Monday, November 24, 2014

About Homework: It's not what you think

What we think about homework is not substantiated by research:

  • It does not improve grades or scores
  • It does not improve character development
What is the research?

From a Review of Current Research Study 
"First, no research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school.

"Was there a correlation between the amount of homework that high school students reported doing and their scores on standardized math and science tests?  Yes, and it was statistically significant but “very modest”:  Even assuming the existence of a causal relationship, which is by no means clear, one or two hours’ worth of homework every day buys you two or three points on a test.  Is that really worth the frustration, exhaustion, family conflict, loss of time for other activities, and potential diminution of interest in learning?  And how meaningful a measure were those tests in the first place, since, as the authors concede, they’re timed measures of mostly mechanical skills? " and "There was no relationship whatsoever between time spent on homework and course grade, and “no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not.”  by Alfie Kohn in Washington Post

Update 1//7/15 Homework and Poverty

North Carolina

"Supporters of homework claim that homework in the elementary grades can develop character traits like self-discipline and time management skills. However, this view lacks solid evidence."
University of Alaska

The main idea: Face Poverty -- this is one link, but the key idea from many sites: to face and accept the realities of poverty. Focus on school work.

From Educational Leadership  ASCD 2001 :

"Homework reinforces the social inequities inherent in the unequal distribution of educational resources in the United States. Some students go home to well-educated parents and have easy access to computers with vast databases. Other students have family responsibilities, parents who work at night, and no educational resources in their homes. A principal once told us that he had solved the homework problem for students in poverty simply by not assigning them homework."

 From Myron Dueck, "Poverty and the Grading of Homework":

To subject students to the grading of standardized, impersonal homework is questionable on so many levels, and I would argue that poverty-related challenges should be at the top of the list.  When any student arrives with incomplete homework, we as educators can never be certain of the reasons.   We should never assume that it is due to a lack of effort, but perhaps a safe assumption is that our most financially-challenged students have faced negative factors well beyond their control.
From the Center for Pubic Education [2007]:
"students from lower-income households may not have as much support at home as those from more affluent families; as a result, homework may not be a valuable learning experience for them."
 "Homework also has potentially negative associations, one involving students' economic status. Some have argued that homework can increase the achievement gap between students from affluent and poor families. High-achieving students who have extra resources from home, they say, benefit from homework because they have more opportunities to complete it and often get help with assignments. Low-achieving students from poor families, on the other hand, suffer due to home circumstances caused by economic deprivation. Such circumstances as parents working several jobs, frequent moves, and crowded homes make it difficult to complete homework or any at-home academic learning (Scott-Jones 1984; McDermott, Goldman, and Varenne 1984). Thus, higher income students who are high achieving gain the most from homework when compared to other high-income or high-achieving students, which begs the question of how much lower-income students—and especially low-achieving lower-income students—can benefit from homework."
This is an extensive and inclusive article, reviewing all areas. The only students for whom research shows a positive effect are students with diagnosed learning disabilities who have parents who work at home with them on specific skills. There are many possible negative impacts, so assign homework with care -- not as unfinished class work, not the same for everyone. It's worthwhile reading.

What can we do for students living in poverty?

From Julia G Thompson's First Year Teacher's Survival Guide:

• Students who live in poverty have not been exposed to broadening experiences such as family vacations, trips to museums, or even eating in restaurants. Spend time adding to their worldly experience if you want poor students to connect their book learning with real-life situations.
• Listen to your disadvantaged students. They need a strong relationship with a trustworthy adult in order to succeed.
• Work to boost the self-esteem of students who live in poverty by praising their school success instead of what they own.
• Provide access to computers, magazines, newspapers, and books so low-income students can see and work with printed materials. School may be the only place where they are exposed to print media.
• Keep your expectations for poor students high. Poverty does not mean ignorance.
• Don’t make comments about your students’ clothes or belongings unless they are in violation of the dress code.
• Students who live in poverty may not always know the correct behaviors for school situations. At home, they may function under a different set of social rules. Take time to explain the rationale for rules and procedures in your classroom.

Homework is not the helpful strategy many believe it is.  Focus on school work.

For students who have not had the advantages of rich experiences and opportunities, we need to provide opportunities to enrich the curriculum with worldly experiences. Remember that many of our students do have homes rich in cultural experiences of many kinds, and many families spend time watching educational shows such as the Discovery Channel. Many learn from YouTube Videos.

The most important strategy is to have rich discussions so those who have had experiences can share and all students can learn from our enrichment activities. Build experiences and vocabulary through enrichment and conversation.

Addendum -- Conversations in the Twitterverse to consider:

 Griffith University
 "Personality traits like conscientiousness and openness are better indicators of long-term academic success"
"The review examined what are known as the five fundamental factors of human personality: conscientiousness, openness, agreeableness, emotional stability, and extraversion. A person's conscientiousness and openness exerted the largest influence over how well they learned new things. "
In searching for strategies that will improve learning, what implications does this information on homework, poverty, 2015, and personality suggest?

Please remember this is a school-related site. Model digital citizenship. Thank you.