Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Homework

Donna Lacovara
April 15, 2010

Homework is the out-of-class tasks that a student is assigned as an extension of classroom work. As we continue into the 21st century of technology, many wonder how effective requiring homework truly is.
“You have got to pay attention, you have got to study and you have to do your homework. You have to score higher than everybody else. Otherwise, there is always somebody there waiting to take your place.” Daisy Fuentes
Many studies show that students who are given homework and complete it regularly and in an effective manner have an upper hand on those who do not. Homework is provided to students for a myriad of reasons: to review and practice what they have learned, to get ready for the next day’s class, to learn how to use resources, and to explore subjects more fully than time permits in the classroom. If completed correctly, the reinforcement of skills is sure to enhance student learning.
There are key components to effective homework assignments. The assignments must be meaningful, have a specific purpose, and come with clear instructions. When a student completes an assignment successfully (because it is fairly matched to a student’s abilities) he/she will have a positive experience and therefore find more success in the classroom. Taking it one step further, homework that is returned with constructive criticism from a teacher will allow that student to reflect on his/her work and continue to thrive. This practice also deters students from the idea that homework is simply busy work.
Homework at an early age can also help to develop good habits and attitudes. Homework teaches children how to work independently. Oftentimes with the concept of cooperative learning and teaching assistants in the classroom, students are likely to seek help or assistance quickly. Doing work at home forces the student to rely on his own skills and organization. Homework encourages self-discipline and responsibility in order to be successful. From this, a student has the opportunity to develop a love of learning.
The relationship between parents and the schools is also enhanced through homework. Parents who take the time to assist their child with homework are more likely to know what is being accomplished in the schools. This insight generally leads to more communication and interest from home to school. The family benefit is another positive outcome of assigning homework.

Not everyone agrees that homework is necessary.
“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” Lily Tomlin
Research also shows that there is no evidence to demonstrate that homework benefits students below high school age. In this day and age when parents have their children involved in many extra-curricular activities beginning at a young age, they find homework to be nothing more than busy work. Some believe that at a young age, children must have time for non-traditional learning of skills such as: reading for pleasure, making friends, playing games, getting exercise or frankly, just being a child. With this mindset, homework is unnecessary, especially at an early age.
Supporting this concept, decades ago, the American Educational Research Association released this statement: “Whenever homework crowds out social experience, outdoor recreation, and creative activities, and whenever it usurps time that should be devoted to sleep, it is not meeting the basic needs of children and adolescents.”
Bellwether School in Williston, Vermont was courageous enough to implement a “no homework except when children want it” policy. When children ask for homework or are so excited about a project that they want to continue to work at home, then homework is assigned. Their philosophy is that kids work really hard at school and they do not believe that students are rewarded by that hard work when they are assigned even more work at home.
Leslie Frothingtom, a high school teacher, asks “what other job is there where you work all day, come home, have dinner, then work all night?” She believes it is not a good way to live life. Those people miss out on self-reflection and community. Ms. Frothingham has a no-homework policy in her classroom.
Some schools are reacting to the need for a change in homework policy and others are standing their ground. There will always be research on both sides to justify whether or not homework is necessary. In the classroom teachers have to acknowledge that there are diverse learners, maybe we should consider that some students will benefit from homework and others will not.