A friend forwarded an article to me recently with the comment “I don’t agree with this, but you might find it interesting.”
I love having friends who disagree with me. I think it’s important, to constantly challenge my own decisions. It helps to surround myself with thoughtful people who are willing to discuss the pros and cons of a different issue, and the discussion is most informative when you think you fall on different sides of an argument. Sometimes a friend convinces me to change my mind. Sometimes I convince them. Most of the time we agree to disagree, but I think everything lives on in our subconscious and influences us later. What’s important, is that it allows each of us to thoughtfully consider and reevaluate our position.
In this case, the question happens to be homework. To give, or not to give homework. That is the question. I think schools give too much homework. My friend thinks homework is crucial to the learning process. I will even go so far as to say she has at one point she has said that you can’t have a “rigorous class” without lots of homework. So she’s defining a “rigorous class” as one that has lots of homework. (This came up because our school awards more adjusted GPA points to AP classes than dual credit classes that are taught by professors from the local community college. In some cases, the dual credit classes appear to have less homework. Thus the school and this friend argue that they’re less “rigorous.”) She also points out that sometimes it’s necessary for a student to do lots of repetition or work outside of class to think on their own when they’re struggling with a concept.
The article that she forwarded me turned out to pertain to an elementary school that decided to quit giving homework.
While I consider homework in elementary school to be different, and usually less in hours than secondary school homework, I still think it’s worth considering homework and what a reduction in homework at the secondary school (middle school and high school) level might mean with regard to the valid points my friend has brought up about the benefits of homework.
– Students who work more slowly, or find they think better outside the classroom, will have the opportunity to finish work at home, instead of having to finish both classwork and homework at home.
– Students who need extra help can use the time to get extra-explanations or get tutoring, and then finish their work. When students are having trouble with a particular concept, adding on homework only adds to the hours that a “normal” homework would take, growing what might be a 20-30 minute homework assignment into 1-2 hours. Imagine what that looks like for a kid when it occurs in more than one class.)
I’m limiting myself here to think about how homework contributes to learning in the classroom, and refraining from any discussion about how much specialized information kids really need to commit to memory, how much sleep they’re getting, how much time they have to relax or to spend on interests that aren’t covered in their school courses. Etc. I could go on for a while…
Here are just a couple of articles where I’ve gained some knowledge about homework and the effect it can have:
I ran across this very well researched article from 2012 which showed how when you do a careful analysis of the research studies, even in high school no benefits are found from homework.
I have many more I could link to, but tellingly I don’t have any on the benefits of homework. That could be for any number of reasons. 🙂 If you have some good articles to the contrary that you’d like to share, please pass them along!
What are your thoughts on homework? What purpose do you think homework serves? Do you think most schools over-do homework or do you think it’s necessary in today’s world?
For more on my thoughts about homework, see more of my articles on success, among them: