Ditch the Homework!

According to educator Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth, multiple educational studies have found that contrary to our currently accepted thinking about schooling, “all empirical evidence dispels the notion that there is any causal relationship between compulsory homework and increased student achievement. And yet parents and schools attempt to find justifications for its value.” Compulsory homework for students is rarely questioned by school personnel, parents or students. The assumption is that homework is good for you and more is even better.

The idea that homework must be assigned is a premise that is rarely examined by the school establishment or parents. Why should it be explored?

  • There is sufficient empirical and practical evidence that homework actually detracts from the concept of quality work.
  • Most kids deplore receiving homework and it tends to detract from developing curiosity and a love of learning.
  • Teachers complain about the lack of compliance they get from students in completing homework. This reality typically creates an oppositional pattern with students.
  • Parents complain about the way in which homework prevents their children from engaging in family-related activities, but rarely inform the school of their concern.
  • Parents feel pressured to involve themselves in directly instructing their children over content they know little about. Invariably, this issue creates power-struggles at home.
  • There is no evidence that spending more time on schoolwork or homework actually leads to increased achievement. The issue of quality taking precedence over quantity is missed.
  • Homework puts enormous stress on students as they try to balance various activities in their life.
  • Schools are providing homework to students at earlier ages, starting with worksheets in kindergarten and pre-school.

According to William Glasser, psychiatrist, educational consultant and author of The Quality School, the way to solve the homework problem is to drastically reduce compulsory homework and emphasize the importance of quality class work. Students should be taught to evaluate their own work and be given the opportunity to raise their grades by improving it. Students should be encouraged to take their work home to re-evaluate its quality and most students would do this without question.

Currently, most students do homework because they are supposed to, not because they want to or consider the work meaningful or relevant to their experience. Compulsory homework promotes a climate in which students, parents and teachers lose respect for the educational system. Coercive approaches to gain compliance generally spike, and the opportunity to promote quality work is undermined.

Although the merits of compulsory homework are questionable, student can easily be persuaded to do meaningful homework as an extension of classroom work. For example, students can finish uncompleted assignments or improve classroom work. They may also do tasks such as interviewing people regarding careers, watch educational television programs associated with school themes, do research within the community, volunteer service to the community, or play educational games with family members. There are many enjoyable experiences and games that involve reasoning, problem-solving and logic that may be valuable learning resources.

Schools need to promote academic programs to reflect quality. As psychiatrist William Glasser indicates, quality may be hard to define, “but teachers and students tend to know what it looks like when they see it.” It certainly is not the rote, meaningless, irrelevant busy work that students currently receive in many of our schools. As administrators, school board members and teachers re-evaluate their curriculum and add meaningful, purposeful tasks to the learning experience, quality work will emerge. Students will be more willing to “buy-in” to a program where quality work is the norm, not the exception. Once quality work becomes a commitment and is established in the schools, students will be more likely to adhere to non-compulsory learning experiences that can be accomplished at home.

Author: James P. Krehbiel is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Nationally Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Therapist. His first book, Stepping Out of the Bubble is available at www.booklocker.com. He specializes in working with children and adults experiencing anxiety and depressive disorders. He is the Shrink Rap columnist for TheImproper.com, an upscale news and entertainment resource located in NYC. He has published numerous counseling-related articles, most available via Google searches. He can be reached at:


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