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Homework & the Flipped Class

This is a post a long time in coming.  I started it in early December of 2012 and now it is late January of 2013.  During the holiday time my family moved into a new home and we have been inundated with new projects.  On top of that, throw in a number of flipped class projects, and my “real” job…..

There has been quite a bit of chatter on social media “lately” (In November of 2012) about homework and the flipped classroom model.  At least two bloggers (Josh Stumperhost and Lisa Nielson) have taken issue with the flipped classroom because they feel it supports what they believe is a broken system where homework is assigned to students.  These bloggers of are anti-homework. They surmise that since the flipped classroom relies on homework, it is therefore a broken model. Their thoughts have caused me to think more deeply about my view of homework, and how homework fits (or doesn’t) fit into the flipped learning model.

So lets dive into this contentious topic:  

One thing that Aaron Sams and I often say is that flipped learning does not rely on homework.   We cite a few cases of teachers who used the flipped method but do not assign homework. However, these teachers are the exception and not the rule which Josh aptly pointed out in his post when he made the observation that all of the teachers at a Flipped Learning Network event used the homework time for their direct instructional videos.  

So, what is my “position” on homework?  I believe in homework….. to a point.   However, I acknowledge a dark side to homework.  I have recently seen this with my two high school aged daughters who have been up until past midnight doing homework.  Some of this has been accompanied by tears.  I don’t think all of their homework has been meaningful or of educational benefit.  Much of it has been busy work which accomplishes little for my girls.  I get it…homework can often stifle learning and smother passion. But I also don’t want to say that because some teachers abuse homework, we shouldnt think all homework is bad.  

I also am realistic.  I don’t see the “culture” of homework going away anytime soon in education.  The community I live in expects their students to have homework.  Thus I think flipped learning can maximize the homework time and make it much more efficient and dare I say, meaningful.  During my teaching career, I assigned homework.  Early on I probably was one of those teachers who assigned too much busy work.  When I flipped my class, students began to do less homework,  learn more, and report decreased anxiety about school.  This is one of the best kept secrets to flipped learning.  This is best exemplified in a short video featuring flipped educator Stacey Roshan from the Bullis School near Washington DC.

What about educators who don’t assign homework?  Can, and should, they still flip their classroom?  Of course!  Many teachers are creating instructional videos (or using other videos) and having students watch them during class time.  Instead of the whole class watching the videos together, students are watching them when they need the content.  The videos multiply the teacher in that she can be in many places at the same time.  This frees her up to go around and help individual kids in areas of need.

In summary, I believe flipped learning is homework agnostic.  Flipped learning doesn’t take a position on whether or not homework is good or bad.  So if an educator believes there is value in assigning homework, then they can used flipped learning.  Conversely, if they believe that homework should never be assigned to students, they can used flipped learning as well.

I would love to hear your feedback on this post.  Do you believe in homework?  Is homework essential for those of you using flipped learning methods?