Recently in the news it was reported that a teacher in Texas was not going to set any formal homework. Instead the teacher decided that her students were to spend more time at home with the family. This has since brought the whole debate surrounding homework back onto the front line. So should we as educators be setting homework?
Perceived advantages of homework
The best evaluation of homework has been provided by the teaching and learning toolkit. Most research does admit that many schools and teachers are not using homework as effectively as possible however, homework is still having a positive effect on learning, particularly at secondary level. Educators propose that homework provides opportunities for practise, preparation and extension work. All important stages of learning for students.
Providing homework tasks can also help to aid the link between parent and school. I recently set a homework for my year 8’s to go home and talk to their parents about chemosynthesis. The response was amazing from both parents and students.
Students also learn, albeit sometimes the hard way, important generic skills such as; independence, organisation, self-discipline and responsibility for their own learning.
Perceived disadvantages of homework
Some articles will tell you that homework provides an opportunity for independent learning. Yet we want our students to be collaborative and work together to solve problems. The World around us has been built around the idea of keeping everyone connected. So often I have seen students copying homework either from an online source or one of their peers books. Should we really be surprised that when we give homework that can simply be regurgitated from other sources our students put in zero effort? Most schools also run homework clubs which again increase the chances of independent work never happening.
The task of doing the homework then becomes mindless and a waste of time. This waste of time has a significant consequence by reducing students down time leading to negative attitudes and even anxiety issues. Family arguments are not uncommon when it comes to homework which can again have a detrimental effect on our students mental health.
Where does all this leave us?
One poll shows that around 75% of people disagree with setting homework. As a teacher I am largely bound to follow my school policy. This policy states that I am required to set homework once a week for each class. If I do not set a homework for one of my classes I usually get away with it, however, it is not uncommon for me to get a message from another teacher or even parent asking why I had not set any. I can put my hands up and say some weeks I have set homework because I have felt like I have had to, rather than for the benefit of the students.
For me it is this mentality that must change. Teachers and schools should stop forcing homework on students after every lesson. Instead teachers should use their own discretion on when to set homework and only set it when there is a clear learning objective in mind.
It is time to stop doing things one way just because that is how they have always been done.