This morning I received an email reminder about my daughter’s upcoming 6th grade science test. The test is this Tuesday and the teacher wanted parents to ensure their kiddos spent time studying their anticipation guide this weekend. (Anticipation Guide = all of the questions that are on the test = worthy of its own post, so I won’t get sidetracked). The email also stated that her students (in this case, they are definitely students and not learners), only had until the test to turn in any of the late work for Chapter 3. After that time, all late work will not receive credit.
I have a problem with this on many fronts:
1) The homework is obviously viewed as work. Without meaning or purpose, it is likely that many will view it as something that is a chore. If it is a chore, unless there is complete parental support in ensuring it is completed, many will simply chose not to do it. Additionally, much of the work is merely busy work that isn’t challenging. After spending approximately six hours a day in desks and doing work much of the same caliber, why would it be appealing to do the same at home?
Solution = Stop assigning traditional homework. Homework should be 1) An extension of the authentic learning experience happening in the classroom and determined by your learners as to when and how they need to complete it. 2) Support for the authentic learning experience happening in the classroom. This is the flipping of the content via video, podcast, or reading.
2) The homework is either too easy or too hard. Providing a one-size fits all assignment is only going to meet the needs of a small group. If it is too hard, frustration sets in and a refusal to complete it is almost a guarantee. On the other hand, if it is too easy, a child may get to the point that they find they have “better things to do.”
Solution = Assign homework based on the continual formative assessments you are observing in class. Provide extra support when needed and enrichment for those that desire it. Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be done on a nightly basis, otherwise, you are shirking your in-class responsibilities of doing the same.
3) By setting a policy of accepting late work, the tone has already been set: “I don’t value the work that I assign.” “Deadlines are arbitrary.” I am not advocating for never accepting late work, as there are always extenuating circumstances that need to be considered. However, do this on a case-by-case basis and without an announcement.
Solution = Co-designing authentic, relevant, and appropriately complex learning experiences promotes a sense of ownership by your learners. When your learners own their experiences inside and outside of the classroom, late work will be a moot point and only arise during extenuating circumstances.
If you find yourself continually in the position of having to beg, threaten, or send reminders to parents, you may want to reconsider your entire approach to homework. I’d love to hear your solutions via the comments or on Twitter: @daylynn.