I’ve been reading quite a few anti-homework articles lately. Is this something new? Have I just been missing it? It seems like in the blink of an eye we went from everyone being pro-flipping the classroom (with its requisite video-watching as homework) to a whole movement of people who are against homework entirely. There’s even a Facebook group for Teachers and Parents Against Homework!
My head is spinning. And it got me to thinking: should we get rid of homework?
To summarize the position of those who suggest we should do just that, here are some of the main reasons suggested for getting rid of it:
1. Children should be free to choose what they do in their free time out of school because requiring them to do homework is coercive.
2. Homework infringes on kids’ play time.
3. Adults are not assigned homework as part of their jobs, so why should kids be assigned homework from school?
4. Homework doesn’t improve kids’ performance.
Interesting food for thought. As someone who has done plenty of homework during the course of my life, there have certainly been assignments of questionable value that I have completed. But I have trouble with the idea of dispensing with homework completely. I thought I would explore my own thoughts here about the value of homework, my reaction to some of the anti-homework arguments and ask for your contributions to the conversation as well.
1. I’m a bit confused about the argument that we shouldn’t require homework because it’s coercive for kids. What about kids who would rather not go to school? Should we allow them to skip out because it’s coercive as well? I take issue with this not because I am especially pro-homework, but just because I don’t think it holds water logically.
2. I think it’s true that homework infringes on kids’ play time. It did for me. When I was a kid I had to complete my homework before playing. In other words, I earned my free time by completing my homework. I don’t really understand what the problem is there.
3. I’m an adult. I have taken work home from the office innumerable times over the years. If something needs to get done by a certain deadline then my responsibility is to get it done. And if it means bringing it home to work on then that’s what it means. I think that assigning homework projects outside of class that teach kids time management responsibilities is a good thing. That doesn’t mean they have to be mind-numbing projects that are dead boring.
4. The point that homework doesn’t improve performance is the most compelling anti-homework argument to me. Okay, truth be told, it’s the ONLY compelling anti-homework argument to me. Why do it if it doesn’t work? Outside of teaching kids to be accountable there really is no reason. But I think there are plenty of directions to go in to improve the homework experience of kids. What if we:
- Use teaching methods that produce actionable performance data so that we know what kids have mastered before assigning homework?
- Assign homework projects that extend what is taught in the classroom?
- Require that kids apply the skills they learn in class to new environments and settings as homework?
- Assign reading, writing and projects for which the teacher assigns the category, but the student chooses the particular topic?
- Give assignments that requires the student to collaborate with a parent, sibling or other family member?
Is the anti-homework movement another “throw the baby out with the bath water” phenomenon? If particular kinds of homework aren’t effective then we, as an educator community, need to look at that and make adjustments so that the things that we are assigning DO make a difference in learner performance. But getting rid of homework because it’s potentially aversive or so that kids can play more? I’m not convinced.
That said, there is ONE way in which I could be convinced to dispense with homework entirely: if classroom teachers could show me performance data that demonstrate that kids have achieved mastery and fluency with the skill sets they need to learn and have achieved that during class time. If kids have met all of their performance goals during school then I am totally on board with eliminating homework.
But, oddly, many of the anti-homework crusaders are also the anti-measurement crusaders. And I’m left wondering: how will we produce competent, capable, contributing adults and how will we know we’re on the right track along the way?
- The Homework Dilemma (educatoral.com)
- A Week without Homework Challenge #aweekwithouthomework (coopcatalyst.wordpress.com)
- School bans homework for two years (thelocal.de)
- Coping with homework insanity (miamiherald.com)