This year, I have tried to engage my students in a more thoughtful homework process. I don’t think any math teacher, ever, has been satisfied with the way homework works in their class, and I would certainly put myself in that boat. My frustrations in the past have been that students sometimes would do something wrong and then continue to cement that wrong thing by repetition, I would get 30 homework assignments that look basically the same and spend tons of time giving useless feedback that they didn’t really even look at, and students were focused on completion over learning. I attribute this to the structure of the homework over students being their nutter butter selves. Here are the changes I made this year:
1. Every homework assignment comes with a full solution (not just answer) guide. It’s more work for me, but also makes me assign a reasonable amount of homework.
2. Students go through the assignment and do whatever they can without the solution guide.
3. Then they check the solution guide to check what they did and finish what they couldn’t. Anything they write after this point (or using the solution guide) is in a different color – which is a crucial point. They check their answers, fill in the rest of incomplete solutions and give themselves feedback on what they did well and what they did poorly.
It takes a little longer for the students, so I try to assign a little less. And some students haven’t bought totally into it yet (slash never will). But as a teacher grading it, I can see so much more. Like…
- Where students struggled and what they still don’t understand well, which is so obvious with the colored pen. What they did in pencil is their work and what they did in pen is their work with the solution guide.
- Evidence of learning – instead of doing something wrong over and over, they correct it and do it better the second time around, or at least know that what they did is wrong and need to get help from me.
- Where to give them feedback on the specific things that they are struggling on.
- Who is engaging with the homework and trying to learn from it, vs. who is just tryna get-r-done.
I also spend less time grading homework while still giving better quality feedback. I think they spend about the same amount of time doing homework but get more out of it.
The training process for this has been an investment, but worth it. I share with the class examples of things they can do to do this better, like this:
Feedback from students has been that they almost either really like it, or are fine doing it. They almost all indicate that it’s better for learning, which is what I care about.
How do you feel about the method of doing homework where you check your own answers?
It is very helpful XXXXXXXXXX
- It allows you to learn the right way of doing it while it’s still fresh in your mind.
- I like understanding what I did wrong right after I did it so that I can grasp what I did wrong.
- Being able to look at the answer and find what I did wrong at my own pace helps me understand the problem and how I should do it next time.
- Writing my own feedback is more helpful than skimming any you would give on homework.
- Self check is a way to see what you did wrong right after you did the work instead of a couple of days later,
It’s fine XXXXXXX
- I feel as though that making corrections and not totally understanding my mistakes is perhaps the biggest downfall.
- maybe if i came back after a longer period of time it would be more helpful to me in particular.
- I understand that it’s good to correct ourselves but I think I get more out of simply going up to you to clarify he things I’m struggling with.
- I only feel like feedback is necessary for some problems if I really don’t get it
- Well it is helpful some of the time but it does take a really long time to do this.
- I think that it’s helpful like 85% of the time, and then other times it confuses me
Meh, I don’t really do it. XX