Don’t Eliminate Homework. Make it More Effective

Neil Heffernan
February 25, 2019

Quick summary:

In the United States, there is an ongoing debate about whether homework is worthwhile, with critics saying that it’s busywork at best and, at worst, that it’s detrimental to student learning. Instead of implementing “no homework” policies, according to Professor Neil Heffernan who runs the ASSISTments project at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, we can and should use technology to improve how students do their homework — or at least their math homework. 

In order for online homework to be effective in supporting student learning, it must:

  • Provide immediate feedback, including the ability to try a few times. This way, students will not repeat mistakes and then have to wait for their teacher to hand back their work to learn that they did everything wrong.
  • Let teachers set the pace, allowing them to adopt the technology in a way that doesn’t interfere with their established curriculum.
  • Save teachers’ time and help them plan classroom instruction. With internet-enabled systems, teachers can instantly see how students did on their homework and what concepts they might need help with in class.

Providing students with immediate feedback on their homework assignments, while providing their teachers with information they can use for course planning, is a powerful practice that’s proven to increase student learning. It’s time we demand smarter ways to use homework.  


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