Homework might seem like an inevitable part of school, but more and more schools are banning it from their classrooms. Read on to find out the pros and cons of homework bans.
Why Ban Homework?
If you've been keeping up with the latest educational trends, you might have noticed that schools across the United States and Canada have increasingly begun banning homework. Why are educators engaging in this seemingly ''unorthodox'' practice? We've listed the pros and cons of homework bans below for your consideration.
Pros of Homework Bans
1. Homework May Not Improve Academic Outcomes
Unfortunately, as highly debated as homework is, there has been little conclusive or scientific research indicating its effectiveness. One of the few studies to address this question was conducted in 2006 and was, in fact, a meta-analysis of previous experiments. The analysis identified some correlation between homework and achievement, which was stronger for 7th graders and up than for students below the 6th grade. However, it also acknowledged design flaws in all of the experiments it analyzed and recommended further research on the topic. Note that the correlation it did find was not equivalent to causation.
2. Homework Causes Stress and Burnout
Surveys about homework tend to point to one specific issue: stress. One Canadian survey (2009) found that 23% of elementary school teachers and 45% of high school teachers saw signs of homework-related stress in their students. Another survey, conducted by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), of at-risk high school students found that the inability to complete homework was often cited as a factor in the decision to drop out of school. But you don't need studies to tell you what you can see for yourself, whether you're a student, educator, or parent: hours of homework every day on top of a full school schedule and extracurricular activities is a lot to manage, causing some students to experience stress.
3. Homework Disrupts Family Life
A common argument made by schools that enact homework bans is that they want to give their students the opportunity to spend more of their free time with their families. And research does suggest that homework disrupts family life. According to a 1998 survey (as you can see, this debate has been going on for a long time), nearly 50% of parents reported having serious arguments with their children over homework, and 34% reported homework as a source of struggle in the home. Researchers Etta Kralovec and John Buell were particularly concerned that homework time takes away opportunities for parents to impart their own cultural beliefs and skills to their children.
Cons of Homework Bans
1. Homework Fosters Study Skills and Independent Learning
Proponents of keeping homework in schools say that the practice is about more than just reviewing academic content; it also teaches certain important life skills. It takes discipline and responsibility to complete one's homework on time rather than giving into the many distractions available to today's children. And students working on homework by themselves are practicing independent learning, working out problems on their own. The argument proposes that these skills will be invaluable in a student's future educational and occupational endeavors.
2. Homework Gives Parents the Opportunity to Get Involved
One of the top three self-reported reasons teachers have given for assigning homework is ''to show parents what's being learned in school.'' Parents who want to be involved in their children's education have the opportunity to inquire about their homework and review their assignments in order to get a sense not only of what topics are being taught but also of their children's grasp of the topics. Harris Cooper, a Duke University professor and proponent of homework, gives anecdotal evidence of parents realizing their children had learning disabilities only when ''homework revealed it to them.''
3. Homework Tracks Student's Grasp of Academic Content
One of the primary purposes of homework for a teacher is to help assess a student's grasp of the material he or she is learning. While one might argue that in-class assignments and exams can also achieve the same purpose, tests require at-home preparation and create perhaps even more anxiety and stress than homework might. To that end, homework can be a less-pressured way for teachers to assess student progress in a less-demanding context.
To Ban or Not to Ban?
Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to attempt a homework ban, or simply to minimize homework quantity, lies with each individual district and educator. The most important thing is to consider all of the factors at hand, such as the ones outlined above. No matter your stance on homework, most likely we can all agree that some more conclusive research on the topic would be helpful. As of now, in the absence of compelling scientific evidence, the issue seems to be mostly a matter of opinion.
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