Homework can improve achievement

It should be no surprise to anyone that the right kind of homework, for the right reasons and in the right amount, can improve a student’s academic success. Yet, as I wrote yesterday, some parents are trying to stop that practice altogether.

Why? Because it seems that some parents feel that classroom teachers are simply giving out busy work, like worksheets with exercises that apparently have no purpose other than to eat up huge chunks of valuable after-school family time. However, are those exercises what we used to call drills about mastery — say of the times tables, multiplication and division? If so, they serve a very important purpose.

In any event, as a former learning specialist, and knowing how relevant after-school study and review can be, I decided to write an article on the value of homework — not just for those parents who are becoming very frustrated with what they feel is the “busy-work” practice — but for teachers who are expecting non-relevant work to be done as homework.

First, I would ask teachers to consider what their answers to the following questions might be.

Does the homework you are assigning have anything to do with what you are teaching during school hours?

If yes, how does it reinforce that teaching?

If yes, how does it teach students the reading, study strategies and skills they need that are transferable to all their classes and courses?

If no, what is your rationale for expecting students to do the work?

Then, I would highly recommend teachers survey this Google page on the subject, as well as read this specific article posted at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University website. Written by Hanna Skandera and Richard Sousa, it is titled “Homework Pays Off.”  For example, they write:

Although the amount of time spent on homework is easily measured, using time as the only barometer for success can be deceptive. An exhaustive analysis of numerous studies regarding homework provided by the School Improvement Research series concluded that homework is most effective when it is:

  • Relevant to learning objectives,
  • Appropriate to students’ learning ability and maturity,
  • Assigned regularly,
  • Collected, corrected, and reviewed in class,
  • Assigned in reasonable amounts,
  • Well explained, and
  • Supported by parents.”

In other words, there is a lot of research that indicates homework properly assigned, can improve not only a teacher’s learning objectives, but a student’s general academic performance.

So, teachers, if you don’t want to be told you cannot assign “any” homework, decide what homework you expect to be done just as carefully as what you write in your regular day and curriculum unit plans — and then explain those purposes to the children and their parents. Because, you owe it to your students and their parents to get it right.

The crux of the matter is, therefore, that homework CAN improve academic achievement — something I hope parents will think about very carefully before they demand that the practice stop. Because, the purpose of children and youth going to school is, is it not, to learn?

 

4 thoughts on “Homework can improve achievement

  1. Pingback: Jack's Newswatch » Blog Archive » Homework can improve academic achievement

  2. I would love to see a teaching process that included a small portion of time, every day that REVIEWED, what was taught the day before. I am hearing ( as was rumoured to be the case when I was a young Mom) many parents will now complete their children’s homework when time and resources are insufficient for the child to fully complete their assignments.

    I also absolutely love the journal system, where PARENTS are required to initial their participation in ensuring the completion of tasks. It also provides a daily communication tool for both engaged parents and teachers.

    These have been terrific posts, Sandy. You never cease to amaze or disappoint in providing great topics for discussion.

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  3. Bec — I love the journal system as well. In fact, journals are terrific for many things. I used to have my grad students — experienced teachers — keep a journal throughout my courses. They had to put a summary of a particular class and then talk about what they liked about the content and discussions and what they didn’t and how those insights would change their classroom practices. The results were amazing. At the end of the course, I would ask them to evaluate their journal, providing me with the criteria they used. That alone was an amazing exercise. I then would mark it and average the two marks. More often than not, my mark would be the same or higher than theirs.

    What journals do is allow the free floating of ideas, combined with concrete issues. There is no rote about them as they are highly individual, sometimes abstract, and always creative.

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  4. I think the problem is parents feel their kids must be enrolled in a number of extracurricular activities in order to compete. So there isn’t much time on the weekends or at night to do a lot of homework.

    If you have a school that combines sports and school that helps a lot.

    Anyway as a parent of a son who does Kung Fu and used to do dance seriously, I sympathise, but sometimes we overschedule our kids!

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