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The Case in Favour of Homework

I used to be philosophically opposed to homework in all forms.  That was, until I witnessed how my students used their after-school time.  It was then, that I realised that ten to fifteen minutes a night would constitute the only meaningful activity some of these students would take part in on a given night.

I am still hardly a proponent of homework, but I do share some of the opinions of author and teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh:

The radio presenter Alan Jones doesn’t believe in homework because children should have time to play outside and learn skills that only time after school with your family can teach. Normally, I would agree. But do children today have these types of experiences after school?

Families are so busy working that when children come home, they often sit in front of the TV for hours or play computer games. Children spend hours every day networking on Facebook. Exhausted parents do not realise just how dangerous these modern technological tools can be.

Technology can open a world of excitement to children. Yet it can also glorify gangster lifestyles through MTV, and encourage the use of bad language and ”text speak” in social networking.

An hour of homework a night distracts children from such activities and enables them to practise what they were taught at school. Excellent learning requires constant revisiting, and homework is the perfect tool to reinforce facts and skills. Teachers often find that children forget what they learnt the day before. At high school, you may not see your history or geography teacher for a few days until the next lesson. Without any homework in between to bridge the gap, often teachers take two steps forward, then one step back in the following lesson.

It is the school’s responsibility to inform parents that homework has been set – easily done through a diary system. The school should also ensure the homework set is of quality and not some assignment that can essentially be downloaded from the internet. Equally, it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure homework gets done.

I object to her call for an hour of homework per day, but I do currently favour 10-15 minutes of revision work, to consolidate on skills and concepts currently being covered in class.
Anthony Purcell from the brilliant blog Educationally Minded employs a similar strategy for homework inspired by his will to see his students gain some confidence from working independently:
Well, I have taught math in the past. My thoughts on homework was that if students had homework, they didn’t get finished in class. I never assigned homework. Homework was there if they didn’t get finished in class, but most times students did.

Now that I teach Science, it’s the same way. A lot of what we do is in class, hands-on activities. Homework are the questions they didn’t get to because they were goofing off or not focused in class.

In my opinion, teachers who teach the entire period and allow no work time are not good teachers. Students need to know they are being successful and have confidence. They can’t have a teacher telling them they are correct when they are at home.

This topic remains a very contentious one.  I look forward to reading your opinions on this much discussed issue.

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2 Responses to “The Case in Favour of Homework”

  1. Carl D'Agostino Says:

    In 33 years in classroom , giving homework was a complete failure. 70 % never did it, 20% was the copied wrong answers of one or two kids(some even photo copied and turned that in not writing-sheesh) and 10% did it. The college bound had a much better record. If your failure rate was too high you get called in by the administration. There is some validity for that because if there is a high failure rate perhaps one needs to evaluate their teaching methods. But if you gave just one homework a week and the kids don’t do it there are 9 F’s or F’s for the marking period right there. Then they come in and see the kids reading and writing(good right?) but say you are to be engaging in discussion. But you can’t have a discussion if no one did the homework and so you have them do homework/classwork in class. No win.

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