What Is The Value Of Homework?

What Is The Value Of Homework?
By Brain Haley

Assigning homework serves various educational needs. It serves as an intellectual discipline, establishes study habits, eases time constraints on the amount of curricular material that can be covered in class, and supplements and reinforces work done in school. In addition, it fosters student initiative, independence, and responsibility and brings home and school closer together.

Homework is the time students spend outside the classroom in assigned activities to practice, reinforce or apply newly-acquired skills and knowledge and to learn necessary skills of independent study.

Practice assignments reinforce newly acquired skills.(Doyle, M. and B. Barber ). For example, students who have just learned a new method of solving a mathematical problem should be given sample problems to complete on their own. Preparation assignments help students get ready for activities that will occur in the classroom. Students may, for example, be required to do background research on a topic to be discussed later in class. Extension assignments are frequently long-term continuing projects that parallel classwork. Students must apply previous learning to complete these assignments, which include science fair projects and term papers.

Like mowing the lawn or taking out the garbage, homework seems to be a fact of life. Families play a vital role in educating children. What families do is more important to student success than whether they are rich or poor, whether parents have finished high school or not, or whether children are in elementary, junior high, or high school. Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.

But the value of homework extends beyond school. We know that good assignments, completed successfully, can help children develop wholesome habits and attitudes. Homework can help parents learn about their children's education and communicate both with their children and the schools. And it can encourage a lifelong love of learning.

Research in the last decade has begun to focus on the relationship between homework and student achievement and has greatly strengthened the case for homework. Although there are mixed findings about whether homework actually increases students' academic achievement, many teachers and parents agree that homework develops students' initiative and responsibility and fulfills the expectations of students, parents, and the public. Studies generally have found homework assignments to be most helpful if they are carefully planned by the teachers and have direct meaning to students.

In addition to helping with homework, there are many other important ways that parents can help their children learn. Parents can encourage children to spend more leisure time reading than watching television. They can talk with their children and communicate positive behaviors, values, and character traits. They can keep in touch with the school. And they can express high expectations for children and encourage their efforts to achieve.

Homework is an opportunity for students to learn and for parents to be involved in their children's education. A parent's interest can spark enthusiasm in a child and help teach the most important lesson of all--that learning can be fun and is well worth the effort.

Teachers assign homework for many reasons. Homework can help children:

. review and practice what they've learned;
. get ready for the next day's class;
. learn to use resources, such as libraries, reference materials, and encyclopedias; and
. explore subjects more fully than time permits in the classroom.

Homework can also help children develop good habits and attitudes.

It can teach children to work independently; encourage self-discipline and responsibility (assignments provide some youngsters with their first chance to manage time and meet deadlines); and encourage a love of learning.

Homework can also bring parents and educators closer together. Parents who supervise homework and work with their children on assignments learn about their children's education and about the school.

Homework is meant to be a positive experience and to encourage children to learn. Assignments should not be used as punishment.

Teachers assign homework for many different reasons, and students may not always endorse - or even understand - their teachers' goals. However, the fact that students don't always understand or agree with us doesn't give us the luxury of ignoring their views. Several factors argue against dismissing their complaints.

For one thing, all of us act based on our own perceptions of the world, not on the perceptions of others. Adults often refuse to follow the advice of doctors to lose weight if they are not convinced losing weight is as important as the doctor thinks it is. Simply telling students they have to do homework because it's important is never going to be effective if we can't convincingly counter their complaints that it's not.

For another, the reasons teachers give for assigning homework often match up badly with the specific assignments they make, another case of "talking the talk" without "walking the walk." For example, assigning homework to increase student mastery of the subject isn't going to work if the assignments are simply repetitions of skills a student has already mastered. Moreover, reasons that go beyond academic achievement, such as teaching students to work without supervision, are suspect in any event. In an exhaustive review of research on homework, Harris Cooper found that "no study has examined whether noninstructional purposes (e.g., creating parent awareness, punishment) have their intended effects" and concludes that "most problematic [in the research on homework] is the number Of homework outcomes that remain unresearched . Implied questions about policy are important ones: Who decides what kind of out-of-school student habits and child-parent interaction should be promoted? And why should the school be doing such promotion? And how do we know that homework is a good tool for noninstructional goals, anyway?

Some policymakers are, in fact, beginning to listen to student voices. As a result, they are beginning to ask questions about factors such as how much free time students actually have. In California, for example, a school board member in the Cabrillo school district made national headlines when he proposed banning homework entirely.

What to do about homework remains unclear, although this research implies that overnight assignments may not be the ideal norm and that all assignments ought. to be thoughtfully designed and clearly valued by the teacher.

What is clear is that we should stop thoughtlessly assigning homework out of habit, assuming that students can and will do it, assuming that something good will come out of it, no matter what we assign. Too much harm - rebellious or indifferent students, angry parents and teachers - results when students refuse to do as they're told. Or, docile obedience breeds an expensive form of cynicism among students who do "play the game" knowing that the point is not learning, but earning the teacher's good opinion and good grades. It's time to stop dismissing students' criticisms as irrelevant excuses for laziness, to ask ourselves if we deserve their criticism, and to start thinking critically about exactly what we assign, under what conditions, and why.

Homework helps children do better in school when assignments are meaningful, are completed successfully, and are returned with constructive comments from the teacher. An assignment should have a specific purpose, come with clear instructions, be fairly well matched to a student's abilities, and designed to help develop a student's knowledge and skills.

In the early elementary grades, homework can help children develop the habits and attitudes described earlier. From fourth through sixth grades, small amounts of homework, gradually increased each year, may support improved academic achievement. In seventh grade and beyond, students who complete more homework score better on standardized tests and earn better grades, on the average, than students who do less homework. The difference in test scores and grades between students who do more homework and those who do less increases as children move up through the grades. (Easton, J. and A. Bennett)

What's the Right Amount of Homework?

According to some researchers, two ways to increase students' opportunities to learn are to increase the amount of time that students have to learn and to expand the amount of content they receive. Homework assignments may foster both these goals. Reforms in education have called for increased homework, and as a result, reports show that students are completing considerably more homework than they did a decade ago.

According to statements by the National PTA and the National Education Association (NEA), the following amounts of homework are recommended:

. From kindergarten to third grade, no more than 20 minutes per day.
. From fourth to sixth grade, 20 to 40 minutes per day.
. From seventh to twelfth grade, the recommended amount of time varies according to the type and number of subjects a student is taking. In general, college-bound students receive lengthier and more involved homework than students preparing to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.

Children need to know that their parents and adults close to them think homework is important. If they know their parents care, children have a good reason to complete assignments and turn them in on time. There is a lot that you can do to show that you value education and homework.

Homework can bring together children, parents, and teachers in a common effort to improve student learning. Helping your child with homework is an opportunity to improve your child's chances of doing well in school and life. By helping your child with homework, you can help him learn important lessons about discipline and responsibility. You can open up lines of communication--between you and your child, and you and the school. You are in a unique position to help your child make connections between school work and the "real world," and thereby bring meaning (and some fun) to your child's homework experience.(Paaletin)


. Doyle, M. and B. Barber (1990). Homework As a Learning Experience. What Research Says to the Teacher, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: National Education Association. 319 492.

. Easton, J. and A. Bennett (1990). "Achievement Effects of Homework in Sixth Grade Classrooms." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. 320 675.

. Murphy, J. and K. Decker (May-June 1989). "Teachers' Use of Homework in High Schools." Journal of Educational Research, 82 (5), 261-269.

. Murphy, J. and K. Decker (February 1990). "Homework Use at the High School Level: Implications for Principals." NASSP Bulletin, 74 (523), 40-43.

. Paaletin, 72 (507), 14-17.

. Rutherford, W. (1989). "Secondary School Homework Practices: Uses and Misuses." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

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