Do students really learn from doing homework?
Homework is a daily fact of life for students at BHS, but research has cast doubts on its benefits.
Many American elementary schools have banned homework, and some high schools in France and Germany have placed moratoriums on homework. In an interview with the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in October, Head teacher at Elsa-Brandstrom in Germany, Brigitte Fontein explained that generally “no child would be having their free time dominated by doing school work.”
Alfie Kohn is an author and educational researcher. He concludes that homework is detrimental for students in Elementary and Middle school.
He writes, “I discovered that decades of investigation have failed to turn up any evidence that homework is beneficial for students in elementary school. Even if you regard standardized test results as a useful measure, homework (some versus none, or more versus less) isn’t even correlated with higher scores at these ages. The only effect that does show up is more negative attitudes on the part of students who get more assignments.”
Kohn concludes that, even at the high school level, “no study has ever substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study habits.” He recommends that all schools reduce the amount and increase the quality of homework assignments. Each assignment, he says, should reflect the teacher’s theory of learning and work to improve a student’s decision making.
“I struggle with the concept of homework,” said English Teacher Ryan McCallum. “I’ve found that the best homework I give usually involves homework for myself – with giving significant feedback or using it to shape the direction of a class. If I’m giving it a plus, check, or minus and moving on, then the homework assignment was probably not a worthwhile experience for my students. I’m trying to get better with it.”
Some high school students choose classes that they know will involve a large amount of homework because they can see the benefit in the work in preparing them for colleges.
“I know that the papers that we are assigned in CIS Writing are going to help me in college,” said Senior Olivia Wyatt. “Because [English Teacher Vicki] Cary takes the time to walk through the aspects of each paper and show us what makes a strong paper and a weak paper. I don’t understand how Cary can read so many papers over and over. She is just a warrior both with feedback and grading.”
Whether homework is helpful or harmful, the fact remains that homework-related stress is an ongoing issue at BHS for both students and teachers.