Additionally, the hours of homework that result from this false sense of obligation in some teachers leads to another negative effect on learning: less actual thought put into assignments. National school reform leader Deborah Meier, also in an article titled “The homework load: Is it time for reform?” said, “A lot of homework just isn’t done. And of those who are doing it, a lot of them are doing it half-asleep and lazily, just completing the work without giving it a lot of heed.” Thus, teachers should let go of the notion that more homework necessarily corresponds to more learning.
Education should occur outside of school as well; students need to exercise, unwind, socialize, and spend time with family. Educator Alfie Kohn writes, “The negative effects of homework… include children’s 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.” Homework should never be seen as the most valuable use of student’s time outside of school.
Lastly, according to Kohn, “At the high school level, the correlation [between whether children do homework and any meaningful measure of achievement] is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied.” So aside from the negative effects of homework, the actual benefits may not be as meaningful as some educators believe. Kohn’s argument is indeed radically different from traditional views of education, but it seems clear that the positive effects of homework are worth reconsidering.
So perhaps the old saying “practice makes perfect” has been taken to an extreme in our schools. But this begs the question: What, if anything at all, should homework be?
Meier argues that homework should only be assigned to “to extend learning in ways best suited for outside the classroom.” Occasional extensions of learned material do seem reasonable, and as a student myself, I would add that homework as a means of preparing for class lessons and doing class readings, solidifying learned concepts, and perhaps even simultaneously preparing for real-world work loads can certainly be valuable as well.
As Eastside Catholic’s math teacher Danielle Maletta put it, “Most learning can and should involve understanding of concepts rather than repetition of processes. If you can do a math problem five times, you can do it 30 times. And doing something five times in class with instructor help is far better than doing it 30 times incorrectly at home.” Indeed, level of homework and level of learning do not go hand in hand.