With another school term set to begin in a few short weeks, teachers’ thoughts return to planning. A huge part of those plans is homework; how much to assign, when to assign it, how to correct, collect, and grade it, and what to do if it’s missing. Did you know that no educational research definitively supports the value of homework? On the other hand, no educational research says homework is all bad, either. With that sort of controversy among educational leaders, no wonder homework policies differ between teachers, schools, and districts.
As early as 1900, the editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal began publishing a series of articles against homework. Since then, American schools have gone back and forth about the need for large quantities of homework. Let’s explore some of the main issues.
Most teachers say that homework is good practice, it enhances lessons learned in school, and it develops responsibility. I have heard those very words come out of my own mouth. Here’s what researchers have to say.
PRACTICE: Some parents feel that a lot of homework means that their child attends a good school. Actually, understanding cannot be achieved by doing more, especially if it’s math problem the student is doing wrong. If the student leaves school not understanding the concept, staring at a page of forty similar problems is not going to make it better. And if the student did understand it, those forty problems are boring. The sign of a good school should be in the quality of the homework, not the quantity. The difficulty in that, of course, is that every student has a different level of what is challenging. Teachers cannot manage thirty different levels of math homework per subject.
Teens think listening to music helps them concentrate. It doesn’t. It relieves them of the boredom that concentration on homework induces.
~Marilyn vos Savant
ENHANCEMENT: Some teachers seem to feel that it is their responsibility to extend learning beyond the classroom. Parents don’t help. They often ask me for more homework for their ‘advanced’ child. Teachers and parents need to feel comfortable about the teacher handling the learning inside the classroom and the parent handling it after school. There’s a lot of learning to be had in music, sports, theater, walking the dog, or even video games. More on that below.
I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.
RESPONSIBILITY: In a hundred years of research, absolutely none of it supports the idea that homework teaches responsibility. In actuality, homework teaches blind obedience: Do what I say when I say. If a teacher really wants students to be responsible, they can teach them to honestly assess their own work and to participate in decisions about what to learn and how to learn it. Students can be given classroom jobs that are meaningful, and they can be offered a choice about how to present what they are learning.
The same people who never did their homework in high school are still doing that to this very day out in the real world.
Come back tomorrow for the rest of this article…NO HOMEWORK.