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10 Steps to Setting Effective Homework Tasks

By Naimish Gohil on July, 4 2013
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It seems that everyone has an opinion on homework. Just ask educational researchers, teachers, parents and students.

What are some of these opinions? Why should homework be given? What makes up “quality homework”? The pluses behind “quality homework” include:

  • Building stronger work habits
  • Strengthening student responsibility
  • Reinforcing important skills already taught
  • Boosting academic achievement
  • Exemplifying that learning occurs outside the classroom and it is a life-long activity

What makes up “quality homework”? This is homework that …

  1. covers material that is already taught - Homework should always consist of skills and concepts that are not new to the student. This way the child is more apt to have success completing the necessary work.

  2. provides practice of skills /review of concepts from previous days, weeks or months - Research shows that when homework is based on prior long-term learning rather than short-term learning, there is more transfer of the skills learned.

  3. includes clear instructions - It is important that the teacher not only write the instructions and activities for the homework in a manner that is easily understood, but that there is time in class devoted to explaining the homework so everyone knows the expectation and how to do it.

  4. allows for all students to complete successfully and within a reasonable time limit - Let’s face it. No one wants to feel like they are drowning in schoolwork. After a long school day, it is best that any homework assigned be something that the students can accomplish within an acceptable time frame for the age of the students. The child needs to view homework as a positive tool and not one that takes too much personal or family time.

  5. is not too long or complicated - Homework should be carefully selected for the student(s). It should not be excessive or overly complicated. The purpose of each assignment should be clearly communicated so students understand why it is given. Perhaps math facts, weekly spelling or vocabulary words, or a certain amount of reading is expected. Maybe there needs to be time set aside to study for a quiz or a unit test. Often it is helpful to the students to have some examples completed in class so they better understand what to do. Other times, if the same homework is expected each week, it shows the students the expectations and in time, the payoffs. For example, students who study their spelling words will do better on the weekly test, etc. Perhaps ways that work best to study for a particular assignment can be shared by the teacher and students so more students can benefit from these ideas.

  6. uses information and materials that are easily attainable - Any materials needed for the homework to be completed should be available to the students. Textbooks, additional texts, computer programs, calculators, etc. need to be items that all children either are given or have access to (i.e. at the school library, the public library, etc.). The same holds true for classwork that is assigned as group work. Can the students reasonably get together to complete the work? Has enough work time been given in school? Is sufficient time allowed for the project to be completed given students’ varying schedules and other time constraints? Has the work load been spread out over a period of days rather than expecting so much due on one night or during one week?

  7. interest students - the homework should be presented in an interesting manner and the content of interest, too. Research proves that when things are of more interest, then learning is heightened. Sometimes student choice in types of homework, assignments and activities should be allowed.

  8. offers relevance and meaning - The work needs to be important and not merely seen as busy work. It also needs to be tied in to a specific purpose that is helpful to the student and his/her learning. The student needs to know if the homework is part of the grade for an academic class or a means to a grade like studying for a test, etc.

  9. provides further learning - The homework needs to provide more learning. If the student can already do the work, then the homework is not really as vital as homework that is provided for the sake of reinforcement, review or re-teaching.

  10. gives timely feedback to the student(s) - The teacher needs to ensure that the homework is corrected and reviewed with each student in a timely manner so there is the most value attached to the homework as possible. Positive comments are important, as well as a careful analysis of what the student is doing wrong. This analysis, explaining and “correcting” helps the student avoid the error(s) in the future. Having students chart their progress helps give a visible reminder of their learning and to feel positive about school and homework.

Next: Research into the Importance of Homework

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