Is Homework Equitable?

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Is Homework Equitable?
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I’ve read a lot lately about equitable access to technology. Not equality – equity – with regards to availability at home.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 4.13.22 PM

Some families have no internet, some have slow internet and some have top notch service. Some families have no computers, some have a family computer, some have own devices.

You get the point.

equity[1]

(Apologies – I have seen this image a hundred times and cannot verify the source)

With so many of us “flipping classrooms” and assigning content on LMS services outside of school, I wonder how inequitable we are being. Don’t get me wrong, school access to content is awesome. Class blogs, websites, cloud storage all make for great ways to share information while at school.

But what happens when we go home?

Even if every student had equitable access to technology at home – same device, same internet, same everything – there are many other factors that make homework inequitable.

Many of our students feel external pressures related to different scenarios that impact the effort, quality and amount of time they can commit to do homework. As teachers, we often punish students when they return with homework not complete.

Technology aside, consider family life. There are an infinite set of variables that differ from each household.

Family life aside, students’ skills differ – we encourage problem solvers, risk takers, critical thinkers – but no two people are the same. We all have varying abilities.

With all of these factors and variables to consider, I wonder -> is homework equitable?

 

 

 

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16 Responses for this post

  1. Aviva
    Aviva
    | |

    I guess that I might ask, does homework need to be the same for all? Could it be shared in a way more than just on a website?

    Aviva

    Reply
    1. Jonathan So
      Jonathan So
      | |

      I may push your thinking maybe more: What is the point of homework? I like your thought that does it need to be the same but I also question the need. What some need not everyone does. Some may benefit, for some it just adds one more thing and for others it isn’t needed. And if they were like me as a student I just didn’t do it. Just some thoughts.

      Reply
  2. Lisa Noble
    Lisa Noble
    | |

    Oh, you two are making me think that I may have to write the rant that’s been brewing all week. If I tell you that I have a child in Grade 9 now, and that the concept of “homework” looks a whole lot different than it’s looked over the past few years, as we followed the Student Success document, and didn’t send an awful lot home to be done. Other than a requirement to read for half an hour, and work consistently on times tables, as well as finishing anything up that wasn’t done in class in different subjects, my kids haven’t had a lot of homework.

    Now….let’s just say that it’s a different story – and yes, I think a lot about equity in this context. Even with the minimal homework I talked about above, the situation at home makes a huge difference. Even the concept of carving out a quiet spot, in some of the home situations my students deal with, is unfathomable, let alone rolling in the technology equation. when I look at the amount of time my child is now putting into “busy-work” homework, I don’t know how some kids would have a hope of getting it done.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, other than to continue to keep the parent/kid/teacher communication line as open as possible.

    Reply
    1. BBDad71
      BBDad71
      | |

      I agree with you Lisa. My new grade 9 student, dealing with all the new adjustments of high-school, takes it all very seriously. Access to the tools is not a problem here, however 3.5 hours of homework on the second day, lets just say, changed everyone’s schedule in our house for the rest of the week.

      Not wanting to disappoint the new set of teachers, my 9er will attempt to rise to the level of expectation regardless of what else is going on in the world.

      Some may say that the student needs to adjust or toughen up, as this is the reality of life. I would counter that there is plenty of time for our kids to join the “rat race”, and the building of a good work ethic and desire for learning happens over a lifetime. I find that homework can be a deterrent and will disengage the student. The desire, as a parent,is to have my kids engaged in the process. I am not a teacher, I am merely a parent of a student, who had the good fortune to have been in Brian’s class.

      I continue to be inspired by the good people who pop by this blog, and leave a comment.

      Reply
  3. Greg
    Greg
    | |

    1) Is it necessary?
    2) Is it beneficial?
    3) Will I be able to provide useful feedback?
    4) Is it S.M.A.R.T.?
    5) Can it be appropriately accommodated or modified if necessary?
    6) Is it engaging?
    7) Is there home support (human or tech)
    7) etc…
    Fulfilling all these is a tall order. I personally don’t give homework often. That said, some parents will ask for it anyway.

    Reply
  4. Pete
    Pete
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    Great points above about the purpose and role of homework in education. Isn’t there a better way to engage students in learning outside of school? What if…Ts design relevant tasks that excite students to explore learning in their own way and at their own pace outside of school? Not a book report…not a project…let them choose the product. The teacher can choose the standard, develop the rubric, and let the students go. In an era of personalized learning and access (or lack of) to technology, I think we can do better.

    I think this might be a future blog for me!

    Reply
  5. Enzo Ciardelli
    Enzo Ciardelli
    | |

    I’ll probably echo the above comments. We always have to think of purpose. Does homework really have a purpose, especially when students are so young. If kids do not have the proper support to complete tasks, then it becomes an unrealistic expectation. We also can not track how homework is completed. How do we know which questions gave difficulty or what processes they are following? I think we need to encourage “home learning” or learning outside of school. Kids should foster their interests applying the learning methods that we share. I often feel that students think learning only happens in school. Spreading learning outside of schools is a purpose. Amazing ideas shared!

    Reply
    1. BBDad71
      BBDad71
      | |

      Your mention of “home learning” reminds me of my daughters first experience with coding. Concept of factors was being taught. The kids were encouraged to code their own apps to calculate the factor of any given number. (in-class time was readily available)

      To create the app, the formulas were recited over and over to make sure the app worked. The desire to finish the app was unstoppable. I was happy to observe crossover benefits of coding.

      I realize this gets away from the theme of Equity, however the homework that didn’t seem like homework was most impressive. I am sure Brian can detail this better than I did.

      That’s your cue Mr. A.

      This is a great discussion.

      Reply
  6. Caroline
    Caroline
    | |

    This has been on my mind all this week. As an intermediate teacher, I do not assign a lot of homework, in fact, very little, for many of the reasons that have been mentioned in other comments. But if the students are not prepared for the homework that is assigned in Secondary school I wonder if I am doing them a disservice? I want my students to be successful not just in my classroom but in their education and life after school. Do we need to change the secondary curriculum? But then we will have students who are not prepared for post-secondary traditional education. Many universities are already complaining that the students that are coming to them are not prepared. It is a difficult situation that I believe we need to look at the individual student needs and think of what will work best for them to succeed.

    Reply
    1. Bradford
      Bradford
      | |

      Caroline,

      I often feel the same way. I hear this from college professors too. It is a very difficult balance. I would sometimes give the homework out and have it due at the end of the week. It helped a little but it was still a lot. My math and reading teachers would give out homework, but as a science and social studies teacher I gave very little because I understood the stress. However for some reason it was still a lot for a student. Even for the ones that were responsible and had parental involvement. How did you find the balance?

      Reply
  7. Bradford Harris
    Bradford Harris
    | |

    Everybody here makes a great point. Sometimes I wonder is homework even valid. I think about kids who get out of school late because of the schedule and come home and still have work to do. They are burned out during the day because of constant learning and continued learning when they get home. There may be demands of parents to do chores, take care of siblings, and sometimes adult supervision is not there. Also parents of today do not understand their child’s homework and are left in the dark which leaves kids also with blank homework. So what is an Educator to do or even the student?

    Reply
  8. Alison
    Alison
    | |

    I agree with so much of the above-written comments! I’m very anti-homework for elementary, except for reading, fun math, suggestions for parents. I’ve always been with tough communities, ESL, ELL, single parents who became parents early, with highest level of schooling gr11 for those who aren’t immigrants…After school clubs help, but do they stigmatize?? My son started gr9, had no homework this week at his school, the area Arts school. His friends, via Xbox, were moaning about their 3 hours of homework. Alarmed, he came to me wondering if he had “bad” or “slacker” teachers and maybe he should have homework: which was somewhat amusing after all the terrible terrible AWFUL arguments we’ve had forcing my ADD/anxiety-ridden child to get elementary homework done over the years!!!
    He knows University or College is the goal. So he’s alarmed. I told him be happy he’s got teachers with my philosophy. But what if I’m wrong???
    I don’t teach high school.
    But it’s the first week…
    So yes: purpose! Yes
    Engagement! Yes. Further the learning! Yes. If it’s extra practice, or because “some” parents demand/expect it? Then the answer I think should be only for that child, and be very careful with the child whose parents has these high expectations: they just might need a champion.

    Reply
  9. Michelle Cordy
    Michelle Cordy
    | |

    I don’t give a lot of homework in grade 3. A blog post from Shannon Smith many years ago really framed my thinking on the matter.

    See: http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/4533

    In the post she refers to Cushman’s work and provides the “four R’s of deliberate homework”:

    Readying themselves for new learning
    Repetition and application of knowledge and skills
    Reviewing material learned earlier, and
    Revising their work.

    I think if an attempt is made to achieve these goals, then the homework is also likely to be equitable. I doubt there would be too much of a technology gap if the goal is to ready, repeat, review or revise. In other words, no new content.

    Great job stimulating so much conversation, Brian!

    Reply
  10. Marya
    Marya
    | |

    IS IT NECESSARY? At all? If so, at what level, and why? My experience with secondary school so far is limited to my own, so I am out of my zone to discuss that. But during the elementary years, is it necessary? I do agree that reading is essential,and I think our time as educators and parents would be better spent working with our families and children to ensure kids are MOTIVATED to read (have material that is interesting by their standards) and have regular ACCESS to reading material that interests them. This means library use, organized book swaps, helping communities organize reading groups outsode of school etc.

    Reply

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