“Rage” is the word to describe this debate. As the pendulum swings we often only hear or listen to the extreme ends of the argument. Over the last 25 years, I have assigned and marked thousands of homework assignments and as this debate continues to rage, teachers and students alike are its victims. So, what is wrong with homework? Well, to put it simply, the evidence that homework supports or even fosters greater learning is wholly incomplete. Much of the research is either too narrow or too bored and frankly the research over the last decade continually fails to offer any qualitative guidance for schools, teachers or families. Intention; the question on the table.
What intention does the homework have or offer? Put more simply, does homework help or hinder our children. Proponents argue that homework that is designed to reinforce classroom learning, strengthen parental involvement in their child’s learning and should directly relate to the school’s curriculum; to develop important life skills such as time-management and discipline. They do however, emphasize for primary-aged children homework be limited to half an hour each week day and weekends should be free of homework.
The problem with this argument is that there is little to no guidance or guidelines that helps teachers and schools design the ‘right’ kind of homework. Repetition, s uch as studying the times tables and spelling, is a recognized learning style, however this activity does not support all types of learning and is often seen as time wasting by many students and families. Teachers work to structure homework that consolidates weekly learning objectives however much of the homework lies in the hands of parents and families who often have limited time or understanding of the appropriate methodology to support their children. Thus, the frustration develops and homework tasks fail to support or consolidate their child’s learning. Advocates for a reduction in homework argue that homework itself has a reverse effect and contributes to a diminished interest in learning. Additionally, many families and educators argue that the impact homework has on quality family time is a central contributing factor in creating strain on parent-child relationships.
The camp for ‘no homework’ emphasizes and promotes an increase in extra curricular activities and argues that in today’s current technological environment o ur kids need more ‘time’ for physical and social opportunities and the idea of leaving school to go home and sit on-line to complete homework tasks is wholly flawed. One thing both camps agree on with regards to homework, is that reading in after-school hours is highly beneficial – this can be a joyous, bonding time between parents and children, and provides both an opportunity for a child to practice their reading skills, listening and comprehension skills.
There really is no real answer. Trends in education come and go and the homework d ebate will remain. I, for one, am not opposed to homework but I am vehemently opposed to ‘time’ wasting assignments that force our students and children into the cyclical realm of boredom. Most of the current research cannot d emonstrate any direct link between academic achievement and homework.