Monday, September 15, 2008

Homework Policy

Alfie Kohn (The Homework Myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing), guru of the modern educational movement, says homework is useless. I cannot imagine how he can write a whole book on this topic, research can only apply on a limited basis. What works for one student/classroom/socioeconomic community, does not work for others. I think the pendulum has swung too far. Young kids are assigned too much homework, and new teachers are not necessarily taught about such practical matters. (They do not even teach behaviour management at the Faculties of Education. But I digress.) Certainly, students need to do an amount of practice. This can only happen in the peace and quiet of home.

I hope when/if you do a piece on this new homework study by Lee Bartell of OISE you keep a few things in mind. This is a dangerous study. IT is a false hypothesis.

What an interesting study: how PARENTS are affected by homework. They are not the only stakeholders. Yes, homework results in stress. Parents do not understand homework, students do not understand it and teachers do not know how and when to assign it. There are a combination of factors that render homework useless for those for whom it would have the most benefits.

Do you think they ask the wrong question? Perhaps better ask how students are affected by homework. As the author of the study said, a literature review reflects mixed results for the benefits of homework. Many parents demand homework, as do school boards.

Yet, there are parents who must have latch-key kids and cannot supervise homework, or they work long hours. In this case a better choice would be to have a homework hotline or a website where kids can turn for help. They exist, but they cost money and do not help these least able to provide the intellectual, physical and emotional support required by some of our at-risk young people.

Parents have issues with parenting styles. They need better training. To allow a child to avoid homework for more than a half hour means that there are discipline issues that require remediation. Students need discipline to sit still for 20 minutes and do homework, rather than sitting in front of the TV or computer. Reading skills require effort and practice. Thinking skills require reflection time. Teachers require better training in the creation of appropriate homework assignments.

The issued is compounded by misunderstandings and frustrations and would be resolved by a study on the benefits of homework. For children who lack understanding of concepts, this may be an onerous task for parents. The new curriculum is obtuse, does not reflect as much skill and drill. It demands higher level thinking skills, that some parents are not prepared to assist with. Balance that with parents who may not have an understanding of English and you face a dilemma.

We know that many students, especially boys, do not read enough. They spend too much time on hockey, computers or mindless video games. These students need to read and reflect. Young children need to be read to, they need a working vocabulary of 32,000 words by JK, and a reading vocabulary of 10,000 by gr. 2. It is the student with the least background knowledge and experience and the family with the least educational background that most needs homework.

This is post #1, See also: Homework II: the purpose, content, timing, of homework. Teacher's, administrator's and parent's roles.

1 comment:

Louise said...

This is a good post. More people need to read and understand it, specifically parents and school boards!

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