July 30, 2014 by

Five Reasons I Don’t Assign Homework

The homework debate is one that has permeated education for many decades, and it shows no signs of slowing. Homework proponents perplex me because the research is so overwhelmingly against homework’s effectiveness.

After much consideration and my own exhaustive research, I stopped assigning homework a few years ago. Homework simply doesn’t fit into a Results Only Learning Environment.

Although I could speak endlessly on the negatives of homework, I’ll get right to the top five reasons I don’t assign homework, in reverse order.

5. Virtually all homework involves rote memory practice, which is always a waste of time.

In the age of the Smartphone, who needs to remember by rote.

4.  Homework has nothing to do with teaching responsibility (HW advocates love this claim).

Not only is there not one reliable study to prove that homework builds responsible children, based purely on what we know about responsibility, the assertion is illogical. Responsibility implies autonomy, and homework offers none of this. Students are told what to do, when to do it, and when it must be returned. Where does responsibility come into play?

3. Homework impinges upon a student’s time with family and on other, more valuable, activities — like play.

As Alfie Kohn states in The Homework Myth, why should children be asked to work a second shift? It’s unconscionable to send children to work for nearly eight hours a day, then have them go home and work for 2-5 more hours; we don’t live in 19th century London.

2. I can teach the material in the time I’m with my students in the classroom.

The endless cry of “I can’t teach all of the standards without assigning homework” is a tired excuse used to hide ineffective methods. Creating engaging activities in place of lecture and worksheets, along with less testing allows teachers to cover more material in class and eliminates the need for homework.

1. Students hate homework.

I want to help my students develop a thirst for learning. I want them to read for enjoyment and exploration. I want them to extend their learning when they choose because they are interested in what we do in class. If I force them to do activities that they don’t choose, they will hate them. If I penalize them for not completing something they see as valueless, they not only don’t learn, they get a bad grade and hate learning even more.

My colleagues often attempt to persuade me that homework is an integral part of teaching and learning. I’m simply not buying. So, what’s your take on the debate?


Mark Barnes is the author of four education books, including Role Reversal, named a Best Professional Book by Teacher Librarian, and the forthcoming Assessment 3.0: How to Throw Out Your Grade Book and Revolutionize Learning. Mark’s popular blog, Brilliant or Insane, is recognized as a Top 10 education technology site by EdTech Magazine. Mark also manages the Facebook group Teachers Throwing Out Grades, and he teaches three online courses on web-based instruction and social media integration in the K-12 classroom. Mark’s book, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom is available in the ASCD bookstore hereFollow him on Twitter, where you can continue the conversation.

MacKenzie Masten is the Social Media Strategist for ASCD and Managing Editor for Inservice. She is the voice behind ASCD's social media presence and her writing can be found on Inservice and ThinkFun Education. You can connect with her @kenziemasten.