Nov 2015

May we please dispense with homework?

I’d love to see some research on the effectiveness of homework.
Is homework effective? Or is this just an assumption?
And, if there is some indication that homework is effective, is that all homework in all subjects for all learners, and always equally effective?
It seems highly unlikely that this could be the case!

In reviewing recent research, Alfie Kohn found no evidence to support teachers continuing to assign homework. None. Even at the high school level.

And right now, at least here in the US, homework often begins in Kindergarten. By the time 4th grade rolls around, a weekend package of homework may take several hours, and that means that there is an expectation that over the course of the week, over 12 hours of homework have to be figured into the schedule—the equivalent of two extra full days at school, at least. And that is only if a child is able to do the homework in the expected amount of time, which is yet another assumption.

It anguishes me to see small children lugging pounds and pounds of books to and fro. Some have to use wheeled luggage containers to manage it without straining their backs! The life hours of these students, and their families, are being siphoned off over the decades in service to a dated notion that homework has educational value. That’s time that could be spent socializing, learning practical skills, playing, helping others, caring for animals, gardening, building contraptions, playing instruments (note I did not say practicing, I said playing), cooking, or just hanging out (a truly lost art).

To say nothing of the environmental cost of the reams of paper, pencils, ink and such used in the nearly 100,000 schools in the US.

Meanwhile, there are many studies out about the value of unstructured play time, which, sadly, almost no student has time for, in no small part due to an excessive load of ineffectual homework.

I think we have to ask ourselves: is assigning homework actually superstitious, fear-based behavior?

Because from my perspective, it’s serving mostly as training for future workers who will bring work home form the office both on weeknights and weekends, both of which could potentially handicap a family’s social and psychoemotional network, which I would count as being a lot more important.


See also:
Homework: an unnecessary evil? Surprising findings from new research by Alfie Kohn

And from the Center for Public Education:
The central lesson of this body of research is that homework is not a strategy that works for all children. Because of its possible negative effects of decreasing students' motivation and interest, thereby indirectly impairing performance, homework should be assigned judiciously and moderately. Heavy homework loads should not be used as a main strategy for improving home-school relations or student achievement”