Part five in the standards-based grading "how-to" crowdsourcing project.  Today, we're tackling the final grading guideline, the role of homework.

What practical applications have worked for you that are not included in this grading guideline document?  Comments are open.  


Grading Guideline:  

“Students will be provided multiple opportunities to practice standards independently through homework or other class work.  Practice assignments and activities will be consistent with classroom standards for the purpose of providing feedback.  Practice assignments, including homework, will not be included as part of the final grade. ”

What it means....
  • Homework or practice assignments should be purposefully utilized to enhance students’ understanding of classroom standards.
  • Assignments which are designed for students to demonstrate their understanding at an early part of the learning cycle should not be counted towards the final grade.
  • Opportunities (i.e. quiz, project or test) later on in the learning cycle that follow feedback on practice assignments should be considered for the grade book.  

What it doesn’t mean...
  • Homework or practice assignments are no longer assigned or students are no longer asked to complete homework.  
  • Students are not provided feedback on homework or practice assignments.
  • Work completed outside of class (i.e. project, paper) cannot be entered into the gradebook by standard.  

Briefs from the literature:
“The belief that the carrot of a grade entices students to complete work is an illusion, one with roots in behaviorism and a negative view of learners (Vatterott, 2009). At its core, it negates students' intrinsic drive for mastery (Cushman, 2010; Pink, 2009) and implies that homework is inherently distasteful. As Daniel Pink (2009), puts it, "We're bribing students into compliance instead of challenging them into engagement" (p. 174). In addition, grades only motivate students who are motivated by grades—and some students couldn't care less” (Vatterott, 2011)

“...past experience has taught us that we are often too quick to assign homework before students have had an opportunity to learn the skills and strategies needed to successfully complete it” (Fishey and Frey, 2008)

Putting it into practice:
What works?
What are the common pitfalls to avoid?

  • Providing students with multiple opportunities to receive feedback before a standard is entered into the gradebook, i.e. student receives feedback on a draft of a paper before the final draft is entered into the gradebook by standard.
  • Assigning homework less frequently and/or a decrease in quantity in order to communicate with students the purpose of the practice assignment.  

  • Entering students’ first attempt into the gradebook and then overwriting it as the student improves.  This may create  “Kindergarten” effect in which many students earn low grades at an early phase in the learning cycle.

Suggested reading:
  • Cushman, K. (2010, September). Show us what homework's for. Educational leadership, 68(1), 74-78.
  • Vatterott, C. (2011, November). Making homework central to learning. Educational leadership, 69(3), 60-64.