For the last 4 years I’ve taught primarily 9th and 10th grade students at an Independent School in Atlanta. Before that, I was at a parochial school in Northern California. Both situations have allowed me some latitude in trying new things, including grading and assessment. I’ve been doing SBG for about 5 years now. That has also meant moving to not grading homework, even for completion as is common for math teachers. This past year, I did grade homework (only 5%) for my Algebra 2 CP class as another teacher also taught Algebra 2 CP and we wanted our grading to be similar.
A problem of practice that we both encountered was a small percentage of students actually even attempting their homework. While there are always a few students with this struggle, I have never seen it so large, including with my Honors classes. It was common for both of us to arrive at class and no more than 1/3 of the students had attempted their homework, both in the CP classes and Honors classes.
When I would ask students about this, the common response was that they had homework that counted for more of a grade in their other classes, so that was their priority. Even though they would acknowledge that doing their individual practice work would greatly help them in understanding the material and on assessments, behavior didn’t change. They would rather not do the homework, see how they did on a quiz, and then retake the quiz over and over if necessary. As expected, this created a horrible cycle for them and me. I didn’t assign a lot of homework, I mostly stuck to Steve Leinwand‘s 2-4-2 recommendation for a total of 8 problems.
I made modifications throughout the year to try and change this negative cycle. Change #1 was to require students to fill out a form for a retake and do 3 separate learnings to be eligible for a retake. This didn’t make many changes to the cycle and students, quite frankly, lied and made up the separate learnings. Next, I changed it so that if they wanted to take a retake, all the homework for that unit needed to be turned in. So, they just stopped doing retakes altogether. Again, this isn’t the result I was going for. I tried having students coming in to make up homework during Enrichment/tutorial, but not all would show up. Additionally, I don’t think I should need to force my students into doing their homework and take away my time from the students who really want my help.
How do others handle this? How do you motivate students to do homework? This cohort of students has similar struggles in other classes – how do we encourage change across the board for a cohort that has a lack of motivation?