A few years ago there was a popular book called, A Whack on the Side of the Head. Its premise was that in order to get us to correct some erroneous thinking, we need to be figuratively whacked on the side of the head to sorta knock some sense into us. The author’s argument was that we don’t usually change our way of thinking through dialogue, but that we need some change in events, some action happening to us directly to get us to re-think our position on an issue.
So for this newsletter note from me, just consider that you’ve been awakened or “whacked” and are now willing to think about homework in perhaps a different way! Most of us probably believe that having homework assigned to children will result in their learning more and in their getting higher grades on standardized tests. So instead of holding onto these beliefs about the value of homework for our child’s learning, let’s look at what the current research tells us about homework.
Dr. Harris Cooper of Duke University, a well-known researcher on homework, says that elementary school students get no academic benefit from homework. High school students who are studying until dawn are probably wasting their time because there is no academic benefit after two hours of homework a night. For middle school students, their drop-off rate is after one and ½ hours of homework.
There’s a new book by one of America’s nationally known educators and parenting experts, Alfie Kohn, called The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. In this book he reviewed much of the research regarding homework from the past 40 years. He also cited trends in homework assignments. The first and perhaps most startling trend is that during the past 20 years homework, which was previously given to mostly high school-aged students, is being assigned to younger and younger children. Today it is not uncommon for kindergarten children to have homework. And children in the first three grades have as much homework as children in 4th,5th, and 6th grades.
Some of the recent research cited in his book sought to answer four questions regarding homework for students from 2nd grade through 12th grade. Those questions were: what is the effect on students’ grades of the amount of homework assigned; what is the effect on test scores of the amount of homework assigned; what is the effect on grades of the amount of homework actually done by the student; and finally, what is the effect on test scores of the amount of homework actually done by the student.
… to be continued
The researchers concluded that for all ages there is no significant relationship between grades and the amount of homework assigned. For all ages there is no significant relationship between test scores and the amount of homework assigned. Regarding the effect of grades on the amount of homework done, there was a negative relationship for younger students and a positive relationship for older students. And finally, the effect on test scores of homework done for all ages was not significant.
So after reviewing the research, the author concluded that there isn’t enough research to support the academic benefits of homework, and that it would be a mistake to conclude that homework is a meaningful contributor to learning even in high school.
WOW! So why are we educators assigning so much homework, and why are we parents looking for our children to do homework and thinking that it will improve our children’s grades or test scores for college? We have mistaken beliefs about homework. Homework is not what will result in higher levels of learning. Ouch, that was a whack on the side of the head!
So, what will improve our children’s school work? Well, there are lots of ideas about that! One that was presented to us last month at our teacher’s retreat by consultant, educator, and author Mike Brock, is that the highest predicator of child performance and happiness in school is based on three factors:
Does the child/student feel significant in his home? Does he have meaningful ways to contribute to the life of the family?
Does the child/student receive affirmation in her home; does she know that she is valued by her family as a person?
Does the family have regular family dinners together?
It’s time that we, the true advocates for our children, become educated in the kinds of activities that maximize our children’s childhood experiences. Our child’s home life experiences are the real gifts we give to them. Perhaps they’ve been undervalued, overlooked, or seen as trite, but the truth is that our family values really are valuable for all of us. Childhood is brief and fleeting. Every child deserves to live it at its fullest in a family where s/he is valued, feels significant, and experiences what it means to be a part of a family, your family, as the family gathers together each evening for their family dinner.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher