Jump to content
The Education Forum

What is the value of homework?


Recommended Posts

I attended a meeting recently when a senior colleague said that his school was investigating whether setting homework for secondary age students had any real value, presumably with the idea that it might be abandoned in its existing format.

An open discussion ensued at which the more negative views voiced included:

'What is the point if they don't have anywhere quiet to work?' :rolleyes:

'Many of the less able don't do the homework anyway, giving teachers extra stress when they have to chase it up'

' Traveller children are around for only brief periods of time so homework is irrelevant to them'

'A lot of tasks are set just because homework has to be set - it isn't necessarily of any great educational value'

'It means so much extra time for teachers when it has to be marked - what about the workload agreement?'

There were, of course, a similar number of positive views!

Anyone care to express their thoughts on this one?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd better be careful here as Maggie works in my College and could set the forces of darkness onto me :lol::rolleyes:

What I find frustrating and difficult is the necessity to set homeworks even when they don't spring naturally from a lesson's activities or from a learning sequence, and I have to confess that although my students probably get more homework from me than they do many of their teachers, they very rarely get it on the right day or in the right quantity :D

I know that there are many schools in challenging circumstances where it has been deemed counter productive to set and chase homework for some of the reasons Maggie identifies in her post. However I feel very strongly that we ought to set homework whatever our circumstances. I do believe however we should think a great deal more about what we are actually setting.

The real debate should be about the nature of homework and the quality of homework. Perhaps more thought should be given to what we set children to do away from the classroom and its natural routines, disciplines and social context than that which we plan for our lessons :lol: .

The bulk of my own learning and I believe the bulk of most of todays students learning was/is done away from the classroom. Indeed those who have been inspired and empowered to learn more develop a love of learning which may never leave them. Those who have been bored rigid by simple text book exercises and unchallenging homeworks for homeworks sake will begin to associate school work with boring routine tasks and we will lose them for good. They may even develop an orientation to work more suited to a factory floor.

The best homework ever given to me was a copy of Tressell's "Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" by my Politics teacher. He didn't set it, or assess it, or even mark my understanding of it, he simply said he thought I'd find it interesting. I of course read it from cover to cover in a couple of nights and was full of questions for my next Politics lesson.

Too many schools in my view organise a programme of after school "useless toil" for pupils just because it is on "the timetable" or it is fashionable or it is Ofsted!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've just had the same debate. Over the last 3 weeks, having kept careful records, 170 pieces of homework (from seven KS3 classes) were NOT handed in when requested. The amount of time and effort required to chase up this missing work is out of all proportion to its value.

The only justification for giving KS3 pupils homework is to try and train them in good habits but with parents giving little or no support in many cases, this is a very difficult task. We could probably get away with not setting GCSE classes homework if they worked steadily in class over the two years. We certainly couldn't cope with AS/A2 courses without setting work outside lessons - so it may be that the only justification for a Year 7 getting homework is that it may help them with their sixth form courses!

David

Link to post
Share on other sites
The best homework ever given to me was a copy of Tressell's "Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" by my Politics teacher. He didn't set it, or assess it, or even mark my understanding of it, he simply said he thought I'd find it interesting. I of course read it from cover to cover in a couple of nights and was full of questions for my next Politics lesson.

I set this as a homework last week. My students engaged in the online debate elsewhere on this forum can vouch for this.

In this Internet age I was able to download the most suitable chapter (http://www.marxists.org/archive/tressell/) for the understanding of Marxism (guess which one!), I made the font a bit smaller and edited it a little and they had a (deceptively) few sheets of A4 to be 'getting on with'. This morning (really, this morning!) one of the students asked to borrow my copy to read it over the two week half-term.

As for your views on homework, I'm fully in accordance. Most (all?) of the best work produced by my students is done when I'm not around to distract them. Because all my students have their own laptops, many spend their days absorbing, downloading and discussing and require a more educationally conducive environment than school in which to do their serious work.

I can't think and write very well in the company of 20 kids. Why should we expect kids to be able to? :rolleyes:

Link to post
Share on other sites

I ,for one, only give homework when appropriate. I do not see the relevance of giving it every lesson. Only the students facing their exams get huge amounts of questions to answer at home. This is mainly to prepare them for their final exam in which they have to answer apprx 40 questions is a relative small amount of time.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Adrian Dingle

I'm lucky. I work in a school where virtually all homework that is set is completed and it is on time. Regardless of this relatively unusual situation, I still;

1. Only ever set homework that has a purpose.

2. Grade ever single piece of homework that I set.

It helps that;

1. There is no pressure to set homework after every single lesson, or on certain days, so I can fit it in where and when I think it is appropriate.

2. The homework grade actually contributes to the final High School Transcript grade (which is just is more important than an external exam result) so if the kids don't do it their grades will suffer in a tangible way.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Andy, I agree with your sentiment that

The real debate should be about the nature of homework and the quality of homework.

... and note that you set homework with so much enthusiasm for its value but wonder how students would cope if all their teachers expected homework to be carried out on the basis you describe....

although my students probably get more homework from me than they do many of their teachers, they very rarely get it on the right day or in the right quantity

Equally, Adrian's students might find that they could quickly become overloaded with homework as he says that in his school....

There is no pressure to set homework after every single lesson, or on certain days, so I can fit it in where and when I think it is appropriate.

Marco says.of his classes..

Only the students facing their exams get huge amounts of questions to answer at home.

Do I understand that this is the sort of homework that you would normally set to any class?

GeoDave, you say..

The only justification for giving KS3 pupils homework is to try and train them in good habits but with parents giving little or no support in many cases, this is a very difficult task.

I recognise and sympathise with the problem of unsupportive parents, but in my experience there are a great many more who are supportive and indeed raise any lack of homework being set as being an issue of concern.

Anyone who has been OFSTEDed recently will be aware that the questionnaires being given to parents and students alike specifically ask about whether homework is set regularly. Can we afford to ignore this?

As for the impact of homework I have to agree with Andy's view...

those who have been inspired and empowered to learn develop a love of learning which may never leave them. Those who have been bored rigid by simple text book exercises and unchallenging homeworks for homeworks sake will begin to associate school work with boring routine tasks and we will lose them for good.
Link to post
Share on other sites
Anyone who has been OFSTEDed recently will be aware that the questionnaires being given to parents and students alike specifically ask about whether homework is set regularly.  Can we afford to ignore this?

Probably not, but I would be happier in a system where the inspection regime were more concerned with the nature and quality of the homework rather than how regularly it is set.

It would be interesting to hear from teachers in schools were homework has been abandoned and who have recently been Ofsteded.... is there anybody out there?

Link to post
Share on other sites

German schools do not yet have inspections so we have not yet been Ofsteded.

I think I follow the same principle as Marco that I onle set homework when it is appropriate. Teaching English as a foreign language of course means that the students have to learn words and do grammar and/or writing exercises at home. It is different with History and Politics where the bulk of work is done in my lessons. Before exams the students are given revision tasks to prepare them for the exams. This does not necessarily mean making them answer or work on many questions. The exams themselves (in History and Politics) are often based on primary or secondary sources which the students have to anlayse and interpret showing their ability e.g. to explain cause and effect, long-term reasons of conflicts etc. Revision then means going through the topics and material of the previous lessons again and rereading notes taken during the lessons.

Link to post
Share on other sites
that homework does more harm than good and that it would be better to get things done in school under the supervision and help of teachers.

I agree, it is the way I have been working for some years now and students get better results. However they also tend to ask more obvious questions like Student: i cannot find the answer. Teacher: have you read your book? Student: book? :ph34r:

Link to post
Share on other sites

Working as I do in the SEN department of an Upper School I find that Homework can be a real nightmare for my students. We operate an after school homework club for those students both SEN and otherwise who wish to stay and have help with their homework.But, they cannot all stay and some indeed find school so difficult all day that they cant wait to get away in the afternoon. Homework tends not to get done as they struggle to do the work without help and in many cases parents cannot help them.This puts a lot of pressure on students who already find school a stressful experience.I can understand that teachers often set work to be completed at home when not finished in class as well as work set specifically for homework but it is not always reasonable to expect some students to be able to do it at home.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like to raise an issue that has come up in another forum to which I subscribe:

What do you think about setting Internet homework? To summarise some of the arguments that have already been raised:

A teacher of French who had been setting Internet homework, i.e. asking her pupils to carry out various tasks on the Web – doing exercises, carrying out research, etc – was stopped from doing so by her headteacher because it assumed that all her pupils were able to afford to buy a computer and pay for Internet access at home. Apparently, this policy is quite common in schools and not just an isolated incident. The teacher argued that it was acceptable to set Internet homework as she made a computer lab available during the lunch hour for pupils who did not have access to a computer and the Internet at home. Another teacher argued that all children have a right to a free lunch hour to recharge their batteries during the middle of the day.

The view that I expressed is that it should not be assumed that everyone has access to newer technologies, and I recalled that this was certainly the view of the Open University back in the 1970s/1980s when my wife was following an OU degree course. For example, it could not be assumed at the time that every OU student had a videocassette recorder (we didn't – they were too expensive), so videocassettes were not provided as OU course materials, although audiocassettes were.

I also expressed the view that the Internet is not 100% reliable, and there may be technical reasons for Internet homework not being completed. ISPs or websites can suddenly go down just when you need them – which has happened to me on several occasions when working at home and when running ICT training workshops in schools. Recommended websites often move or disappear, and in the early hours of the evening some servers run at a snail’s pace, causing particular problems when you are accessing multimedia materials. Furthermore, if you try to access multimedia materials via a modem (which is how most home users access the Internet) you will probably have a very long wait, e.g. I recall a colleague telling me it took her 25 minutes to download a short video clip via a modem.

On the other hand, there is no reason why children should not be given handouts containing information about useful websites that they can access on a voluntary basis.

Finally, the teacher who raised the issue of Internet homework pointed out that pupils could contact her for support as she had given them her personal email address. Other teachers felt that this was unwise. I recall from my early days of teaching that we were advised by our headteacher not to give out our personal telephone numbers to pupils. I can cite a case of a young male colleague who was constantly telephoned by two infatuated teenage girls at his school and nearly got into trouble as a result. I would have thought that one should exercise caution with email addresses too, where there is the added danger of a pupil sending the teacher a virus. I can cite three cases of teacher trainers having received damaging viruses from trainee teachers who had subscribed for an online course - but then the trainers should have known about making the computers secure against such invasions.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Adrian Dingle
I recall from my early days of teaching that we were advised by our headteacher not to give out our personal telephone numbers to pupils.

Purely FYI: Our school publishes a directory of home and school 'phone numbers, home addresses and spouse's names of all faculty and then distributes them free of charge to every single person (faculty, staff, pupils etc.) in the school. GULP!

Link to post
Share on other sites

In response to Graham's post, I think that the use of internet homework is perfectly valid in just the same way as asking students to carry out 'research' for a project or extended piece of work.

A teacher of French who had been setting Internet homework... was stopped from doing so by her headteacher because it assumed that all her pupils were able to afford to buy a computer and pay for Internet access at home.

Old fashioned 'research' often meant using the school or public library and I don't recall teachers screaming 'unfair' at that idea, or suggesting that children were disadvantaged because they didn't have a supply of reference books at home!

I have asked KS4 students to use the internet to do both research work and to complete online exercises that I have written myself (if anyone wants to have a go there is a site called www.4teachers.org). They have completed the work with a good deal of interest as it is a bit different to paper exercises often set. It has also been done by the majority of the class without the usual amount of chasing up!

The teacher argued that she made a computer lab available during the lunch hour for pupils.

The provision of in school study facilities for students has been going on ever since I started teaching - why should provision of internet access be any different? In addition, many public libraries now have internet access for people to use as well!

Another teacher argued that all children have a right to a free lunch hour to recharge their batteries during the middle of the day.

So why, at break and lunch times, do so many of our children rush to the school library with all its books and computer facilities? Agreed that children need to 'recharge their batteries' but they have different ways of doing that - just as teachers do!

As long as the facilities for carrying out internet homeworks are made available at suitable times during and after the school day I see no reason why they should not be set, thus providing a wider variety of meaningful activities to add to the repertoire of study skills needed for lifelong learning.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...