Why Homework Does not Promote Learning

Posted by at 8:50AM

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While procrastinating on a Biochem problemset, I ran across this interesting article published in Education Week that I think sums up what many of us think about homework: It’s just not that useful. The article explains how most studies barely have any correlation between homework and test scores in high school, and in fact a negative correlation for students in elementary school. In the 1994 and 1999 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study featuring data from 50 countries, researches stated:

“Not only did we fail to find any positive relationships,” but “the overall correlations between national average student achievement and national averages in [amount of homework assigned] are all negative.”

Yet we keep assigning it in our schools and the amount has been steadily increasing in the past number of years. The article tries to explain this phenomenon with the idea that “homework = practice = learning”. But we’ve all experienced those moments when doing stupid worksheets and extra problems where we think “this is not teaching me ANYTHING”.

“Supporters of homework rarely look at things from the student’s point of view, though; instead, kids are regarded as inert objects to be acted on: Make them practice and they’ll get better. My argument isn’t just that this viewpoint is disrespectful, or that it’s a residue of an outdated stimulus-response psychology. I’m also suggesting it’s counterproductive. Children cannot be made to acquire skills. They aren’t vending machines such that we put in more homework and get out more learning.”

What do you think – is homework valuable?
The Truth about Homework

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5 Responses to “Why Homework Does not Promote Learning”

  1. David says:

    Some homework assignments have been very, very valuable to me. Others, not so much. I think it depends a great deal on the assignment. In general, rote applications are not too great once you’ve gone through it just once.

  2. masaru says:

    i agree with david. math homework, for example, is invaluable. physics too, if you actually get the material (that’s another story…). little writing assignments not so much; only in the sense that they get you to remember the material better.

  3. Rachel says:

    I am doing a persuasive speech that is on homework and everything says homework is good… i think some assignments are good but some of these worksheets don`t even help you i believe they are a waste of time…

  4. Tom says:

    Great post! We try and do our bit for education especially homework by informing schools of new and existing learning strategies

  5. Ginny says:

    Homework is not useful because if you don’t know what the assignment is on, then you are just re-enforcing bad habits, while if you do know what it is on, there is no need to continue doing it because you will lose time at home to do other things.

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