Homework…. Yes or No? 

A common debate in education relates to the effectiveness of homework and whether it plays an important role in education. I believe the debate should involve discussions on well-being of a child,  especially as we increasingly accept the importance of a child’s mental health.

Research is being developed all the time on the link between mental health and the impact on a child’s life. In simple terms, it is being acknowledged that allowing children to relax, take part in physical exercise and enjoy family time are essential ingredients of a balanced upbringing.

It is worth reading this article by the OECD on homework,

http://oecdinsights.org/2016/09/01/more-work-more-play-whats-really-best-for-high-school-students/

This quote is extremely powerful and should make every school aware of the pressures that can be caused by education,

“Study pressure has led to an increase in stress, psychological problems and even tragedy. Recently, a 16-year-old girl from Chengdu, Sichuan Province, committed suicide after failing to pass the entrance exam for a respected senior high school. The level of competition in China to be accepted into college is extremely high.”

It is essential that we consider the well-being of every child when considering the worth of homework. The article suggests that too much homework can increase the levels of stress experienced by a child however it also demonstrates that homework can be beneficial. Not every country accepts the worth of homework e.g. Finland yet they still manage to score well when comparing education systems across the world.

A comprehensive research has taken place on the issue of the benefit of homework,

“The most comprehensive research on homework to date comes from a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, who found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school. The correlation was stronger for older students—in seventh through 12th grade—than for those in younger grades, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance.”

The quote is from ‘Time’ magazine.

http://time.com/4466390/homework-debate-research/

The article is balanced in its approach and considers the reasoning behind no homework,

“Cathy Vatterott , an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, supports the “10-minute rule” as a maximum, but she thinks there is not sufficient proof that homework is helpful for students in elementary school.”

Taking the 10 minute rule, would suggest that a Year 9 pupil would compete an hour and a half of homework,

“Harris Cooper conducted a comprehensive analysis of the correlation between student achievement and homework. This study found a positive correlation, however it notes that this is much stronger at the high school level than in primary school.  Cooper suggests the 10-20 minute rule: every year no more than 10 minutes should be added to the time spent on homework. Following this approach, a child in the first grade would be assigned 10 minutes of homework, while a secondary student in year 9 would be assigned no more than 90 minutes of homework. The only problem with this approach is that not all children take the same amount of time on each assignment.”

Cooper has led the research in this area and admits that the impact of homework on pupils in Primary schools is very small compared to the impact on Secondary pupils. Reading the work made me consider that perhaps insufficient thought had been given to understanding the impact of parental support and the ability of the child. Should we be considering the  socio-economic background of a child? If a child is from a supportive family home then homework isn’t as great a barrier as it is for those children that don’t have a support network. Social media perhaps has reduced the impact with pupils creating groups to support each other in understanding the work. Is it true to say that the conscientious child will always complete their homework whilst there will always be pupils totally disengaged?

The following quote comes from the Teaching Council in England,

Dame Reena Keeble, an ex-primary school head teacher who led the report, told Newsround:

“What we are saying in our report is that if schools are setting homework for you, they need to explain to you – and your mums and dads – why they’re setting it, and your teachers need to let you know how you’ve done in your homework……..We found homework can really help with your learning, as long as your school makes sure that what you’re doing for your homework is making a difference.”

The report was part of an article published on ‘Newround’,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/38383428

A number of parents have written on the subject,

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2009/09/does-homework-work/26545/

Two 2006 books make that argument: Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth, and Sara Bennett & Nancy Kalish’s The Case Against Homework.

“Homework does not improve children’s work habits, argues Kohn. It does not reinforce skills, and “isn’t even correlated with, much less responsible for, higher achievement before high school.”

Nobody wishes for the cartoon to be replicated,

It is important to remember that homework is for the pupil and not the parent although some tasks provide opportunities for working together. Perhaps it is true that homework can be useful as long as the tasks set are worthwhile and build on previous skills and knowledge and supports the opportunity to research a subject.

Before sharing my opinion I would like to share one more article,

https://www.oxfordlearning.com/how-does-homework-affect-students/

This article provides the best parental support for parents and pupils.

Balance is key to success. Do pupils need a list of questions when one problem solving exercise could reinforce a child’s understanding? Should pupils write essays for homework or would it be better to ask for a concise paragraph or two that demonstrates the level of writing of a pupil? @TeachingCouncil in Ireland have held a discussion on this issue and pupils came to conclude that rich tasks are more beneficial and encourages independent learning instead of recycling work completed in school.

I’m sure people will disagree and perhaps new research will take us in a different direction however I do believe we need to consider the background of a pupil and their ability to complete homework as well as taking care in the type of task that is set as homework. Ultimately we wish to develop independent learners and homework is an essential tool on this journey which will hopefully prepare a pupil for each stage of education and ultimately leading to University.

After all the research I’ve reached five conclusions:

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