The homework debate!

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Homework - Yuck or Yay

The following blog post is a quick response the question above that has been posed by the #globalmath group on twitter who are having a debate on this topic this evening based on some responses to this  Questionnaire. I love this debate and like many good ones can see lots of different points of view. It often helps to try and come off the fence though and in this case I have written some thoughts about why I would be happy to see the end of homework as we know it. This view is not necessarily shared by my colleagues that help write this website and is really just designed to spark further debate. Few issues are black or white! I should probably add that I have been influenced by  The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn. The thoughts are about homework in secondary schools in general, but from the perspective of a maths teacher.

Quality of life

  • Big cause of tension and conflict in homes.
  • Students day is long enough if spent productively.
  • Odd to expect longer days from teenagers than of many working adults.
  • After school and evening times should be for family, sports, leisure and hobbies - all very valuable pursuits from which people can learn huge amounts.
  • There has to be time in the day for students to be doing things they have decided they are going to do. Progress in these fields is likely to be more significant than that which is obliged.
  • We should encourage learning to be voluntary and self driven.

The case for homework?

  • Where is the evidence supporting the case for homework?
  • I would argue that evidence presented is assumed.
  • Homework is a long standing feature of education - it is there because it always has been, not because of strong evidence that it should be.

The case for no homework

  • Equally, scrapping homework is largely untried. I think it is time to try it for the reasons above. 
  • School days must become more productive but students should be more receptive during the day if homework is off the table.
  • Too much emphasis is placed on amount of time rather than quality of time. Too much on coverage, rather than nature of time spent.

The nature of homework

This is the crux of the matter for me. Any time spent working at home in the evening is infinitely more valuable when students do it of their own volition rather than out of compulsion. The types of things that students could be doing are many and varied and I think it would be great to be providing possibilities and provoking an interest. Of course, for this to work, the key would be getting home culture to match the schools which is unlikely but we can only really offer possibilities. As its stands, the success of homework as we know it is already highly dependent on the culture of students' homes. To support learning in maths I would be suggesting/encouraging - just a first draft

  • Regular playing of logic/strategy games that encourage critical thinking and discussion
  • Individual Puzzle solving, giving students practise of working idependently
  • A shared stream of interesting and relevant links etc about the subject, encourage an exchange about these via a tool like fb or edmodo or blogs or the like
  • Offer various projects that students could volunteer for and offer support with them.
  • Offer tasks that involve creativity.
  • Have ongoing things like photos of maths in the real world, sudoku competitions etc.
  • Keep an eye out for relevant documentaries - give students the chance to respond to these.


If this sort of advice was being offered across all subjects then would be no shortage of things on offer for students to enrich their school based studies.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the debate, both as it unfolds this evening and continues.



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