“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” Lily Tomlin
I used to give homework because it was what I was told I needed to do when I first started teaching. I didn’t question it because I always had homework growing up and I didn’t think anything of it. Lately I have been reading more and more about the negatives of homework and listening to friends battle stories with their kids over homework. When I think about it, I remember my battles with my parents over homework. I hated it, especially because 90% of the time I didn’t know how to do it, which only caused more frustration.
The more I learn about neuroscience and learning, the more I don’t believe in homework. We must challenge the status quo; just because homework has always been given, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do. Here is why I promote not giving homework:
- Research from Duke University (by H Cooper) shows no correlation between homework and student achievement.
- Play time is important to cognitive abilities that leads to student achievement. We need to give them time to play, structured and unstructured. (See previous post on Need for Play)
- Homework builds character, perseverance, grit etc….this is a MYTH- there is no correlation.
- What is the purpose? Most of the time the homework given is just busy work with a lot of rote memory which is a waste of time. Homework for homework sake is unhealthy.
- Students hate homework and the ones that want to learn after school do it on their own based on what they are passionate about. Also negative emotions lead to high levels of stress impairing memory which affects learning.
- How do you know the student is doing the homework? I often ‘caught’ parents doing the students homework for multiple reasons (didn’t have time, they didn’t understand, trying to improve their childs grade etc) and what is this solving for all parties involved…nothing, yet we can do something about it by not giving homework.
I understand there are some barriers such as the ones below but I also provide some solutions. I challenge you to really think about why you give homework or if you are a parent, why do you want homework?
Barrier 1: Schools or districts that require homework. (CMS teachers – it is not required by the district. Last year the board changed it to ‘can/may’ give homework from ‘must’ give homework. A step in the right direction!)
- Have them read a book of their choice for 20 minutes as the only homework
- Have student led conferences once a week, where the student discusses with their parents what they learned during the week.
- Have students work on a ‘genius hour’ style project where they chose something they want to work on. (This will also help parents not do it for them because the student had choice and they will want to do it).
- If you have to give math homework, make it three problems which a child can prove he/she knows the “how” and “why”. There is no reason to give 30 of the same kinds of math problems.
- Choice boards where students pick what homework task they want to do out of a few choices. Ex: Do a weekly choice board and they pick one task a night from a choice of six tasks. Mix it up with math/reading skills.
Barrier 2: Pressure from parents who want homework given.
- Inform parents of the research and explain how learning can and will happen naturally at home by letting them be curious. (I have seen some teachers write a letter in the beginning of the year which helps set the stage)
- Have a list of resources/sites for parents that want to work with their student at home explaining it is optional and not required.
- Use any of the above solutions from required by school/district barrier
Here is further reading for you and/or articles you can use to inform your principal, parents etc:
If you have resources to share, please do in the comments.