Some people want to ban homework entirely. It’s just busywork, it makes kids hate school, and it disrupts families from spending quality time together.
Others say homework is equal to rigor. If students aren’t doing homework, how exactly are they supposed to learn anything in depth?
I tend to fall in the second camp. If the 10,000-Hour Rule, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, is true, then students need more time studying and pursuing academics. That’s the rationale behind Chicago and other school districts’ decisions to lengthen the school day.
But Alfie Kohn and other anti-homeworkers say that children need time to explore instead of being forced to complete boring teacher-assigned tasks. Although I agree with Kohn in principle, I’m pretty sure most teenagers, given free time, aren’t exactly going to open up a Physics textbook.
(Does this make me cynical?)
I’m thinking about all this because I’m wondering whether I should ban homework on weekends. I’ve found that my students do very little homework on weekends. Here’s today’s example: Last week, the homework turn-in rate was 87 percent. Today, it was 61 percent. No, this isn’t a coincidence.
My students turn off on the weekends, and they consider their weekends as their own time away from school. Even my AP English students would argue that weekends are “their” time to spend with family, friends, and themselves. Besides, my class does wonderfully during the week, but once the weekend hits, my class scatters. We’re no longer on the same page. Come Monday, we’re behind.
An easy solution would be to assign no major homework on weekends. Perhaps I could keep my Weekender, a more enjoyable, online assignment that doesn’t involve reading or heavy study. Getting rid of homework would mean that nobody would fall behind over the weekend.
But I resist this temptation. After all, if I got rid of weekend homework, that really means no homework on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays. Particularly in an AP class, I just can’t get behind the idea of assigning homework only four nights a week.
Instead of making a rash decision, I’m likely going to continue giving homework every night. Although Kohn and others would disagree, I feel that if I didn’t assign homework, I’d be lowering my standards. I believe strongly in consistent study, and I also believe that students must learn how to continue learning on their own, on their own time.
What I will do next week, though, is have an honest discussion with my students about homework. I’ll show them the data and ask for their thoughts. Lately, we’ve been talking about how important it is to seek support, create study teams, and encourage each other outside of class time. What was a normal thing for me in high school is not normal for my students.
Too often, my students, once they leave our school for the day, feel very alone. Instead of doing what’s necessary to stay engaged as a serious student, perhaps they retreat into an identity that’s more comfortable. It’s my job to make sure they don’t disconnect entirely.
What do you think?