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Dr. Dianna Lindsay's picture
After 43 years in my chosen profession, I remain excited, alive, and learning! From an active Twitter Account to blogging, from teaching Constitutional Law to Pre-AP English, from a national winner...
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Relating: Alternatives to Academic Punishments for Missing Homework

  • "Alternatives to Penalizing Students for Not Doing Homework"
    (Originally titled The Problem with Penalties)
    in an article by a Canadian educator, the ugly truth about homework academic punishments was candidly revealed!
    Penalties that are administered with little regard to each students individual needs are antiquated and unprofessional, says Canadian educator Myron Dueck in this Educational Leadership article. Whether at home or school, influencing change in human behavior seems to hinge upon four simple rules, which I call the CARE guidelines.
  • Here are the author's CARE rules:
    - Care The penalty must evoke some degree of concern in the learner.
  • - Aim The penalty must align with the ultimate objective.

  • - Reduction of an undesirable behavior The penalty needs to be effective

  • -Empowerment The young person must have control over the conditions that led to the infraction and be able to understand the situation.

Dueck believes punishing students for not doing homework fails on all four counts: many students dont care about low-caliber assignments (Can I just take a zero for that?); a lot of homework is not a meaningful component of the learning aim; penalties often dont reduce noncompliance; and many students arent empowered to finish homework because they dont have the resources at home.
Penalizing students for not doing homework is likely to meet the CARE criteria only with academically successful students from supportive homes who are extrinsically and intrinsically motivated by grades, says Dueck. Id rather build a universally appropriate system that both supports learning and measures it.
Here are his ideas:
In-class quizzes Toward the end of a lesson, the teacher suggests homework questions and activities that reinforce the concepts just taught, and students ask questions and start on their homework. At the beginning of the next class, the teacher gives a short quiz on the content of the homework assignment, collects it, and then goes over the correct answers. Students know immediately if they didnt do well and can request a re-quiz after boning up (the teacher might be available at lunch or other times to work with students). These quiz grades are very useful for keeping track of student understanding and deciding what needs to be retaught to the whole class or groups of students who were confused.

Incompletes and interventions Penalties have never really motivated me, said one of Duecks students, but a chance to improve thats motivating. Dueck recommends that when a student fails to hand in a homework assignment on time, (a) the grade is recorded as Incomplete; (b) the student fills out a form giving the reason for missing the due date (sports event, after-school job, too difficult, heavy course load, social events, club or group event, procrastination, etc.), the date when the assignment will be handed in, and the intervention needed (homework club, extra help from the teacher, tutorial, counselor visit, etc.); and (c) if and when the student hands in the assignment, a grade is given. Whatever the structure, says Dueck of after-school support venues, the key is to have an adult with expertise present to manage the environment and assist students.

Personalized projects When students pursue projects connected to their passions, with learning outcomes they help choose, they become so motivated to complete assignments that using penalties to push them into completion becomes unnecessary, says Dueck. Negative behaviors like procrastination and cheating are greatly reduced when students are meaningfully engaged in the learning process. In his history classes, he uses a project planning sheet on which he lists all the possible learning outcomes in the left-hand column so students can choose; the middle column is where students consider how these outcomes will be addressed, planning to demonstrate their learning in various ways pottery, drama, song, art, videography, photography, models, etc.; and in the right-hand third column, students plan the essential details of their project, including knowledge and skills addressed.