I wrote earlier about not assigning specific homework in my classes, a move that I made starting in the 2nd semester last year. I was so happy about how it went last year that I basically continued the policy this year.
On my course evaluations two weeks ago, I asked a couple of questions that had to do with how they spent their time outside of class and how they felt about being asked to choose how to spend their time (rather than being told how to spend it). I compiled the responses below so that you see both answers together from the each student. Emphasis added to the responses is my own.
The homework policy in this class is probably different from most other classes you’ve had. What thoughts do you have about the way you’ve been asked to use your (physics) time outside of physics class?
About how much time did you spend on physics (outside of class) each day? What did you do with that time? How do the time and tasks compare to your other classes?
The Homework Policy
I assigned some homework in September (no more than ~20 minutes, not every night, and never collected (it would almost always be whiteboarded the next day)). A lot of students (especially in Honors) get nervous (!?!?!) when I tell them that I’m not going to assign homework, so it seemed like a good idea to wean them off of it. They also didn’t really need to be preparing for extra tests in September since we hadn’t learned much yet. Once September ended, I stopped assigning homework. I talked with them a bit about how they should use their out-of-class physics time (correcting tests, practicing skills that they needed to improve, meeting with me, signing up for and taking extra tests on Sundays, sleeping, etc). I found it interesting that no one mentioned the September homework in their responses at all. I think they’ve forgotten that we ever had assigned homework.
I do occasionally ask Honors Physics to do their weekly test as a take-home quiz. When I do that, I try to make sure it is really a 35 – 40 minute quiz, and I ask them to write down the time they start and stop (to keep them from spending hours on it, which I know some would do). I didn’t start doing that until December-ish.
The class website has some extra problems for each unit and a page with answers (but not solutions) to those questions.
I should note that compared to last year’s fall semester, when I taught these classes in a very similar way except that I did assign regular homework (including about 30 minutes every single night in Honors Physics), my classes covered almost exactly the same amount of material (one class of Honors ahead of last year, one class a few days behind; both classes of regular physics no more than one week behind last year’s classes). I haven’t seen the exams yet (next week), but I think my students are stronger this year than the kids last year were at this time if there is any difference at all.
The Responses: Regular Physics (Juniors, 1 Senior)
I generally try and do as little work as necessary for classes, so I think this has been a challenge for me to try to put in extra time.
I do not spend that much time on physics outside of class, but when I do, I usually try and rework the problems to see if I understand. I spend less time on physics than my other classes, mainly because I have so much required work to turn in.
Good because I get to invest my time in the objectives I need to focus on the most
20 minutes on average, depends if I have a quiz to study for or if I’m testing on a sunday. It’s about the same as my other classes a little less maybe because there isn’t regular homework
I enjoy how I have been asked to use my time outside of class.
Time to study which is less than other classes.
I actually like it, instead of loading us for 40 minutes you ask us to use as much time as we feel we need to study and learn the material.
I usually only study physics when we have a quiz, and that’s only about 15 minutes, so it’s very manageable.
I think it is fine, and you need to put in that work in order to succeed in the class.
Around 30 minutes working on the worksheets in our packet. It’s about the same as other classes.
I like it. I just use it for whatever else I need to be doing. I’ve worked it into my schedule so I don’t notice it anymore and it’s just more time.
I do other homework (English takes me a long time) and use the physics time to do it. If I’m done I’ll just watch a movie or something.
I usually just re-do worksheets to get ready for quizzes and I’ve been doing pretty well so far, so I don’t really have any complaints.
I usually only spent time on physics outside of class the night before an assessment. So I spent less time on physics outside of class than i did my other subjects.
it is reasonable and understandable we must look over our tests and review our notes. for most classes I do this anyway
around 20 mins of review and such.
I love it. Never change it. It gives me freedom to be flexible. Though I still have to completely figure it out (meaning study for quizes better) I think it is the best way to learn.
I spent much less time on Physics compared to other classes, though I probably spent a little less than 30 minutes a week those spent studying for quizes.
I think it is a good idea. There may be less homework but there are definitely more quizzes which makes me want to keep up with my reviewing. Its frustrating to go from a 2 to a 1 on an objective which is why I try to keep studying
Outside of class I review the packets we complete during class in order to study. I also go back to my old quizzes and see what I did wrong. The notes on my quizzes are helpful in letting me re-due the questions I got wrong. I spend around 15-30 minutes on Physics, 15 normally but 30 or a little more if studying for a quiz.
I think that it’s nice that we don’t have specific homework to do, but personally, I wouldn’t mind being asked to do a certain number of problems before the next class. That way, I’m studying physics as much as I need to and I don’t feel like I’m slacking off.
Since there is no assigned homework every night, there were some nights where I didn’t do physics. I worked for the longest when I was about to take a quiz on the weekend, and I spent about 2 hours altogether. The workload is completely manageable.
I feel as though it helps us prepare ourselves. Because since there is no literal homework, it puts pressure on us to make sure that we study, and make sure that we are pushing ourselves to understand the material.
I dont really spend time on physics after class. I just work in class, and i understand in mostly.
I don’t work on physics a lot outside of class, and I do much less work compared to my other classes. However, this is in no way one of my easier classes.
I usually only spend time of physics outside of class unless I know that I have a quiz the next day. I review what we did in class and do practice problems sometimes.
It is the best. It is BY FAR the best educational strategy I’ve ever had and has is the cause of my thousands of “2”s.
Uhmmmm, not much? I think about objectives sometimes and do practice if I feel inclined to. Physics is a mentally engaging, thought-provoking class which requires a lot of mental energy and input during the forty or eighty minutes.
I like how it is now and do not wish for it to change.
About 20 minutes. With that time I go over the past quizzes so that I may improve upon those skills that I did not do so well on. And some of that time is dedicated to going over the work done in class.
I like it because it gives me the freedom to focus on what i need to work on instead of having to complete pre-made homework problems.
i spend about ten minutes outside of class. We do not have homework so the time spent on physics is lower than that of other classes.
It’s very helpful, because it allows me to focus on my other classes during study hours, so that come class time, I can spend 100% of my energy on physics.
Very little time, to be honest. I’d correct tests and catch up on work in the packet.
great. I love not having homework
20 minutes. I study for up coming quizzes. This class not take as much time outside of class like other classes. Thats sweet
I think that if you use your time wisely outside of class, it can really determine how you do in class. The more time you spend outside of class, the better you understand in doing a classroom activity. If you don’t spend time outside of class, it shows in class as well. The amount of energy you put into physics is really how you choose it to be and in that how you do it physics and what you remember is completely up to you.
It can be about 20 minutes each day, but before assessments a little longer. I will go over what was learned either in that day or in that week and figure out what I’m still foggy on so I know what to focus on the next class.
I spend about twenty minutes a night on physics, usually practicing with other students. It compares about equally to other classes.
I find that it causes most – nearly all, in fact – of us to want to be more productive in the actual classtime.
About 30 minutes. But not every day. I review quizzes and try practice questions. The workload (outside of class) is overall generally less than that of my other classes. However in class one is much more productive than in other classes, generally speaking.
I think this is a perfect system, and our grades would reflect how we spend our time outside of class.
Each day I spend about 20-30 minutes on physics outside of class. I use that time to look over the work that we did in class, and go over the methods used to answer the questions. The only difference is that I can use this time to look over whatever I want regarding physics whereas in other classes, I would have to look over specific things regarding the homework.
I feel like it is useful to me, because when I do work outside of class and don’t understand something, it frustrates me and I think I continue doing it wrong. It was not only nice because I never felt completely swamped with work, but also nice because when I came to class I was ready for physics because I hadn’t done it the night before. I’m not sure if that makes complete sense, but that’s how I feel.
I didn’t spend much time on physics outside of class because I always worried I was doing a problem wrong when I did it by myself. I only spent time outside of class when I had a specific problem from class that I made a point to go back and review. I spent time outside of class on weekends preparing for extra tests, and taking the extra tests on Sundays.
The Responses: Honors Physics (70/30 split, Sophomores/Juniors)
maybe one or two problems assigned at he beginning of the week and due at the end of the week. So that we have to do work outside of class.
Not enough. Only when we are given take home quizzes… and then only 45-50 min.
I like this policy because it is based on my own judgment.
While in other classes, some teachers just hand out extra questions that is not the questions that I want but in this class, I can practice on my own on places that I know exactly and I think that is the best part about this class.
Also, if I don’t practice enough, the result comes out on quizzes.
I spend about an hour to an hour and a half.
I review the quizzes that we took in class.
Also, if I do not get an objective, I print out extra practice problems and practice more.
I don’t know, becuase i am a procrastinator, i won’t ever make myself do physics problems that aren’t required.
i spend very little time, most of the work i do for physics is done over break
I love not usually having assigned homework in this class. Even though no homework is usually assigned, I still occasionally study my notes and do extra practice if I am struggling with a topic. I am a strong supporter of the homework policy we have.
I usually do not spend time on physics outside of class. I only work outside of class if I am doing extra work to retest or on take-home quizzes. If this happens, I work usually about 40 minutes.
I really like it because I don’t feel pressed for time and it allows me to do physics in the smaller pockets of free time that I have.
15 minutes reviewing different equations and problem solving techniques
I do Physics more regularly then other classes but I don’t tend to spend as much time per night as I would on other classes.
i feel like quizzes outside of class just don’t work out as well and i would perhaps like a couple of problems here and there to be done outside of class but not in quiz form. it just keeps me from just not thinking about physics. but i do like the little to none homework approach because it makes the classes more important and more meaningful and there is a lot more focus in class due to the small amount of homework because i am not just tired out from doing it all the time.
i thought about it and looked over what we have done in class that day but i do not work very much outside of class. the time is minimal but it is better and it makes the classes better. much less than my other class.
I like it. It’s a good system. I’m not saying that we should kill a teacher every day just so I can lose weight, I’m just saying when tragedy strikes, we have to look on the bright side.
I don’t do it every day: I do it in big chunks (a couple hours at once…) It is more difficult than other classes and requires MUCH more studying and effort, but with less busywork. Testosterone is a great equalizer. It turns all men into morons. He will, however, get over it.
[Note: this is the same student from my last post who ended every response with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer quote]
I would hazard a guess that I am not the only one to say that the homework load from this class is quite nice. I think possibly assigning a problem could propel the class farther than where we are now, but I think that not really having “work” per say is also quite beneficial.
Round about 20 minutes some days, however most days 0. I sometimes do a quiz but mostly doing practice on those days that I do work outside of class. Although it sounds like I do no work for this class, but the main bulk of the learning is in class unlike my other classes. I would say that the time demanded from this class is very small in a scale with my other classes.
I really appreciate it. I’m much more likely to be eager and willing to do work and less stressed out about it since the workload doesn’t make me feel like I’m falling behind at all. Also, I can practice things that I actually need to work on, rather than doing exercises for homework that might not help me with what I struggle with at all.
I probably spend about an 1.5 hours per week on physics outside of class if I take a test on Sunday. If I don’t, I generally spend about 45 minutes. Compared to other classes, the workload outside of class is much smaller, but also less stressful. It’s less tiring to study since I’m not overwhelmed by the amount.
I like it because it is flexible, so that if I have a ton of other requirements, it is not that important that I get it done although I don’t master the skills as easily.
Depending on the section, and my level of comprehension my time varies a lot. I normally try to finish worksheets, or get help from people on dorm who are taking or have taken the course before on the problems I don’t understand.
I like it.
20- 40. Taking take-home quizzes. Most other classes don’t have take home quizzes.
It is efficient. Just need to take responsibility.
25 min. Went over old tests and worked in worksheet packets
spend equal amounts of time in other classes unless its a ‘big day’
it is nice, but very unstructured. This can sometimes be a problem as I am not always creative enough to come up with problems to work on.
10-20 minutes. Finishing problems or asking other people for help on things I am confused about. I spend less time on physics then other classes.
I think its really helpful not to have specific problems that we all have to work on so that you can spend your time focusing on the things that you are genuinely confused about.
it varies. sometimes I do up to 40 minutes, on quizes or practice but a lot of times I don’t do any.
I love it because we have very little homework while accomplishing a lot more learning in class because we are able to make mistakes while people are watching and able to correct us. By learning with partners and arguing about what to do I feel like I understand more deeply what we are doing.
I would spend about an hour on the take-home tests. Compared to my other classes an hour is a lot of time, but the take-home tests aren’t too frequent so it works.
I wish we had homework that way I could practice more outside of class.
About 30 minutes to an hour. The time is spent much more confused than my other classes.
I like not having homework.
a bit disappointed for not finishing the work during the class.
20min. Review. I think we are spending just about right time for doing physics and we have little more tasks compared to Mr. Hammond’s physics class considering that they are behind us. But the workload is reasonable.
I think it is better because it allows you to determine your own grade in the class.
I take about thirty minutes of my time looking over my Physic’s work outside of classes. It takes about the same amount of time as my other classes.
It works a lot better than normal homework in other classes, because I don’t need to practice stuff that I don’t need to practice giving me time to focus on stuff where I need practice.
I’d spend about 40 minutes every other day on physics, reviewing stuff that I wasn’t sure how to do or needed practice on.
A Couple of My Thoughts
So far, I am happy with how this policy is working for my students. Some students need more guidance on how to structure their own time, so I need to make sure I make more explicit suggestions about how to use their time. Students asking for some assigned homework because they don’t know what else they could do to be more prepared for physics is a red flag for sure. I don’t think those students are using our class website since there are definitely extra problems there for them to do. I am convinced that working on mindset and “study skills” (how to practice, etc) with these guys is making them happier about the class and also making them stronger students, but I also know that there is room for doing this type of meta-work better.
I am also impressed by the kind of reflection my students were able to do here. They have some great ideas about how they have benefited from choosing their own out-of-class work, and they are seeing our class time as both valuable and where the learning happens. They also see the work they do outside of class as being beneficial, not time-consuming, and never busy work.
If anyone else is starting to question their own homework, I challenge them to give it up for a week, a unit, or a month. See what parts of the homework you and your students miss, and whittle it down to what is essential so that they can use the rest of their time in whatever way they’d like. If you find out that it is a necessary part of learning in your class, then you will be able to justify it even better. If, like me, you find out that you’ve been dictating how your students use their time when they aren’t even with you to essentially no end (see note about the lack of change to the pace and problem-solving ability), then you will be able to justify cutting way back or even giving it up entirely. It’s worth doing an experiment and finding out, isn’t it?