Meaningful Homework

image-f Meaningful Homework

When is homework beneficial and what makes a homework assignment effective and meaningful? Kohn (2007) offers the following suggestions to principals when working with their teachers on guidelines for assigning meaningful homework:

  1. Educate yourself and share what you’ve learned with teachers, parents, and central office administrators.
  2. Rethink standardized “homework policies.”
  3. Reduce the amount—and don’t stop there.
  4. Change the default.
  5. Ask the kids.
  6. Suggest that teachers assign only what they design.
  7. Use homework as an opportunity to involve students in decision-making.
  8. Help teachers move away from grading.
  9. Experiment.

You can read the explanations for each of these suggestions in Kohn’s article Rethinking Homework.

Research regarding homework has been ongoing for decades. If you look long enough, you can find evidence that supports homework as well as evidence refuting its effectiveness. Marzano and Pickering (2007) developed the following guidelines based on their review of homework research:

Notice that these guidelines do not suggest whether or not the teacher should actually grade homework. Some research shows that when students are afforded feedback on assigned work, their achievement improves—while other research suggests that not all homework needs to be graded (Marzano & Pickering, 2007).

Since the research varies, what should you do? The answer to the homework question probably lies somewhere in the middle: Always assign homework with purpose and meaning, not simply because you have always assigned it.

Homework doesn’t have to be the same for all students, either. When students have some choice about what they learn, how they learn it, or how they show what they know, they tend to invest more and learn more. What the choices are can be up to the students themselves. If you create a couple of potential pathways for learning, you empower interested students to create learning contracts that allow them to determine the learning path and rationalize how it meets specific learning objectives.


Kohn, A. (2007, January/February). Rethinking homework. Principal. Retrieved March 19, 2012, from

Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2007, March). Special topic / The case for and against homework. Educational Leadership, 64(6). Retrieved March 19, 2012, from