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Enough With the Excessive, Counter-Productive Homework Already.

This year I’ve watched my daughter, a consistent 98 to 99 average student who is now in 8th grade and taking several honors courses, struggle with a burdensome level of homework. While I realize that there may be room for improvement in how efficiently she tackles her work, she is consistently having to work late into the night to complete her work, resulting in less than 6 hours sleep many nights.

This is detrimental to her health, her learning, and her emotional well being, and this student who has excelled at academics her whole life now constantly complains about school. The already challenging life of a 13 year old girl is frequently filled with emotional turbulence, which is further exacerbated by being over tired and stressed.

I’ve looked at a lot of this homework, and frankly, much (but by no means not all) of it is meaningless “busy work” with little value towards learning. I’m really pretty disturbed that her school and teachers think this is a worthwhile part of the learning experience.

I went in search of content on the movement away from such burdensome, and often counter-productive, work. Yes, homework is an important part of the learning process, but the right kind of homework, in the right quantities.

The article, “Bring Healthy Homework to Your School“, from Racetonowhere.com, offers these three excellent guidelines:

  1. Homework Should Advance A Spirit Of Learning
  2. Homework Should Be Student-Directed
  3. Homework Should Promote A Balanced Schedule

Now I have no doubt that there are plenty of teachers out there who will read these (especially no. 2) and disagree to some extent, but before dismissing any of these notions, I encourage you to read the more detailed suggestions supporting these assertions.

The article, “Emerging Trend: The No-Homework Movement“from Skyward.com, offers many reasons why we should limit or even eliminate homework in some classes and grades.

Homework doesn’t improve performance in many subjects
“The Economics of Education Review concluded that ELA, science, and history homework had “little to no impact” on test scores (although math homework did prove beneficial). Researchers studying the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) test determined that the countries with the highest scores assign the least amount of homework.”

Homework takes up valuable class time
“Schools without homework have repurposed that time, allowing teachers to spend more quality time working directly with students to apply the material.”

Homework requires parental assistance and contributes to the learning gap
“The classroom is a place where all students have access to the same resources and assistance. The same cannot be said when work is sent home with students. While some children go home to well-educated parents, internet access, and plentiful resources, other children struggle to do the work on their own.”

Homework deflates the joy of learning
“An increasing number of people view homework as a “stress-inducing, mostly useless practice that saps students’ desire to learn rather than nurtures it.””

Homework reduces reading
“Parents and educators are beginning to wonder whether memorizing words is really a more effective way to teach children vocabulary than having them read and nurturing their interest in books.”

Homework adds unnecessary stress
“Typically, students sacrifice sleep and time to relax, play, and live balanced lives. In a study by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, 70 percent of parents said their 9-to 13-year-olds suffered “moderate to high levels of stress.” Parents cited homework as the number one cause.”

Homework eliminates time for other learning opportunities
“… many students spend hours doing schoolwork at home. A minimal amount of time remains to engage in other opportunities such as playing an instrument, exercising, volunteering, and helping with projects at home – or just spending time with family.”

Next, to provide a balanced perspective, they cite four good reasons why homework should not be eliminated:

  • Homework teaches life lessons
  • Homework increases achievement levels (in some course)
  • Homework encourages critical thinking
  • The amount of homework can be controlled

That last one is key, IMHO.

The article “Is Homework Healthy?” on nais.org, explores a case study from the book The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, by Etta Kralovec and John Buell. They make this observation:

Policy analysis of homework, as of many other topics, is best done through close observation of those who are on the receiving end, rather than from the perspective of experts who wish to fit actual experience to preconceived notions. We need to take our lived reality as the starting point for our thinking about homework. We need to listen to our kids when they say they are sick and tired of school, or they just want to “veg,” or they have to see their friends. Respecting their needs and honoring their voices should be our first priority in rethinking the homework wars.

The folks from “Race to Nowhere” (they published the 3 guidelines offered above) published this video, which provides additional perspective:

So teachers and admins, what do you think about all of this? Is there a line you should be drawing when it comes to homework? Are you working to make homework meaningful and appropriately “sized”? If not, why not? 

 

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LearningExperienceDesign-EmergingEdTech

LX Design Brings Together Numerous Learning Disciplines

LearningExperienceDesign.com describes Learning Experience Design (LX Design) as, “the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human centered and goal oriented way.”

This page from sixredmarbles.com takes a more utilitarian approach, explaining that LX Design is “a synthesis of instructional design, educational pedagogy, neuroscience, social sciences, design thinking, and UI/UX”.

While exploring LX Design via the web, a good number of resources that dig deeper into the subject can be found. Once does come away feeling that this is very much an evolving construct, and that there really is no definitive definition (although I also noticed that the folks at Six Red Marbles have trademarked the phrase, so maybe they’ll have more rights than others to ‘own’ the official definition). Nevertheless, this encompassing idea is well worth exploring further and incorporating into course and lesson design practices.

Web Resources Exploring LX Design

LX Design: Joyce Seitzinger and Jessica Knott, Ph.D. developed this site, working with Mark Smithers. They explain on their Who We Are Page:

Traditional learning design methods and processes don’t seem very well matched to the increasingly advanced digital services and products we both work on in our day jobs. Though on different continents, we’ve both been involved in industry projects and developments that have been driven by user experience design. And individually we decided it would make sense to begin using UX methods in our learning design work.

This LX Design web page includes a good number of blog posts that provide tips, tools, and insights into Learning Experience Design and related topics.

This slide share from Marty Rosenheck offers some great visuals that both illustrate and educate:

This blog post, “Learning Experience Design in Action“, by Clark Quinn provides a nice set of principles and perspectives.

LearningExperienceDesign.com: I love this Mission Statement: “It is our mission to design a wise world where people learn from experiences they enjoy and deserve”. They are sponsoring Second Annual Learning Experience Design Conference in the Netherlands in March. This particular web site doesn’t contain a lot of resources, but they do offer a few ways to connect.

Foundations of Learning Experience Design (LXD) Webinar Series: These webinars are a bit vendor- and product- centric, but they are free and on demand, and offer helpful insights.

This eBook by Robert Kelly, Creative Development: Transforming Education through Design Thinking, Innovation and Invention comes up under a search for “exploring “learning experience design” resources”.

Free DOLES Designing Online Learning Experiences” course from Stanford. While not focused directly on LX Design, this is a self-paced mini course that can equip educators to leverage elements of Learning Experience Design.

The ISTE article, “Design An Engaging Virtual Learning Experience In 5 Steps” incorporates key aspects of LX Design.

So, there you have it … a nice set of resources for exploring Learning Experience Design. Of course, since LX Design brings together numerous learning design disciplines, it would be easy to continue to build on this listing by adding resources specific to those disciplines. I just don’t know how important it is to identify where one discipline “leaves off” and the other starts (if that makes sense).

Are you familiar with LX Design? Are there other resources you would recommend for learning more and helping interested educators understand the do’s and don’ts of the concept? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Thanks!

 

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