Should Teachers Give Homework?

Throughout my schooling experience, homework has been a significant part of my school-day routine. In no way did I feel over burdened with the stress of homework, but, in all fairness, I usually enjoyed doing it!

In the present generation it seems that the assigning of homework to students on a daily or bi-daily basis is a controversial issue for many educators and parents. I came across an article titled “Is Homework Good or Bad For Your Kids?” and I read that “The Halton District School Board in Ontario, Canada cites homework as “an aid in developing life-long learning skills such as self-discipline, task commitment, time management, responsibility, independence, initiative, and problem solving.” I think that this idea is true to an extent, but I truly believe that educators should allocate enough time at school for children to do their schoolwork. In this day and age, it is a reality of many children to be a part of  extracurricular activities outside of school and I feel that children do not always have time to spend doing countless hours of homework. I think that in providing enough time in class to work on assignments and activities, students will learn to prioritize their schedules, and evidently “problem solve, have self-discipline and commit to tasks”. Unless it is requested by the parent or a key influence in the learning of a child, homework should only be assigned if the child did not finish it in class. There are some exceptions, such as reading and writing at home, or learning to cook with a parent for example, but from my experiences I found that the time spent in class working on assignments and activities relevent to that childs learning allowed children to prioritize and take charge of their own learning. Another quote I stumbled upon in the article stated:

“…in more recent years, schools and parents are challenging the idea of homework, placing significant emphasis on differentiated homework and acknowledging the role of family time and experience in a child’s overall educational development and attitude toward school.”

All teachers will use their professional judgements on whether or not they feel that homework is important in their own classrooms, but for me I feel that homework should not be provided in the form of “busy work”. Rather, homework should be focused on the overall enrichment of a childs learning – including their home life. This article raised a number of valid arguments. If you are interested in other educational topics, the People For Education website has a number of articles to read!

Do you think teachers should give homework? What are your thoughts?

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19 thoughts on “Should Teachers Give Homework?

  1. I must say I never thought about a possibility of not having a homework… I think that all in all I would very much prefer, as a student, to have more creative kind of homeworks or homeworks a part of some bigger project.
    On the other hand, I don’t think I would master my English if I didn’t spend hours doing repetitive exercises (drills). On the third hand… I wanted to do these exercises. I didn’t want to do exercises in Math (and even till this day I have nightmares that I join a last class of my high school and learn that I have to pass numerous tests that I was spared because of some vague reason and I have no idea about any of the subjects). I did exercises in Mathematics, but I can’t remember any of it, not even 1%. I remember only the stuff that I learned when I needed it and it was made useful to me. So is homework useful?

  2. Sure. IF it’s interesting, not rote. IF it comes from a student’s genuine interest in something. IF it makes sense because _________________ (foreign language acquisition, reading stamina, authentic writing practice…) is strengthened by daily practice. IF it will involve parents in a short, meaningful way. IF students have a hand in the plan, or the topics.
    If not, it’s often morale-reducing, time-wasting, silly tradition.
    Melissa, K-5 school librarian

  3. I have pretty strong feelings about this and mostly because I’m embarrassed and ashamed of how much homework I assigned my first two years teaching.
    Homework takes away my family time with my daughter. I get the idea of “family homework” but I think it misses big time. I you want to assign homework have the students volunteer somewhere in the community, raise money for food shelters, plant gardens etc. if its after school make it a club and teach some valuable life lessons that we don’t have time for during the day because of unrealistic expectations around standards and curriculum.
    Led a session a little over a year ago and had some great conversations with folks.
    http://bit.ly/enoughhomework

  4. I think we need to be really thoughtful in what we asign for homework and it needs to be meaningful. Cathy Vatterot has a good read on this topis- Rethinking Homework- I made all my teachers read Chapter 4- We need to think through quantity and their ability to do it alone. @0 math problems for a kid who already has mastery is a waste of time and 20 for a kid who can’t understand the material is likely to establish a wrong process that will need to be unlearned- That is part of the success of the flipped classroom- It is often meaningful homework that can be self-paced/differentiatied and autograded. If we give HW, we need to give feedback to make sure it advances student learning- and it shouldn’t be graded in a way that makes the student average reflect something (like late HW or a refusal to do busywork) other than student learning/achievement-

  5. As a parent, I hate homework. I’m a teacher and I can effective instruct 20 students during the day but at home in between making dinner, driving kids to hockey, dance and other events, helping with homework isn’t a joy. I’m not too busy, don’t get me wrong. It’s just when I get home from a busy day, it’s hard to give the 100 percent attention to homework especially if I don’t see value in it. The sessions always turned into ‘that’s not what my teacher said,” I always had a different way to teach them what they were doing. I’m a teacher during the day, I shouldn’t have to be one at night. Just think, I’m actually educated to do the job yet I struggle. Imagine parents who don’t have the skills to teach their own children. How are they suppose to respond or feel? I want my few hours at home with my children to be my 100% attention without the stress of doing homework. I want to talk to them, play games, walk with them or drive them to their events.

    If homework is assigned, then it should be a time for practice, not instruction. Students should not be bringing home work that they don’t understand. Homework that is assigned should be things they already know how to do. I consider reading to be homework. I teach the child to read at school. They practice the book several times and then they bring it home to reread and build their fluency and sight words at home. They shouldn’t be bringing home work that they will be unsuccessful in. It should be a celebration.

    So my question to you, is what is the purpose of homework? Is it a time to share what you are doing in class? If so make it a sharing time. Show what you did in class? Practice what you did in class. Just don’t send home work they struggled in during class time, because they will just struggle at home with it. Think clearly about the purpose of the homework. If you think it’s for fun, think again. It’s not fun for families. If you have a few families ‘bugging’ you for homework, give it to those families. Don’t punish the whole class because a few parents are asking for it. What about the other 90% who don’t want it. Do you hear from them?

    I read your comment about “I liked doing homework,” Well in my home my daughter likes to do homework too. Her twin brother doesn’t and he puts it off until late at night and then it becomes a battle. Her older brother avoids homework altogether and he’s in grade 10. Each child responds differently to homework. Perhaps before you ‘assign’ homework, you consider each child and family before you decide what type of homework is needed.

    I didn’t even get into the ‘inequities’ of homework. That’s entirely a different post.
    Angie

    • Thanks Angie for your post! The comments that you provided from the perspective of both parent and teacher have given me an insight into what homework can be like in some families. I strongly agree with your comment about sending homework home with students who struggled during class. I think that as educators, it is important to provide equitable learning opportunities for all children so that they can be succesful; whether it means providing “extra” homework for a child who wants it or spending more time on assignments in school with children who are struggling. Once again thank-you for your comment! Much appreciated!
      - Alison

  6. Touchy subject indeed, I think there are a few levels one can observe it at.
    One that comes to mind firstly is of course the ‘flipped-classroom’ model where homework is the initial intro to the subject at one’s own pace. Then the ‘homework’ is done during class time. Kahn-Academy partnerships use this model.
    I would also wonder what the purpose of the homework is. If we want students to master skills then we can look to Nick Baylis and Dreyfus&Dreyfus 2005, they suggest that to become a master, or expert at something it requires 10,000 hours of practice. But this also is viewed differently depending on the subject area. For example, we may encourage children to practice free throws in basketball for hours and hours outside of gym class and that is ‘fun’, but practicing mathematical problem solving is ‘punishment’.

    Those are just a couple of quick thoughts, thanks for posing these important questions.

  7. This is awesome…you are receiving many comments. You have no doubt chosen a hot topic. I would echo what mwacker and @twchangie said above… I too am embarrassed by the amount I gave my students early in my career. In all honesty, I thought it was the right thing to do. To those students, I’m REALLY sorry!

    II now have three of my own children- 15, 12, and 9. I cannot begin to tell you how much turmoil homework has caused in my household. Thankfully, my kids are bright and do well in school and so the majority of time, I feel homework is busy work that has little or no value. The exception I would make would be for a student who was delayed or really needed to do work in a certain area. In this case I would work carefully with parents and make sure that any work done at home targeted the appropriate areas for that student. even then, I would keep homework amounts to a minimum.

    Besides my personal views, any research I have come across indicates that there is no correlation between homework and improved student learning.

    Just because some students like it or some parents want it, doesn’t make homework useful or effective.

    Regards,
    Antonio

  8. I would have to say that homework is actually a vital part of the learning experience. It gives students the chance to do things on their own terms, and provides opportunities for self-instruction and self-motivation. I do not think that it is really would work to provide more class time for students to do assignments because, in reality, many students waste that extra class time socializing instead of working, and the act of giving more time for work may actually extract from the learning. I get it though when people say that it takes time away from spending time with family. That makes complete sense to me. However, I think that it would be more effective to ensure that students are using their time wisely within the classroom before giving them extra time that they may not acquire. As a student myself, I would also recommend the use of assigned homework to teachers simply because it is a good habit to get into if you plan on attending a post-secondary institute. I know for some younger students it can be too late to tell, but homework is a great way to increase independence in students from an early age. Sooner or later, people do need to learn to do things on their own, and homework will help them to develop a good work ethic.

    • @bensackville, I hear what you’re saying, and from a learned perspective I guess it makes sense. Truth is though that there is next to zero evidence supporting any of the claims of redeeming qualities of homework. Develop a good work ethic? Really? How so? Rushing to get something “done” is not a good work ethic and completing a task without supervision, scaffolds, and supports can actually do more harm than good. If you want to foster independence, allow learners to guide independent inquiry. And I would just say that reinforcing poor instructional design(homework) because that’s what they do in post secondary Ed, makes me really uncomfortable. I second Alec’s recommendation of reading some of @joebower’s work and research on this as well as Vatterott’s “rethinking homework,” and Alfie Kohn’s “The Homework Myth”

  9. What a great topic and awesome replies to read! I believe homework has its pros and cons. I absolutely don’t believe students should be bombarded with homework every night. I think as an educator we need to decide for ourselves what is homework. I believe all learning should be relevant and practical. If homework is watching the news for ten minutes, writing down their expenses for a day, or being aware of personal space I think that is reasonable. With my health major, I always tend to think “Is this something that my students will do in the future?” and “How will this benefit them as healthy engaged citizens?” If it doesn’t facilitate any of that then perhaps the “homework” isn’t a very good use of time. What about our students with special needs? If they focus all day long and work hard at school, isn’t it somewhat of a punishment to go home and do MORE homework!? I think so, but each to their own! As it was said before many students are so busy doing many extra curricular activities already..think of all the learning that happens during that time, whether it may be working with others or focusing on an instrument.

  10. Obviously this is a hot topic even just by judging how many comments you have received on your post.
    I do not agree with giving a lot of homework, however, sometimes I think it is needed. In elementary grades, homework can be helpful if a student is really struggling and their parents are willing to work on it with them. However, homework just causes more stress for a struggling student if they are not going to get help at home and and they will get in trouble for not finishing their homework.
    For the most part though, I don’t think there should be homework. All assignments given to students should be able to be finished by the students during class time. If it can’t, the project/assignment is too difficult/long/not enough time was given. As you said, most students have full days because of extra curricular activities and it is impossible to expect them to squeeze in homework during the car ride from point A to point B.
    Also, another thing to consider is students with disabilities. Students with disabilities, such as learning disabilities, really struggle to work hard during school hours and are sometimes unable to do so. Asking them to continue doing more work at home is just going to discourage them and eventually may cause them to stop coming to school altogether.

  11. This is definitely a controversial subject and I am a bit on the fence when it comes to this topic. I do think that teachers should allow enough time during school for their student’s to finish their work. It is important that ‘after school time’ be devoted to other ways for students to grow and learn such as extracurricular activities. These activities keep students busy and out of trouble. If teachers are giving hours and hours of homework it is very challenging for students to balance their social life and school life. On the other hand, I think that homework has almost become an unwritten rule in schooling and I think that many people would break their routine if they were not assigned some amount of homework every once in awhile. It is a good way for parents to become engaged in their child’s schooling and be able to assist them. I do not completely disagree with giving homework as long as it is not an overwhelming amount (hours every night seems a little intense) – I think that a bit once a week is a little more acceptable. Thanks for the read, Alison!

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