Release pupils from homework…

Father Helping Son with Homework

I do remember my schooldays when I relentlessly tried to complete all home assignments  because the teachers evaluated commitment to studies with the amount of the tasks done. The parents also “contributed” by not allowing playing until the work done.  So, I did not want to be labelled as a “dull and lazy student” who neglected the exercises assigned. That was in my experience of studying at school in 2000s. Time passes way, but nothing changes. I cannot stand noticing my almost infant cousins’ fears and pains concerned with homework. Having spent almost the half of the day at school, they, sick and tired of lessons, rush home to complete all exercises. They can misunderstand the new topic; they may feel exhausted. It does not matter – they have to do it at any expense. And I strongly believe that this overload is not a key to high academic performance. And I am not alone. The OECD states that, the empirical research justifies that, and some classroom practitioners mention that homework is not so effective.

“People [ask], ‘Doesn’t doing more homework mean getting better scores?’ The answer quite simply is no” – says Professor Gerald Le Tendre at Pennsylvania State University (“Homework”, n.d., p. 2).  This misconception of the “divine” power of homework has deeply penetrated into people’s mind. It cajoles the educators to give students a profusion of the tasks. Allegedly, homework polishes till perfection pupils’ skills, reinforces their learning abilities, and helps to memorize the subtle details. However, the empirical study by Cooper, Robinson, Civey, and Patall (2006) demolishes this myth. The correlation between time spend on homework and academic performance is subtle; minimal for primary school, moderate for middle (Cooper et al., 2006). As for high school, excessive homework has a detrimental effect: it impedes progress (Cooper et al., 2006). A large – scale international inquiry by Baker and Tendre (2006) reveals that the highest TIMMS performers come from Denmark, Japan and the Czech Republic where students enjoy a minimum of home assignments. In contrast, the overloaded Thai, Iran and Greek students are on the bottom of the TIMMS ranking (Baker & Tendre, 2006). The morale is: do not expect children to outperform the counterparts by mechanical completing the exercises. Quality of education matters. Not quantity.

Homework and social disintegration… This may strike as a “surprise” (in a negative connotation), but the studies demonstrate that students from socially vulnerable families do not cope with homework (Rønning, 2011). The educational attainment of a child directly hinges upon what assistance he or she gets when doing homework, especially elementary students (Rønning, 2011). He compares the academic performance of low socio-economic status (hereinafter SES) students and pupils from high-income families. For socially advantaged students homework brings comprehension and practice of the new material; for low SES pupils it is a limited opportunity to cope with tasks without appropriate parental involvement ((Rønning, 2011). The OECD (2014) provides the following explanation:

“advantaged students are more likely than disadvantaged students to have an appropriate      place to study at home and engaged parents who can convey positive messages about schooling   and the importance of doing what is required by teachers, including regularly completing assigned homework” ( p. 4).  It is difficult to disagree with the authoritative organization such as the OECD with arguments based on the PISA results. The reality is that the children from the early age are marginalized owing to the absence of support and facilities to do homework.

Some teachers have already abandoned assigning homework. John Spencer (n.d.), an American schoolteacher, postulates that he swims against the tide: this practice is not in tune with the U.S ideology of schooling. According to Spencer, students had better to spend time on extracurricular activities: sports, hobbies, etc. Thus, students don’t get bored; don’t lose aspiration to learn – parents feel comfortable and confident. Spencer offers several alternatives to homework: (a) to organize workshops for parents who want their offspring to complete exercises; (b) to support the individual work of students who strive for more commitment; (c) turn schooling into more engaging and creative activity (i.eg. learn history by attending museums). Similarly, the head teacher of Tiffin School (one of the top schools in the United Kingdom) realizes the inefficiency of homework and reduces “homework to a maximum of 40 minutes per night” (“Is it time”, 2013). Thus, if even the conservative British educators abolish homework, why cannot we reconsider homework and make it less time-consuming?

One can read this piece of writing and claim that no one has invented the best tool of practicing knowledge gained. Another may think we should change our position and go straight to the child suffering from home tasks overload. Critique and abolishment, reconsideration and reduction, assistance and support – these are the reactions to the by – effects of homework. My address may be optional, but students’ despair is not. To believe or not to believe – is not a question… Whoever (a teacher, a parent, an adult, a brother, a sister) you may be, but give a hand to a pupil to cope with homework.

References

Baker, D.P., & LeTendre, G.K. (2005). National Difference, Global Similarities: World , Culture and the Future of Schooling. Stanford University Press.

Cooper, H., Robinson, J.C., Civey, J., & Patall, E.A. (2006). Does homework improve academic  achievement: A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76, 1-62.

Homework: you can make a difference. (n.d.) [excerpt from the end the race companion book]. Retrieved from http://www.racetonowhere.com/sites/default/files/Homework_MakeADifference-013013_links.pdf

Is it time we banished homework? (2013, April 14). The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/is-it-time-we-banished-homework-8586836.html

OECD. (2014). Does homework perpetuate inequities in education?  PISA in Focus, 2014/12  (46), 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/5jxrhqhtx2xt.pdf?expires=1422334971&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=517CDDEF4464F6AE3B4898F31289F98A

Rønning, M. (2011). Who benefits from homework assignments? Economics of Education Review, 30(2011), 55-64.

Spencer, J.(n.d.).Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives) [web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.educationrethink.com/2011/09/ten-reasons-to-get-rid-of-homework-and.html

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3 thoughts on “Release pupils from homework…

  1. Yessenova, I like reading your posts. All of them are well-structured with interesting topics! And this one is no exception! Thank you.
    If you have read, my second post which was dedicated to Finnish education, was somehow similar to this topic. It is also interesting for me that all of the countries which give academic freedom to children occupy the first places at international tests. But I cannot imagine what will happen if we’ll practice it in our education system?! It, may be, depends on mentality or historical experience, I do not know.

    Like

    1. Dear Almazhay, thank you for the interest in my posts. Having read your blog on the Finnish approach to schooling and linking it with reconsideration of home assignments, I came to several conclusions. First, the students catch up with programme without homework if they receive comprehensible pedagogical input. In case of Finland, the Finnish educators so closely interact with students in a group of 12 people maximum. By doing so, they work on quality rather than quantity. Thus, the Finnish pupils just do not need to continue doing exercises: they had everything explained, trained and done at school. Second, the teachers and parents closely collaborate on early detection of children with learning difficulties. These pupils receive special pedagogical support. Third, the children feel aspired to pursue knowledge because the teachers inspire them. In Finland, the teaching profession is the most prestigious and respectful one. The educators understand their mission toward the society. Therefore, they perceive teaching like an art; they engage students and create a supportive atmosphere.
      They are very well-paid, trained and selected (only the individuals with the Master’s degree can teach).
      May be the “Finnish Miracle” suits not every country, as you mentioned in your post (“There is no one-size-fits-all model of education system”). But shared humanistic approach to educating children must be used by everybody.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Aisara for this blog.
    Nowadays children are overloaded with the amount of homework that they get every day. Each subject is important, so they try to be prepared to all of them. Teachers are very happy then they see students who show their preparedness to the lessons. However, they do not know that is the “cost” of this. Stipples nights, stress and health problems!
    Of course getting rid of the homework is impossible. However there are some ways how to make students live easier. In my opinion teachers should work collaboratively and control the amount of the homework for their students. If students have exams or important assignment on different subjects teachers must be informed about this and balance the homework for students. Another way is to make the school day longer and provide fixed time for homework. So students can stay at school, do all tasks and go home being ready for the next day.
    If each teacher will think about their students and work collaboratively with others it will help student feel less stressed while preparing homework.

    Liked by 1 person

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