School Me, Please is the advice column where early career educators can come for individualized guidance from seasoned educators who have a passion for mentoring. Have a problem or question for one of our experts to address on the blog? Send it to us via email at SchoolMePlease@nea.org.
My students are always complaining about the amount of homework I assign. Before, I just wrote those complaints off, but I’ve been seeing a lot of debate about how useful homework really is. How much is too much?
– Always Assigning
Dear Always Assigning,
How much homework is too much is an age-old question, and there’s been a constantly shifting debate on this for as long as I’ve been teaching. Research tells us that homework has some benefits, especially in middle and high school. However, some districts and teachers are abandoning homework altogether. At the end of the day, it’s about what works best for you and your students, but here’s some insight that might help you make a decision.
First ensure your assignments are in line with school and district policy. I’d also ask your colleagues that teach similar grades and subjects. After these initial asks, start to consider factors like age, as elementary students are much different than high schoolers. Many districts follow the guideline of 10 minutes per grade level. This is a good rule of thumb and can be modified for specific students or subjects that need more or less time for assignments. This can also be helpful to gauge if you are providing too much (or too little) homework. Consider surveying your students on how much time is needed nightly to complete what you assign, then compare to the guideline number to see if you are on the right track.
Now think about your personal philosophy regarding homework. I tend to subscribe to the belief that homework is a reinforcement of skills already learned, and should be completed without the assistance of a teacher or adult. Homework, in this view, is a way of forming habits to set them up for success later in their education by teaching responsibility, time management, and how to complete a task. This is more common with elementary/primary teachers, as we see importance in children playing and being active after school and spending time with family members, in addition to their homework. In older students the benefit and purpose of homework is more academic.
It is important to consider individual learners as well as the environment in which they are doing their homework. Parents can be an important resource in assessing the student’s needs for homework since they have insights into how students work at home. When I’m struggling to create a personal plan for a student’s homework assignments, I always try and reach out to their parents to collaborate.
In reflecting on how much homework is appropriate, consider how much time is it taking your students, their age, what your purpose and goals are, and the type of assignment. Also, consider all learners and their ability and support working without a teacher. Looking at all these factors will help you determine if in fact you are asking too much in regards to time spent on homework.
By Lori Celiz, California