High Yield Strategy: Homework and Practice

Homework is a hotly debated and often researched topic among educators.  There seems to be a rather significant divide at times regarding whether or not it really makes a difference for students.  Today’s writing is not intended to swim into those deep waters.  Instead, today we will continue to move forward with our review of the high-yield strategies identified through the meta-analyses conducted by Robert Marzano and his team presented in the now-classic book Classroom Instruction That Works.  

According to Marzano et al, homework and practice produce an effect size of .77 (please remember that the effect size is the increase in student achievement as measin in standard deviation).  Marzano and team provide the following clarifying information:

  1. The amount of homework assigned to students should be different from elementary to middle school to high school.  A general rule of thumb commonly applied is no more than 10 minutes per grade level.  So a 2nd grade student could do twenty minutes of work per evening, while an 8th grade student could do 80 minutes of work per evening.  Again, those are general rules of thumb.  The big takeaway is that the amount of work expected should be consistent with the age and ability of the student served. 
  2. Parent involvement in homework should be kept to a minimum.  The purpose of homework is to give students additional time and experience in the content area.  The work students are given should be such that they themselves can complete the tasks and receive the benefit of extra exposure. 
  3. Homework should have a clearly identified and articulated purpose.  Clearly link the assigned tasks to the classroom goals.
  4. Provide quality feedback on assigned homework.  Students need to know if their work is meeting the standards.  If the work meets the standard, students need to know how to exceed the standard.  If the work does not meet the standard, students need specific direction regarding why, and they need specific direction regarding how to improve.  
  5. Skill acquisition requires focused practice.  Classroom activities and homework provide such opportunities. 
  6. Adaptation is necessary for the greatest gains.  Students will have to shape and reshape their thinking throughout the learning process.  Homework and practice should provide such opportunities.

As you prepare for student homework assignments next week, keep these things in mind.  You and your students will be glad you did!

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