Homework at Kellogg School

Homework at Kellogg


Homework: Targeted learning that takes place outside of school and is

connected to important dispositions and  local, state and/or national standards


Kellogg fully embraces the notion that public school is a place to acquire knowledge, understanding and skills. Implicit in the acquisition of knowledge and skills is the need to develop the dispositions (habits of mind and habits of work) that are critical for success in school, the workplace and life in general. Dispositions are cultivated. In fact, teaching and modeling these have become a significant part of the school day and culture.  We believe  targeted learning activities connected to standards that take place outside of school can play a vital role in support of the mission of  public schools and specifically Kellogg.


Our current beliefs  about the role of homework are rooted in the Kellogg School Values Statement--a set of beliefs about what we value about the learning process for each student at Kellogg.  The statement, which was shared with the Kellogg Community in 2016 and can be found on the Kellogg Website, is broad ranging and looks at learning through a variety of lenses. Many of the individual beliefs about learning  support  homework as one tool, among many tools, for cultivating a rich and meaningful  view of learning. Therefore, our beliefs about homework are an extension of  a larger, more overarching philosophy about the core values at the foundation of the school.


For example at Kellogg School, “We believe learning is active and that all students are accountable…” Everyone has a responsibility for their learning.   Homework plays a role in cultivating  this important value. This may be as simple as the task of getting assignments, signatures or materials to and from school or as involved as recognizing the need to spend time outside of school increasing understanding of the concepts and skills being taught during the school day.


Current brain research offers some exciting implications for educators and how we think about learning.  Not too long ago, researchers believed in a fixed brain theory.  People in a fixed mindset believe they either are or aren’t good at something, based on their inherent nature, because it’s just who they are. Researchers now know that our brains are dynamic and have the ability to constantly rewire through a process called “neuroplasticity.”  Schools can influence this process through strategic skill building in areas such as reading, mathematics, the arts, meditation, physical activity and thinking skills.  


Another belief is that, “Learning is challenging. We want to empower students to do more than they think they can.”  In support of this value, we cultivate strong habits of work and a growth mindset. Homework plays a valuable role in developing these critical habits of mind.


We see the kinds of homework we give at Kellogg as falling into essentially three categories with some natural overlap between them:


Practice

Many homework assignments fall into the practice category. The benefits of practice for achieving peak performance in any activity one pursues, whether it be in the intellectual realm (learning multiplication facts, increasing reading fluency, memorizing the location of the 50 U.S. states) or the physical realm (learning to play an instrument, increasing upper body strength, keyboarding skills) seems to be indisputable.  As students at Kellogg work to meet various learning targets on a range of topics, practice becomes a key component to reaching the target or achieving mastery.  However, based on individual differences, students may require varying degrees and methods of  practice to achieve mastery of a skill or concept than can be provided during the school day.  So, homework very likely will  involve practicing a skill or growing more familiar with a body of information.   This is part of the notion that everyone at Kellogg is responsible for their own learning.  Part of this responsibility comes from learning just how much practice one needs to achieve mastery and embracing the idea that practice will in fact improve performance and bring about positive outcomes.  Understanding the role that practice plays in learning becomes a key component of later work, life and success.


Mindset building

Mindset building involves actively cultivating important dispositions or thinking and work habits. When employers are asked what skills and dispositions  matter most in today’s  work world, a strong work ethic, taking initiative, self-direction, ability to multi-task and meet deadlines, dependability, capacity for change, critical thinking skills and the ability to collaborate are listed as key components of successful employees.  These skills can be best coached and cultivated through practice both at school and outside of school.   Homework can help build a positive mindset and remind students that developing these skills doesn’t happen only inside the classroom.  

Brain training

Kellogg teachers often assign free choice reading as a homework activity. In addition to helping our students to become more experienced readers, it is also beneficial for their brains. Whether it is a child reading to him or herself, reading together as a family, or both, we know that reading is key in helping to stimulate growth in the brain.  Problem solving activities also stimulate brain growth. Independent writing which stimulates thinking skills and helps students to express their ideas with greater ease is an example of brain based learning.  Homework can help to engage these skills and support their growth. Homework can be used to ready the mind to learn-another important aspect of  good brain training.


There have been shifts in our mindset about the practice of homework at Kellogg, and we suspect they will continue to evolve as we refine our ideas and attitudes over time. In the end, we seek  to embrace  a holistic, dynamic view of homework that  helps to cultivate meaningful dispositions and  habits of work, build skills and competencies, and support the desire and need to be lifelong learners as we prepare children for the exciting demands, and challenges of the 21st century workplace.


May 25, 2017


Sources:


Collins, Kathy and Janine Bempechat. No More Mindless Homework. Heinemann. Portsmouth, NH. 2017.


Desautels, Lori. Meta-Collaboration: Thinking with One Another. Edutopia. April 15, 2015. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/meta-collaboration-thinking-with-another-lori-desautels


Popova, Maria.  Fixed vs Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets that Shape our Lives.   Brainpickings.   https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/



Spencer, Kyle. Never Mind the Students; Homework Divides Parents. NY Times. April 25, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/nyregion/homework-ban-new-york-city-schools.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&_r=0


Vatterott, Cathy. Rethinking Homework. ASCD. Alexandria, VA 2009


Willis, Judy. How the Brain Works--And how Students can Respond. TeachThought. December 14, 2012. http://www.teachthought.com/learning/how-the-brain-works-and-how-students-can-respond/