I hear it every year.
Traditionally, as our first grade year gets on its way the tears start rolling because it is the first time the students are experiencing homework. Now we all know there are those who have younger siblings who are excited about the homework because they know it's a rite of passage. However, those firsties and onlies STRUGGLE! Although I am talking about the students, I know many parents who struggle with the first grade homework as well.
We know that circulating all through social media as of late has been the debate about wether or not homework is of help or hinder to our children. Many people have been sharing 'articles' or blogs concerning this. Let's begin by defining articles, most of these that are shared are not scholarly articles that share the years of research but the opinion of parents or even dare I say teachers. And yes my friends the years of the research goes way back before many of us with children were born. The research has continued for decades, approximately 70 years of research. And in the end the majority of research actually supports homework. There are about 3 researchers/authors who have concurred differently than the other many more experts who have been at their homework. With the most popular and most quoted in these articles/blogs being Alfie Kohn's (2006) book.
Honestly, I am tired of the debate. So tired, that I spent the last few days reading research upon research from the last 70 years. After all, I land on the side of the picket line where "quality" homework is good homework. As a teacher I believe that homework establishes and teaches study skills and time management in the younger years. I also believe that homework is a good extension of the skills we were working on. Finally, I believe that homework provides the extra practice that some of my learners need. BUT, I had to read the research so I could find out if my beliefs were accurate and of course if I can support my argument for homework.
And guess what?
The research overall states that homework is a useful tool when it is employed effectively, (Marzano and Pickering, 2007).
Let's look at the argument against homework. The three main researchers and authors that have written against homework actually were not focused on getting rid of homework altogether.
Kralovec and Buell focused on the harm of homework to those students who were from economically disadvantaged students. Basically saying that these students were penalized because they cannot complete the assignments at home because of their home environment. The authors suggested instead of homework we should extend the school day. Yikes! We can barely keep their attention after lunch now we want to add more time to the day. I guess all those sports practices will have to be even later still.
The next duo to really take on homework were Bennet and Kalish in 2006. These guys claimed that too much homework harms a student's health and family time. They suggested that teachers reduce the amount of homework given, make the assignments valuable, and avoid homework during breaks and holidays. By valuable they mean we should assign homework that was purposeful, like do an experiment at home with your parents.
Finally, our third expert against homework was Kohn, also in 2006. Kohn was the one to take an attack on the years of research, specifically against Cooper who was the leading researcher and expert in many studies. Kohn takes the approach that homework should not be expected. He also agrees with Bennet and Kalish that homework should be "beneficial" and involve activities that are appropriate for the home. The list of actives included performing an experiment, cooking, doing crossword puzzles, reading, or watching good tv shows. By the way I am happy to assign those types of homework assignments from time to time, especially, the experiment and cooking activities, especially, the experiment and cooking activities.
Now let's look at the argument for homework.
Marzano and Pickering did a great job in their article on this debate. And I for one agree with them, we cannot ignore decades of well done and quality research. The research shows that homework is predominately effective for grades 4 and up. And the research shows (Cooper and colleagues 2006) that the average student in a class in which appropriate homework was assigned would score 23 percentile points higher than the average student in a class where homework was not assigned. TWENTY-THREE Percentile Points! That can make a huge difference. Think about the student who scores in the 50th percentile… now add 23 points to that. Tell me you don't want your child scoring better? In a society that has become so hyper focused on assessment, whether you like it or not, these scores are dictating your child's class schedules. These class schedules will dictate GPA (GPA is weighted by the classification of class). GPA plus SAT/ACT ='s college admissions. Yes, thank you, I will take an extra 23 points and the homework to get to it.
So, now what about those kids in the younger grades of K-3rd? Marzano and Pickering agree with Cooper, homework in the younger grades serves the purpose of establishing good study habits and time management. After all, Janine Bempechat states it best, …"Skills such as these (talking about study habits) develop neither overnight, or in a vacuum. Rather, they are fostered over years through daily interactions with parents and teachers…" (2004). She goes on to write: "If our goal is to prepare children for the demands of secondary schooling and beyond, we need to pay as much attention to the development of skills that help children take initiative in their learning and maintain or regain their motivation when it wanes."
My eyes are blurry now from all the reading. But somewhere in there I read an analogy of homework research to medical research. It went something like this…if you take too much medication it can make you sick, if you take too little it won't make a difference, but if you take the right amount you will get better. The same goes for the quality of the homework.
So, I agree too much homework is ridiculous, too little homework may be a waste, but the right amount will help your child extend their learning, expand their knowledge, and prepare them for further education.
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner