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What, Why, How Of Homework

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.630.1 - 3.630.5

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Lloyd Feldmann

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1275


Lloyd Feldmann Purdue University School of Technology

Introduction The assignment of homework is seldom mandated by our institutions or departments, but is accepted as the status quo. A familiar anecdote involves a housewife who always cut a small section from the end of a ham before cooking. When asked why, she replied “because my mother always did it!” Follow up with her mother resulted in the same response. Further follow up revealed that grandma had cut the end off because her largest pan was too small to hold the whole ham! As was noted by England and Flately [5], homework has become one of those school traditions shrouded in antiquity – “we have always done it this way!”

The purpose of this paper is to prompt you to examine your use of homework. What are the functions of homework? Why are you using that particular form? Should you change how you are currently using homework in order to achieve your goals? It is useful to stop and examine the reasons for and the appropriate use of homework in light of the desired learner outcomes. Properly utilized, homework allows the student to develop skills and to demonstrate to the instructor the level of understanding that has been achieved. It forces the students to expand on the presented material, on their own time, which expands their knowledge base. It also preserves the class time for new or additional material rather than extensive reviews. Review of the student’s homework also provides information to the instructor that would allow him to modify his performance. The result would for more effective use of the instructor’s and the student’s available time in the achievement of the course objectives.

What is homework Cooper [2,3], Doyle and Barber [4] and Lee and Pruitt [6] identified four common instructional goals for homework. In order of increasing complexity, the goals are 1) practice, 2) preparation, 3) extension and 4) integration.

The most common goal by far is practice or review. This is an after-the-fact assignment. It can vary from skill practice such as calculator drill to rote practice of using the trig functions on a series of similar problems to solving a series of beam problems of the same general nature. These assignments, which are meant to reinforce or reproduce what was just presented in class, frequently address surface memorization and simple regurgitation. This technique only produces a short-term effect. However, persistent practice homework that continues to emphasize the same element will have the positive effect of developing long term skill in performing these functions. The difficulty with this form of homework lies in the developing of skill rather than building a deep level of conceptual understanding. As Doyle and Barber [4] noted, “all to often these assignments are dull and unimaginative producing little more than boredom for the bright student.”


Feldmann, L. (1998, June), What, Why, How Of Homework Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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