Thursday, October 7, 2010

Engaging, Purposeful and Meaningful Homework

Calgary Catholic School Board has posted a new homework policy online; The Board has asked for feedback from the community.   Global National's Francis Silvaggio asked me to comment on this policy, and aired a few of my responses on Oct 6th:  No Homework Policy.  Other views that I expressed during this interview include:
  • CCSB has proposed a balanced and flexible policy that enables teachers to be responsive to individual student learning needs;
  • A clear focus on meaningful and purposeful homework has been articulated;
  • Reasonable expectations for the quantity of daily homework have been set for children in different divisions (i.e., K-grade 3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12);
  • Homework can take different forms, from practice, to completion, to enrichment, to project work; 
  • Punitive measures to discipline students for incomplete homework - no missed classes or loss of privileges - are inappropriate. Instead, focus on good communication between school and home;
  • Roles and shared responsibilities for students, parents, teachers and school administrators have been identified.
As an educator, I support the idea of regular homework that is engaging, meaningful and purposeful. I believe that homework can be a great opportunity for children and parents to connect and communicate about learning strengths, interests and needs.  In higher education, professors and instructors have a great deal of flexibility given the learning characteristics of our adult students - most students do individual and group work outside of scheduled instructional time. For teachers and students in K-12, I believe that our expectations for homework outside of instructional time need to be guided by sound educational research on learning and teaching, and also be tempered by our understanding of the many demands on home and family life. Teachers and parents are BOTH focused on student / child success in learning, and effective processes can be put in place to communicate and negotiate a set of shared expectations for schoolwork and homework.

As parents, my husband and I engage with our own children on learning tasks most evenings and on weekends. The learning tasks we do together range from printing and practicing with text, lots of reading using diverse materials, fun activities both indoors and out, arts, crafts and music, and math and science explorations using a microscope, a stove and measuring cups, shovels and seeds, tools in the garage, and various other materials. That said, we are a family that also has to balance full time work and school, with music lessons, choir lessons, sporting activities, housekeeping, meal preparation and clean up, laundry, pets, and so on! In our busy and purposeful full-time lives, we expect to work together with the school on purposeful and meaningful homework tasks that help our children love school and love learning and experience success.

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