Learning and Teaching at Gilson College

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How useful and effective is homework?

Mathematics homework

What is the value of homework? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently my two daughters whose children are at different ends of the education continuum (one has a boy in his first year of school, and the second a boy in Year 10 and a girl in Year 9), raised with me the issue of the relevance and value of their children’s homework.

Then within the space of two days the subject of effective and relevant homework was also brought up during a school leadership meeting.  

And we all know that this topic also pops up in the media from time to time.

I’ve had the following article bookmarked for a couple of years and while I wish to share it with those involved in the conversations mentioned above, I thought I would also repost it here for the benefit of readers who may also deal with the issue of the effectiveness and relevance of homework from time to time.

The article is

Five Hallmarks of Good Homework

Cathy Vatterott, in this article published online on ASCD’s Educational Leadership website, reinforces my views ad the answer I gave my daughters as I recommended that they approach my grandchildren’s teachers with their concerns.

Cathy writes

 ‘Homework shouldn’t be about rote learning. The best kind deepens student understanding and builds essential skills…’

Cathy Vatterott goes on to write:

‘…For tonight’s homework,

  • Write the 10 spelling words 3 times each.
  • Write definitions of the 15 science vocabulary words.
  • Do the math problems on page 27, problems 1–20 on dividing fractions.

 Check any homework hotline, and you’re likely to find similar homework assignments, which look an awful lot like those we remember from school. But do these tasks really reinforce learning? Do they focus on rote learning—or on deeper understandings?

The Fundamental Five

The best homework tasks exhibit five characteristics.

  • First, the task has a clear academic purpose, such as practice, checking for understanding, or applying knowledge or skills.
  • Second, the task efficiently demonstrates student learning.
  • Third, the task promotes owner ship by offering choices and being personally relevant.
  • Fourth, the task instills a sense of competence—the student can success fully complete it without help.
  • Last, the task is aesthetically pleasing—it appears enjoyable and interesting (Vatterott, 2009)…’ Read more…

EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP ASCD Online August 2011 | Volume 68

Best of Educational Leadership 2010–2011 Pages 10-15

My advice to my daughters was to approach their children’s teachers to discuss the relevance and value of homework given, and my advice to teachers would be please make sure homework is related directly to what you are teaching right now as well as to the learning intentions that you have outlined to your students.

For reflection:

  • Do you believe homework is necessary and valuable to student learning and achievement?
  • What homework do you give?
  • What do you do to make sure the homework set supports your present teaching and learning goals for your students?