A Student Centred Approach to Homework

Homework.

Students hate dong it. Teachers hate managing it. It isn’t even really that effective. So why do we still assign it? Because we had to do homework when we were in school? Because it’s all part of “doing school“? Because our plans aren’t on schedule and we need to “save time” by assigning the leftovers as homework?

At this point in time, I can’t really see a good reason to assign homework. However, there are many (students included) who see value in homework and continue to assign it.

One teacher at our school was having some difficulties in managing a system of homework, so she did the most sensible thing any teacher can do when facing a conundrum in the classroom – she consulted her students.

Based on the feedback she received from her students (too much work is assigned, we need homework to help us practice, we need a longer amount of time to complete the work…) we devised a homework system that is based, not on work completion or meaningless busy work, but on student choice, feedback and long-term goal setting.

Here is a brief rundown of how it works (note this particular program is focused towards the MYP, but could be structured to fit most instructional models):

  • Students looked at the feedback from their summative assignments to this point in the year.
  • Based on that feedback, they self-selected an objective and a specific strand within that objective that they would like to improve upon.
  • Students were then provided with an extensive list of homework options (view Google Doc of how this has been set up) that they could choose to work on in order to improve towards their selected goal.
  • Once per eight-day cycle, each student will meet with the teacher and present a piece of work that they are particularly proud of, or would like to get specific feedback on.
  • Following this meeting, the student decides whether they have developed their efficacy within this strand to the point that they need to set  new goal, or if they will continue to focus on the original goal.

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The choice of what to do for homework is in the hands of those that it should be – the students. 

What happens if a student doesn’t bring any work to the conference for feedback? This is regarded as a missed opportunity for that student to receive feedback and improve – opening up the opportunity for a great relationship building conversation about the value of feedback and creating a learning opportunity for the student.

“Are all of our classes going to be doing this? Because they should,” said one student at the end of the class. 

Student choice? Check. Student autonomy? Check. Potential for effective feedback? Check. Simple to manage? Check. Opportunity for learners of all levels to improve? Check. Valuing learning and skill development over content? Check.

By putting the focus on feedback and improvement and allowing for student choice, this homework program was well met by the students. “Are all of our classes going to be doing this? Because they should,” said one student at the conclusion of the class.

While I am still skeptical of the benefits of homework, a student centred approach certainly is easier to digest than traditional homework – both as an educator and from the students’ perspective.

Do you assign homework? If so, what sort of system do you have in place to ensure it is student centred? 

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