My sister is conducting her own personal rally against homework. I don’t blame her one bit. Most of my working-parent friends pick up their children after 5:30 p.m. By the time they get home and eat dinner, they may have one-and-a-half hours of quality time left with their child. Then the homework monster rears its head, which often consists of the parent helping to clear up incorrect concepts. My niece did her share of complaining about homework too. I thought the United States was making headway in educational practices, but from her comments, it seems that rote practice is normal. Are we still in 1900?
From some recent studies, there appears to be no substantial difference in class grades between students who completed homework and those who did not; however, there IS a positive correlation between grades on standardized tests and homework (eSchool News, December, 2012). Bingo! Current homework prepares students to take tests, but retention of learning seems to be suffering. Think back to the homework you remember from school. What made the learning impacts on you? It was probably homework from which you were creating your knowledge, not inanely repeating and practicing. That Scandinavian project from 8th grade, the mountain stratification model … these gave me knowledge and excitement about learning that lasted a lifetime.
What all this tells me is that homework involving critical thinking and student-constructed learning is the key here. This comes as no surprise to most educators. Bloom’s taxonomy has been around for a long time. The easy answer is project-based and application-based homework, but six classes of that gets very deep. Cross-curricular projects help solve that, and involve multiple teachers in planning work that matters (see Schlechty). Flipping the classroom is another interesting answer that is becoming popular – students learn new material from teacher-created content in the evenings, and do “homework” like activities in class. This limits the time spent on homework and ensures that the teacher, instead of the parent, is there to correct errors and misconceptions during application.
Online education and blended classrooms straddle these models – the student learns from pre-created materials, the teacher is there to help adjust the student’s understanding, and “homework” is non-existent. The student’s learning takes place in the online course that is appropriately designed to take him or her through the knowledge creation.
I think educators and parents have a duty to rally against homework as it is often practiced in schools. Let’s share studies and new methods with our teachers to help inform them of the options that make homework, and learning, truly meaningful to our students.