Designing and Assessing Homework

The goal of Proficiency-Based Learning Simplified is to ensure that students acquire the most essential knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in school, higher education, the modern workplace, and adult life. Therefore, systems of assessment and verifying proficiency should prioritize enduring knowledge and skills—i.e., graduation standards and related performance indicators.

In a proficiency-based system, homework—i.e., assignments completed largely outside of the classroom and without direct support and supervision from teachers—should be instructionally purposeful and connected to clearly defined learning standards. The Great Schools Partnership recommends that teachers consider the following general guidelines when assigning homework in a proficiency-based learning environment:

  1. All homework assignments should be relevant, educationally purposeful, and driven by clearly defined learning objectives for a unit or lesson.
  2. Students should be given an equal and equitable opportunity to complete all homework assignments. Given that some home situations may complicate a student’s ability to complete an outside-of-class assignment—such as households that have no computers or internet connection—schools and teachers need to ensure that every student has access to all necessary materials, technologies, and resources regardless of their socioeconomic status, language ability, disability, or home situation.
  3. The failure to complete or turn-in homework on time should not affect a student’s academic score unless the work being done outside of class is part of a larger summative assessment.
  4. The failure to complete or turn-in homework on time may be reflected in a student’s habits-of-work grade.
  5. Students should be given additional opportunities to improve, complete, and resubmit homework as an additional demonstration opportunity when reasonable and appropriate. If the assignment is part of a larger summative assessment, the improved scores should be counted, not earlier scores or a combination of scores.
  6. Teachers should provide feedback in a timely fashion so that students know how well they performed before they take the next assessment.
  7. The purpose of all homework assignments should be clearly articulated to and understood by students; specifically, students should know what learning objectives and performance indicators the assignment addresses, and what criteria will be used if the homework assignment is going to be assessed.
  8. Students should know in advance if a homework assignment is going to be assessed, and whether the assignment will be a formative assessment or a graded part of a larger summative assessment.
  9. To the extent possible, homework should be differentiated for students, which includes, when appropriate, student-designed learning tasks and projects that allow them to demonstrate proficiency in ways that engage their personal interests, ambitions, and learning needs.

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