Does Homework Matter?
A very similar scenario will be playing out in homes soon…
Parent: How was school today?
Parent: Do you have any homework?
That second question is the turning point in the conversation. For some families, the turn is a simple maneuver that goes off without a hitch. For others, it is the beginning of a meltdown that takes hours to work through.
I recently posed the following questions on Facebook: Do your kids have homework? How do you feel about it in regards to managing other activities? I knew I would get responses on both sides, but I was curious about what people would actually comment. Let’s just say no other post I ever have written filled my notifications as much as this one did. Every parent has an opinion on this topic, and very few lack passion.
One parent said, “Older kids have a lot. Younger ones don’t...thank God!” Another parent followed up with, “Mine don't have any homework. I hope that continues as they get older because I think kids should have time after school to invest in their own areas of interest.” On the flip side, I also received, “Mine rarely see homework, which baffles me!” Another quote supporting that side of the debate was, “I wish mine had more so they are better prepared when they get older.”
In the Kansas City metro alone, homework varies from classroom to classroom. In the same way that most parents have very strong opinions regarding homework, teachers do as well. You may notice a difference within the amounts your own children have. Some schools, even districts, institute a consistent plan regarding homework. However, the majority do not. Most often, teachers truly have discretion to make the homework decision. The hope is their philosophy on assigning homework is not based only on their own memories as a student or whether or not they had a pleasant day. And most teachers do ground their beliefs and practices in research and experience.
John Hattie, professor of education and director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, is best known for his research that measures the effects that different indicators have on student learning. Of his 195 indicators, homework comes in at 120. It shows a positive effect on learning, but just slightly. Harris Cooper, professor of psychology at Duke University, conducted a comprehensive study on homework in 2006. His purpose was to see whether there was a positive correlation between homework and test scores. His research showed that homework not only positively affects test scores, but it also leads to improved study habits, self-discipline and independent problem solving skills. On the flip side, his research also found that it can lead to physical and emotional fatigue, negative attitudes about learning and less time for children to spend on other activities. As you can see with just Hattie’s and Cooper’s research, both sides of the argument have strong evidence to justify their feelings.
So what’s the right answer? There isn’t one. Like so many topics, homework lacks black-and-white clarity; rather, we see many shades of gray. Although arguments can be made for both sides, making sure your child isn’t overwhelmed with too much homework is important. If you do find that homework is an hours-long struggle in your home each night, talk to your child’s teachers and look for solutions to ease the time spent on homework. Parents and teachers working together can put a child on a path to success!
Brandon Lewis is an innovation and learning coach for Liberty Public Schools. He and his wife, Jeni, live in Kansas City with their two children, Zoey and Ezra.