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HOMEWORK GUIDELINES What Works? Over 150 studies have been done on the benefits of homework; ultimately, yielding some very specific characteristics of effective homework practices. Research indicates that when homework is carefully planned, there can be significant benefits to student
achievement such as: increased time on task, readiness for classroom instruction, supports self-regulation, and develops traits of independence and responsibility. To start, it might be helpful to ask: “Will the assignment support higher levels of student learning?” and “What are the characteristics of effective homework practices?” Both of these questions can be answered by reviewing the key findings of homework research. Purpose Homework needs a clear purpose and should be able to be completed without assistance. Homework should focus on the process of learning rather than the final result (Schimmer, 2016). Valid purposes for homework include: 1. Practicing a skill or process that students can do independently, but not fluently; 2. Elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students’ knowledge; and, 3. Providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest (Vatterott, 2009).
Key Findings of Homework Research • “Homework is most effective when it covers material already taught. Material that was taught the same day is not as effective as an assignment given to review and reinforce skills learned previously” (AFT, 2006) • “Homework is also most effective when it is used to reinforce skills learned in previous weeks or months” (AFT, 2006). This will provide additional reinforcement to build automaticity in the concept being practiced. • Shorter, more frequent homework is better than longer assignments given infrequently (Vatterott, 2009). • Homework should be time-based. This means students should be given a specific amount of time to complete it and stop when that time is up. The general rule of thumb in elementary is 10 minutes per grade level (Cooper, 2001). • Simple feedback keeps the focus on learning (Hattie, 2008). For example, when providing feedback on math homework it would be best to review student responses prior to math instruction. If a common error is found in student work, then take a few minutes to explain to the students that many students in the class missed the problem and we are going to take a few minutes to learn from our errors. If it is only a small group of students who missed the skill, then provide additional instruction to those students in a small group setting. • Parents should be made aware of the purpose of the homework assignments, the length of time the student should spend, and the expectations. Parents should feel free to call a halt to homework assignments if their child is getting frustrated, spending an inordinate amount of time on homework, or obviously doesn’t understand what to do. Sending a note or an e-mail to the teacher is entirely appropriate and teachers should respond positively. These types of policies will ensure homework that will yield positive returns. • Teachers take into account their students’ myriad learning styles, abilities, and interests, align them with learning objectives, and differentiate homework assignments accordingly (Tomlinson, 1999). • Teachers should incorporate choice to motivate students and to increase homework outcomes (Sadlier, 2010) • Teachers must plan assignments that are accessible and doable at each student’s independent learning level (Sadlier, 2010). The right amount of homework that is high quality, provides timely feedback, differentiated and is purposeful can be beneficial for learning. Too much homework has negative effects on student achievement.
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