In a professional learning community culture, homework - which should really just be part of the formative assessment process for the teacher and student - should not be at the discretion of the individual teacher. Homework is the critical first place where inequities in student mathematical experiences are manufactured. If the grade level or course based learning team cannot agree on the daily mathematical tasks and the rigor of those tasks on daily homework assignments then formative learning experiences and the preparation for student learning outcomes will vary to the point of harm to students.
This point cannot be understated.
In a professional learning community, all students in the course or grade level should receive the same formative assessment task expectations (homework) on a daily basis. As the PLC teacher team members work together to determine the homework assignments for students, the potential for inequity in task selection and rigor is minimized.
Thus, teacher team developed Homework Assignments in mathematics should be designed and developed for the unit or chapter of study in advance of the start of the unit lessons. The following list provides an equity basis for your teacher team developed homework assignments - every unit of learning throughout the year.
1. Student Opportunity to Learn: Do all teachers of the course assign the same content for formative Homework practice? (Is some content skipped by some teachers). By the end of the Unit will every teacher have covered the same student practice with the same level of rigor?
2. Depth of Knowledge: Are cognitive requirements between the formative assessment tasks (Homework) and the learning targets in the unit consistent for each teacher of the course? Is the same complexity of knowledge (and skill) sought/required by all teachers for the homework assignments?
3. Range of Knowledge: Do all teachers of the course include daily homework tasks that prepare students for procedural fluency as well as conceptual understanding tasks that will be part of the common assessment instruments used by all teachers and all students in the course? (This is a goal of the CCSS expectations)
4. Balance of Representation: Are homework learning targets for a particular cluster of standards given the proper emphasis on the common assessment instruments (quizes and tests) used by all teachers on the teacher team?
5. Source of Challenge: Does student test performance actually depend on mastering the homework target objectives and not on irrelevant knowledge or skills practice?
As teachers work together to discuss these five formative assessment/homework issues for congruence in the student learning experience, they will generate student assignments that guarantee a more equitable learning experience for all students in the grade level or mathematics course.
As the school year begins, and the homework begins, make sure your collaboratively developed homework assignments meet these research affirmed (TILSA, 2005) alignment agreements. The collaborative adult communication required to make this happen is not easy. It requires courage. But the payoff for the learning opportunities for all students in the grade level or course has magnified impact!
In Homework Part II, I will review the Five Hallmarks of Good Assignments and provide a few samples for your review and use.