I have stopped assigning daily required homework to my students. Over the last 4 years of my teaching career, I assigned daily homework, and at the start of each class I would "check", or assess, the completion of their work. When I started to think about it, what I was doing could be considered malpractice.
The students would open their work booklets to the assigned page and I would walk up and down the rows and either give the students a 100% or a 0%. It is ludicrous to call this true assessment. I was grading their work ethic more than their actual knowledge of math. Almost every student's mark was being either inflated or deflated due to their work ethic.
I have had the discussion that daily homework teaches good work habits and/or develops positive character traits. After reading many articles and research I have yet to find one piece of evidence that supports this claim. Another argument is that homework "gives students more time to master a topic or skill". I have read reports from researcher Richard C. Anderson that claims "the actual learning that is occurring depends strictly on time spent learning the concept". However, when Anderson completed further research he found that this claim also turns out to be false.
A colleague of mine used the example of reading to illustrate the need for daily homework. Anderson found that when children are taught to read by focusing on the meaning of the text (as opposed to strictly memorizing the phonetic sounds of the words), then the learning completed by the reader does not depend on the amount of instructional time. His research also carried over to math, which showed that the more time spent on completing math facts only increased achievement if the achievement was based on low level thinking and strictly recall as opposed to problem solving. The truth is that when creativity and higher level thinking is involved, the more hours spent are least likely to produce better outcomes.
Another colleague used the idea of sports to prove that homework is a necessity. Of course it makes sense that if you practice a certain athletic skill the correct way you will improve in that area. However, using sports to promote homework in class is using petition principii, or more commonly known as “begging the question”. A proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof; we are assuming that an intellectual skill and an athletic skill can be classified in the same category.
The majority of people that I have encountered that are supporters of daily required homework fail to look at the tasks from the students’ point of view. Most “drill and practice” assignments actually do the contrary to students’ learning, and actually “drill and kill” any interest in the subject area. Also, when students are struggling with a concept, asking them to complete questions on this concept will become frustrating for them and still no actual learning will occur. I have realized that I need to stop treating my students with the notion that “if I give them more to do, then they will know more”.
In my classes, I challenge students in meaningful contexts and provide them with questions that are similar to the ones in class. I do not require my students to complete these questions, I do not grade these questions, and I do not force my students to do work that is not important to them. The meaning of the math is what I put as a priority in my class, and home work as second.