01 Oct 2012

Where do you stand on homework?

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When it comes to homework do you count yourself among those who see homework as incompatible with modern family lives or do you align with the ones who say it forms an important link in the home-school relationship? After all the evidence that homework has a significant impact on pupil progress is, at best, inconsistent and work-life balance is as important for pupils as for parents.

One of the purposes of homework is certainly to expand the amount of time spent learning. As long ago as 1984, the Hargreaves report on secondary education pointed out that “appropriate homework can add the equivalent of at least one additional year of full-time education.” But homework that has been thoughtfully set does far more than simply increase the quantity of learning done by each pupil, but can also introduce them to a different quality of learning. Without the presence of the teacher and no longer surrounded by peers, pupils have a chance to develop their own relationship with materials they have been studying in class, to engage with it on their own terms, possibly even in a way that adds depth and detail to their understanding.

As for providing a link between home and school, it is true that ,if schoolwork only takes place within school, the two worlds can seem irredeemably separate. Though frequently the source of parent-child friction, at its best it can give parents a window into school and provide teachers with useful clues which build a fuller identity of the pupils in their class.

Taking in and marking a set of homework can give a teacher invaluable feedback about their own teaching. If the majority of the class reveals the same misconceptions in their homework, this gives the teacher a clear indication that more time needs to be devoted to this topic or skill in class. If the entire class has completed a more or less faultless homework, perhaps they actually needed a task that would stretch their abilities a little further.

But perhaps the most important function of homework is to provide a framework through which pupils can gradually become independent, self-motivated learners.It is vital that they develop these qualities, if they are to thrive in the world beyond school. Good grades are of little value if they are acquired through high levels of adult support and spoon feeding, which actually undermine the ability to set one’s own priorities, manage time, make sensible decisions, deal with setbacks and difficulties, take pleasure in one’s own achievements and, in short, take ownership of one’s own learning.


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