I last taught in the classroom in 2014. From about 2010, I had developed a rather strong series of opinions of homework. The condensed version of those opinions would have sounded like this…
- Homework exacerbates disparities in environmental effects of the student home life on student achievement
- Homework needs to be used for re-inforcement only, not for exploration.
- I can get a lot more out of my students in class as a learning community by using homework as a bargaining chip (and mostly being willing to eliminate it)
- Homework absolutely shouldn’t be graded in any way.
You get the idea. The result was math classes that included almost no homework at all (which the students enjoyed, and then they liked coming to math class more, and I was able to take advantage of that, so they learned a lot…) If you have questions about where those thoughts can from, I’m happy to explain my 8-10 years ago thoughts to you. I still stand by a lot of them right now.
But, what happened this spring raised questions in my mind. Like, how prepared would my students have been for the Covid shut down? Was I simply avoiding an opportunity to help my high school students be better prepared to learn outside of my classroom? Should I have been doing more to help them engage learning more flexibly?
I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I observed Covid turn the entire school system into non-stop homework for weeks this spring (it happened in my home, too.) “Being good at doing homework” is just a series of skills and habits that need to be practiced (like anything else) and students who had 2013 Andrew would have had very little practice doing Geometry at home because I made the conscious decision to make sure they didn’t.
Maybe I was doing it wrong (wouldn’t be the first time). Maybe I wasn’t, but what I was doing worked in 2013 and now it’s Covid2020 and things are different. Possible.
Anyway, for Fall 2020, it seems to me that preparing students and families for the need for the students to have meaningful learning experiences away from school needs to be taken seriously.
The last post I made included a few of my thoughts presented in video form.
Here’s “part II” of those thoughts, which are less about how we might onboard students to prepare for digital teaching-and-learning and more about supporting the students’ needs for learning at home.