So we have finished the first week of school (ok - Tue thru Fri - but close enough) and the new policy of assigning very little homework and not collecting homework or grading it seems to be working. I have simply been checking at their desks while they work on warm up problems from the board. This has allowed me to spend more time tutoring and planning versus shuffling papers (and grading). Also since I give answers for all problems it allows me to spend less time reviewing homework and more time doing concept teaching and in-class practicing.
I also have adjusted my homework assignments to no more than 8 problems (usually 6) --- even if the problems are "easy." Coupled with that change I have discussed at length, repeated times that the expectation is for the students to gauge their need for additional practice and make sure to understand the work versus simply completing (or copying). And so far it is working great, students are practicing extras as needed in their notebooks. I have engagement on the topics and the rumor "in the hall" is there is less copying...
The funny thing is talking with students one-on-one they tell me they are spending the same time usually on the 6 problems as they did on 20.... I am guessing because they did not focus on any before -- 20 with a lot of work and you had to "get it done." But 6 allows them to work thru it, the students are not worried about the length and (so far) are buying into the idea of understanding.
I believe this is going to work, homework only counts for about 2% of their grade (on a 70% and up scale) - and projects, tests and quizzes make up the rest. We start quizzes this coming week to make sure understanding is there and I am anxious to see how the quizzes show (or don't show) mastery/understanding. At the same time I am interested how the students will react to missing concepts and how they use their time.
This is a cultural change that I am shooting for, I know there will be bums but so far -- without a doubt --- with regards to homework, less is more.