We met by department, prepared to discuss homework. I gave each department the following list of questions and I stressed that there were no right or wrong answers and no hidden agenda.
- For each course in your department, approximately how many nights per 7-day week can a student expect to have an assignment or homework not including studying for tests and quizzes?
- For the average to above-average student, how much time should be spent completing homework assignments on nights when homework is assigned?
- When homework is assigned, what percentage of the total homework assignments is graded?
- When homework is graded, is the homework graded for completion, for accuracy, for both, or is the homework graded according to some other criteria?
- What percentage of all outside-of-class assignments (homework, projects, etc., but not including studying for tests and quizzes) consists of practice and/or drill to reinforce what has been taught in class?
- What percentage of all outside-of-class assignments (homework, projects, etc., but not including studying for tests and quizzes) requires a student to learn a new skill on his/her own? (This does not include the example of a history class reading Chapter 4 Section 2 to be discussed the next day. I don’t consider this learning a new skill.)
- How frequently is a student given the opportunity (or the directive) to be creative within the scope of a homework assignment (not counting projects)?
- How frequently is a student given the opportunity (or the directive) to be collaborative within the scope of a homework assignment (not counting projects)?
- It should be noted that these questions were directed at academic departments within a college preparatory upper school.
Now that I've collected the data, I can build homework profiles for students. For example, I can select any student in any grade and quickly get a rough idea of what his or her homework load should be. I then can add in study time for quizzes and tests, work time for lab reports and work time for projects to get a more accurate picture of his or her total academic load. Finally, I can add to this picture additional time for athletics, extra-curricular fine arts activities, and more. By looking at this complete extracurricular portrait of a student, teachers, counselors and administrators can gain valuable insight into the lives of students.
This data also will help us address homework issues that arise occasionally with families. Whether a student or a parent expresses concern about having either very little homework or 4-5 hours nightly, a homework profile can help counselors and administrators figure out what's really happening.
Ultimately, we want to examine the quality of the homework we expect our kids to do. Part of that process, at least in my opinion, should be developing a clear picture of the quantity we expect our kids to do.