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 DyslexicKids.net