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It is reasonable to conclude that there are various philosophies about what the purpose of homework ought to be and that there is ample research to be found supporting just about them all. For our school, however, the conversation comes with a context. Considering who we are and what we believe to be true about teaching and learning, what ought to be the role of homework here?
Like all preceding vital conversations, this one has begun with our 21st Century Learning Team and will continue on with our teachers, parents and students before being concretized in final form.
What is our current policy?
We have a simple 10 minutes per grade level (outside of reading) formula for estimating the appropriate time it should take a typical student to complete his or her homework.
Part of the impetus for taking this on is that not only does that policy seem not to hold true often enough, it fails to address the why's and what's of homework. It only speaks to, "how much?" We can do better.
The purpose of the MJGDS Homework Policy, once re-imagined, will be to provide guidelines for teachers, provide for consistency through the grades, and to educate parents who have questions about homework. A school policy regarding homework, along with clear expectations for teachers as to what constitutes good homework, can help to strengthen the benefits of homework for student learning.
This policy will need to address the purposes of homework, amount and frequency, and the responsibilities of teachers, students, parents, and administrators.
The MJGDS Homework Policy will be based on research regarding the correlation between homework and student achievement as well as best practices for homework.
Without having had all the conversations we will be having, I do think based on the conversations we have had, that there are philosophical conclusions consistent with who we are that we can put up front that will inform the policy once complete.
The philosophy at the Martin J Gottlieb Day School regarding K-8 homework is that homework should only be assigned that is meaningful, purposeful, and appropriate. Homework will serve to deepen student learning and enhance understanding. Homework should be consistent with the school's "Learning Target" and strive to incorporate creativity, critical thinking, authenticity, and student ownership.
We understand today’s busy schedules and demands on parent and student time. Most learning is done in school, but as is the case with our learning of a foreign language and learning to read, reasonable and age-appropriate practice and repetition is exceptionally beneficial in other certain subject areas.
There are also some commonsense practices we believe will help to increase the benefits of homework while minimizing potential problems. Homework is more effective when:
…..the purpose of the homework assignment is clear. Students should leave the classroom with a clear understanding of what they are being asked to do and how to do it.
…..it does not discourage and frustrate students. Students should be familiar with the concepts and material.
…..it is on a consistent schedule. It can help busy students and parents remember to do assignments when they are consistent.
…..it is explicitly related to the classwork.
…..it is engaging and creative.
…..part of the homework is done in class.
…..it is authentic.
…..feedback is given. Follow-up is necessary to address any comprehension issues that may arise.
…..it is differentiated.
…..it reviews past concepts to help retention over the course of the year.
This is not to suggest that we are not presently trying to live up to the above in our current practice. But it is to suggest that our written policy fails to provide teachers, parents or students with sufficient guidance to insure that all students in all grades are doing appropriate homework - appropriate quality, appropriate content and appropriate length.
As with every other initiative or project we undertake at MJGDS, our conversation and conclusions about homework will be done collaboratively and transparently. We look forward to our local conversations, to doing the work, and to sharing it out when done.