- Assigning homework has been a practice teachers have followed for years, attributing it to helping students build strong study habits and practice what they’ve learned. But amid remote learning, Mary Davenport, an English teacher at an international school in Brazil, writes in Edutopia that she is shifting how she thinks about assignments, preferring to give less work and even adjust what she assigns if needed.
- The English department at her school is working together to modify homework, with the entire high school agreeing not to give students more than 30 minutes of work per class at home.
- With less homework, students are spending less time on screens. And Davenport believes students trust her more as they see her adjusting to their needs.
Even before COVID-19 swept across the globe shuttering schools, educators were re-thinking the purpose of homework, looking at what was not only necessary but what fit into the educational process. Educators haven’t given up on homework, but they are starting to change and even drop requiring what needs to be done outside of class.
One reason is the homework gap — the lack of internet and device access that has affected many students. Even before the pandemic, 58% of 8th-graders surveyed reported they needed to be on the internet to get their school work done at home, reported Pew Research Center, with a lack of technology impacting the ability to complete work assigned outside of the classroom.
There are other factors impacting how easily students can finish homework. In an in-person environment, educators can walk around a room and assist students who need help. Online, students sit in small boxes on a screen, and their work is not always visible. To bridge these issues, some teachers make use of virtual breakout rooms and digital office hours, with others creating homework hotlines, like one in Indiana staffed by retired teachers.
Another way to reduce homework could be to adopt a flipped classroom model, suggests McKinsey & Company. Here, students watch a video on a topic or lesson and classes meet online together to complete work to show their learning so there’s support during class, whether it’s virtual or not.