Homework

I must admit homework is not an issue I have thought about too much but I have been reading an interesting debate over homework on another blog, The Faculty Room. This blog has a range of educators that contribute and discuss issues in education. An entry by Dana Huff titled ‘the homework is unecessary myth‘ was well challenged by two other entries, Let them be kids and Alfie Kohn weighs in. These make for interesting reading and both sides seem to have valid arguments for their case.

While I generally don’t set a great deal of homework it has not really been a researched and analysed decision. My underlying thoughts were that we can generally cover everything we need in class if we use our time well and that kids need to do other things besides structured learning tasks set by school outside of school hours.

An issue that has consistently raised its head at our school is that students are spending a long time out of school hours working on homework and assignments which can be quite distressing to the students and the parents. The crucial question in all of it is whether there is genuine learning taking place as a result of the homework and assignments and it would be interesting to do an analysis of the type of tasks students are spending their time on outside of school and the value it has for them. If all it does is give students an impression that learning is a chore and waste of time then we are doing them a great disservice.

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4 Responses

  1. You hit the nail on the head with the crucial question. Finding a way to do just that would likely end the debate.

  2. I agree — I do think the crucial question is whether genuine learning is taking place or not. I am glad the conversation has been generating reflection.

  3. I agree that one of the crucial questions is whether or not learning is taking place with homework — but, the other side of this that has been ignored in the debate is whether or not “real” learning takes place in the classroom. I do not understand the assumption that learning can only take place in the classroom (and believe me I put a lot of thought as to what goes on in that classroom). Either of these two (class or homework) can be a waste — either of these can be useful. The issue, in my opinion, is more complex than people have made it to be. Saying homework is bad, is like saying lecturing is bad. It can be — it can also be terrific and make history or literature come to life. Learning is not the product of dogma — it is what happens when curiosity meets great material. I believe that can happen in class, at home, or in line at the bank. To say we should ban homework is akin to saying that teams should no longer practice, they should only play their games — that is afterall where all the action takes place.

  4. Nicely put Joe. I agree that it is a complex issue and I certainly don’t think that banning homework outright is the way to go. I do think teachers need to think carefully about the homework they are setting as I am fairly confident there are some teachers out there dishing out meaningless work because they feel they have to to satisfy school and parental expectations, or because it is what has always been done. I think my issue is more with the quality and quantity of homework as opposed to whether it should be banned or not.
    Couldn’t agree more that learning does not only take place in the classroom. I guess my question with regards to homework is whether learning outside the classroom is occurring as a direct result of homework set. If so then great and this to me would make it worthwhile. If not it may need to be re-examined.

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