It’s Not a Myth – It’s a Core Belief

There’s been an interesting discussion going on at The Faculty Room regarding homework.

Some of the comments from a recent post have me pretty fired up. As some of you may know, I am an ardent opponent to the assigning of homework for grades K-8. What I, and other researchers (a la Alfie Kohn), have found is that homework for these students tend to be:

  1. Punitive – a punishment for classes or students who are insubordinate or who do not “get in line”.
  2. Irrelevant – assigning tasks that are not core components of units or curriculum strands
  3. Over assigned – many parents report to researchers that their children are subjugated to hours of homework each night in several disciplines
  4. Non-essential – we see this all the time. Homework for homework’s sake. These assignments are supposed to help students be more studious. Huh?
  5. Indicative of a teacher’s inability to plan appropriately – this is the most contentious of my stands. I believe that if a teachers cannot uncover the material they are allotted in a day, a week, or unit time, then they are planning poorly. It’s like assigning overtime because the teacher did not plan the proper time for all material to be shared with the class.
  6. Counter to collaboration – we all know that there is a lack of collaborative learning going on anyway. How does a ditto or a worksheet promote this essential 21st century need?

Homework tends to be piled on students for the sake of “real world” preparation, “reinforcement”, and to teach “personal responsibility”. Garbage… What homework really does is add undue hardship on family time, play time, and self-discovery time. All of which, we can all agree, have a greater impact on a student’s total well-being and education than does completing dittos, handouts, drawings, or worksheets.

I am not opposed to all homework. I am opposed to the means and ends of assigned homework. Long-term reading projects and long-term projects that require true student inquiry, analysis, and synthesizing are fair game. But how much of what our kids are subjected to can actually be considered worth doing?

I am interested to hear what your school or district homework policy is and, more importantly, why homework is regarded as sacrosanct to you or your teachers?

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

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