Don’t grade homeworkPosted: April 19, 2016
So you’ve got a new-fangled excel sheet or an old-fashioned mark book. You want to record assessment evidence in it so that you can track progress. Should you record grades, levels or marks for homework? No. Not even if you break it down into quite specific skills or tasks? No.
It doesn’t tell you much
The thing is, you cannot control the conditions in which homework is completed. You might grade two pieces, using the same criteria, but the first piece has been completed by the student on her own whereas the other piece has been completed by a student with considerable help from a parent, friend or maybe even a voice from the internet. You are not comparing like with like.
It’s worse than that
Additional resources that a child might draw upon at home are not randomly distributed. The children who have parents who take an interest, who fill the house with books and who are educated themselves will provide a homework advantage when compared to the children who have none of these things at home. If you grade homework, you are grading a student’s home-life.
Should we abandon homework?
I don’t think so. Bad homework of the ‘finish off what we were doing in class’ kind is probably pointless, but good homework can make use of distributed practice and interleaving. It can reinforce learning. It can help with the goal of overlearning or mastery where students still practice something that they can already do in order to make it automatic. So homework can have a significant role.
So what should we do?
Set worthwhile homework, paying attention to the cognitive science that tells us what might be most effective. Take your markbook and record whether homework has been completed or not. That is all. Don’t spend time assessing it or providing detailed feedback. Set homework that students can mark for themselves or that a peer can mark. I provide numerical answers to maths problems for my students but then insist on seeing full working to ensure that they tackled the problems themselves.
Chase those students who have not completed the homework and ensure it gets done, either by use of a sanction or by providing a space where the students can complete it such as a homework club.