Can Students Do Their Homework Anymore?

A couple months ago, we had a post on homework, and the research of some educations clowns arguing that homework can “lead to the compounding of intergenerational negative mathematical dispositions and identities”. And so on. This included parents whining about the incomprehensibility of their Year 3 kids’ homework. Whatever. Back on Planet Earth, where Year 3 homework is comprehensible or, preferably, non-existent, there are questions of what homework is and what it should be. To this end, frequent commenter Terry Mills has asked,

I would like to know what sort of homework policies are used in other schools, particularly, but not only, for mathematics.

So, how does your school mandate or constrain homework? And although Terry doesn’t ask, how should your school mandate or constrain homework? How much do teachers pay attention to any such rules?

And, here’s your song:


19 Replies to “Can Students Do Their Homework Anymore?”

  1. Math homework is ‘normal’ traditional. Looks like good ‘old school’. However, science homework is a bunch of BBC videos on sciences. Lazzy teachers who can’t explain hiding behind YouTube, and BBC videos.

    1. I have no idea what you’re talking about. “math homework” is not anything. Math homework in School X at Year Y is perhaps something.

      1. Year 7 and Year 8 at a British state school. It takes them around 20-30 minutes twice a week, but both do math also independently from school.

  2. School doesn’t interfere much. They give a max time guideline, but no one is checking.

    Maths HW tends to be “here’s the work to be done” for the unit, and homework is just staying up to date. I’d prefer a more structured, weekly approach with work that’s distinct from class, but it’d be a big cultural and planning shift for the rest of the faculty.

  3. Previous school (private, Melbourne) had a homework policy that specified a number of minutes per “core” subject by year level. For Year 7 Mathematics it worked out to around an hour a week. Core subjects were Mathematics, Science, English, Languages other than English (most 7, 8 students did one or more) and History/Geography (the two are quite often combined into “humanities” in many schools).

    Previous to this there was no homework policy and the Mathematics department was hated on by the leadership for “giving too much homework” and asked to give a deadline of at least a week for tasks. We re-defined it as “finishing off”, dropped the term “homework” and that seemed to appease the powers-that-be.

    Language teachers are the ones students seem to complain about more than Mathematics teachers and I can see the parallels (but reject the students’ conclusion) – Languages require practice. Practice takes time. Homework is essential to practice the skills of one idea so as to be ready to learn the next. This means being a few days behind on homework is really not acceptable.

    Maybe it is a cultural thing. In families where parents work jobs that could be considered “trades” the concept of bringing work home makes no sense, so to them, schools should be doing the teaching and homework is an admission by the school that not everything can be fitted into the school day. Perhaps (I’m just guessing here, but I see/hear it a lot).

    Are teachers under pressure to give more/less/different homework? Sometimes. “Differentiation” is the new buzz-word in schools (and I’m not talking about calculus).

  4. At the two regional Vic schools where I have worked, neither had set homework for maths classes up to and including VCE. Students were expected to keep up but very few did any homework. It was one of those “unwritten policies”. VCE results were predictably poor but, because they had been poor for a long time, it became the expected norm.

  5. When I was last working at a high school (Sydney, independent) two years ago, we had scheduled homework nights written into the timetable. So roughly every second maths lesson I could give homework: 20 minutes for Year 7 classes and 30 minutes for 8-10. Of course, there is variation in how fast children work, so I used to tell my classes if they couldn’t get all the assigned work finished to get their parent/guardian to initial their books to show that they had worked for the allocated time. (It also gives mum or dad a bit of a heads up if the kid is regularly struggling with the work.) Senior high school classes had no particular guidelines, you just gave homework as you see fit, which for my senior classes was every lesson.

    The school had a very academic focus, and it was expected that homework would be assigned. Personally, I think that homework should be practice and consolidation of whatever topic we were doing in class. It should not involve novel concepts or discovery (non)learning, and the kids should be able to do it themselves without parental input, as full instruction would have already been given. But then, I’m a real boring-ass traditional teacher who believes in kids sitting in straight lines, facing the front, and receiving explicit instruction in class. I probably wouldn’t be happy working at a school with a no homework policy.

  6. I give ‘finishing off’ homework every day. The only thing that has changed since my school days is that the textbooks now often offer 3 levels of problems for kids to choose. This seems to work well provided the textbook gets it right (found Pearson’s questions were about right, but Cambridge seemed to set too much). I find top down policies counter-productive as my goal is to get the most work out of my kids and being constricted in how I achieve that makes it harder. eg. If I know a kid is at their limit, then forcing me to penalise them for not doing more work isn’t very clever.

  7. Year 12 at regional private school gets 60 minutes of math homework a lesson, 3-4 lessons a week. Same for every other class a student takes, as per usual, the homework will never take an hour and students are expected to do extra work to make up time.
    It is checked at the beginning of each lesson, if it is not complete, or isn’t an hours of work it is expected to be caught up in a reasonable time frame. A teacher cant check to see if it truly an hour of work, so they will accept anything that looks ‘good’.

  8. Year 11 at a regional school:
    Mathematics “homework” is whatever you didn’t finish in class that day. I tell my students they should be doing about half an hour 5 days a week either finishing off the work from class or revising notes, extra questions. Set classwork gets checked regularly for completion and accuracy, as do summary books.
    Engineering homework does not get done with any consistency, but students have about 12 assignments each semester being roughly an hour each. They have a folio which they are supposed to fill out in class and at home.

    Year 12:
    Mathematics is roughly 4 hours per week (same amount of time out of class as in class). Finishing the days work, and then exam questions (1-3 per day).
    Engineering is a folio based subject. Some students put a lot of work in outside of class and get good results, others don’t. Aside from that, students have research for SACs, past exams, and construction on their project.

    For context we have a significant portion of year 12 students who have not read their English texts when doing their exams at the end of the year.

  9. My rule of thumb has been at any school I worked in regional or city public schools.
    VCE 11- basically finish off what you did not complete in class, this would be more for either Methods/Specialist compared to GM.
    Year 12 Methods I would recommend students are doing minimum 1 hour per night they have a methods class (4 hours), if they finish exercises they can be completing their summary book, doing exam questions etc.
    Year 12 GM I would expect they are completing what they don’t finish in class, which would be around 30-60mins a night depending on the topic and how hard they worked in class.

    At junior levels I start off doing small sets but by year 10 my expectations would be the same as year 11.

    I have never worked at a school with set homework requirements, I’ve always set them myself.

  10. Victorian Catholic School.
    Homework is specified as number of required minutes per subject held that day; the amount specified increases with year level.

    Students are supposed to record homework in diaries (they don’t). Teachers are supposed to check homework and record it on the learning management system (they don’t). Parents are supposed to confirm homework assignment (they don’t).

    In Mathematics, teachers frequently imply that homework is to complete unfinished homework – usually exercises from the textbook. Very few, if any check for completion, let alone correctness.

    I have experimented with using an online platform. The content delivery is significantly less than ideal, but it does allow for tracking completion and time spent, and does auto correct. When data on homework completion and active time is reported, the majority students and parents are uninterested. The data on completion/time/interest correlates closely with performance/achievement.

    Don’t ask about assessment or feedback. Please.

  11. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. Your comments have been very helpful.

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