Too Much Homework?

A recent controversy about how useful homework, a basic staple of modern education, is in terms of elementary education. On one side of the argument, homework does not improve academic achievement and takes valuable family time away from students; on the other, the actual amount of homework taken home by students is not significant (except in some extreme cases), especially in elementary school (Evans, 2005). My belief about homework is that it has its place, but not in the way traditional homework is thought of.

During my elementary years, homework generally consisted of worksheets or problem sets out of a textbook. While it provides extra practice, this type of work is most beneficial when students have an adult or someone else who knows the work around to help. At home, this is not always consistent, whereas at school it is. One concept I find interesting is the idea of the flipped classroom, where students have the opportunity to watch or preview a “lecture” or a textbook at home, and at school use the class time to practice the new skill or work with the teacher on problems that they would struggle with at home on their own. This allows the teacher to spend extra time with struggling students, see which students are doing well, and which students may need a challenge (which he or she can then devise during class time rather than time at home).

I do not believe removing homework completely is entirely necessary in all grades, but I also agree that 3 hours of homework a night is excessive for any student. In an elementary classroom, homework best serves the purpose of connecting learning with school time and home time, and preparing students for higher levels of work and thinking. It also allows them to see that learning doesn’t have to take place in only the classroom, and lets them draw connections between what they are learning and their own lives. However, one concern with homework is that it “punishes students in poverty for being poor” (Kralovec and Buell, 2001). Where many students have educated parents with time and resources to help, it is often the case where students go home to single parents with little time, or parents with fewer financial resources to help, no internet, or a difficult home life. These students deserve their education just as much as the former example, but they may not have the resources or time to complete their homework, and may fall behind. Here again I believe the flipped classroom concept could be beneficial, as long as the teacher comes up with an individual plan for the students with no access to internet. This could be some time set aside during the day to let them watch or listen to a lecture in class, printed resources (which other students may print on their own or read online), or, if possible, a school device they are allowed to borrow to complete their schoolwork.

Homework, while not something that should be endless repetition of the school day, does have its place in the elementary classroom, if taken into careful consideration. There doesn’t need to be homework every day, and sometimes it may be something as simple as “try this at home with your parents” or “log the pages of any books you read”. Homework doesn’t have to be impossible, or endless, and I think it can be really valuable as a preview for what students will be learning the next day.

Kralovec, E., Buell, J. (2001). End homework now. Evans, D. (2005). Taking sides: Clashing views on controversial issues in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkind.

Evans, D. (2005). Taking sides: Clashing views on controversial issues in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkind.