Wednesday, June 13, 2012

HW Solution?

I, like many of you, have been debating what to do about homework. I don't want to grade it. With doing Standards Based Grading,  I don't feel it makes sense to grade it (I'm not rehashing this discussion). However, students aren't practicing like they should be. As I was in a session with Cathy Hamilton over the last two days, she made the point that students will not do any homework that does not receive any feedback. This was the brainstorm that hit me as I was listening to her today.

Students would come into class and pick up a half sheet of paper that looks like this:

(obviously this is the full page I would send to the copier)

On the paper, they would fill in the top and copy (from their homework) a practice problem that they felt good about how they did on it (on the left) and a practice problem that they need some feedback from me (on the right). Since I provide them the answers, they would be able to check themselves to know what was correct. I would need to make clear to them that I would not work out a problem from the beginning for them on this page - receiving feedback means that they would show me what they could do and I would comment on what they did and point them in the right direction.

What do I hope to accomplish?
First, I would hope it would encourage students to do their assigned problems. Second, it would allow me to see what they've actually done on two problems and comment on them.

The biggest downside I see at the moment is the time it will take to read through and comment on each paper.

What do you think? Please comment (good and bad) and help me figure out if this is a possible way to encourage students to do their assigned problems and be beneficial to both me and my students. Thanks.


Max Ray said...

I love that this is metacognitive and student driven -- what are you confident with and not confident with? What do you want feedback on? It would be motivating to me as a student, and I'd probably approach HW differently: read through the set to find a problem I could do and one I couldn't, work them both to confirm my hunch, and either be done or try to find a different set that it turns out I could/couldn't do. Of course, that may defeat the "practice lots of things" idea, but it does support the know what you know and need help on and seek that help!

The other thing I thought of is how to build more student work and less teacher work in: I teach an online course in which my goal is to help build teachers' capacity to give feedback, both to students and to one another. One activity we do is to have teachers in small groups share a piece of student work they're confident about giving feedback to and a piece they aren't confident about, and ask their peers for help.

I wonder if it might work to have students in small groups either pair students who chose the same problem, one confidently and one unconfidently, or to randomly group students and have them compare answers on mutually confident problems, teach each other any problems where one student was unconfident and one was confident, and get as far as they can/come up with a good list of "we know... we wonder..." for mutually unconfident problems.

You can use class time you previously spent going over homework as a whole class for this small group review time, and only give feedback on the problems that groups couldn't work through together, reducing your feedback load each day.

That's just a brainstorm, I haven't thought it through or tried it out, but maybe other commenters will have ideas?

Deacon said...

I like the idea you've come up with. You get what you want and the students get feedback they desire to help them grow as learners.

Could you rotate when you give assignments? That way if you have 5 classes maybe you'd only have to grade 2-3 classes work each day. That's the first thing that came into my head.

Sue VanHattum said...

I teach community college. They still would rather learn by osmosis, and want some incentive to do the hw.

I don't have time to grade it. So I stamp it (beginning of each class). Two stamps for 5 problems, one for 3 or 4. At test time, I count the stamped hw, and record it. Answers are in back. It's their job to let me know what they don't understand.

Not perfect, but the best solution for me so far.

polen4 said...


I love this idea! I, too, struggle with homework, although mine is more having the students read text ahead of time to be ready for class discussion and activities. I'm racking my brain trying to think how to make your idea work for an English class.

Love how your idea differentiates and individualizes the learning naturally!

Bowman said...

i really like this. i think you are so right that homework without feedback is really the key (i.e. it's not grading it that matters as much as the feedback) and i think it's a really nice way to formalize the feedback. Just one question: do you think kids would try to fake it? i.e. not do the other problems and just do the two you are asking for? something like that?

Lisa said...

@Max - I'll have to think about the group thing. Not totally sure how it would flesh out in my classes. You've given me some food for thought anyway. :-)

@Deacon - I have 5 Algebra 2 classes and 1 Math 2 class next year. I'm not sure if rotating who gets turned in will help. I do like the idea though...

@Sue - Interesting thought on the HW. Part of my concern is copying and although I'm not convinced in my head that this will keep them from copying it, I'd like to think this will encourage them to try it on their own. If I'm still checking how much is done, I'm afraid they will resort to copying to get the stamp.

@polen4 - Thanks for your thoughts! It's good to hear a different content perspective on my idea.

@Bowman - I think it's very possible that some students will only do 2 problems. In the past when I've checked HW for completion, students have copied. I think some students will always do as little as possible. I am thinking that a student doing 2 problems is better than not doing the homework at all if I am not checking it or giving them feedback on it. Of course, the hope would be that students would attempt more than 2 problems. :-)

Thanks everyone for your comments - keep them coming! I appreciate your help in fleshing out this idea!

druin said...

I'm like you and don't want to grade homework... Here's what worked for me:

At the beginning of the unit, I have an assignment sheet that listed the learning targets and a few text book problems for each. Each day, at the end of the lesson, I would put up 3-5 problems for them to work right away.. Since it was part of the lesson, they had no idea they were doing the homework problems. The next days warmup was also for the previous lesson and that one they turned in for feedback and they colors coded it green yellow or red for how they felt about the learning target. I also had leveled cards for each learning target for additional practice if they wanted it. In order to reassess a learning target, they had to show evidence of their remediation.. Either the homework or additional practice or notes from the jing video or a combo of the above. It worked for me and pretty low hassle

Sue VanHattum said...

>they color coded it green yellow or red for how they felt about the learning target

I like having them decide how close they are to full understanding, after doing the warmup. Thanks.

ed parker said...

While students work on the entry problems, I circulate with a clipboard and make notes about homework completion. If there is little or none, I ask about it. My students get credit for "substantial completion." While I am doing this, I am also making notes about which problems seemed to be troublesome for them. I can start answering homework questions with some knowledge about what needs to be addressed.