During the past few weeks, I've been participating online in the MIT Medialab Learning Creative Learning course. Last week, the topic was interest-based learning. All of the media for the course can be found on the syllabus page and I recommend it as an invaluable resource to every teacher. What I took from the session sealed the proverbial deal for my personal debate over homework.
I think homework is almost always a waste of time. It can be helpful to develop study habits, and I do assign a weekly spelling packet for that purpose. Spelling is a topic on which I dislike using much time in class, and it's a topic with which parents can easily help. Mathematics homework, I've found, is generally either busywork (the student understands already) or a frustrating nightmare (the student doesn't understand). I prefer not to assign math homework.
My solution is to let the students set their own learning goals and use the inquiry process to pursue them independently at home or elsewhere. My role is that of consultant and organizer. It's critical that they reflect on their work, so I'm developing a Google Form which the students fill in each week on our class blog. Please feel free to participate and fill in the form, as well. We've had a few guest participants and it's been exciting to compare their results with our own!
The results thus far have been excellent. To make it even better, all of their self-assessment data is being organized in spreadsheets for future analysis.
As a next step, I'm considering turning them on to this DIY badge website. That way, they could have an awesome resource to inspire and assist with their learning which is independent from school, if they wish to use it.
2013.06.05 EDIT: Set up Independent Inquiry Wiki
2014.01.27 EDIT: The Evolution of Independent Inquiry