Designing “Just Right” Homework


Submitted a year ago
Created by
Brad Choyt
It's hard to begin a school year without a lot of debate over the H word: Homework. Despite the best efforts of teachers, there never seems to be a Goldilocks Zone for the work students take home. Students and their families will tell you there's either too much or too little, that it's too hard or too easy. It's seldom "just right." Perhaps it's time to shed previous associations with the H word and encourage new approaches for the schoolwork required at home. To do so, we should toss the endless worksheets and repetitive drills and instead create homework that optimizes student engagement and learning new material.  

How can teachers do this? Let's start with the concept that students can and should share some degree of responsibility for their learning. And if they do, students can help determine when they need to review and practice skills. In other words, if students had more of a say in designing their own homework, they could choose to spend less time on the material they easily grasped or found repetitive and additional time on mastering the content they don’t fully understand. They may even choose to go above and beyond what's required on concepts they find to be the most interesting and engaging. 

In a high school where I served as a Head of School, the math department developed a policy whereby students would attempt the first three to five problems on a worksheet and then evaluate their progress. If the problems were easily solved, students could then complete every other problem on the remaining section. If the problems proved to be challenging, more practice was needed and students were asked to complete each of the problems in that section.  

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Obviously, this strategy may not work for all subjects. And younger students who are not able to accurately evaluate their abilities aren't ready to have this degree of autonomy. But for students who prove to be capable of managing this level of responsibility, this strategy can be highly effective in redefining the H word so it can be experienced in more positive ways. 

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