As a teacher, what is better -- in class work or homework?As a teacher, what is better -- in class work or homework?

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tresvivace's profile pic

tresvivace | College Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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I agree that this decision depends on the grade level; it also depends on the level of engagement of the class, the project or activity, and the ability of the class.  Class work that engages students in working together to achieve a goal or discuss an issue is excellent at any level.  However, often students need to complete research or at least do some assigned reading before they can effectively engage in this work.  In some classes, it makes sense even to supervise reading or writing, but as students progress, they will need to do some of this reading or writing outside of class.

I am aware that some writing instructors require all writing to be done in class, at the very least the rough draft, in order to prevent plagiarism or other kinds of cheating.  Certainly some writing should be done in class so that that teacher becomes aware of the student's writing ability or even sees how some students struggle to begin an essay.  But requiring all written work to be completed in class prevents students with a flair for writing or an interest in being creative from doing their best work.  They may need time to linger, time to daydream, and time to hesitate and start over before they can do their best writing.  I know that as a student I would have hated having to complete all my essays in class.  (I am referring to high school and middle school here.)  At the college level, of course, it just isn't practical to have students complete their writing in class.

My writing example is only one small example; there are many more depending on the subject matter and often depending on the school and the class.  The answer to the original question depends on a myriad of factors.  It is crucially important for the teacher to know his or her students well and to know what they are capable.  We should certainly hold the bar high and expect students who are capable of doing so to put in time outside class.  But we also need to understand the needs of those students who need our help and who need the nurturing environment of the classroom in order to even begin the work.

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aquirk27 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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I prefer class work over assigning homework. Traditionally, I have discovered that the students who truly need to practice for improvement of their comprehension and skills neither utilize the time, nor the opportunity to seek such an improvement. These students simply copy, or attempt to copy, the answers provided by those students who do not necessarily need the additional opportunities. Even when I assign complete synthesis-level work, students still manage to exhaust significant energy attempting to modify another student's work in hopes of passing it off as their own. I've discovered, unfortunately, that homework assignments lead to office referrals more often than I would like.

I also believe that class work is not only advantageous for students, but is also an optimal time for teacher assessment and evaluation. Much can be discerned by simply watching the facial expressions and body language of a student attempting to work through a grammar exercise or literary analysis. A teacher can read the cues from the boy or girl in need and use that time as an opportunity to provide him or her with much needed individual engagement.

Lastly, class work allows teachers to create a forum-based instructional atmosphere. When students are allowed to work in cooperative environments (similar to real-life), they are provided with learning opportunities that are unmatched elsewhere. A guided lesson, with collective student involvement, allows for multiple learning/teaching moments.

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msmegmaynard | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I feel that both are important to building not only knowledge and classroom skills, but basic life skills. Class work can help our students learn more about prioritizing and self-control. "I can't talk to Suzy right now because this assignment is due at the end of the period." Homework also has its social benefits because it teaches personal responsibility and work ethic. Students learn that their education is in their hands as well and that putting things off to the last minute is not in their best interest. Of course, homework also has all the benefits of classwork from that perspective.

I feel that another important benefit of classwork, however, is that students who don't understand the material don't have to flounder on their own. The teacher, being present, can assist and answer questions, redirect distracted students back to the task at hand, and there is little to no chance of them losing or "losing" the work, so it can be handed in with little or no trouble.

However, I do feel that the amount of classwork you assign should be less than the amount of homework you assign. I cannot stress enough how important it is that students learn to depend on themselves and not on teachers or parents as a sole source of information. Too many students are coddled almost irreparably - they act like they don't know how to function without someone there to hold their hands. It's crazy!

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Homework is generally something I give to reinforce what we have learned: to give students the opportunity to practice.

In theory, I like classwork better because I can be there to provide some support and guidance, and sometimes "teachable moments" present themselves in discussion that makes the material in the lesson more memorable. Tying new information to the debate of an idea with other students allows that material to attach itself more easily to our long-term memory.

Different students will interpret work (I teach English) in different ways; this is not to say they are wrong, but interpretation is a wonderful thing in English class. We can study a character and with the input of others during discussion, realizes things about a character or a plot that might not have occurred to us on our own.

It also gives us a chance to know each other better as people and develop a class identity.

Homework, when it is completed by the student, helps instill the content more deeply within the student's memory (we hope), and allows that student to think independently. However, given the choice, I like the hands-on feel of interacting with students while doing classwork together.

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kmalone614 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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As a teacher, what is better -- in class work or homework?

As a teacher, what is better -- in class work or homework?

I am a firm believer that in-class work is more effective. I feel this way because I've done both! In my first few years of teaching I relied HEAVILY on homework, and though I had good intentions of going over it again in class, I found that classtime got away from me often.

I now use in class work more often. This is better for the following reasons:

1) It allows the students to do the work immediately after hearing the lesson, increasing the chances that they will connect the practical use of that knowledge to their prior knowledge.

2) It allows for me to interact with them and help them in the moment of their question.

3) It allows for the option of group work, and we all know that collaborative learning is key for students.

The only downfall to this, in my opinion, is with large class numbers. I have used this with classes of 11 and with classes of 34, and it works well with both, but the larger classes do require more management during work time.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is a fundamental difference in purpose between homework and classwork.  I believe that class time is a precious scarce resource, and anything done in class has to be carefully chosen.  I use class time for assignments in which I want to guide my students, or when I want to be able to provide support as they work independently.  I also use classwork when I want to give students the option of working together or helping one another. 

Another reason for using classwork is to ensure that it is the student’s own work.  In class, you can control the access to resources and watch the process.  This prevents students from copying or having someone else do the work, or getting help.  If I grade an assignment, I want to know the conditions in which it was created.

I think homework should be used for activities that need extensive resources, or that require more time than can be taken in class.  Homework should be practice, and should be able to be done independently.  Homework that a student cannot do on his or her own defeats the purpose.  It only reinforces errors and creates negative feelings and stress for the student.

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catd1115 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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As a teacher, what is better -- in class work or homework?

As a teacher, what is better -- in class work or homework?

Definitely in class work. My classroom is the primary place for the students to be learning the content I have been assigned. In the classroom they have the benefit of my knowledge as well as the ideas and cooperation of their peers. In addition some of the basic resources that are available in my classroom (dictionaries and reference materials, computers, even art supplies) just are available in the homes of many of my students. While homework is a useful tool, I think the more we become determined to do our job in the classroom, not relying on their parents or that time outside, but doing my job in the time alloted, the better teacher I become. I want my students also to be well rounded and they need their time at home to be with family and friends and participating extracurricular activities. I think it is a bigger challenge for teachers to teach their content without relying on homework, but I think it makes for better teaching and learning.

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litelle209 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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This seems to depend on the grade level, doesn't it? In elementary school, when we learn things elementary like writing and reading, it seem to make more sense to have supervised practice in the basic skills that still require us to use developing motor-skills ( the scissor and glue projects). High schoolers are more independent, and if we shift into college (my class room), we often have a high percentage of students who may take a course because its required and they may be only interested to do the amount of work that it takes to pass. Homework is a good way to give students who want to excel the opportunity to shine and invest extra time in something that interests them, while others may really be just pragmatic in their approach. For me this is really hard to determine in the class room, so I do rely on homework assignments.

And then there are always different learning styles and some students learn better in class than others who may be quiet or shy. But, hey, there is always extra-credit homework if in doubt.

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kimbers-indo | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Neither in-class work nor homework can be summarily dismissed from the teacher/learner arsenal but for me the chief emphasis must fall on in-class work. There the engagement is (hopefully) immediate and concrete (as in everyone is in the room or space together) and there is collaborative work being done. But as has been ably said in other posts high school students need more time and independent space in which to reflect on what is being learned... so work at home which connects and seques from that in class expereince is probably mandated. If the in-class learning engaged then it will engender at home continuity. It may even prompt extension learning and enquiry.

What is anathema to me is homework that simply exists in isolation or is designed to enable students to cover the curriculum content that has not been dealt with properly in class. Homework cannot compensate for a lack of in class engagement. Heaven forfend homework as extra credit.

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The issue of classwork or homework must turn on the level of difficulty the course itself presents. For gifted or advanced placement students, a certain amount of self directed study is paramount to success. In those instances, a substantial amount of homework should be assigned; but it must not be "busy" work; it must be directed towards a meaningful learning experience that can augment lessons taught during class.

For less motivated or less gifted students; homework serves little purpose other than "drill and practice." Such work quickly becomes boring, and it is easy for kids to procrastinate. Also, there is not the opportunity for interaction with the teacher should questions present themselves.  In such a situation, homework should be kept to a respectable minimum.  Under such a circumstance, failure to complete homework or failure to submit correct homework should not on its own be grounds for failure.


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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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While I remember having lots of homework as a high school student (early 90s), my children (7th and 8th graders) do not. I also, as a teacher, do not assign much homework. I have a few reasons for this.  First, when my children actually have homework, I find it relatively difficult to remember how to do some of the things they are working on.  I cannot tell you how many times I have called a fellow teacher, in a field outside of mine, to help ME with my childrens' homework.  Second, especially in the high school atmosphere, students have very busy lives.  Work, extra-curricular activities, and social activities take up much of our children and students' lives.  Lastly, I find that work is completed better if it is actually done in the classroom.  Students can ask questions and get immediate answers.  While some may disagree, I believe that homework is something to be completed if they could not complete the work in class.

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bigdreams1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I generally prefer classwork to homework, because then I am available to answer questions and help students when they get stuck.

I am intrigued by the new philosophy from companies like the Khan Academy.  Their idea is to "flip" the traditional classroom model so that the lectures are watched at home through video links like Youtube, and then the homework is done in class so that instructors will be available to help.  This solves the problem of the student who goes home and gets lost and does it wrong and is twice as confused when he gets back to school the next day.

I will start to implement that next year in my classroom partially, because the idea makes sense to me. Just think of all the reteaching time we could save if we could catch misconceptions in the classroom right after the first question on the topic!

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In recent years, I have tended to focus more on in class work, and towards almost entirely essay questions.  For one thing, I can monitor their progress and tutor individuals for concept retention and understanding, that way I can tell where the class is at.  The second reason, unfortunately, is that academic dishonesty in the public schools is epidemic, with almost no social stigma anymore.  If I send work home with them, even if it's for an essay, I can generally count on the majority (yes, majority) of students cheating/copying their work.

It's an unfortunate reality in the modern school, so rather than turn my assignments into what Theodore Sizer called "The conspiracy of the least", where they pretend to learn, and we pretend we're teaching them, I like to keep my work in class.

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mamape | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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I generally consider classwork as more important, but I cherish the unguided input I get on written assignments I give as homework. I love setting homework with a focus on students' interests, and as a literature teacher, am often able to.

I now find myself setting more and more of my written assignments during class however, for the above reasons of plagiarism (when the question is more related to the specific text than personal opinion), and also because of academic pressure. I work in a private school, and the students do have a lot of homework; I'm now resorting to capping the time students should spend on assignments, as some students are spending such excessive amounts of time on them (not that many though! :)

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Both kinds of work clearly have their benefits and their drawbacks.  I tend to like classwork better when I am teaching lower-level students and homework more for higher-level (in terms of skills) students.

The great thing about classwork is that students cannot simply copy it from one another.  This is a major drawback with homework.  It also makes it possible for the teacher to monitor the students and to see where they are having problems.

The good thing about homework is that it does not deprive you of precious class time.  You can actually do more in class that will enrich your students.  Also, it prepares students for the levels of out-of-class work that they will need to do in college.

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