Homework has been a hot issue for a number of years. The question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial. I myself have tried to answer the question Homework or not (and if so, how much)? because it affects me on two levels – as a parent and a language teacher. The truth is that if you are too strict and give your students a lot of homework, some parents will inevitably accuse you of robbing their kids of a normal childhood. On the other hand, if you are a proponent of the no-homework policy, some parents might complain about a lack of academic rigour. One way or the other, it’s simply impossible to please everyone.
What does research say on the topic of homework? According to this article, academic research on the effectiveness of homework is murky; studies have shown a spectrum of results spanning from conclusions that homework is the key to academic success to those saying homework is a waste of student time that damages home life.
In The Battle Over Homework, Harris M. Cooper determined that the average correlation between the time primary children spent on homework and achievement was around zero. Professor Robert H. Tai found no significant relationship between time spent on homework and grades but did find a positive relationship between homework and performance on standardized tests. In this paper, the authors find that homework plays an important role in student learning, especially so for students who initially perform poorly in the course.
The author of this article (in Czech) argues that homework goes against the principles of psycho-hygiene. When you come back home from school or work, you should rest and/or do the things you like. Only workaholics keep working at home. She isn’t against homework completely, though. Homework should be justified and personalized, she says.
Some people support the “10-minute rule” designed by the National PTA. It suggests that 10 minutes per a grade should be assigned (e.g., 70 minutes for 7th grade). However, there is not sufficient proof that homework is helpful for students in elementary school. Cathy Vatterott, an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, asks: “Does homework cause achievement, or do high achievers do more homework?”
Well, my youngest son, who is in class five at primary school, usually has little homework to do when he comes home from school. He arrives at around 2 pm, gets his books ready for the next day and is free to go about his own business. On most days, however, he has some after-school activities, but otherwise, he has plenty of free time.
To be completely frank, if my son wasn’t currently preparing for a high stakes entrance exam, I would be absolutely happy with his school’s policy. So it probably all boils down to what the parents expect of education and what they want for their children.
Ambitions aside, as a parent as well as a teacher I believe that homework could and should be one of the ways to engage families in learning. After all, the word homework implies that the tasks assigned at school should be done at home, not during the breaks between classes, which, based on my experience, is often the case. The quality is more important than quantity here. In other words, less is often more. In my opinion, it’s good to give students a bit of homework regularly so that their parents get a gist of what their kids are currently working on at school. Also, students should know why they are assigned a particular assignment. If they see no point and purpose in what they are doing, they will merely copy their homework from their classmates, with absolutely no remorse. Some of the purposes of homework could be practice, preparation, extension, or integration of skills and concepts.
What do you think?