Does it seem to assume that children are meaning makers — or empty vessels? . Is learning regarded as a process thats mostly active or passive? . Is it about wrestling with ideas or mindlessly following directions? Ultimately, its not enough dissertation just to have less homework or even better homework. . we should change the fundamental expectation in our schools so that students are asked to take schoolwork home only when a theres a reasonable likelihood that a particular assignment will be beneficial to most of them. . When thats not true, they should be free to spend their after-school hours as they choose. . The bottom line: no homework except on those occasions when its truly necessary. . This, of course, is a reversal of the current default state, which amounts to an endorsement of homework for its own sake, regardless of the content, a view that simply cant be justified. Find out what students think of homework and solicit their suggestions perhaps by distributing anonymous questionnaires. .
Quantity, however, is not the only issue that needs to be addressed. . Some assignments, frankly, arent worth even five minutes of a students time. . too many first graders are forced to clip words from magazines that begin with a given letter of the alphabet. . too many fifth graders have to color in an endless list of factor pairs on graph paper. . too many eighth graders spend their evenings inching their way through dull, overstuffed, committee-written textbooks, one chapter at a time. . teachers should be invited to reflect on whether any given example of homework will help students think deeply about questions that matter. . What philosophy of teaching, what theory of learning, lies behind each assignment? .
Thus, even if it did provide other benefits, they would have to be weighed against its likely effect on kids love of learning. so whats a thoughtful principal to do? Educate yourself and share what youve learned with teachers, parents, and central office administrators. Make sure you know what the research really says that there is no reason to believe that children would be at any disadvantage in terms of their and academic learning or life skills if they had much less homework, or even none at all. . Whatever decisions are made should be based on fact rather than folk wisdom. Rethink standardized homework policies. Requiring teachers to give a certain number of minutes of homework every day, or to make assignments on the same schedule every week (for example, x minutes of math on tuesdays and Thursdays) is a frank admission that homework isnt justified by a given lesson.
Such policies sacrifice thoughtful instruction in order to achieve predictability, and they manage to do a disservice not only to students but, when imposed from above, to teachers as well. Reduce the amount but dont stop there. Many parents are understandably upset with how much time their children have to spend on homework. . At a minimum, make sure that teachers arent paper exceeding district guidelines and that they arent chronically underestimating how long it takes students to complete the assignments. . (As one mother told me, its cheating to say this is 20 minutes of homework if only your fastest kid can complete it in that time.) Then work on reducing the amount of homework irrespective of such guidelines and expectations so that families, not schools.
Later on well figure out what to make them. Ive heard from countless people across the country about the frustration they feel over homework. . Parents who watch a torrent of busywork spill out of their childrens backpacks wish they could help teachers understand how the cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros. . And teachers who have long harbored doubts about the value of homework feel pressured by those parents who mistakenly believe that a lack of afterschool assignments reflects an insufficient commitment to academic achievement. . Such parents seem to reason that as long as their kids have lots of stuff to do every night, never mind what it is, then learning must be taking place.
What parents and teachers need is support from administrators who are willing to challenge the conventional wisdom. . They need principals who question the slogans that pass for arguments: that homework creates a link between school and family (as if there werent more constructive ways to make that connection! or that it reinforces what students were taught in class (a word that denotes the repetition of rote behaviors, not the development of understanding or that it teaches children self-discipline and responsibility (a claim for which absolutely no evidence exists). Above all, principals need to help their faculties see that the most important criterion for judging decisions about homework (or other policies, for that matter) is the impact theyre likely to have on students attitudes about what theyre doing. . Most of what homework is doing is driving kids away from learning, says education professor Harvey daniels. . Lets face it: Most children dread homework, or at best see it as something to be gotten through. .
For starters, there mba is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school. . For younger students, in fact, there isnt even a correlation between whether children evernote do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement. . At the high school level, the correlation is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied. . meanwhile, no study has ever substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study habits. More homework is being piled on children despite the absence of its value. Over the last quarter-century the burden has increased most for the youngest children, for whom the evidence of positive effects isnt just dubious; its nonexistent. Its not as though most teachers decide now and then that a certain lesson really ought to continue after school is over because meaningful learning is so likely to result from such an assignment that it warrants the intrusion on family time. Homework in most schools isnt limited to those occasions when it seems appropriate and important. . Rather, the point of departure seems to be: weve decided ahead of time that children will have to do something every night (or several times a week). .
After spending most of the day in school, children are essay typically given additional assignments to be completed at home. . This is a rather curious fact when you stop to think about it, but not as curious as the fact that few people ever stop to think about. It becomes even more curious, for that matter, in light of three other facts:. . The negative effects of homework are well known. They include childrens frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning. . Many parents lament the impact of homework on their relationship with their children; they may also resent having to play the role of enforcer and worry that they will be criticized either for not being involved enough with the homework or for becoming too involved. The positive effects of homework are largely mythical. In preparation for a book on the topic, ive spent a lot of time sifting through the research. . The results are nothing short of stunning. .
watching shadows on the wall. I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. No longer riding on the merry-go-round. Ah, people asking questions lost in confusion. Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if i've lost my mind. Principal, january/February 2007, by Alfie kohn, for a more detailed look at the issues discussed here — including a comprehensive list of citations to relevant research and a discussion of successful efforts to effect change please see the book.
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