A breakthrough national study of Canadian Schools that was released today concluded that, “homework is of little benefit to students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6, [and] it is often the source of stress and burnout in children, as well the cause of conflict – even marital stress – for many families.”
So, does that mean high school educators can continue piling on homework?
Surely homework doesn’t stop being stressful in later grades, and it certainly still is a major factor in students burning out, especially students who are heavily involved in sports, activities, church, and things like dance or club teams. In addition, more students than ever are holding part time jobs. Over a third of teenagers have jobs in high school and another third volunteer at least an hour a week.
In addition to these enrichment activities and obligations, teenagers have more complicated home lives than ever.
If a high school teacher is to give homework, they should first hold the work up to some scrutiny. If a piece of homework can’t pass the following test, it shouldn’t be assigned.
- Is the homework truly enriching? If the work we send home with kids is not as valuable as the other activities they’re engaging in and the family interactions they could be having, then the work serves no purpose but to turn kids off to the subject at hand and to take them away from other worthwhile priorities.
- Can the homework be easily copied? Sending work outside of the classroom that is easily copied – things like word finds, crossword puzzles, worksheets, and study guides -creates a tempting situation that nearly every student succumbs to eventually.
- Is the homework about memorization rather than application? Homework should strive to promote understanding by letting the student actually apply knowledge in a unique way or fill a real-world application.
Teachers giving homework must also be aware that students often go home to sick parents, relationship troubles, physically and emotionally abusive situations, obligations to babysit siblings, and a lack of any quality places to study and learn. Assigning homework immediately puts these students at a disadvantage and rewards more fortunate students, creating a divide that carries over into the classroom.
Truly motivated students will choose to learn outside of the classroom, bringing home with them burning questions and new ways of thinking. Inspiring lessons stick with learners after school and change the way they view the world.
Granted, some homework is necessary and can be positive. High school students electing to take high level courses and elective classes know the potential homework load before volunteering for the classes they take. Often, homework can extend learning and enrich a course. However, not all homework is equal. Teachers need to keep their egos in check and understand that their class and the work they assign are rarely the most important things a student will experience in his or her day. They must also acknowledge the complex and busy lives of their students and the hidden message homework can send about learning and a subject.
All teachers and parents who still hold to traditional notions of homework’s benefits should read The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning.Posted under Reading Log by mccallum