of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Homework vs. Busy Work

Rarely do I give identical assignments to different classes.  However, because I want to expose students to blogs, between today and Wednesday, I asked all of my history classes to scan a series of blogs and to prepare a comment to one posting.  One student is taking two history classes from me.  After the second one, he asked if he should write two comments; one for each class.

While some could argue that because he is in two classes that he should write two comments; one for each class.  But I disagree.  By writing one comment, the student will learn what he needs to know for both classes.  Writing a second comment would just be busy work–a waste of the student’s time that would have no value to his education and learning.  So what would be the purpose of making him write double assignments.

For me, homework and other class assignments should be meaningful.  If they are not, then modifications need to be made at the individual level.  Generally, the modifications result in pushing the student harder, to ask him or her to work at a higher level than their colleagues in the course.  But sometimes, it means not focusing a student to do an assigned task that would have no benefit.

Cathy Davidson sent me a link to Angela Watson’s “Blogging Tips for Teachers.”  It is an excellent article with good guidelines presented in a very readable fashion.  It is a good reminder for me and will be helpful for my students.


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One thought on “Homework vs. Busy Work

  1. Stephen Voglewede on said:

    I think the decision you made regarding the student’s question was great. From my experience, I bet many teachers wouldn’t have put any thought into whether they should give him two of the same assignments or just one. Most teachers would have looked at him like an idiot and said something like, “of course you should do one for each class you’re in…are you a slacker?” What a lot of teachers i’ve had don’t know, is the major difference between work that actually increases a student’s knowledge, and your typical busy work. That difference is…one is helpful while the other is pointless. I had a teacher last semester that constantly gave the class busy work. The result was, a lot of students skipped class multiple days in a row on a weekly basis and still passed because they knew the work that would be given to them was pointless! Unfortunately, I’ve always been a student that thinks if I don’t do exactly what the teacher wants I’m going to fail the class and fail life and become homeless…Thanks to that attitude I sat through class everyday doing my “busy work” and at the end of the semester I recieved the same grade as the students who decided to do something with their lives instead of pointless busy work. Basically, I think you made a good decision with what you made that student do and i think you deserve to pat yourself on the back for taking the time to think his question through (that rymed).

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