Homework - what works?

Tuesday 16 January 2018

What's your policy on setting homework? Does it concur with what research tells us about effective homework?

Whilst research evidence supports the use of homework to extend learning the pressure is on us as school leaders and teachers to set homework that achieves the Goldilocks effect: it sould not be too easy or too little, nor too hard or too much, but just right.

Cathy Vatterott (Five hallmarks of good homework, ASCD, 2010) provides a great checklist for identifying whether the homework being set is effective:

  • Purpose: homework should be meaningful and students should understand its value to their learning.
  • Efficiency: homework should not just 'take up time' for the sake of it, but it should demand some hard independent thinking
  • Ownership:if students see the value of the homework they will be more motivated. However, it is helpful to give students choice about how it should be completed.
  • Competence: students need to be able to complete the task independently and well.
  • Inspiring: homework should inspire and motivate students since this will encourage greater engagement.

In their research-informed article from the USA Linda Darling-Hammond and Olivia Ifill-Lynch make similar points in their list:

  • Assign work that is worthy of effort, that is authentic and engaging: Does it make sense? Is it necessary? Is it useful, given the circumstances under which it is carried out at home?”
  • Make the work doable: are the directions clear? Is the homework doable without any assistance? How does it relate to the lesson?
  • Find out what students need: make the process of doing the assignment transparent, concrete, manageable, and as simple as possible.
Reflection - two views

View #1: "If we are to consider the best evidence on homework, we may use the analogy of homework being a beautiful diamond: small, expertly crafted and precious to its owner."

View #2: Alfie Kohn, the author of 'The Homework Myth' asks 'why is it necessary for kids to work a second shift when they get home from a full day in school at all especially when research doesn't appear to support its value?' Research shows that "below the high school level no studies have found any benefits for assigning any kind of homework - it is literally all pain and no gain."

Tags: homework


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