A homework isn’t exactly a novel. In fact, today it’s mostly regarded as a school requirement, a normal part of the average student’s routine. Homework, however, continues to be a controversial topic. The debate perhaps dates back to the time of its conception, with attitudes shifting from left to right throughout decades. Both proponents and critics make cases to support their perspective on the importance and necessity of homework, especially in the context of the student’s development and construction of knowledge. Good and Brophy (2003) denote that many assess homework as an important extension of in-school opportunities to learn. While some proponents place emphasis on the purpose of homework, questions still persist regarding the role of homework comprising a student’s grade. Should homework be assigned and evaluated frequently, or should it be seen as an educational means to an end? If homework should be seen as a means to an end, should a policy govern homework, or will there be room for flexibility? Such is the case, yes, but one can argue that despite opposition, homework does hold value, instrumental to the formation of a student’s discipline and acquisition of knowledge.
The Homework Debate
History dictates that attitudes towards the value and purpose of homework usually reflect the current mood and stance of society. For instance, the 20th century regarded the mind as muscle, one that would benefit greatly from training. This said training comes in the form of memorization, and since the action could be done at home, homework was believed to be valuable. The 1940s, however, saw the transition of the emphasis of problem solving. Here, people began viewing homework negatively. Fast forward to Russia’s Sputnik, however, society realized that students remain unprepared for the advancing technologies and homework became relevant again. Cooper (1989) notes that in the 1960s, society shifted once again in opposition to homework, believing that it put too much pressure on students. These instances only goes to show that the perception of homework is stuck in a circular pattern, going up and down according to the defining spirit of the times. This trend will most likely continue, but research has shown that homework plays a vital role in a student’s education.
The Extensive Purpose of Homework
As indicated by Epstein & Van Voorhis (1988, 2001), homework’s purpose can be grouped into ten strands: ‘practice, participation, preparation, personal development, parent-child relations, parent-teacher communication, peer interactions, policy, public relations and punishment.’ This proposes that homework affects more than the area of a student’s academic ability. Data on the link between homework and academic achievement also proves that homework, indeed, has a positive impact on student’s grades. Cooper correspondingly postulates that students who completed homework had better test results and report cards, as compared to those that did not complete it. In a report by the EEF in 2016, it was also found that the completion of homework at the secondary level can add an additional 5 months of progress onto a child’s learning journey.
In addition to academic research, teachers have also noted on what they believe to be the purpose of homework to students, which is preparation and personal development. Tom Sherrington, a head teacher from United Kingdom and an education blogger, assumes that successful students who value homework have developed independent learning skills, and possess the ability to lead learning processes through questions and ideas. This implies that even those who do not see immediate impacts brought by homework believe that it plays a role in personal development, which prepares them even beyond education. This is further supported by Sharp (2002), who found that although homework does not have a direct link in achievement in younger children, it promotes independent learning and necessary preparation. The discipline instilled by homework equips students with the necessary knowledge – learning and problem solving skills that can easily be at their disposal when faced with other tasks outside the classroom.
Another UK teacher and blogger named Rachel Jones, believes that homework has a positive impact on the retention of knowledge, as well as hand-in rates of when the homework was set. One study conducted also supports this, which reports that homework is positively related to student achievement. They point out that homework is an academic method of improving preparation, without the need to increase staff and modify the curriculum.
Homework and Parental Involvement
More than homework’s role in improved achievement, research has also found links that connect homework to home-school involvement and students’ relationship with their parents. Acock & Demo (1994) believes that a key purpose of homework beyond enhancing instruction is establishing communication between child and parent. Homework also serves as a bridge between home and school, and the opportunity to engage parents in school life actually has a positive impact on teachers. Epstein & Dauber (1991) has found that teachers feel more positive about teaching when there is parental involvement. Moreover, homework is valued by both parents and teachers, especially if both parties believe that regularly completing homework promotes a sense of responsibility. Both educators and parents argue that homework is integral to a child’s learning process, giving way to students becoming independent learners.
Despite the benefits presented, it is important to realize that for homework to have any positive impact, homework given must be purposeful. Students believe in the value of homework, deeming it as significant to the learning process. However, many express concerns regarding the means of how and when homework is given, which conflicts with other school deadlines. Some tasks, too, they argue, make little to no contribution to learning. This highly intervenes with the true purpose of homework, which, to reiterate, is preparation and personal development.
The provision of purposeful homework means setting specific purposes and goals, where students can reap benefits upon completion of the task. It is also inherently linked to quality homework, mostly present when teachers put emphasis on this as opposed to quantity. To be considered as high quality, homework should not only be clear and detailed, but authentic and engaging - a real reason behind the assignment must be provided, so that students will be encouraged to complete them. Frey & Fisher (2011) believes that quality homework includes ‘fluency practice, application, spiral review and extension’, and denounces the act of giving homework to students with unfamiliar topics.
Another important aspect of purposeful homework is the quantity. There are implications to consider when setting homework, as too much can have detrimental effects on students. Stress, fatigue, and loss of interest are just some of the few consequences. From this, we gather that a fewer amount of homework, as long as detailed and well thought out, will have a more positive impact on a student’s learning. Here, the school should monitor the amount of homework given, as well as what and when, to preserve the sanctity of homework’s true purpose.
The debate surrounding the concept of homework will continue, but extensive research has helped shift the conversation to its benefits. Homework does indeed serve a purpose, impacting both a student’s learning development and preparation for incoming educational stages. Although not apparent in the younger years, homework encourages children to become independent learners. Outside of the academe, homework also benefits parent-student relationships and home-school involvement. One should only take into consideration the true purpose of homework, which cannot be measured through quantity. A student learns through work indeed, not through irrelevant tasks given one after the other, which can take a toll not only on their performance, but overall health. The conversation on homework will continue to shift, but one thing remains clear – student learning should be the priority.