Saturday, April 16, 2011

Does Homework Improve Learning?

Before you answer that question, I suggest you take a look at Alfie Kohn's article Does Homework Improve Learning?

Taken as a whole, the available research might be summarized as inconclusive.  But if we look more closely, even that description turns out to be too generous.  The bottom line, I’ll argue in this chapter, is that a careful examination of the data raises serious doubts about whether meaningful learning is enhanced by homework for most students.  Of the eight reasons that follow, the first three identify important limitations of the existing research, the next three identify findings from these same studies that lead one to question homework’s effectiveness, and the last two introduce additional data that weaken the case even further.


  1. I think that hometime is perfect for working on personal projects or engaging in games-based-learning. It's also excellent to promote home reading time, and structure 'research' work that facilitates students engaging their family in their learning (e.g. interview a family member about..., get a friend to take this quiz and compare your results...)

    'Finish this task for homework' on the other hand should be stricken from every teacher's vocabulary!

  2. Oh, and holiday way! Especially not over summer!!

  3. Kelli: Based on the research assigned home reading would likely be detrimental to my kids. Reading for pleasure, which they do in abundance, has a higher correlation to performance than assigned reading. I know this speaks only to my situation, there are plenty of kids who aren't reading at all who can benefit from at least some. We need to be aware that generalized policies don't benefit all kids.

  4. I find this to be a bizarre question. Some homework sucks compared to others. I think it totally depends on the style of homework...

  5. My views on homework are simple: students should choose their own homework
    whenever possible. Setting the same homework to a class is not very
    productive. Students who achieve full marks are wasting their time spending it
    on work they can do. After a lesson the students’ needs will differ. Student A
    may have understood the first part of the lesson but not the second part.
    Student B may have understood the second part but not the first part. So,
    student A needs to spend his/her homework time ‘getting to grips’ with the
    second part of the lesson whilst student B needs to spend his/her time ‘getting
    to grips’ with the first part of the lesson. By doing this each student is
    maximising his/her time. In addition, a student is more likely to do homework
    they choose and see the need for.
    I am a great believer in independent learning and I put the above ‘homework
    theory’ into practice in 1998 with my 14 A’Level Chemistry students.
    The A'level grades obtained by these 14 Chemistry students in 2000 were:
    8 Grade A's
    3 Grade B's
    3 grade C's
    I think the results prove the theory works (the same students’ results in ‘less
    demanding’ subjects were not so good). Parents need educating on homework.
    They must not assume ‘more homework means more learning’.

  6. Homework – Education’s Biggest Scam
    Homework is possibly one of education’s most contentious subjects. Before we ask the purpose of homework we must first look at education.
    Q) Why do children/students attend school? A) To learn
    Learning is most effective when done in a relaxed and happy atmosphere: the school must provide a place where the students want to be. Then, and only then, will the students’ learning be maximised. This is our goal and we must start with a clean slate and put strategies in place which promote this. Anything which hinders this must be scrapped. This seems common sense.
    The above (providing a place where students want to be) is a prerequisite for effective learning.
    Now, let’s consider the purpose of homework. In early years of education there is no reason for homework. If young children in primary school cannot learn all they need to during school hours, there is something wrong with the education system.
    In secondary school the purpose of homework is for students to consolidate what they find difficult. After a lesson each student will have different needs as to what work needs consolidation. Only each individual student knows his/her ‘homework needs’ and so only each individual student knows what homework he/she needs to be doing. The logical conclusion to this is that each student chooses his/her homework: the idea of the teacher setting all students the same homework is senseless. If a student chooses his/her own homework he/she is more likely to do it and more importantly, learn from doing it.
    The homework pundits will argue that some/many will not do homework. We must ask if homework is appropriate for all students. (In secondary modern schools years ago homework was not set and the students learned appropriate skills to prepare them for life). At the moment, students who do not hand in homework have detention and are often made to complete the homework at school in the presence of a teacher. The student may complete the homework but there is no learning taking place under these conditions. What does happen is that the student’s relationship with one or more teachers deteriorates, resulting in less learning taking place in lessons. I believe that forcing a student to do homework results in less learning overall because of their ‘anti school/teacher’ attitude.
    Efficiency is output/input. From this definition, homework, as conventionally set in schools with the resulting sanctions and marking must be one of the most inefficient tasks of the education system.
    There is a wealth of literature exposing the fallacy that ‘homework as conventionally done improves performance’: it does not.
    The reason homework is done is because parents/guardians expect it. Schools are often judged by how much homework is set. (If parents believe homework improves performance then they too should be set homework each night by their employer).
    Parents, governors and governments need to be educated in what really improves students’ learning.
    On a final note, teachers nowadays have no time to focus on what really improves learning as they are too busy doing all the unnecessary tasks (such as all the hours spent on homework issues) imposed by constant changing government strategies.
    Jim Baker 06/10/2011


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