I follow a couple of former students on Facebook, and one evening there was a flutter of posts about homework, tears, and frustration. The conversation took me back to many parent conferences that focused on the topic of homework: Why it wasn’t being done? Whose responsibility was it to make sure it got done? What its relationship was to grades? Rarely did we have a conversation about the worth of homework.
Teams ought to be talking about homework–regularly. What’s due this week? Let’s not all schedule tests on the same day. What’s the project load for the month? But more importantly, we ought to be talking about why we assign homework and what we hope it will accomplish.
Here’s a blog post to get the conversation started at an upcoming team meeting: “Homework: An unnecessary evil? Surprising findings from new research“– it is written by Alfie Kohn and published in The Answer Sheet blog in The Washington Post.
Kohn reviews a recent study from the Indiana University School of Education that looked at the relationship between time spent on homework in science and math and grades and achievement tests. Here are the main findings plus Kohn’s editorial comments which I have put in italics:
- “Even assuming the existence of a causal relationship, which is by no means clear, one or two hours’ worth of homework every day buys you two or three points on a test. Is that really worth the frustration, exhaustion, family conflict, loss of time for other activities, and potential diminution of interest in learning?” Kohn goes on to say, “Thus, a headline that reads “Study finds homework boosts achievement” can be translated as “A relentless regimen of after-school drill-and-skill can raise scores a wee bit on tests of rote learning.”
- “There was no relationship whatsoever between time spent on homework and course grade, and “no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not.”
Hmmm…these findings are certainly worth discussing at a team meeting. Questions come to mind:
- Are there other studies out there with the same results?
- What else do we need to know?
- Why do we value homework?
- Can we get past our own beliefs about the value of homework and really look at the topic objectively?
Other interesting resources on homework: