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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Should we assign homework?

Should we assign homework?

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Hi all, I'd like to start a discussion here on the benefits or drawbacks to assigning regular homework to students. I've had a lot of discussion with educators in the past year or so about homework, and met with mixed reviews of homework. Most educators I talk to support it, but much of the reading I've done seems either ambivalent about the practice or even quite negative. I could start off with an opinion piece, but I'd rather that each person who has a position posts it here, and then I'll post my opinion later. David

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John West's picture

Just read a comment that children homework was essential to get kids ready for adulthood because adults have to bring home work. There is no comparison between work and school, because people aren't forced to go to work without pay! Kids are forced to attend school without pay. And now you want them to work overtime without overtime pay! Children and families have lives besides school. Homework forces the parents to do the teachers job without pay, and disrupts the kids home life. How many hours a day should children with short attention spans be forced to "study"? I think all forced homework should be banned.

Geraldine's picture

Would a gymnast not practice after achieving a "10" in a competition? Homework is about: practice, learning to be responsible with returning it to school the next day, allowing parents to see what their child is learning so they can have an interest and help them and extend their learning assignment to what the parents know. Homework also tells parents they are their child's most important teacher by keeping the avenue of learning a two way street. If parents are "bothered" by their responsibility, they themselves should have thought twice about choosing to be a parent.

Ms.Togs's picture
sixth grade physical science waimea canyon middle school on Kauai HI

I have found the students are happier and stronger when their parents can help them with projects at home. Their confidence in the learning and the pride in the presenting of that learning, priceless. So, home work can be a very good experience.

reem's picture

I try as much as possible to do all the required activities in class. But when I have to assign homework, it is usually 1 or 2 activities and I give them enough time to do it( 2 or 3 days). Here in my country, if one pupil doesn't do a homework they will come at schhol, at the weekend, to do the assigned activities. So pupils do their best to have something written, but they don't necessarily concentrate to do it. I think pupils don't know enough the purpose of the homework that's why they see it as a burden. I say Yes to homework but not as a regular basis.

Jordan Johnson's picture
Jordan Johnson
4th grade teacher from Ada, MN

I find it very interesting that there are so many comments to this topic! I struggle to find the balance of giving homework or not. I believe that in 4th grade students need to start being accountable for more work outside of school, but I am really trying to limit how much work goes home. They say 30-40 minutes for my gradelevel. But for some kids that is simply too much.

The main problem is that too many students aren't at grade level. They either really struggle (and get many wrong from misconceptions on how to do the work), don't care, or the work is too easy and they are finished in 10 minutes.

Some students have to work extra hard in class to simply keep up, the homework

gretak25's picture

Student is a very broad term. What is "good" for a seven year old may not be right for a fifteen year old. As we move towards individual/personalised learning, surely the question is a moot point. Some students and their families thrive on homework, for some it is a constant reminder of the little support they receive at home. IF school is the great leveller of society, it stands to reason that too much work set for completion at home is not fair or equitable. As a parent I would despair with feelings of inadequacy when high school maths was sent home and they would seek your help. Not sure what that reinforces in a child. Mum and Dad can't do it, why should I be able to do it. I was great with research and literacy but maths really placed me in an awkward situation with my own children.

Cathy's picture
Fifth grade teacher from St. Louis, MO

It is interesting to read the different sides to this debate. Research on homework seems to have gone back and forth as to whether it is actually beneficial to students.
I do not think that homework should be assigned nightly in elementary school. I don't disagree that homework can't be beneficial, but I know that a lot of my students are busy at night and don't have time to complete it. I work in a low income school district and some of my students are going home to empty houses, taking care of their siblings, and worrying about where they're going to get dinner that night, among other things that only an adult should worry about. Homework is just not a priority for them when they leave my classroom. So why should they be punish for not getting it done?
Some of my colleagues in the lower grades assign a lot of homework and most of it is just busy work. I try not to take any work home with me when I leave school that is my time with family and my time to do things that I choose to do. My students have a monthly book report that they complete at home, but other than that they very seldom have homework unless they do not finish something in class.
Why should we assign homework, even if it is a matter of policy, if it isn't beneficial to student learning and doesn't provide an opportunity for the students to deepen their understanding of the content? Aren't we then just sending home "something" so that we can say we assigned the suggested amount of homework each night?

Leonard Klein's picture
Leonard Klein
high school chemistry and technology teacher

HoMework, to me, should be practice of a skill needed in the class. Since this can cause problems for students who are not really clear on how to use the skill the idea of the flipped class is becoming popular. I think this has great potential,homework becomes the viewing of instruction and class is time for questionsandpractice.

Mark Pennington's picture
Mark Pennington
ELA teacher and educational author

I, too, see the value of parents working with their children on homework. I still believe the best homework is independent reading and discussion of the text. Teachers often assign independent reading at home, but without the interactive discussion. "Talking about the text" builds both comprehension and enjoyment.

Most teachers give up on independent reading at home once children get into middle school. Teachers say that parents won't follow through or feel that there is no real accountability or basis for assigning a fair grade for something teachers can't directly supervise. I disagree. More on how to set up an effective at home independent reading program in my article titled "Independent Reading Homework." Online book clubs also work well to stimulate independent reading and discussion.

Norton6's picture
6th grade math and science teacher from San Bernardino, California

The word "homework" use to mean that we would practice what was taught in class that day. If it is reinforcing a new concept or skill, then I think that there is a place for homework. Some teachers want to give busy work for homework and that takes away the importance of homework.

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