Is homework a necessary part of learning? How much is too much homework? This question arouses a great deal of emotion among parents, teachers, and students. School boards around the country are assessing their homework policies to determine the proper balance. The amount of homework varies widely among school districts and even in within a school. Should homework be the domain of an individual teacher or the province of administrators and school boards?
According to a recent article in the New York Times, a district in New Jersey is considering a proposal “to limit weeknight homework to 10 minutes for each year of school — 20 minutes for second graders, and so forth — and ban assignments on weekends, holidays and school vacations.” Some parents maintain that too much homework doesn’t allow children to play and causes undue stress. Others counter that students should have homework so they can reinforce topics covered in school.
Homework should never be “busy work.” It should have real connection to the day’s lessons. According to Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, “Research has long suggested that homework in small doses can reinforce basic skills and help young children develop study habits, but that there are diminishing returns. The 10-minute guideline has generally been shown to be effective.” Moderation is the key component.
When teachers assign homework, they must review it the next day, so that students understand that their efforts at home are a valuable part of the learning experience. Furthermore, timeliness is essential. Teachers should make every effort to return assignments within a reasonable period.
According to the Times article, “Homework wars have divided communities for over a century. In the 1950s, the Sputnik launching ushered in heavier workloads for American students in the race to keep up with the Soviet Union.” So, the homework wars continue!