Relevant, Rigorous Assignments

Graphic - rel assignIn the previous reading you explored how activating schema, or student prior knowledge, often requires placing content into a context. One place where this may be done is with homework. Homework, though, must be purposeful and engaging—students must understand the point to it. Education author Alfie Kohn describes the status quo with homework by saying that teachers will assign homework nearly every day, with plans to assign homework before even determining what that homework will be. In an interview with Gary Stager, Kohn explained, “That assumes that homework in and of itself, irrespective of the content, is beneficial. There's not a shred of evidence to support that position” (Stager, 2006).

Discussions about the purpose of homework usually follow a path similar to this one:


Q1: What is the purpose of homework?

A1: For practice, reinforcement, and a grade.


Q2: What is the purpose of a grade? 

A2: To measure learning.

Q3: Why do we want to measure learning?


A3: To motivate students to learn and to see if they really are learning

Q4: Do grades really measure student learning?

A4: Not necessarily.

Q5: Does homework serve its purpose of motivating and measuring student learning?

A5: Not necessarily.

Q6: Should homework be eliminated totally?



A6: Probably not. However, homework may be overvalued as a means of either motivating students to learn, causing students to learn, or measuring student learning. In this Internet age, being sure that students have completed their own homework has become next to impossible. Additionally, authors such as Alfie Kohn (2006) advocate against the wholesale assigning of homework by teachers just to make students jump through hoops to earn a grade in a class.

 Homework may be necessary when students are expected to:

Assigning work just to assign something for the students to do at home may not be the best thing for the student or teacher. The teacher may feel pressure to assign homework to make the class more “rigorous.” Remember, though, that quantity doesn't always equal quality, and that “rigor” shouldn't be confused with “more.” Rigor means sufficiently challenging assignments or activities that require students to become “minds-on.”

Depending on whom you believe, homework can either raise student achievement or actually lower student achievement. One thing that most everyone agrees on is that the amount of time spent on homework should be minimal in the lower grades and increased as the student progresses through grade levels. Another aspect of homework that is accepted by most is that “it makes good sense to only assign homework that is beneficial to student learning instead of assigning homework as a matter of policy. Many of those who conduct research on homework explicitly or implicitly recommend this practice” (Marzano & Pickering, 2007).


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 

Stager, G. (2006, December). The homework myth. District Administration. Retrieved March 19, 2012, from