November 24, 2010

Advantages of giving students choice in homework

Solution-focused trainers and teachers give their students much choice in homework. They assume that students are motivated and will do what they can and feel they need. A solution focused trainer or coach will generally not check whether the student has done the homework well. Instead, he or she will assume that the student wll have had a good reason for doing or not doing the homeworks. I once observed (or I read about it- I forgot) Insoo Kim Berg in a training. A student walked up to her with a guilty expression on her face, saying: "I am afraid I have not done all of my homework ... I am so sorry about that. Is that a problem?" Insoo smiled and answered as follows: "It is not a problem. I suggest you act as if you have done all of your homework." Then she wishpered in a conspiratorial tone: "I bet we won't even notice you haven't done all of it." The student walked away smiling.

Sometimes I get worried questions about giving choice about homework: "Isn't that giving students much too much freedom?", "Aren't you afriad that they will do nothing and learn nothing that way?" I reassure them that my experience is not so bad. Treating students as responsible and committed, is my experience, strengthens this responsibility and commitment.

I came across some research which support the idea that giving students choice in homework has important benefits. The research, done by Erika Patall and colleagues (2010), says that giving students a choice of homework -has important advantages: a) higher intrinsic motivation to do homework, b) feeling more competent regarding the homework, c) better performance, d) better homework completion.

Source: The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom


  1. Coert,

    In the research by Erika Patall students were given a choice of which homework assignments to do, not a choice of whether or not to do homework as the example from Insoo Kim Berg would suggest.

    I think giving students a choice of homework assignment A, B or C is effective as they will think of those choices instead of the usual options of doing it or not doing it.

  2. Hi Rodney, Good point. There may be a difference there indeed. I don't know or don't remember what the homework instruction or suggestion was in Insoo's case, by the way. I think the central point is to create and emphasize choice in and around the topic of homework. This can be done as in the research by giving the student options to choose from. But it might even go further and letting them choose whether or not they do homework. I agree the research does not prove that is effective. But my hypothesis would be that as long as you emhpasize that this is their choice, too and while being clear about performance expectations, this would work too. American author of books on education and psychology Alfie Kohn has written a critical book (based on research) against homework. (here is an article of his:


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