Saturday, September 28, 2013

To Assign or Not to Assign- Homework is the question.

The Homework Debate

Image by Emma Winsor Wood
Last week at work we got into a debate on whether or not homework was an effective means for extending learning for elementary school children.  Later that same evening during my Emerging Instructional Technology class we were sitting in on the #edchat and the subject for the evening was ... you guessed it HOMEWORK.  While sitting in on the chat I noticed that many of the tweets I found insightful were posted by Jerry Blumengarten also known on twitter as @cybraryman1.

The convergence of these two discussions made me curious about the research regarding the subject of assigning homework to elementary students.  I began my research by going to Jerry Blumengarten's website Cybrary Man's Educational Web Sites where I found a wealth of information regarding the homework debate.

Prior to my research I was of the opinion that often times homework is unnecessary and over used but it did have merits on occasion. As a parent I have made myself available to my children to support their homework needs but have many times felt resentful of teachers infringement on our time as a family with busy work.

I found a fair amount of information on making homework assignments more relevant and meaningful for students one of which was Five Hallmarks of Good Homework by Cathy Vatterott
Homework shouldn't be about rote learning. The best kind deepens student understanding and builds essential skills:
  1. Clear academic purpose
  2. Task efficiently demonstrates student learning
  3. Promotes ownership by offering choices and is personally relevant
  4. Instills a sense of competence - can be fully completed without help
  5. Aesthetically pleasing.
The majority of the information and research statistics however argued against the use of homework as a meaningful contribution to learning with elementary school children. 

The Truth About Homework: Needless Assignments Persist Because of Widespread Misconceptions About Learning by Alfie Kohn. 
"decades of investigation have failed to turn up any evidence that homework is beneficial for students in elementary school.  Even if you regard standardized test results as a useful measure, homework (some versus none, or more versus less) isn’t even correlated with higher scores at these ages.  The only effect that does show up is more negative attitudes on the part of students who get more assignments."

I found additional insight I agreed with on John T Spencer's blog posting Anti-Homework where he pointed out that those who have have already mastered skills why is it necessary to practice for hours and for those that have not mastered the skill what happens if they practice the skill incorrectly? If the argument is we need to provide students with better activities than watching tv each night then what about those students who are active in church, sports, clubs or family are those not also learning opportunities that foster whole students. As far as extending learning into the home Spencer points out that many students who used to read books, draw or play games with parents now slog through worksheets that are tragically causing them to their natural love of learning.

Another blog I found very interesting is for the love of learning by Joe Bower.  He has posted a multitude of blog posting discussing the misuse of homework.
"Homework is not something to assign, rather it is something to inspire. Where there's interest, achievement follows. Traditional homework has exactly the opposite effect on children's love for learning. In fact, I can think of no better sabateur of passion for learning than homework."Joe Bower
In this edition of “Assignment America” 5th grade student, Ben Berrafato eloquently compares homework assignments to slavery.

The real question: Does homework enhance a child's lifelong desire to learn?

1 comment:

  1. Your post resonates well with my own vision regarding homework. Thanks for sharing the great resources!!
    I think teachers really need to work hard to provide meaningful work outside of the classroom! Or maybe investigate how a flipped classroom would change the way we look at school work at home???