The Learning Renaissance

Homework… What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

The issue of homework has been a thorn in my side since I started teaching.

The standard thinking is that it develops independent learning skills, extends the work  of the school into the home and give opportunities to reinforce the curriculum.

I’m all for developing independent learning skills, but I’m not sure homework is an appropriate way to do it! It makes assumptions about the home learning environment and the  resources within it. Not every child has access to a quiet and warm place to work, not every child has parental support or access to books and a computer. We make assumptions when homework is set which might be entirely unrealistic for individual children. Most importantly, not every child is able to work independently because of a range of learning conditions such as dyslexia or sensory processing disorders.

Then there is the additional workload imposed on the teacher with the marking of the homework. Such time can be justified if the marked work really did form part of a formative discussion with the child, with action points to follow up. It rarely is.

Homework is often supported by parents as a mark of the effectiveness of the school. This tends to focus on the volume, rather than the quality of the homework. I remember the time when I was receiving as many parental comments about the lack of homework as about the burden of it. Dealing with these comments took me away from more positive uses of my time.

There will be times when some out of school learning exploration will have a fantastic impact on the motivation and progress of the student. A rigorous structured half an hour a night per subject studied that day is not the mechanism most likely to discover them.

What does half an hour per subject per night actually mean? It suggests, that you are dealing with a standardised child! What takes one child 30 minutes may take another several hours of work, all supporting stress when they cannot complete the set assignments in the time provided. Where is the value in such a scenario.

Given the above, I am indebted to Daniel Sobel for sharing this table of alternatives to the traditionally set and marked homework.

The table was produced by

Further reading: Horrors of homework for kids with learning difficulties | Dekker Delves into Dyslexia

About educationalist04

I'm convinced we can, as a species, do much better than this if we set our minds to being much more positive and productive towards our fellow humans. The solution is learning - creating independent and autonomous learners who can problem solve, innovate and create a better more equitable and sustainable world. My books, Future Proof Your School and Re-Examining Success together with this blog, explore how better learning outcomes for all can be achieved.

2 comments on “Homework… What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

  1. AcEd
    February 7, 2020

    The issue of homework stems a great deal not from the issue of working (thinking is a better definition of what we are looking for) outside the class/lesson but the manner in which it is conceived. As you say David often it is an external pressure derived from a simplistic measure of how good the school is. I also think this is an abdication of responsibility on the part of a parent – they insist on homework but do little in the way of getting involved or supporting the child. Other parents take the view that it is a reflection on them and get too involved! The time spent chasing homework that was not done reflected a value statement about how the homework was perceived and often this was because little thought had gone into setting the homework or aligning it to the learning focus.

    Like all things, though there is another side to things and homework, even in the most challenging of homes, can have significant learning value if – and it’s a BIG IF, it is well thought out. Daniel’s table follows this principle. There are opportunities for pupils to learn outside of the classroom where they may feel intimidated, or unsupported in their learning.

    For a slightly different look at the value of homework have a look at this article I wrote about homework and Learning Intelligence, LQ:

  2. abiologyteacherinbeijing
    February 7, 2020

    Reblogged this on Stories of a Biology teacher and commented:
    Very Interesting Article

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