Isn’t homework essential for getting kids to internalize skills and become solid in their new learning? Keeps them busy and out of trouble… and no harm in that, right?
Research says it’s not so clear that it helps… and the social-emotional effects may be grave. Here’s an excerpt from a new article in the Washington Post: Why we’re getting the homework question wrong
Two recent studies have fueled a growing debate over how much homework is too much, and whether it has any benefit at all. They reached different conclusions. One study, published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, presented findings that are consistent with about a century of scientific analysis on homework; that is, it concluded that homework offers no benefits for elementary and middle school children. In contrast, the second study found the opposite to be true. In that investigation, spending more than two hours a night doing homework led British students to achieve better results in English, math and science.
The article (by Vicki Abeles, a mother, activist, and director of the documentary “Race to Nowhere”) goes on to talk about the point that there ARE downsides, especially socially and emotionally. My own experience is that homework is a major stressor on families as well as children… yet when I was a teacher, I gave homework, and sometimes a lot (though it was almost always either meaningful reading or project work).
Abeles’ conclusion is critical: We need to consider what we really want for our children / students — and then create policies that support these goals. So often our practices (in education and families, as well as in businesses & government) actually undermine our real goals… and if we’re not very clear on what we want, it seems very unlikely that we can make it happen. As the article concludes, we’ve got to ask the right questions about homework (and everything else):
Do we want our children to grow up to be whole, thriving adults who have held onto their innate joy of learning and discovery? Or do we want to teach them it’s only work we value—and not health, family, balance, creativity and fun? We don’t need an academic study to reach the right conclusion on that.
So your homework assignment: Discuss with your team, your family, your community: What are the most important goals for children, and what needs to change to ensure those goals are supported? What are we doing now that’s undermining the goals? What can we do instead?