Five Things Everyone Should Know About Homework

On 9 May, 2019

Some teachers defend their homework policies as antidotes to modern parenting. Move over, helicopter moms; “curling parents” are increasingly a concern among educators (this one included). Curling parents don’t just hover; they proactively smooth away any impediment to create a swift path forward, treating the child like the polished stone in the sport of curling. When you see children who never carry their own backpacks, let alone handle minor frustration, you can understand why teachers are worried. Kids need to learn that some things aren’t easy and that it’s okay to struggle.

Five Things Everyone Should Know About Homework

1. More homework doesn’t mean more learning. Typical homework does very little to support learning for most kids, especially in elementary and middle school. And even for high school kids, the benefits tend to max out at the two-hour mark per night. High homework load is not a sign of a “good teacher” or a “good school.”

2. Not all homework is bad. We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are great teacher-assigned learning opportunities that can happen at home. When developmentally-appropriate, engaging, and meaningful, some students need homework help english, homework assignments can be effective at helping a child practice, discover, and create.

3. Why “It should take only ten minutes” can be a problem. Even if a child has only ten minutes of homework, those are ten minutes wasted if the assignment is not well-designed or if the child is unlikely to benefit from the work. And for many students, a seemingly short assignment can take much longer than the teacher expected. Often those ten minutes can become an hour of tears—usually accompanied by parental threats and/or bribes. This counter-productive struggle creates unnecessary tension at home and harms a child’s attitude toward school. And those are minutes that could have been spent on reading for pleasure, playing outside, or helping at home—activities that actually do benefit a child’s development.

4. Feedback is key to learning. Feedback is the way that students learn from their independent work. Feedback can come in many forms, including guided self-assessment and group review of the homework (i.e., the teacher need not provide copious comments on every assignment). But teachers should assign only that amount of homework that can receive some kind of timely, meaningful feedback. Check marks, stamps, and stickers aren’t feedback; they are usually “rewards” for the student’s obedience (or, more often the case, rewards for the student’s good fortune in having adult support at home).

5. Smart homework reform is not anti-achievement. Research-based homework policies and practices align with child development in ways that support long-term benefits for students as learners and as human beings. Students achieve more in the long run when they have a healthy balance in their lives. Engaging with their schoolwork—not just getting it done by any means necessary—leads to deeper understanding and promotes lifelong learning

But even if homework did improve children’s ability to stick with hard or boring tasks, shouldn’t we aim a little higher than just teaching kids how to muddle through something difficult and dull?
When it comes to homework, so much of what kids struggle with has nothing to do with the big ideas, a deeper understanding, or a larger goal. Rather, homework struggles are usually due to one or more of the following pitfalls: the directions are confusing, the goals are unclear, the task is boring, the material is too difficult, the assignment contains repetitive busywork, or the work feels meaningless and is unlikely to receive feedback.
We want kids to wrestle with ideas, to try the math problem a different way, to revise the essay. But simply powering through the work mindlessly just to get it done is counter-productive.