One topic that produces a wide range and varied views amongst students, parents and teachers alike is that of homework. From my perspective, it does make a difference to students’ learning, but ‘the devil is in the detail.’ Signifcant bodies of research have produced a range of conclusions, with some quite opposing views. There are, however, some common threads that are worth consideration.
Homework must be much more that rote learning, and at its heart should build essential skills, deepen a student’s understanding and extend their learning. For younger students homework should spread beyond academic focus, also emphasise the habits and mindsets of learning and must include reading at its heart. Older students need homework that is purposeful and meaningful and gets the ‘best bang for its buck’. Students will gain much more from homework when they feel a strong sense of ownership to their homework, with a blend of review, practice and ‘stretch’.
The quality, targeted focus and the optimal quantity of homework (I suggest around 10 minutes per year level as a guide), does make a difference in both the attitude towards learning and the level of success a student experiences. It is too simplistic to say “Do more of the same stuff you did today in the same way.” The strategies employed to enrich homework, when associated with the understanding related to a student’s learning styles and the context and purpose of a learning experience, can have a profound and ongoing effect on the depth, width and length of the learning.
There are many and varied competing demands in the lives of our students that were perhaps not as complex a generation ago. This means that the planning and organisation of homework around other weekly demand needs to be carefully considered.
Within the home, consideration of place, space and time are essential. Limiting distractions, especially of the technological kind, is important. Parents also need to be mindful to provide enough controlled freedom, with minimal ‘over the shoulder’ supervision, to enable a reasonable balance of support, guidance and self-determination.
Homework still has a place to build essential skills and attitudes and complement the learning that occurs within the school. The challenge and opportunity is to ensure that homework does make a tangible difference to the experience and quality of learning for each student.
Click here to listen to my interview with Mel Dee on PowerFM discussing homework.