Thursday, 10 November 2011

Homework Part 1

The following is a version of the text of my newsletter article from Tuesday November 8th.

Homework is one of those words guaranteed to raise strong opinions and feelings.   Homework can be defined as ‘referring to any activities that school students are asked to complete outside of lesson time’.  page 3 Homework Literature review November 2004, Queensland Education Department
In all my years of teaching I have heard strong arguments from both sides of the debate about the effectiveness and value or otherwise of doing homework.   I also know how much time a teacher can take in following up students who have not done their homework.  This often results in more work being set to be done at home or the student loses their lunch time to do the work then.  The net result can be a strong questioning of the value or otherwise of setting homework.
Recently I have been reading a paper entitled ‘Homework Literature Review’ which was commissioned by the Queensland Education Department in 2004  and it seems that  while researchers  are divided on the value of homework in raising student achievement, they are generally agreed that homework is important for establishing good study habits as well as developing student initiative, independence and responsibility.  Research also suggests that students who complete homework generally outperform students who do not complete homework at least on some measures of academic success. (page 6 Homework Literature review)
“In the early years, activities are usually based on supporting literacy, numeracy and thinking skills.  In the Middle phase of learning, homework is more likely to focus on reading, revising, report writing, investigating and project work.  Students in the senior years are likely to undertake a range of homework activities dependant on the course of study being completed.”  (page 6 HLR)
Students in the senior years of school and in post secondary education will also need to be able to study and be self directed.  I believe it is much easier to learn the habit of regular work outside of the classroom boundary when you are younger. Our Grade 11 and 12 student will be discovering in the next two weeks, the effectiveness of their study over the year as they complete end of year exams.  However, if their preparation for these exams only began in the last month of the year and if they neglected on a  regular basis to complete assignments, read the materials they needed to have read before class and set regular time to understand the work they were doing, then they have set themselves a very difficult task to do really well in their final exams.  Good preparation begins many months, indeed years before, when homework becomes a regular habit.

I personally see value in setting homework but it must be work that has a point and a purpose to it.  It will either be  helping to  establish a new piece of learning,  preparation work for a class activity or extension work from a unit of study being done in class. 

I have in the past used homework time as a way for students to finish work they didn't get done in class.  I am currently re-thinking this and am interested in people's views on this.
I think one homework activity that has great value is asking students to spend time with their parents through talking, helping with work in the home, washing up the dishes, maybe going for a walk after tea, getting the groceries, playing a game, etc.  As a school that values the family unit, this is a homework activity that should be factored into the equation along with academic  work.

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