Jul 18, 2011

BOOK: Time

"Undoubtedly there are teachers who would argue that the main problem is indeed a lack of time--particularly these days, when they are pressured to align their instruction to an increasingly elaborate standardized curriculum imposed by distant authorities. However, the main consequence of the fact that class time is finite is how little can be done with homework. If you multiply how long it takes for a teacher to read and respond meaningfully to each student's assignment by the number of students in the class, you can see why teachers who assign regular homework are usually unable to review students' efforts in any detail. Worse, time constraints create a powerful pressure not only to assign the same tasks to every child in class but to assign the least constructive sort of tasks--the kind that can be checked rapidly" (The Homework Myth, p.104).

"It turns out that more hours are least likely to produce better outcomes when understanding or creativity is involved...  In math, too, even the... [time on task] is directly correlated to achievement only if both the activities and the measure of achievement are focused on rote recall. By contrast, there is no 'linear positive relationship for higher level mathematics activities, including mathematical applications and problem solving'" (The Homework Myth, p.106).

Why do we give homework? Do we really believe that it causes better understanding through practice? I have no faith in homework to internalize understanding. If a student isn't in my class, he isn't learning. In many cases, that's absolutely true. Do we give it because we've run out of time? We feel a time crunch because we have a test hanging over us. If we didn't have the test, we would still give homework. Do we give it to rack up some grades? Yep. In many cases, we don't even look at it until we need grades for progress reports and report cards. If we were using homework assignments for understanding, wouldn't we pour over them as quickly as possible before moving to the next topic? 

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