Does homework still make sense?

Has homework had its day?

Some experts insist that it simply stresses students and their families, but others believe homework that is relevant, age-appropriate and engaging can instil good habits and enhance learning.

A Melbourne psychologist adds that its image could improve with a new name such as ‘research’ or ‘investigation’.

What the research says

Internationally, research has found some benefits to homework in secondary school, but less so at primary level. A 2014 Inquiry into the Approaches to Homework in Victorian Schools final report found Australian research was limited.

“Much of the evidence about the positive effects of homework on non-academic skills development such as responsibility, self-discipline and motivation, is intuitive or anecdotal,” it found.

There were benefits: “Despite the potential for homework to create tension within families, the evidence … suggested strongly that parents have a vital role to play in their child’s learning and that successful schools see education as a collaborative process between the student, parent and the school.”

Leading University of Melbourne education expert Professor John Hattie also told the inquiry that regardless of time spent on homework, quality was key. “It is what you do in that time that really matters,” he said.

The expert

Clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller, a Fellow of the Department of Learning and Educational Development at the University of Melbourne, says homework is beneficial if relevant and engaging

Andrew says that like housework, the word ‘homework’ has negative connotations and should be changed to ‘research’ or ‘investigation’. He says it should involve independent work that compliments classroom learning.

For example, upper primary students could research a sustainability or Indigenous affairs topic for a class discussion. Or they could investigate gaming, dinosaurs or even how to make origami.

Andrew says parents can be involved as collaborators and older students can conduct ‘pre-work’ research on topics, such as cells in biology, to give them a head start in the classroom.

“We live in a world where independent research skills are incredibly important,” he says. “Kids are quite capable. Giving them the chance to do independent research and investigation outside school is good.”

What the government says

All Australian states and territories have their own homework policy. For example, the Victorian Government says homework is part of a comprehensive and balanced curriculum, and a way of supporting and fostering life-long learning and connecting families with children’s learning.

Its homework guidelines promote study habits and the importance of level-appropriate homework.

Schools must have a documented approach to homework that considers the personal and developmental needs of students.

 

Good homework policy involves: 

  • communication between teachers and students and parents/carers 
  • content related to what is taught in the classroom 
  • an element of challenge
  • individualised activities/plans aligning with individualised learning styles and abilities
  • prompt, appropriate assessment and feedback.

Source: education.vic.gov.au

 

Good homework:

  • avoids rote learning
  • is described as ‘research’ or ‘investigation’ rather than homework
  • requires students to conduct independent research and think independently
  • fosters creativity
  • covers interesting topics relevant to the curriculum
  • can generate rich class discussion
  • can involve ‘pre-work’ for complex topics to be covered in class
  • can involve collaboration with parents.
Source: Psychologist Andrew Fuller, andrewfuller.com.au

 

Years      What good homework looks like
     Foundation to 4
  • Can foster a sense of self-discipline and responsibility and prepare students for upper grades
  • Extends classwork by practising skills or gathering extra information/materials
  • Mainly daily reading to, with, and by parents/carer or older siblings
     5 to 9 
  • Should include daily independent reading
  • Is coordinated across learning areas to avoid unreasonable workloads
  • May extend class word, projects and assignments, essays and research
     10 to 12
  • As a general guide, Years 10-12 would be expected to require 1-3 hours per weeknight with up to six hours on weekends during peak VCE periods.


State-specific homework guidelines are as follows:


Useful links:

 

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