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Will Homework Soon Become a Thing of the Past?

Is homework being phased out of the traditional learning environment?

According to a story that ran in the Associated Press earlier this month, parents are beginning to request reduced homework or no homework for their children.

In the story, various parent and teacher anecdotes portray the movement that’s gaining momentum in schools around the country: questioning, scaling back, or, in a handful of schools, even eliminating nightly homework.

Those in favor of homework feel that it positively reinforces the concepts learned during the school day and better prepares students for the coursework ahead. Those in favor of eliminating homework, however, feel that the burdens of homework far outweigh the benefits.

We asked Dr. Angela Wiseman, Associate Professor of Literacy Education, a few questions about her thoughts on the “no homework” movement.

Do you feel that parents are justified in asking for no homework or less homework for their children?

Research has demonstrated that there is very little benefit to homework for children who are in elementary school, so I definitely believe that parents of younger children are justified in asking for no or less homework. I do support regular times for at-home reading for children of all ages and have seen teachers create classroom libraries where students can check out books and record what they read.

One of my biggest concerns about homework is that a student’s ability to successfully complete an assignment could be based on factors of which they have no control. For instance, if the parents/guardians have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, there may be less support for children at home who are completing assignments. Often, homework is counted for a student’s grade in a subject.

Is it fair to grade students with differing levels of support in the same way? I don’t think so. If there is a child with lots of parent intervention, then the homework will not reflect what he knows.

As children progress through middle school and high school, the research is a bit different. Recent studies demonstrate that homework does help with academic achievement, particularly for high school students. If that is the case, then giving homework is justified.

However, it’s important for teachers to consider whether their students are able to do the homework without any assistance. That might mean that they look carefully at the directions, consider various forms of support if they can’t answer (after school tutoring, other resources), and consider how homework is supporting the curriculum. In addition, teachers need to ensure that the work that the students are doing is relevant to their overall learning.

Do you think that more schools will move towards a no homework policy? Do you think this policy would differ between Elementary, Middle and High schools?   

It’s hard to imagine schools changing their policies when they have been the same for so long! But I encourage elementary and middle schools to consider recent research about homework.

I believe there is justification for schools who teach children in grades K-8 to eliminate or decrease homework assignments.

For all grades, the assignments should be relevant and there should be a time limit in which the student knows he or she can put down the pencil or shut down the computer and go outside and play or read a book.

What do you feel are the pros and cons of assigning homework to children?

I do think that as children get older, they should learn how to manage their time and how to be responsible for assignments. Homework requires that they do this.

I also think that for older children, if the homework is connected to worthwhile projects or important skills, the time spent on them can be productive.

There are many cons to assigning homework. The one I am most concerned about is that homework can be a punitive system that intensifies the learning gap for children. While some children have parents who can support them if the homework is challenging, others do not.

Another concern I have is that children become more sedentary, spending hours completing homework. As childhood obesity becomes more and more prevalent, our children need to have time to run around outside! I know that there are other factors beyond homework that may prevent this, but increased homework is certainly a factor.

So, do you think homework will soon be phased out? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page and tell us what you think!