Why do we have to do homework?
Over many years of teaching, I have spent countless hours correcting homework, from practice essays and book reports, through to projects and case studies. Throughout this time there has been an ongoing debate about whether we should be setting homework at all. It will not surprise you to learn that the debate continues today.
In recent times there has been a divide emerging between those who support the need for homework and those who suggest the time would be better spent with family and developing relationships.I think it would be helpful in considering these issues to dip into the ‘science of homework’.
Dr John Hattie, a noted researcher in the most effective strategies for learning and teaching, is an advocate for homework in secondary schools. However, his findings indicate that homework in primary school is neither as valuable or effective. The reason he reaches this conclusion is that students in secondary school are often given tasks that reinforce skills learned in the classroom that day. So he contends that homework is most effective when it’s the right type of homework.
A review of research from the US by Dr Harris Cooper from Duke University in 2006 found that there was generally consistent evidence of a positive influence of homework on achievement. His findings are consistent with Hattie’s in that he too found that for homework to be effective, it has to be the right type of homework. Certainly for secondary students, homework is most effective when it consolidates key concepts covered in class – so revision is good!
As a general guide, homework should be relevant and elaborate on work taught in class. Homework, providing opportunities for students to explore concepts in their areas of interest is also beneficial. Homework should be pitched at a student’s age and skill level. If not it can lead to anxiety and can limit their cognitive abilities in that topic. However, when correctly pitched, success will increase the reward stimulation in their brain. If your daughter is struggling with homework that is beyond her skill level, have her put it away and contact the teacher.
It can be beneficial for parents to be involved with homework as long as they are supporting their daughter with helpful suggestions and sharing ideas. We shouldn’t be tempted to be overly involved or to take over the task. Most importantly, homework should not be a point of conflict or turned into a battle. If there are problems, let us know. This is particularly the case with students in Years 7 and 8. Our aim is to instill a love of learning not turn your daughters off school before they really start.
Have a great weekend.
Dr Frank Pitt
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