Comments on: Tell Your Teacher I’m Breaking Up With Homework Education on the Edge Thu, 23 Jan 2020 02:38:47 +0000 hourly 1 By: Mark Barnes Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:42:45 +0000 Agree on all fronts, Scott.Thanks for sharing. We’ll check out your blog post.
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By: Scott Wed, 08 Jul 2015 02:02:22 +0000 I agree 100%. I stopped giving homework a long time ago too. I’ve only been teaching for 10 years, but 2 years in I stopped with all homework.

My reasoning was two-fold. 1.Students are in school for long enough each day, they do no need to bring more of it home with them. 2. What good is it doing them? Their parents often cannot help with any assignments I send home at the high school level science and math, and so it would not be done anyway,causing the student to not get so-called valuable marks.

I have written my own article on my personal blog about this very subject of howork and parents getting stressed out over it. It is still a popular one, 7 years after writing it.

By: Mark Barnes Sun, 26 Oct 2014 14:38:06 +0000 Ken, thanks for sharing the WP blog post. Your points are very well taken. It’s discussions like these that make B or I a wonderful community of education shareholders, dedicated to improving teaching and learning. BTW, B or I contributor, Gerald Aungst, is a math researcher and teacher. He has a book coming out in 2015 that is all about different, more engaging ways to teach math. We’ll promote it here, of course. Keep an eye out, and keep you contributions coming. Namaste.
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By: Kenneth Tilton Sun, 26 Oct 2014 11:18:14 +0000 Sorry to be such a PITA about this, but somehow I left out the best part: from

” It’s easy to miss one interesting result in this study that appears in a one-sentence aside. When kids in these two similar datasets were asked how much time they spent on math homework each day, those in the NELS study said 37 minutes, whereas those in the ELS study said 60 minutes. There’s no good reason for such a striking discrepancy, nor do the authors offer any explanation. They just move right along — even though those estimates raise troubling questions about the whole project, and about all homework studies that are based on self-report. Which number is more accurate? Or are both of them way off? There’s no way of knowing. And because all the conclusions are tied to that number, all the conclusions may be completely invalid.”

Oh, good, we agree!

“But let’s pretend that we really do know how much homework students do. Did doing it make any difference?”

OMG. Are you kidding me? Let’s pretend and see what we can publish in the Washington Post?

Ironically, just yesterday I was trying to generate random student performance data to support development of an LMS within my algebra app. When I got to randomizing “time spent practicing” I realized it would be hard to correlate with overall performance (generated as a normal distribution around 85%): the best students would spend little time on practice! I ended up not factoring in performance when generating “time practiced”.

The other problem with using grades as a measure of learning is grade inflation: all data points get shoved up into A or B, masking any correlation that might be there.

Then there is the boredom factor: bright students score a hundred points higher on the SAT than students who trounce them on GPA, because grades are only to a degree about ability. This aligns with their observation that there *was* a small correlation between reported homework time and standardized tests, though not grades: standardized tests cannot be sucked up to and they cannot be intimidated by parents or administrators needing to show improved school performance.

btw, my focus is math, but another area where we have a serious deficit is expository writing. Hard to imagine that not correlating with time spent on it.

I agree homework for the sake of homework is a crime against nature offering little benefit while turning kids off, but any assault on that should not take out productive practice as collateral damage.

By: Kenneth Tilton Sun, 26 Oct 2014 03:00:23 +0000 Ok, I googled a little harder, still did not find any research by Kohn. I found a chance to buy his book, and a column in the Washington Post:

Still no research, just his take on Maltese’s disappointing research: theyhad kids self-report on time spent on homework and compared with their grades and performance on standardized tests.

“Thousands of students are asked one question — How much time do you spend on homework? — and statistical tests are then performed to discover if there’s a relationship between that number and how they fared in their classes and on standardized tests.”

ie, They did not teach a skill, vary the practice, and then test the skill. Too much work, I guess. They pride themselves on this “aerial view”, which sounds to me like “this will be cheaper than a study in which we control for teacher, community, etc”.

What would be needed (but would be unethical because it is such a daft idea) would be to have the same teachers with the same mixes of students teaching the same classes and then having some of them do twenty problems of practice outside of class and some of them not.

Then we need to test as usual and again six months later (I am curious about difference in retention possibly being greater because of practice.)

Anyway, I will not criticize Kohn’s research: he did not do any or report on any.

By: Kenneth Tilton Sun, 26 Oct 2014 02:27:35 +0000 Don’t worry, I am not disappointed, not until you can cite something specific (your favorite, most compelling study) that supports your counter-intuitive idea that practice does not help (muscles or not). I have to tell you, from what I have seen of education research, well, they make the Time article look good. I look forward to disabusing you of your heros.

btw, why are you talking about muscles? Because that was my example? How about card sense, in bridge? My three computer opponents in MS Hearts all count cards perfectly. I lack the knack and win 70% of the games (having played too many to admit). Do you think you could teach that some way other than a thousand hands? What about positional sense in chess? Know some way to convey that other than a thousand games of chess? Do you know how to become a good photographer? Try taking a thousand pictures.

Something happens inside us as we practice, something we then cannot even convey to others. Hell, I remember learning how to manage a classroom in a tough school, and I remember trying to spell out how easy it was… turned into a fifteen page essay and even then there was that ineffable knowing what to do when with whom when they did what.

But I apparently the experts know abundant substitutes for experience and that in fact experience is *counter*-productive.

Like I said, you have a scoop.

Looking forward to that citation.

By: Mark Barnes Sun, 26 Oct 2014 00:15:39 +0000 Sorry to disappoint you, Ken, but you couldn’t be more misinformed. The brain doesn’t work the same way as your arms or legs. This isn’t that kind of muscle memory. My research is exhaustive-Alfie Kohn, Sara Bennett, Dick Allington. Doesn’t get much better. And kids should never lose points. In fact, there should be no points. Learning can’t be measured.
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By: Kenneth Tilton Sat, 25 Oct 2014 18:01:50 +0000 OK, I will come down on the side of “Insane” for this one. I think you have a bit of a scoop with practice not being helpful (speaking specifically of math algorithms). My guess is you found some awful research. Why not just three problems instead of twenty? After three we consciously understand the algorithm (unless there are five or six variants of a given problem), after twenty we have internalized it. One key aspect of “knowing” Algebra is recognizing which of dozens of transformations can be applied to a given expressions. This requires the aspiring algebrain (?) to abstract away the specifics of variables and coefficients and other surface features to the underlying mathematical essence. Again, three problems does not yield that. Sure they can factor x^2 – y^2. How about 81y^6 – 1/4? Three problems may be enough to get kids through a quiz on similar problems a few days later, which may be why students seemingly doing OK in Algebra fail finals en masse.

btw, in my class kids could only lose points by *not* doing homework. Their grade came only from summative tests (minus points for missed homework (but I only had to do that once)).

btw2, I have a major problem with this idea of homework as something other than learningwork, to coin a term. Suppose someone shows me something new and I decide to learn to do it myself? I will do it myself (remember Confucious?) until I am confident I have it down pat. Notice that I did not specify a quantity. That may be ten problems (never 3!) or twenty, depending on the complexity of the skill.

My model for learning is the Gran Turismo driving game. I repeated a so-called “mission” until I passed, period. Think competency, not quantity.