Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman

Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman

Author:Joe Feldman [Feldman, Joe]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Published: 2020-10-30T19:35:13.683166+00:00

The Impact of Including Homework in the Grade: Student Voices and Copying

Does grading homework, whether based on correct answers or just for completion, encourage more students to do the homework, helping them to practice and learn? Well, yes, but with a huge caveat: More students may turn in homework, but it actually can result in fewer students doing the homework they’re turning in. As Danny, a middle school humanities teacher, found, “I used to give a grade of credit, no-credit for homework assignments, but I noticed that kids are doing the homework, but only to please me, not to learn from it.”

Awarding points for homework provides a grade “cushion” to many students—adding points that compensate for low summative scores. Students depend on the homework points and will do whatever they can to earn those points, such as getting others (caregivers, older siblings, friends) to help them complete it, and when students feel they need to, they copy others’ homework. For many students, that is a system that works perfectly and doesn’t require them to learn:

“We have the biggest homework copier in my grade and he has a high cumulative GPA too. He doesn’t have to worry about actually trying to figure out and do the work. He barely passes the test but if you get all As on the homework assignments you get a high grade and really don’t need even to know anything.” (Kiandra, high school student)

Teachers know that homework copying is a major problem in schools. In 2010, the Josephson Institute of Ethics surveyed 43,000 students from both public and private high schools, finding that more than 80 percent of students admitted to having copied another student’s homework. I have interviewed over 150 middle and high school students, and every student has told me that they have copied homework at some point. Though we might first believe that this widespread copying reflects our students’ moral failings, I’ve found that when teachers include homework in the grade—whether it’s based on the accuracy of a student’s answers or just for turning in something—those points actually incentivize students to do whatever they can to complete the homework. Students copy primarily because they want the homework points.

“I feel the reason for copying is not that, ’Oh, I want to cheat’, but it’s just that it’s in my grade. And if I don’t do the work then it affects me big time. That’s why some of us copy, not because we want to be lazy, but because our grade depends on it.” (Isaiah, high school student)

Let’s give students the benefit of the doubt and presume that if students could complete the homework themselves, they would. If students are making a rational decision to copy homework to earn the points, what is it about homework that tips the scale toward copying and away from doing the work themselves, and how might including homework in the grade particularly pressure our more vulnerable students to copy? There are clear trends in student voices from my interviews:

First, if students knew how to do the homework, or had access to sufficient supports, they’d do it.


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