Homework is a contentious issue but it doesn’t have to dominate lives and destroy peace of mind. There are sound reasons why homework is important and practical strategies to keep it under control.
Homework for homework’s sake is rarely given these days. Teachers are required to document everything and are frequently reviewed. Additionally, most teachers are good hearted and really care about their students. They don’t give homework as a punishment, to fill in time or to be mean. Fortunately, very few teachers are like the headmistress in Matilda!
In tertiary education, the latest teaching style involves what is called the ‘flipped classroom’. This involves university students completing homework such as a reading, watching a video or looking through a report. In the next session with the teacher, the students will share reflections on the homework and engage in exercises or class discussions based around the set homework. In many secondary schools, teachers are adopting a similar approach. Homework is therefore very important as it will often be used as the launching point for the next day’s work in class or form the basis for class discussions. Teachers will often not simply correct the homework but will ask students to discuss what they have learnt, to question the material and engage in a meaningful discussion of issues arising from the homework. The ‘flipped classroom’ is designed to encourage active learning and greater engagement with learning. Homework is clearly more important than ever before.
However, if you truly believe that your child is being given excessive homework, approach the classroom teacher and have a chat about this. Be calm and non-threatening though because the teacher may be unaware that the amount of homework is excessive. It may be the policy of the faculty area to give this amount of homework and the teacher has no direct control over this. However, you can be sure that the subject teacher will either give you the details of the right person to speak to or offer to let this person know about your concerns. But before contacting the school, do check that your child isn’t simply behind with work due to not listening in class and the ‘homework’ isn’t really homework.
So what do young people gain from doing homework?
Building Good Study Habits
Homework helps to establish good study habits that are essential in the senior years at school. Students learn:
- Discipline – They must learn to set aside adequate time to complete homework well. This means putting aside distractions such as all forms of social media, loud music, television…
- Organisational skills – They need to remember to have all notes, research, books, handouts and information required to complete the work that night.
- Note-taking skills – In many subjects, the homework may require students to read an article or chapter and identify the major themes, issues or reasons for a particular event. Students learn how to read with a purpose in mind.
- Time management – Students are often given a period of time in which to complete a particular piece of work at home. They need to learn how to estimate the time required to gather all information, to interpret the topic and plan each step needed to complete the homework. These are called metacognitive skills or thinking skills. These skills are fundamentally important to success in senior years of school and on into tertiary education.
- Responsibility – Young people need to learn to take responsibility for remembering that they have homework, remembering to start early enough and to have everything needed to complete the task. They should not be asking parents to help them for hour after hour the night before the work is due to be completed.
- How to approach a major task – Students learn how to break a large task into smaller, but logical and achievable steps. This is all about learning how to achieve a goal, how to plan for success.