Higher Grade Learning Centre

Homework: Quality, Not Quantity

What does the term ‘homework’ mean to you and your child? Does ‘homework’ have a positive or a negative connotation? For some, the word ‘homework’ is associated with the idea that such work is drudgery – a necessary evil of attending school. For others, homework is viewed as a precious opportunity to boost learning.

It is interesting to note that little research evidence links homework directly to achievement. Considerable amounts of research challenges traditional thinking about it. In fact, for elementary schools, studies indicate that traditional homework assignments have little significance on student achievement.

So what does this all mean?

HGLC surmises it as, “The amount of time spent on homework is not as important to student learning as the quality of the homework assignment…”

We have found that younger students learn better, when they are able to discuss their learning and have the guidance of a teacher close at hand.

Parents also play a vital role in supporting their children’s homework endeavours. Organizing a family schedule that gives children a regular time and a set place in the house to do homework is often crucial. So is removing distractions such as TV during their homework sessions. As children progress through school, parents may need to help them by providing access to resources such as the library or the Web in order to retrieve information that may be needed for projects or reports.

Parents, however, should not take over and complete their children’s homework. Too much parental involvement makes children dependent. Not only does this deprive them of the chance to learn from their mistakes but it also gives teachers the false impression that a student has mastered a body of knowledge when, in fact, the child probably needs some extra academic support.

Instead, parents should discuss the assignment with the child and ask probing questions that guide the child towards developing critical thinking skills on the topic at hand.

What are the pros of homework?

Reviewing material covered during the day can help students to better retain new information, and to explore a subject more fully than classroom time permits. Homework also encourages students to study independently, and to learn how to use outside resources such as the library, reference materials and the Internet to do research.

Self-responsibility and time-management skills are cultivated when students complete and hand in an assignment on time, no matter how small. Monitoring homework also helps to stay informed about what students are learning at school and about the objectives of the school curriculum.

What is a quality homework assignment?

  • Reinforces or extends classroom learning;
  • Connects to the “real world”;
  • Reflects specific student needs / interests;
  • Connects to learning goals;
  • Provides students choices to reach learning goals;
  • Helps evaluate understanding;
  • Provides clear expectations for completion;

How can I be supportive?

Discuss homework assignments. Ask questions about the understanding of the assignment and how he or she plans to complete it. Offer to assist with suggestions for achieving homework goals.

How much homework should a student be doing?

The amount of time a student spends on homework depends on many factors. The same assignment may take one student 20 minutes and another student 50 minutes. In intermediate grades and higher, research indicates small amounts of quality homework have the biggest impact on student learning.

Overall, homework can represent a “formal learning opportunity” but it is just the tip of the learning iceberg. Informal learning opportunities can occur whenever and children can learn simply for the sheer joy of learning, whether it be reading books together or participating in sports, music, cooking, or any other extracurricular activity. Parents can set a good example for students by including them in any task that requires thought and effort, and by explaining their actions as they go along.

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