14 Apr To Homework or Not To Homework
To homework, or not to homework? That is the question.
While it doesn’t quite have that Shakespearean resonance or gravity to it, the question continues to spark debate in education circles (or at least it did in 2006).
Recently some parents in my school started sending around a few resources while they explored the various layers of the homework debate.
For a sampling of the on-going debate peruse the following:
- Sara Bennett and The Case Against Homework
- Jay Mathews on The Weak Case Against Homework
- Alfie Kohn offers The Truth About Homework in EdWeek (2006)
- JoLynn Plato evaluates Homework and Its Role in Constructivist Pedagogy
- Harris Cooper’s Review of Literature on Homework (1999)
- American Federation of Teachers published their analysis of Research on Homework . . . (p.7)
- Edutopia offering one side and the other
- A smattering of parent comments to The Debate:Homework, Stacey Garfinkle’s “On Parenting” blog through the Washington Post.
- A blog post by Mike Falick: Homework Before Middle School is Not Supported by Current Neurological Science
- And, who could leave out D-Ed Reckoning’s reflection on Alfie Kohn’s homework ideas?
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give one a sampling of the many flavors in this ice cream shop of ideas.
While debating the finer points of homework vs. no homework is fun and all, I thought the conversation could benefit from some experience, so we’ve shut down the normal homework routine in my 4th grade class for the week.
Full Disclosure: When it comes to homework I typically do not give much (parents, please correct me if you disagree) — a choice of spelling/vocab work each night and a math study link to extend the lessons from the day. Every once in a while students will be required to read (I’m fortunate in that most of my students do not need to be required to read at home in order for them to read at home) or work on a writing assignment. However, most of the work we do, we do in school.
I put out the following questions to consider during the homework-free week:
- Will they work harder in class?
- Will the parents feel they have less access to what is going on in the classroom?
- Or, will students more readily share a broader range of tales from 4th grade?
- Will the students’ patterns and routines break down, leading to more chaos in the classroom?
- Or, will the freed mental energy lead to new ideas and creative enterprises?
In conducting this informal experiment (way informal since I already know they will have a bit of math to take home later in the week), I’ve encouraged parents to let me know about their observations, thoughts, feelings, actions, and/or conclusions.
I’m also interested in other thoughts, innovations, and solutions to the homework question. What are schools doing to make homework relevant, do-able, and an effective supplement to learning? What should they be doing?