Assigning Homework that Builds on Ownership and Competence

In 2010, Cathy Vatterott identified five fundamental characteristics of good homework:

  • purpose
  • efficiency
  • ownership
  • competence
  • aesthetic appeal

I believe that Ownership and Competence are the two most important aspects of Vatterott’s fundamentals. With these fundamentals in mind, teachers should structure homework so that students can complete it with relatively high success rates (Protheroe, 2009).

Involving Students

In order to ensure that homework is interesting and not frustrating, teachers should avoid assigning it just for homework’s sake. Students should be involved in the process of deciding whether or not something is best done in or outside of class. This builds on their ownership of the homework.

Senior learners in particular can be released from class to complete homework in the library or other preferred learning environment. Providing this flexibility may increase the chance that students will appreciate the value of “homework” and associate it with a feeling of independent competence.

Parental Roles

Senior learners typically are trying to assert their independence at home. It would probably embarrass them to promote too much parental involvement in homework, but teachers can still cultivate a positive relationship between students and parents by keeping parents informed of their teen’s work habits. Teachers can also provide outlines of what is happening in class so that parents know what their students are learning.

For advanced mathematics courses, parents may not feel comfortable assisting their teen. Ensuring that the students are competent in their work prevents students from having to rely on parents for help. This level of competence keeps students interested in ownership of their work.

Selling the Benefits of Homework

This seems difficult in a time where high-achieving students are over-scheduled outside of school and under-achieving students often lack access to adequate resources or a stable learning environment outside of class. I believe that if teachers wish to get students to buy-in to homework, they have to keep these factors in mind.

Creating homework that requires little time to complete may be a good start. Asking students to observe and reflect on the happenings outside of school may increase the appeal of the homework. Effective homework does not always require the creation of a product. Perhaps daily discussions can incorporate observations from the previous day.

If homework can be done in class, students may resent it. However, if the “work” is created to promote learning in everyday life, students may view the homework as interesting and relevant.

What do you do to increase the effectiveness of homework? Please feel free to share your experiences.


Posted in Teaching and tagged , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *