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Homework. This simple word is embraced by some and loathed by others. Believe it or not, homework has an extensive history. At one point in time, the state of California actually passed a law abolishing homework entirely for K-8th graders. That almost seems unreal in a day and age where students seem like they are constantly taking work home. The great homework debate will probably be around as long as the public school system exists.
There’s no question that assigning work outside of the classroom requires a student to understand the importance of punctuality and deadlines. These skills go beyond the classroom and continue into adulthood. For example, as adults, we have to pay bills. If we forget to submit a payment there can be serious consequences. The same can be said for our art students. If students want to participate in an upcoming art show or event, homework may be necessary to meet those deadlines.
Homework in the art room almost always looks different than in other classes. And it should. In order to create authentic and meaningful experiences, art should be explored independently beyond the art classroom. For many art teachers, this comes in the form of sketchbook homework. This practice allows students to refine skills and rely on their independence to create.
I don’t assign homework in my classroom. But, that doesn’t mean the art experience stops as students leave my class. Instead, homework can be approached as research. For example, if students are working on a still-life drawing, assign them to bring in personal objects from home. This way, they’ll actually be interested in the subject they are drawing. You could also assign students to take photos in other settings outside of school. Students welcome the chance to explore, and, in turn, they’ll have their own reference photos to use for a more personal art experience.
When the act of art making becomes a task, the mentality changes. Students are no longer creating because they want to, but they are creating because they have to. Homework becomes a task completed for the grade, not for the art experience.
When students aren’t in the regular studio setting they have a tendency to forget and decrease the quality of their work. Homework should be assigned to reinforce a concept that has already been taught. Homework regarding concepts and skills they do not grasp will only result in poor quality of work. In these situations, students need support from the expert in the art room–their teacher.
When it comes to education, time is sparse. Students are already spending 8 hours a day in school. Adding hours of homework takes away from the ability for students to become well-rounded citizens. If it isn’t a priority to find time for the work in class, is it really even worth it? Is assigning a worksheet in the art room going to make your students have a more meaningful experience? Probably not. Save your paper and your time by creating invaluable experiences!
One of the major reasons art teachers don’t assign homework is because of the access to materials. At my school, 60% of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch. Some of these students don’t even have markers and crayons at home. Why put the burden of completing a task on overextended families when students don’t even have the means to do it?
Whether or not you choose to assign homework in your art room, there are going to be students who want to take their projects outside of class to work. Generally, those students want to make the time to work on their art. They are choosing to invest on their own. But the issue of material access can still be a challenge. If you are going to allow students to take work outside of your art room you will want to put some procedures in place to manage materials.
Here are some suggestions:
Wherever you stand on the homework debate consider the effectiveness before assigning work. Always keep in mind, homework in your art room should positively impact student learning.
What do you think, should there be homework in the art room?
Do you assign homework in your art classes?