The Homework Debate

The Homework Debate

By Nancy Mikhail

The ‘homework debate’ has existed for years. Because there are many varying ideas from teachers, guidelines from districts, and school restrictions, there hasn’t been an agreed upon decision on just how much is enough. Sarah Caspari, staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor, writes about how students are given more homework than the National Education Association (NEA) advises with in her article, “How much homework is too much?”

Caspari states that students are “doing three times as much homework as is recommended.” Kindergartners, who are not supposed to have any homework, according to the NEA, have at least 25 minutes of homework per night. The NEA suggests that students start with 10 minutes of homework at 1st grade, then increase to 10 minute increments for each grade level thereafter.

Based on my experiences observing other teachers and even the homework I’ve assigned to my own students, this is not necessarily the case. Students are receiving much more homework than the recommended amount. Sometimes some of the work is busy work that students have to do. For example, elementary school students are, at times, assigned spelling packets, which sometimes require them to repetitiously spell out the assigned words for that week.

Does that sort of assignment really help students?

According to Caspari, some experts suggest that teachers assign students practical assignments instead of worksheets. These assignments may include building a structure of some sort or application of a real life experience, such as balancing a checkbook.

This idea sounds wonderful because it makes the most sense – assign students practical assignments so they can be more equipped for the future. While it sounds great, in reality this may be difficult for some students who lack the necessary support from their parents. If parents are unable to really help their children succeed with homework assignments. These types of assignments may increase stress amongst students, parents, and teachers.

My advice: find a good balance.

Homework should always be an opportunity for students to practice the skills taught in the classroom. Homework is a way to assess for understanding and solidify students’ knowledge of a particular subject. On a personal level, I found that math homework really helped me as a student. I am a kinesthetic learner, meaning I had to work the problems myself in order to understand the solution. If I had a question about a problem, I’d ask the teacher the next day.

I believe that’s how it should be. Students should not be punished for turning in incomplete homework assignments because they did not understand it. Homework should be a way for them to practice their skills. It’s important that teachers scaffold student learning while providing room for independent student growth and learning. In addition, teachers should inform parents (especially within the elementary grades) of exactly what you expect from the students when assigning a project. I am a big proponent of project-based learning and assigning students practical assignments. I believe students will learn best this way.