Many of us become frustrated that our students don’t complete our homework and tend to blame our students. But, often the problem isn’t our students; it’s the kind of homework we assign. There is a difference between good and bad homework.
Good homework offers students a second look at class work, or reinforces what students have learned in class. It gives students the opportunity to independently practice and refine their new learning. Good homework can also offer students pre-exposure to new material which will help them be more engaged in lectures or class discussions of that material in class the following day.
Bad homework on the other hand, is either too simple and not worth students’ time, or so complex that students cannot reasonably complete it without adult help. It asks students to complete work they couldn’t finish in class or it asks students to do work that should have been done in class in the first place. Bad homework asks students to learn new material on their own.
If we want students to complete their homework we have to think critically about the homework we assign. It’s up to us to make sure that it has a clear purpose, relates directly to a learning goal, and is designed so that students can perform it independently. We have to stop assigning homework for homework’s sake. Instead, we should make sure that our homework assignments are meaningful. We have to show students how the homework will help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in our courses and in school in general. And, we have to give students explicit instruction in how to complete the homework assignment successfully. If we do so, our students are more likely to do the homework.
Use this tip sheet for great guidelines when assigning homework.