Five Reasons I don't Assign Homework

The homework debate is one that has permeated education for many decades, and it shows no signs of slowing. Homework proponents perplex me, because the research is so overwhelmingly against homework's effectiveness.

After much consideration and my own exhaustive research, I stopped assigning homework a few years ago. Homework simply doesn't fit into a Results Only Learning Environment.

Although I could speak endlessly on the negatives of homework, I'll get right to the top five reasons I don't assign homework, in reverse order.

5 -- Virtually all homework involves rote memory practice, which is always a waste of time. In the age of the Smartphone, who needs to remember by rote?

4 -- Homework has nothing to do with teaching responsibility (HW advocates love this claim). Not only is there not one reliable study to prove that homework builds responsible children, based purely on what we know about responsibility, the assertion is illogical. Responsibility implies autonomy, and homework offers none of this. Students are told what to do, when to do it, and when it must be returned. Where does responsibility come into play?

3 -- Homework impinges upon a student's time with family and on other, more valuable, activities -- like play. As Alfie Kohn states in The Homework Myth, why should children be asked to work a second shift? It's unconscionable to send children to work for nearly eight hours a day, then have them go home and work for 2-5 more hours; we don't live in 19th century London.

2 -- I can teach the material in the time I'm with my students in the classroom. The endless cry of "I can't teach all of the standards without assigning homework" is a tired excuse used to hide ineffective methods. Creating engaging activities in place of lecture and worksheets, along with less testing allows teachers to cover more material in class and eliminates the need for homework.

1 -- Students hate homework. I want to help  my students develop a thirst for learning. I want them to read for enjoyment and exploration. I want them to extend their learning when they choose, because they are interested in what we do in class. If I force them to do activities that they don't choose, they will hate them. If I penalize them for not completing something they see as valueless, they not only don't learn, they get a bad grade and hate learning even more.

My colleagues often attempt to persuade me that homework is an integral part of teaching and learning. I'm simply  not buying. So, what's your take on the debate? 


Mark's new book, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom is available in the ASCD bookstore here.

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  • Glad to visit your blog, I look forward to more good articles and I think we all like to thank so many good articles, blog to share with us.
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    Rodene_Lee1, 1 week ago | Flag
  • Great Post... Nice share for me, maybe nice for all reader of your post.. thanks
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    Rodene_Lee1, 3 weeks ago | Flag
  • Hey Dina, Thanks for your insightful questions. I am a huge fan of independent reading. I encouraged my students to read at home nightly. The key is I never told them what to read. We did a lot of informal book chats about what they were reading, which they loved. I'm not a fan of short stories, not that there aren't some great ones, but I have found that students would prefer to read books or articles online. Some classics are excellent, but lots of kids hate Great Gatsby and won't read it no matter what. I still say provide as much in-class reading time as possible. If you get kids involved in a story in class, they will be more likely to take it home and read more of it. Just try to remain clear of the old "you have to read X pages by tomorrow for a quiz." This will discourage reading for many. Thanks again for chiming in on this stimulating debate.
    Mark_Barnes, 1 year ago | Flag
  • Mark, I hated homework my entire youth; I probably still hate it today, but I never minded reading assignments. This may be a bias since I am a langauge educator, but how does one not assign reading for the subsequenct class session if you wish to discuss, analyze, and manipulate the content. It is hard when none of the students know it. I completely agree that I prefer to read for passion and interest and not all school texts fit this framework, but do we let the kids pick the books? I am okay with this, or do we change the reading curriculum entirely? All short stories in class? Have them bring selected articles and make copies? Allow them to weekly change what we are reading based on choices and have them teach classmates with the teacher facilitating? Do we crop all classic literature? Thoughts anyone?
    Dina_Rubakha, 1 year ago | Flag
  • Mark, I agree with your perspective on guiding students into being good learners. I think there is a huge misconception, especially over the last number of years, that if we teach them the test, they will succeed in passing it. The horror of it is uncanny because good leraners can pass the test, succeed in school, go to college if they choose and find a job. Why force a rote sequence of taking one exam and not understanding the value of any of it. I feel this limits students thinking, shuts down their interest and genuinely harms education.
    Dina_Rubakha, 1 year ago | Flag

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