Homework is a hot topic is today’s society.
Merrian-Webster defines homework as, “an assignment given to a student to be completed outside the regular class period”.
Contributor: Christa N. King,
Elementary Special Education Teacher
(Edited by B.E. Walker)
Homework is a hot topic. Many people have strong opinions on either side. Vatterott (2009) suggests that there is a movement away from the pro-homework stance (p. 2). Kohn, (2007) in his article in Principal, relays his distain of it. He outlines three observations of homework:
- It has negative effects
- The positive effects are mythical
- It has no value (p. 1)
Kohn’s take on homework and his opinions are very clear. He does not see any benefit of homework at any age. I disagree with this statement. I do believe homework as it is assigned by many teachers does not have any benefits; I do believe when the assignments are thoroughly planned, they can have a great deal of positive outcomes for the students.
Cooper (2007), on the other hand, attempts to find common ground for administers, parents, and teachers. It is clear of his views about the benefits of homework. He provides extensive data which seems to rationalize his views. As I was reading, I found points that were very interesting and aligned with my own views; however, many that I disagreed with. He referred to homework as “mental exercise” which I thought was brilliant. In today’s day and age, with video games and computers in every house, children often go home and sit in front of the TV. It is not like when we were growing up. I remember coming home and playing outside until dark. We never watched TV or played video games; we didn’t want to. I see how homework can help encourage students to continue to exercise their brain; however, assignments need to be thoroughly thought through before they are assigned.
I usually get the opposite of what Kohn described in parents; I typically get parents who are upset that I am not assigning enough homework. They want me to send more worksheets and assignments for their children to do at home. I find myself trying to explain my view on homework.
In my personal opinion, homework should be the practice of a skill set at home. Homework should not be teaching a new skill or expecting parents to know how to solve the problems. Homework should be work the students have been taught, but may need extra help. For example, reading is a great homework assignment. Having the students practice reading will build fluency. The more reading practice, the better the student gets and the stronger reader they become. Likewise, practicing math facts is also a good homework assignment, in my opinion. Having students practice math facts will help them learn them, get faster at them, and do better in math.
I feel with many of the homework assignments I see teachers hand out today, it is assumed the families know how to do it. Especially with the new standards in math and all of the different strategies. Families do not necessarily know what “doubles plus 1” means. They have the student do the math problem the traditional way they were taught, and do not understand why the student gets the problem wrong on the test. It is very confusing for the students when they are taught one way at school, then go home and the families do not know how to do it that way so tell the student to do it “their way”. Some times instead of giving the student extra practice, the student gets further confused.
My definition of homework:
Homework is practice of a skill-set at home.
My philosophy on homework:
Homework needs to be something the students can do on their own, it needs to be assignments that build fluency through repetition. Homework should have meaning, not given because “you’re supposed to give homework.”
Cooper, H. (2007). The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Kohn, A. (2007). Rethinking Homework. Principal (January/February 2007). Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/rethinking-homework/?print=pdf.
Vatterott, C. (2009). Rethinking Homework: Best Practices that Support Diverse Needs. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.