By Andrew Miller
We all struggle with homework and how to use it. In fact, many have said no to homework for good reason. It’s often just busywork, boring, or not clearly connected to the learning. Many times, students come home and can’t even articulate why they have a homework assignment. This is a problem of relevance. Worse yet, students receive hours of homework each night. They are required to read and take notes on material, produce papers, or more. This is what you might call “Do-It-Yourself School.” If you are assigning work where students are learning a large amount of completely new material on their own, then you are actually doing a disservice to your students.
Students should not be required to be their own teachers outside of class (the keyword here is “required”). Instead, homework needs to be designed for intentional purposes that support student learning. Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, in their book Better Learning Through Structured Teaching, articulate many of the points that I try to make here. When we focus on some of these examples and principles below, we can actually make homework a useful tool for learning, where students see the relevance and engage in it.