Thursday, 2 February 2017

Homework-The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A number of researchers are saying homework makes no difference to primary school students’ achievement. If anything it helps bright children the most and for the others, it just reminds them that they cannot do a task. Some academics argue that there is zero evidence supporting the idea it teaches time-management skills.

There is no doubt in my mind that homework can be very stressful and destructive when it just amounts to ‘busy work’ that intrudes on family time or is not differentiated for the varying ability levels so mum or dad are pressured to step in and do the homework for their child.

Highly regarded education professor, John Hattie says the thing he detests the most about homework is ‘long term’ projects as in many cases, all this does is measure the parent’s skill.

So what’s the good news! Consistent parent feedback over many, many years suggests that children who make the transition into college well do so because they have sound work and study skills helping to boost their self efficacy. Their experience of good work routines and a work ethic have given them ‘a head start’ at college. The positive outcomes of appropriately pitched homework include work and study skill development such as time management and learner agency benefits.

Homework can be a parent’s ‘window’ into their child’s strengths and needs as a learner.  Fostering learning should be a shared role between home and school providing children with ‘life-long’ learning skills.

The reality is we are living in an age where learning is ubiquitous. This is often simply defined as learning anywhere, anytime and is therefore closely associated with mobile technologies. Learning doesn't stop and start at the classroom door and when homework is ‘pitched’ appropriately both in terms of duration and challenge it can be a powerful factor in consolidating learning, igniting inquiry and the development of independence. 

Confidence is everything and children quickly come to realise that practise and a bit of ‘graft’ usually brings improved outcomes. In my mind, reading for pleasure every night should be part and parcel of a child’s home learning experience. Reading not only ‘feeds and engages the brain’ but builds a life- long love of books.

Ideally homework should not be poorly targeted drudgery but be engaging for the child providing a balance of open-ended, creative and practical life skills tasks.

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