Homework

I mentioned in my first blog post that we will be ‘cognizant of those things that we will not change: enduring ideals and philosophies that transcend time and place.’ Over the coming weeks I will detail those constants. This week it will be homework!

Both sections of the school – Primary and Secondary – will be issuing guidelines as to the School’s expectation with regards to homework (the PYP ones were shared with Elementary parents on Tuesday, 7th April). To quote from the introduction:

 “… we believe that regular homework is an important element of improving student learning and the developing skills and attitudes that will support our students in their post-secondary education … regular homework … improves student learning.”

 There is substantial educational research that discounts the importance of regular homework, as Alfie Kohn, speaker and writer on human behavior, education, and parenting, recounts in his piece titled ‘Rethinking Homework.’ Indeed, the prevalent educational perspective limits the importance of afterschool work. I simply do not agree, but I do admit that homework is often busy-work, ill-defined, and excessively tedious. Thus, our guidelines to teachers will be explicit as to the nature and purpose of homework, the support that we require from parents needs to be clear, our expectations of students must be transparent, and teacher feedback needs to be timely and consistent.

But, as Alfie Kohn remarks:

 “… students groan about, or try to avoid, homework, it’s generally because they get too much of it, or because it’s assigned thoughtlessly and continuously, or simply because they had nothing to say about it. The benefits of even high-quality assignments are limited if students feel ‘done to’ instead of ‘worked with.’
(http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/rethinking-homework)

With regards to student learning, John Hattie is the author of the 2008 book ‘Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement,’ and he is considered to have conducted one of the largest, evidence-based studies into the factors that improve student learning. He remarks:

 “… certainly I think we get over obsessed with homework. Five to ten minutes has the same effect of one hour to two hours. The worst thing you can do with homework is give kids projects. The best thing you can do is to reinforce something you’ve already learnt.”
(http://visible-learning.org/2014/09/john-hattie-interview-bbc-radio-4/)

Hence the need for explicit guidelines, defining our expectations clearly, and not wasting students’ time. Homework at AISB is here to stay, but it needs to be meaningful and productive to the learning process.