# Homework Paradigm – Part II or Wanna Be Happy? Then don’t grade homework

I analyzed the homework survey results from Sam’s blog.  He asked teachers a series of questions about their homework polices.

What I was most interested in how teachers were grading and if they were happy.  Sixty-eight percent of teachers that answered the survey are grading homework for completion only.

However, I was most interested in which teachers were the happiest with their homework procedures.  Apparently…

Teachers who are the happiest with their homework procedures are NOT grading homework, not even for completion.  I was thrilled by this result.  Forget the fact that I am going to be a happier person if I do not have to spend many hours grading homework.  Apparently I will also be happier with my homework system if I do not grade homework.  This is classic win-win.

Limitations:

Numbers.  Sam received 40 responses, which satisfies the minimum number required needed to perform statistical calculations.  However, I did not run the numbers through any tests, I just analyzed the resulting percentages, quick and dirty.

Subjectivity. As the responses were open-ended response, I had to use my judgment in categorizing the responses regarding happiness.  I used a scale from 1 – 3.  With 1 being very forms of not happy (i.e. – dislike, hate it), 2 being somewhat happy, and 3 being happy or very happy.

## Best Homework Practices – Summary of Ideas

I pulled these ideas from the teachers comments in the survey and my own thoughts.  Specific quotes from the actual survey are at the end.  Many of the ideas here came from and are presented on the Math Teacher Wiki Homework page.

Atmosphere:

• Create the proper homework culture at the beginning of the year
• Be consistent – do not give up or change it
• Call homework “assignments” or “practice”
• Do not make it a large percentage of students grade if you do decide to grade it

Assignments:

• Make it relevant (homework as preparation for class discussions)
• Include review problems
• Exit Card – One problem each day at end of lesson to be quickly graded, then can base hw off of that (maybe the hw levels)?
• Differentiated HW –
• Optional Homework
• Assign section only – do as many or as few as you need (time limit idea – work for 30 minutes)
• Pick 5 problems that are not too easy for you to do out of section
• Recommended / Suggested problems from teacher

At Home:

• Put the responsibility on students to self-evaluate what they don’t understand
• Online homework evaluation each night
• Law of Diminishing returns – don’t kill em with homework. A Duke Study cites a “10 minute per grade level” rule that my school lives by.  I love it.
• STOP after you have worked 30 minutes on hw (with no other distractions)

After the Homework is completed:

• Have students put up problems they don’t understand, other students work them on board
• Red/Yellow/Green
• Homework Quizzes

## In Summary:

I think our major problem as educators is that most students are not intrinsically motivated to do homework.  Until we can change this, I don’t think that any of us are going to be very “happy” with homework results for long.  This got me thinking…

What is the motivation to do homework?

Homework is the definition of anti-climatic.  It comes at the very end and doesn’t play into the story at all.  The lesson is finished, the homework is independent, it won’t even be “really” graded, and tomorrow we will be talking about something entirely different.

Why would students care about homework?  Because we force them? Because we are going to give them a bad grade?  Because we are going to call their parents?  Because they are going to be “embarrassed” that they did not do it?  These are not motivators – these are threats.  These threats are what lead students to do a poor, sloppy job on homework, the period before it is due, half-copying from their classmates.

In order to change the effectiveness of homework assignments, we need to change how these assignments work.  We need to make homework relevant, not only to the lesson of the past, but also to the lesson of the next day, if possible.  Can we make it practice of the current day, and the topic of the next day?  If this is too hard to accomplish, then what CAN we do to motivate students to do homework?

What can we do to make homework important to students, to make it relevant, and most importantly, to make them want to do it well?

I copied my favorite comments and ideas from the survey here:

These are straight quotes from the teachers who participated in the survey.  Thanks to all of those wonderful teachers for sharing their insights and to Sam for getting it started and putting it all together for us all!