Saturday, March 15, 2014

Should Homework Be Graded?

Friday’s PLC (3/14/14) was thought provoking. “Our enduring goal is to create a learning culture that encompasses environment, instructional practices, curriculum and assessments that support rigorous and differentiated opportunities for deep thinking, leaning and understanding.” Michelle’s padlet had some very intriguing articles and videos that allowed us to choose from a smorgasbord of topics and to continual our focus on school-wide learning goal. I found it helpful to read more than one article that addressed the same topic. I read two different short articles on summative and formative assessment.

Grant Wiggins article, Using Homework as Formative Assessment, required that the reader have a strong philosophical reason for grading homework. Wiggins classified homework as a form of formative assessment which should be on-going, provide reoccurring feedback and a tool for adjusting our teaching. Do I grade homework, sometimes, “yes,” but now I’m wondering if it is the best practice for helping students move forward. Do I give proper feedback, “yes,” or I hope that I do. The problem I see occurring in my classroom is that I don’t always get homework with proper feedback into my students hand quickly enough for them to make the adjustments in their leaning before I give a summative assessment. The turn over time has to be quicker if homework is going to be used as a formative assessment. I like the analogy used for grading homework. They compared homework to the pre-season soccer games and how these games help soccer players to prepare for the seasonal games when things really count.  This connection helped me to see how homework should be preparation for the summative test and corrections should be made along the way as students are preparing for the final performance of our unit of study. I realized that when I don’t make adjustments in my instruction after checking homework I’m very likely not helping my students to move toward a deeper understanding. I’d like to address one more point that was made in the article. If you take a grade on homework the article suggested that we might want to consider raising that grade if their performance has improved on the summative assessment. With everything I try to keep track of in each day I’m not sure I could remember to raise someone’s grade after grading the summative assessment, but it’s a nice concept, something to think about.

The second article also about formative and summative assessment written by Andrew Miller, Courageous Conversation: Formative Assessment and Grading.  The first point that stuck me was grading homework was, “leverage to make students do the work” and “I was ‘Cattle-prodding’ them into doing work”.  Oops, I’ve never looked at it in this way, but if I’m grading homework and making them do unfinished homework, I might be doing just that. Andrew Miller agrees with Grant Wiggins homework is a formative assessment and should not be grade. Andrew suggest that you give specific focused feedback on assignment and to ask students to set goals based on this feedback. This article does say that you could use the homework as a formative assessment to create a progress grade and to track a students Work Ethic. Whew! I believe developing a good work ethic is a necessary life skill.

 I believe that it is time for me to be more reflective on homework practices for my students. Is my homework assignment necessary, engaging and will it help my students perform better on the summative assessment because of the homework assigned? In the UbD planning template we determine evidence for assessing learning and plan those assessment with the end in mind. After reading these two articles I will reevaluate my homework assignments and make sure they will allow students to demonstrate their learning and understanding because I’ve anchored the homework around our essential questions.


  1. I really believe homework is a great way to informally assess where there thinking is. I give homework maybe once or twice a week and almost always create my own to be meaningful and hit the essential learning. It's a challenge to give timely feedback, but find it often pays huge dividends. I also liked Jeff's idea that I overheard about grading an assignment. Tell students how many they got incorrect, but don't tell them which ones. This will allow students to go a little deeper and evaluate all their responses.

  2. Homework is a dicey subject in that at the elementary level, many students get assistance from parents on their homework. This is one of the two challenges I see with grading homework. The other challenge is what you do with those kids that don't do their homework. In elementary, homework is viewed more as extra practice of a skill and teaching children to be responsible. A more valid formative assessment at this age is a quick quiz or exit slip at the end of class. Additionally, reading kids' writing, looking for only one aspect, can also be an insightful formative assessment, allowing for quick groupings for reteach.