Boston — Teachers who know full well that each of the pupils in a given class group is quite different in both learning style and ability, nevertheless, time after time, give the same homework assignment to the entire group.
That's not only not necessary, but flies in the face of "meeting individual needs," the goal of most teachers worldwide.
Two general purposes for homework -- (1) to reinforce skills learned in school; (2) use out-of-school time for needed practice.
In the first intance, the math teacher assigns a page of drill using problems involving conversion of fractions to percents, the language teacher asks for memorized vocabulary lists, third-grade teachers assign a lesson in homonyms, and so forth.
In the second instance, papers are written, play lines are learned, drawings are completed, maps are designed and drawn, and so forth.
Too many teachers assume that a home will provide a skilled adult with the time and interest to aid as well as supervise homework, and even when they know such an adult is not regularly at home during homework time, still give assignments which require such assistance.
But students are not identical,and sameness is not "fair," in fact, is inherently unfair.
Generally the children who end up getting "different" homework which is more suitable to their learning needs, are not those without home support, but those with a great deal of home support. It's those children who don't need the assignment given the class as they already know the material. These fast learners, absolutely correctly, earn the right to have special homework assignments more suitable to their learning styles and abilities.
With few outside advocates for those without a great deal of home support, it's necessary that schools -- and especially classroom and subject teachers -- recognize the need for differentiated homework assignments. Schools work individually with students to see that they're getting the needed practice time on skills and can carry out longer assignments.
Homeworks hotlines are going up across the U.S. so that those pupils who need help can get whatever they can over the telephone. These are a help, but require a certain amount of "savvy" on the part of the pupil asking for the help.
And it's certainly feasible for many schools, which hold evening classes, to have "homework rooms" where pupils can come and have access to adult encouragement and help.
It's also possible for teachers to allow and even encourage pupils in a given class to work together on homework assignments, sometimes assigning those already skilled to help those still learning a skill.
But surely the greatest help of all would be to have the homework fit the student.
We don't need to give any more practice or research time to finding out what happens when the pupil doesn't fit the homework!
Next week: Original ar in schools