Scholar Post: Homework, good or bad?

A topic that I found interesting from this course was the topic of homework. There has been controversy on social media lately after a parent posted this note that their teacher, Mrs. Young, sent home.

homework

(Photo credit: Samantha Gallagher)

This really got me thinking about the homework policies that I will enact in my future classroom, so I did my own research on the matter to help inform my decisions.

According to the article “The Case For and Against Homework” by Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering, there are arguments for and against homework. In the case for homework, the article states “…the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant”. In other words, when students did more homework, they had higher achievement rates. I believe that this is due to students getting more practice, so they did better. That is a very simple conclusion, and I liked the other aspects of homework that this article investigated. The article discussed how students might miss out on sleep to do homework, they might miss out of family time, they may not have access to support to complete their homework. These are the aspects of homework that I had not previously considered and this piqued my interest even more.

Harris Cooper, chairman of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, has published many studies on homework. He has also found that homework has a positive correlation with academic achievement, but he also says “After a certain amount of homework the positive effect on achievement disappears, and even might turn negative.” (Harris, 2010). Harris published a table showing the pros and cons of homework.

The most interesting point on this chart, to me, is how homework can disproportionately harm economically disadvantaged or minority students. I hope to teach in diverse areas in Wisconsin, such as Madison or Milwaukee and I hope to work with students from all backgrounds. I found many other articles that come to the same findings.The article “Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education” comes to the following conclusion:” Homework is another opportunity for learning; but it may also reinforce socioeconomic disparities in student achievement. Schools and teachers should look for ways to encourage struggling and disadvantaged students to complete their homework. They could, for example, offer to help parents motivate their children to do their homework and provide facilities so that disadvantaged students have a quiet place to complete assigned homework if none is available in their homes”.

My research leads me to believe that the key to homework is not cutting it out, nor is it loading it on. I now believe that assigning homework is a balancing act. Assigned homework should be absolutely justified and necessary towards completing learning goals. Can homework benefit student learning? Yes. But too much homework becomes ineffectual, maybe even detrimental. In my classroom, I will monitor the amount of homework that I assign. I will do this by examining the content of the homework and looking at its completion rate. I will also look at the accuracy with which the students complete their homework. Using my findings, I will adjust the amount or the difficulty of the assigned homework based on my classroom demographic.

The other aspect that I will consider will be the individual resources of the students in my classroom. My other blogs have discussed topics like the “Digital Divide” as well as parental involvement and how it aids in student learning. Students have different levels of access to resources and help when completing homework. If one of my students does not have internet access, how can I expect that student to complete a homework assignment which requires it? I cannot. I can definitely see how homework has the potential to widen the achievement gap, as some of the scholarly articles I have read have stated. I will have to get to know my students, find out how much help the get at home and how many resources they have, and make sure that they will be able to complete the homework I assign.  

Harris Cooper mentioned in his research that high schoolers get the most benefit from homework, while younger students are still developing skills like self-regulation and concentration. As I want to be an elementary school teacher, my students will still be developing these skills. They will then have to rely more on their family members to help them complete their homework. After considering this, I think that I agree with Mrs. Young, the teacher who started the controversy on Facebook. I beleive that younger students will get more benefit from spending quality time with their families and getting enough sleep at night. I will be able to provide students with the guidance that they need to master the learning objectives, giving them more of an equal shot at success.  

 

Bibliography:

Cooper, H. (1989). Synthesis of research on homework. Educational leadership, 47(3), 85-91. Retrieved December6, 2016 from http://www.sagepub.com

Mazano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2007, March). Special Topic / The Case For and Against Homework. Responding to Changing Demographics, 64(6), 74-79. Retrieved December 6, 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar07/vol64/num06/The-Case-For-and-Against-Homework.aspx

OECD (2014), “Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education?”, PISA in Focus, No. 46, OECD Publishing, Paris. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from  http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jxrhqhtx2xt-en

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