As a kid, I can still remember wishing to have certain classroom teachers because it was said that they assigned less homework than the others. I would cross my fingers and act my best all summer as I believed karma could play a role in this cosmic decision. For numerous teachers, homework was a way of life. Whether in elementary or high school, teachers freely handed out homework like they had stock in it. However, does homework actually make a more knowledgeable student or just a student with less free time on their hands?
It Is the Way It Has Always Been Done
As an educator, nothing frustrates me more than when I ask a question about why we do certain things in education and the reply back is that is the way it has always been done. Just because we have always done something one way does not mean it is the best way anymore. This applies directly to homework. Has it outlived its usefulness?
Is Homework Just Meant to Be Busy Work?
For those of you who don’t know, the term “busy work” in education means it is homework basically meant to keep the students busy and has very little value to it. Too many educators confuse busy work with valuable homework.
For instance, if there is a new math concept that you would like your students to learn, modeling it for them and then giving them practice problems to use their newfound knowledge on is a great technique for them to learn with. But do we really need to give them 40 problems to practice on when 10 ten problems would be perfectly suitable? We want our students to do their best work. If they know they have 40 problems to get through, they are going to do their best to fly through the problems without a second thought so it does not take them an hour to do. If they only have the 10 problems, they are more likely to take their time and you will still be able to see if they have grasped the concept.
The Hours Can Add Up Quickly
You may be thinking that 40 problems does not seem like all that much for homework. But that is just for one subject and one night. Research shows that kindergarten to fifth graders have an average of three hours of homework per week per teacher. Sixth to eighth graders have 3.2 hours of homework per teacher per week. High school students have 3.5 hours of homework per teacher per week, meaning a high school student with five teachers could have 17.5 hours of homework a week.
Are We Testing Their Knowledge or Their Home Life?
With more and more students qualifying as low-income students, an interesting statistic emerged in the United States. 41 percent of kids in the United States live in low-income families. These kids are less likely to have access to the resources needed to complete homework. They might have pen and paper, but do they have a computer or internet access? Most homework nowadays incorporates technology into the assignment. Plus, do these kids have a quiet workspace that is safe at home and even a parent at home to help them?
If you look hard and long enough for research backing your opinion on anything in today’s age, you are bound to find something. With that said, here are a few interesting studies in relation to if homework is beneficial to student achievement.
An article published in the Review of Educational Research reported that “in elementary school, homework had no association with achievement gains” when measured by standardized tests results or grades. In addition, fourth-grade students who were not assigned homework got roughly the same score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math exam as those who did 30 minutes of homework a night. Interestingly enough, students who did 45 minutes or more of homework a night actually did worse on the assessment.
Is It Time to Change the Homework Policy?
Rather than assign homework every night, perhaps teachers should follow suit with what a school district in Florida did for their students. They enacted a policy that replaced traditional homework with 20 minutes of free reading each night where the kids were able to choose what they wanted to read. The University of Michigan completed a study that showed that reading for pleasure, not homework, was “strongly associated with higher scores on all achievement tests” for children up to 12 years old.
The School Day Is Eight Hours Long
Classroom teachers have approximately five to six hours with their students every school day once you remove lunch, recess, or other extracurricular. Shouldn’t this be enough time to teach the students what they need to learn? After all, adults who work eight hours a day do not usually have to bring home a couple of hours of extra work with them at night. Why are we putting the strain on our kids? Once they are free of homework, they are able to do more of their hobbies and other things they love to do.
“When It’s Time to Change, You’ve Got to Rearrange”
This lyric from a Brady Bunch song that has not left my head for the last 40 years could apply directly to teaching styles. If you feel you have depended upon homework for so long as a teacher that it would be tough to figure out new ways to approach education in the classroom, let iAchieve be of assistance. We offer professional development workshops that could benefit the entire teaching staff and present alternative teaching methods for the classroom.
Written by: Ryan Crawley