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General Science and Teaching

homework policies

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Jurema Gorham Jurema Gorham 480 Points

I have been considering how I will grade, collect and count homework. Will you please sharee how you do it. I have read some articles that teachers just grade for completion. However, how will you assess if they understand the material and went home to practice.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 90533 Points

Jurema, you bring up such an important topic! Why do we give homework? If it is to prepare students for the next day's lesson, perhaps a completion grade is all that is necessary. If it is to assess student understanding to date, then we must grade it to see if they are in fact understanding! If it is to extend the lesson in some way, perhaps a completion grade is adequate. If we remember that homework is often a form of formative assessment, and IF we grade it, then we need to have opportunities for students to redo assignments they have done poorly on, so that their final grades aren't impacted dramatically from initial lack of understanding about a concept. There is a journal article that you might find useful about this: Methods and Strategies: Science Homework Overhaul You may also find this book chapter of interest: The Importance of Everyday Assessment. It addresses how teachers can use assessment to inform their practices and more effectively teach their students. The most important thing is to always have a purpose for any work. The students figure out right away if it is just 'busy work'.
What are others' thoughts on this?
Carolyn

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

Carolyn, I couldn’t agree with you more when you say, “The most important thing is to always have a purpose for any work.” I have finally come to terms with the fact not all kids will do homework no matter what you do. About 10 years ago, I stopped assigning it and held kids responsible for what they accomplished in class and made sure I provided rich and meaningful activities for students to do in class that provide opportunities to learn and show what they know. It was a tough shift for me, but once I saw what kids could accomplish with more hands-on, guide on the side approach to learning versus the sit and get, I wouldn’t dream of going back to the traditional homework. I am a strong believer in performance based assessment, so I gear a lot of my grading toward projects. I’ve found if kids can complete the project and explain their thinking along the way, as well as form a conclusion at the end, they are learning. This is not the same a grading for completion. I have a hard time giving students a grade for just completing something, or giving them points for “trying hard.” I need to see learning taking place. I like to score their work along the way in real time. This gives me the opportunity to help students when they get stuck and can help them move forward in their learning. I have my students do everything in their graphing notebooks. I check the notebooks frequently for completed work, areas of misunderstanding, and what might need to be re-taught. Oftentimes I use the notebook as a ticket to the next activity. For example, right now we are doing Wildlife Forensics – we began with plaster footprints of wildlife, and are then moving into using digital microscopes to create photos of things that could be found at a crime scene as evidence. Pacing is always important, but some kids naturally process slower than others and need more time to complete their work. I don’t want to discourage students from doing their best work, but I also don’t want kids sitting around waiting for others to finish. By staggering the tasks, all students are actively engaged in learning. My students are beginning to refer to this as “Miss Gady’s learning carrot.” There is always something ahead of them to learn next. It has also been motivating to students when they see what the next step is to spend more quality time completing the first activity to move on to the next.

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Like Carolyn and Sandy, I think it is important to identify why we assign homework before we determine if we will be grading for correctness or completeness. I typically assign two distinct types of homework. One is formative assessment tool, which reviews what we have done in class. Sometimes this will be a vocabulary review, solving problems, or a project that reinforces concepts that we have learned. I use these assessments for two reasons. First to reinforce the concepts we learn in class and to give students an opportunity to practice the concepts. Secondly, I use them the assessments to evaluate how well the students understand the concept (and how well I taught it). For these assignments, I typically grade for correctness. I also give assignments that I grade for correctness, like notebook checks. Homework can be a powerful assessment tool. I think it is important to ensure we aren't using homework as busy work, but rather as a tool to evaluate student learning. Maureen

Doris Padilla Doris Padilla 3345 Points

I have been considering how I will grade, collect and count homework. Will you please sharee how you do it. I have read some articles that teachers just grade for completion. However, how will you assess if they understand the material and went home to practice. I'm not a teacher yet but in the past during my field hours, I've seen how most of the teachers give a grade for completion. Although some teachers do grade according to the students' right answers, many of them just check if the student completed the assigned work. As a future teacher, I will give credit to the student for their effort. I will also give credit and see if the student learned what he/she was supposed to learn. Many students just guess in their homework and do it right before class just to receive a grade, and I do not believe is fair to give that student an A when there are other students whom took their time and effort to complete the homework. All students should take their time and try their best when doing their homework.

Ken Liu Ken Liu 2000 Points

I am struggling with the topic of homework this year (my 2nd year of teaching). I try to assign meaningful work that increases independent learning, but it seems no one turns in homework, despite my strict deadlines. For a recent assignment, only about 20 out of 110 students submitted their work. I am leaning toward standards-based grading of homework next year where homework is still done and checking for understanding takes place, but grades are based on summative assessments, telling me whether they met the benchmarks.

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Ken Liu, April 23, 4:10 AM wrote:
I am struggling with the topic of homework this year (my 2nd year of teaching). I try to assign meaningful work that increases independent learning, but it seems no one turns in homework, despite my strict deadlines. For a recent assignment, only about 20 out of 110 students submitted their work. I am leaning toward standards-based grading of homework next year where homework is still done and checking for understanding takes place, but grades are based on summative assessments, telling me whether they met the benchmarks.

Hi Ken,
It can be frustrating when your students routinely do not turn in their work. What grade are you teaching? My students are motivated by rewards and consequences. At the elementary level, some good rewards are treasure box, playing a fun group game, etc. For consequences, I normally take away recess (students finish the assignment during recess), missing out on a fun activity (I usually have the student go to another teacher's room), etc. At the middle and high school level, probably the biggest motivators would be grades (and maybe homework passes as a reward?). Does your school use student planners? Maybe you could work with your students' parents to establish a method for checking the planner to ensure the parents are aware that the kids have homework.

I think your idea to transition to standards based Have you seen the discussion about standards based grading in the Evaluation and Assessment forum?

Good luck with everything!

Maureen

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

Like many on this forum, I agree that the purpose of the homework should determine how it is graded. Yet, having said that, I am also cautious when considering that the work was not done/completed where I could see "who" actually completed it. Did the student demonstrate knowledge, their parent, older sibling, or neighbhorhood babysitter? I do not like to give a grade to any work completed outside of my classroom, other than a completion grade. I use formative assessments, completed in class, such as bell work or tickets out the door, as a means to determine the level of student understanding.

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Susanne Hokkanen, April 23, 10:10 PM wrote:
I am also cautious when considering that the work was not done/completed where I could see 'who' actually completed it. Did the student demonstrate knowledge, their parent, older sibling, or neighbhorhood babysitter? I do not like to give a grade to any work completed outside of my classroom, other than a completion grade. I use formative assessments, completed in class a bell work or tickets out the door, as a means to determine the level of student understanding.

Hi Susanne,
I'm really glad you brought up this point. As a teacher, it is important that we evaluate how student understanding (and to ensure that it wasn't mom/dad, siblings, etc who completed the assignment). What types of formative assessment do you use? Also, for your bell work/ticket at the door do you use worksheets or do you have developed different resources to evaluate student understanding?

Thanks!
Maureen

Danyelle Hanes Danyelle Hanes 855 Points

I think Susanne brings up a good point. Assigning a grade to homework may be assigning a grade to someone other than the student. As a pre-service teacher, homework has become one of the areas I have thought about the most. I think homework needs to be meaningful or there is no point in doing it. I think teachers need to assess their own homework to determine why they are giving it, as well as the format. Ex: Why give students 30 math problems to do if they can demonstrate their knowledge in 10? I feel a lot of times, students who understand the material finish the homework with relative ease, and others who struggle go home and still struggle. If students are not ready for independent practice in the classroom, they will not be ready for independent practice at home; this leads to parents, babysitters, etc, helping with the work. While this is encouraged, it also puts a barrier on how homework can be graded. I think Carolyn brings up a good point that what we are assessing needs to be reflected in the homework. If we are assessing to see students’ initial understanding of a topic would it be fair to put a grade on that? I had a teacher compare homework, otherwise looked at as practice, to riding a bicycle. If you grade performance based on the first time you stepped on a bike, the overall success of riding a bike will be brought down even if you are a master bike rider at the end. Does this mean grades should only reflect the summative assessment? I am not sure, what does everyone else think?

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

I grade homework - the first time - for completion. Did the student attempt to answer the questions? Do their answers demonstrate thought and an attempt at finding the right answer? I usually indicated satisfaction with completion with my initials in the bottom right corner, and/or circle anything I see as incomplete or poorly attempted. Once homework has been checked in, then we go over it as a class. Students are encouraged to make corrections, ask questions and gain clarity. After they have had an opportunity to "get it," then I recollect the homework and grade for accuracy. However, I usually only select three or four main questions to check to cut down on the over taxing nature of grading 150 homework papers. :-) The grade is based upon the initial completion grade and their effort in correcting their responses. I am looking to make sure they were attending the homework discussion. Also, homework does not carry as many points in my class - in-class work always counts for more.

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

As far as formative assessments, I use a daily bellwork question that requires students to be reflective in their responses through a format called TIPS - Think, Information Process and Solution. I also use tickets out the door...such as the one-minute paper, "muddy water," or "tell me one thing you knew before and one new thing you learned today" statement papers... My room is so large in dimension that it is still easier for me to work the formative assessments on paper... However, I do an occasional polling question with thumbs up, down or sideways to have them demonstrate if they are getting it. Thoughts? What forms of formative assessments are others using?

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

I tend to alternate between completion and really grading the homework. That way the kids always have to do it to the best of their ability, because they never know when I will grade the assignments for accuracy. I think the increase in class size has led to more teachers grading by completion. Last fall I taught 6/5 and my smallest class was 49 for the first 2 months of school. I graded their first homework assignment for correctness and it took me 3 hours to grade the 310 assignments I had. From that point on it was graded on completion. My math teacher in high school had what I consider to be the greatest grading system. I've tried to do it, but it takes awhile to train the kids and I give up. It helped that my high school was 100 students and we had him for all 4 years of math..so after your freshmen year you had the system down. At the start of class he would call out a name randomly, than that person would come up and the 4 people after them alphabetically would line up behind the student. He would grade 2 random problems on the assignment, each worth 10 points. Hand you your notebook back, write your grade down and the student would sit down and the next one would come up. He could grade 25-30 kids hw in 5 minutes. And could check for correctness and completion at that time.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67945 Points

Chris, That is an astonishing workload - 310 kids! Grading in my district is imposed largely by the school board. Most districts in my area now do not count homework more than 10% of the students' grades. The most significant portion - up to 90% - is based on summative assessment. From my perspective, the most valuable assessments are the frequent formative assessments that inform our teaching, however. I do see a push recently towards more "customized" goals and mastery learning in some school districts. The number of modifications for individual students is increasing exponentially for some of us, and keeping track of it all can be daunting. I have intervention classes where I keep track of the individual modifications for 35 students. It is a challenge. How do the rest of you deal with keeping track of assessments when fair is not equal? An ESL student who has limited use of English may have exceptional capabilities, and may be learning and incredible amount, but still nowhere near the top of the class in terms of traditional learning. Eventually, she may catch up and surpass her peers, but for the moment, she gets mediocre grades for exceptional effort because we our rubric states specific benchmarks. Anyone have any ideas, especially where over half the class is ESL, and class sizes are ballooning?

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

I would caution against giving credit for effort. The biggest problem with effort grades is they can easily turn into “Who do I like the most?” grade even if that is not your intention. It is a most unpleasant conversation to have with a parent when a student fails a high stakes test, often in the form of a state assessment, when they have received a passing grade in your classroom. The grades you give in class should correspond with the students’ ability to understand a concept and theoretically show at lest the same level of understanding on the state test. It’s possible that by giving an effort grade, their effort grade was what pulled the students’ grade up to a passing level, when in reality, they don’t understand enough yet to move to the level of meeting standards. The other question I would pose is how do you give credit for effort? How do you know a student actually completed the work? They could have copied from another student or the parent could have completed the work. What about the student that worked really hard, but only completed one small piece? Do they get as much credit as someone that completed it all? As a middle school teacher, it is hard to break students and parents of the habit of expecting to get a grade because their child tried hard. I have the expectation they will try hard on all tasks I place before them. Learning should be challenging. It took awhile, but I finally embraced the concept of SMART, (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound) goals for assignments, units or projects and life became a whole lot easier. While it takes extra time to figure it out, in the end, it is time well spent. I am curious to see how other folks deal with effort grades.

Mary Hannig Mary Hannig 2935 Points

Doris, I too am a pre-service teacher and am unsure of the best way in which to grade fairly. I agree with you, students whom have just quickly finished right before class just to finish should not get an “A”. Grades should be earned and fair to all students. I believe that homework doesn’t really help most students because it usually isn’t going to be taken seriously. I am leaning toward in-class assignments and activities that are hands-on and inquiry-based to teach content that may be less interesting. It is important to keep the students engaged and involved in their learning. What better way than to be beside them as an observer and guide in their learning. Grading them this way also gives you the teacher a clearer picture of what they really are learning. Mary Kay

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

I do agree with grading students based upon acquired knowledge/skill. However, I also believe in giving students numerous opportunities to demonstrate they are "getting it". I always offer test/quiz corrections....usually for half credit. Having taught in an urban environment for a few years, I discovered quickly that if students could not feel successful, they would shut down and quit trying. One of my goals as a teacher is to encourage a love or passion for science, and if students do not feel as if they can be successful in science, they will turn away...I don't want that. So while I do not recogonize "effort" with a grade, I do allow additional opportunites, which require effort, for improvement. And to play devil's advocate: even if my students do not meet standards on the state testing, I would argue that at least in IL, that does not mean that they are not scientifically literate. Too many state/mandated tests require memorized bits of disconnected information and do not evaluate on scientific process skills or meaningful science knowledge. Hopefully the new science standards will help change that....Thoughts?

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Being the end of the semester, I am mired in thoughts of grading and trying to figure out what it all means. I divided activities this semester into three categories (1) quizzes - knowledge based online open book and open notes. I do not put a lot of stock in knowledge alone it can get one into a lot of trouble (think of the toddler who imitates bad language with NO idea what it means. (2) online discussions meant to foster cooperative learning (a total flop A small group of students participated but most did not and three article analysis (I had a rubric for this and a sheet that help students in their consideration of the experiments discussed.) One of teh objective mandated by our school is to get students to start reading original sources. Knowing that this was likely too large a stretch I took Sci Amer articles and uploaded them to course modules. This was by far the most successful part of this class. Part of these assignments was to discuss the potential impact of the work and WOW I got lots of great thinking. So at the end of the semester the discussion and quiz sections of my gradebook looks like Swiss Cheese (lots of holes). So I offered a week of amnesty to hand in past due work - little luck- not much. So what to do? We are talking about college students here and sometimes I feel this is a war of attrition. They know they all can not fail so they just hold out. Moving forward, I know that I need some new ideas? Anyone. I would really like to throw out the textbook which is overly detailed and dry as toast. That said I still need to build basic discipline related vocabulary. I am open to any thoughts on this! Please!

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Susanne Hokkanen, Sat May 12, 2012 12:14 PM wrote:
I do agree with grading students based upon acquired knowledge/skill. However, I also believe in giving students numerous opportunities to demonstrate they are 'getting it'. I always offer test/quiz corrections....usually for half credit. Having taught in an urban environment for a few years, I discovered quickly that if students could not feel successful, they would shut down and quit trying. One of my goals as a teacher is to encourage a love or passion for science, and if students do not feel as if they can be successful in science, they will turn away...I don't want that. So while I do not recogonize 'effort' with a grade, I do allow additional opportunites, which require effort, for improvement.

I agree with Susanne. I think that it is very important that we ensure that our students are 'getting it' and that we foster an environment where students feel successful and confident in their ability to learn and understand science. I really like Susanne's method of grading for completion first and then grading for content after the students have an opportunity to correct their work. As a teacher, I think one of my most important roles is teaching my students where to find information and how to utilize the information they find. Giving students the opportunity to fix and learn from their mistakes on homework helps foster a classroom where students are confident in their ability to learn and be successful in science.

Maureen

Patricia Reid Patricia Reid 1850 Points

Giving, grading and how much homework to give is a puzzle for me. According to several websites on homework says it should be 10 minutes per grade. Since I teach Kindergarten, I figure 5 minutes. Also, I do expect the student to do it, but several times the parent or older sibling will do it, especially if it is a writing assignment. I put a check in my grade book if they return the homework done. Another teacher on my grade level says she gives more than 5 minutes of homework to make sure the stydents are ready for 1st grade and can write at least 1 phonetically written sentence. I would guess that I give the least amount of homework among the 9 teachers in Kindergarten. In Hawaii, Kindergarten is optionally but the parents send their children at age 4 (by Dec. 31). It can be hard to know if the student did the homework so maybe checking for completeness may be an option.

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