's understanding.

Starting with a problem or an exercise that activates prior knowledge is always a good idea- This can also be as simple as putting students in pairs and asking student 1 to tell student 2 everything that they learned in class the previous day for one minute and then asking student 2 to take 30 sec and tell student 1 everything they forgot without repeating.

Paying attention to spaced repetition as you design assignments definitely helps with student retention and mewing stuff from working memory into long term memory.

The social and collaborative piece is also consistent with learning and brain research. We are social animals and learn well interacting with others. This has the added advantage of helping students learn teamwork and collaboration skills.

I think homework has to be meaningful if it is assigned. Students should definitely know why they are doing it and how it will help them meet a learning goal. We should also be careful with how much we assign. Too much homework can be detrimental. This article is decent on the research around homework -

KM Cecere said...

Would you be willing to share your sampling card sort?

druin said...

@KM - The sampling methods cards can be found on the July 7th blogpost about Quiz, quiz, trade.

Hope that helps!