Monday, 19 March 2007

Making homework work

At the end of my first year of being a teacher I had so many unmarked piece s of paper to return to students that it was impossible to make any sense of it. I learnt an important lesson, homework is not just work for the student, it is work for the teacher. Since becoming a parent I have learnt also that it is work for the parent. [At one stage at a previous school, I think when our eldest was in year 5 or 6, they were given a project {projects are another story too} and there really was a competition between parents to see whose would be the best...I felt vaguely embarrassed as I had refused to do K's project, other parents were less bashful..but to what avail]
And so the debate rages on, what is the point of homework?
An interesting summary of a recent article in The Age goes like this:

The academic

There is no conclusive evidence that homework leads to higher academic results, or that encouraging children to study at a young age leads to good study habits in later years, says Jacinta Cashen (left), who has just completed research on homework at RMIT University.
Parents groups
Tasmania: "If homework is not beneficial, I don't think we should be having it," says the president of Tasmanian State School Parents and Friends, Jenny Branch.
Victoria: Supports homework so long as each school has a policy, developed with parents, teachers and students, says executive director of Parents Victoria, Gail McHardy.
The US author
Reasons given for homework, such as higher academic achievement, are not substantiated by research, says Alfie Kohn, author of the new book The Homework Myth.
The principal
Homework develops attributes such as self-discipline, planning and the ability to work independently, says Shelford Anglican Girls' Grammar principal Pam Chessell.
Rachel AustinThe classroom teacher
Homework is quiet, contemplative time that is great for reviewing work away from a class full of other noisy students, says Camberwell High School year level co-ordinator Richard Geddes.
The psychologist
Homework instils a sense of resilience and responsibility, says Evelyn Field.
The student
Homework can be tough, but is mostly fun, says Rachel (right), in year 6 at Toorak Primary School.

I well remember, too, a colleague of mine (both poarents trained and practicisng teachers) complaining to their uppper-bracket State primary school teacher that their Year 3 kids(7-8) were getting too much homework. The reply of the teacher? "I agree with you, but for every one of you who complains there is too much, there are 10 who say there is not enough!"

This about says it all, teachers by and large don't believe in homework they rather bow to public pressure!
The only argument that seems to have any force for me is that it may encourage individuals to work independently, though I am inclined to believe that it is probably better to encourage them to have a hobby, or a sport, or music which is largely self-directed than to impose something that seems like exactly what they have been doing at school.

The major factor against is the sheer weight of stuff that a 13 year old has to do. S is both musical and interested in science and technology. She likes sport and is a real team player.
School starts at 8.30-8.45 and finishes at 3.40. So she already has a 7 hour commitment in formal time.
This is before you count the fact that she catches the bus...on a normal day she does this at 8 a.m. and gets home at 4.30 so add another hour. So that's 40 hours just to get there and back each week.
BUT remember I said she likes 3 days a week she has choir which means she starts school at add another 3 hours. She has a cello lesson during school (45 mins) and Bell Practice (45 mins) she give up 90 mins of her free time. And she only manages orchestra by alternating one of her choir rehearsals. This kid is no slouch.
AND YET MORE... she would go to Science Club (45 mins before school) but now it clashes with a choir and orchestra.
AND SHE DOES GO ... to IT Club for 90 mins after school on the worst day of the week (yes it's Thursday when she should go to Orchestra/Choir and can't go to Science Club) so she has stared at 7.54 and finished at 5.15.


Thank goodness that we don't have cows to milk at home!

This week she is having an easy time as she is on camp on KI. This only meant being at school at 6 a.m....she will not be back till Friday at 3.30 p.m.

And they want to give them homework!!!

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