Homework: From the Student Perspective

The Grade 7 class at Dundas Central wrote to me about why they do not enjoy doing homework.  They offered a few suggestions that could potentially change this reality.

They wondered why homework never included outdoor physical activity in light of the fact that physical health and well-being are so important.  They requested that they could solve real life problems when doing their homework.  They dreamed about doing homework collaboratively, something that might become easier to do as we effectively integrate technology into the learning process.  They wondered about music and art, two subjects that are seldom assigned for homework.

One student suggested that instead of assigning homework in those areas where students struggle to learn and comprehend, leave this to school time; rather, assign work in an area where students are most passionate and interested so that they can deepen their skills in this area.

A common response was “why are our interests not regarded when the teacher is assigning homework, and why does most homework have to include writing?” I would certainly acknowledge that writing is important, but these students do have a point if most of our homework does include writing.  How is this challenging a student who already writes effectively?  How might a teacher intervene when students are struggling with their writing if everyone is expected to engage the same learning task?

They also discussed their interest in doing homework that was project-based learning that spanned a number of days, something that would allow them to go deeper in terms of certain critical questions that they were exploring.

And lastly, some students wondered why there was not one school day where no homework would be assigned, in order for the students to forge positive bonds with their friends, parents and family members or explore other interests.  In other words they are asking me about how we as adults support students to create balance.

The homework debate has been occurring for a long time.  Often this debate does not include the voices of students.  I believe that these wonderful students in Ms. Dunford’s class at Dundas Central Elementary School have provided me with rich insights, and through this post I am sharing their insights with you.

The fact that we assign homework may not be the issue.  What we assign may be the bigger issue.

How might the voices from this school, Dundas Central,  continue to make a big difference for all students.  How do we invite all of our students to reflect on their learning and make suggestions regarding how we might meet their needs?  If we ask, then we are obligated to respond.

Learning happens in many ways and it is important for educators to create learning opportunities with this fact in mind. Whether we are speaking about learning in classrooms or in the community, about class work or homework, the voices of our students will always give us something to consider.  If we invite them to contribute their ideas and issues, if we involve them as we create learning opportunities and if we respond to what they say, I believe achievement and engagement will improve.

My questions:

  • What support do educators need to effectively share leadership in the classroom with students?
  • What challenges or obstacles exist to sharing leadership in ways described in this post?

Thank you to the Grade 7 students in Ms. Dunford’s class.  You have given me plenty to think about!!!!

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