Professional Opinions On Homework

THE hours young Australian students spend studying at home could be doing them more harm than good, according to a new book by two leading education academics.

Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies - co-authored by Professors Mike Horsley and Richard Walker from CQUniversity and Sydney University - has weighed into a century old debate about whether homework in itself is actually beneficial for kids.

The book suggests primary school students need more challenging homework to give them some autonomy and control.

Noosa-based CQ University's Prof Horsley said he hoped the book educated teachers, students, parents and policy makers about how to get the most out of homework.

"The value and effectiveness of homework depends on its quality," he said.

"Students benefit from homework that is well prepared, interesting and challenging, but not overtaxing.

"On the other hand, homework that is repetitive, boring, too easy or difficult for students does not contribute to new learning."

Prof Horsley said overseas studies had found students who did the most homework on international exams performed the worst, while those who did the least performed the best.

"We're not saying homework should be abolished, just reformed and refined," Prof Horsley said.

For mother of five Amanda Jessop, homework has been a pet peeve since her first child hit Year 2.

"When you have four kids who are at school at the same time and you're trying to help them with their homework each night it can become difficult," Ms Jessop said.

The mother admitted she was not a fan of homework and said she didn't see the point of more study outside of school hours.

"I think when they come home after school they are not switched on and don't really want to study for another hour or two," she said.

Amanda's 12-year-old daughter Chloe is in Year 7 and does not look forward to homework after school.

As for providing a solution to the issue, Amanda believes study halls should be available to students who want to do their homework while they are at school.

"Sometimes parents fall into the trap of doing their children's homework, which defeats the purpose of homework altogether," she said.

But Amanda believes home reading is beneficial.


Education Queensland's homework policy

Prep: No homework assigned.

Year 1-3: One hour a week.

Year 4+:Homework can be set daily.

Year 4-5:Up to, but not more than, 2-3 hours a week.

Year 6-7: Up to, but not more than, 3-4 hours a week.

Year 8-9:Up to, but not more than, five hours a week.

Education Queensland Homework Policy (Sept 2007)


Reader poll

What grade do you think students should start doing homework?

This poll ended on 23 November 2012.

Current Results

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.


Does homework help? Only if it's the right homework, expert says

By Jonathan Hepburn and Paige Cockburn

Posted August 24, 2016 19:47:50

Homework is not useless but its quality is far more important than quantity and schools should think very carefully about why they are setting it, an education expert at the University of South Australia says.

Over the past week an anti-homework note sent to parents by a teacher in Forth Worth, Texas, has spread around the world after being posted to Facebook by a parent.

"After much research this summer, I am trying something new," the note from Mrs Brandy Young, which has been shared more than 70,000 times, says.

"Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year."

The note goes on to say that research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance.

Instead, Mrs Young urges parents to spend their evenings doing things like reading together, playing outside, and getting their children to bed early, which "are proven to correlate with student success."

Not surprisingly, the note was posted to Facebook with the comment "Brooke is loving her new teacher already!"

External Link: Facebook no-homework note

Good homework is 'purposeful, specific, and reinforces learning'

However, "she's not quite right," says Brendan Bentley, a PhD candidate and lecturer in the Education Department of the University of South Australia.

In 2006, a review of American research conducted between 1987 and 2003 found that "there was generally consistent evidence for a positive influence of homework on achievement."

The review, led by Dr Harris Cooper of Duke University, found that evidence was stronger for students in grades seven to 12 than for kindergarten to grade six, and for when students, rather than parents, reported how much time they spent doing homework.

On the other hand, in 2013, Australian academics Richard Walker and Mike Horsley published Reforming Homework, in which they reviewed international research and found that for young primary school children, homework is of little or no value and students are regularly given too much.

The issue is that although if you do something more often you get better at it, you have to be doing the right thing in the first place.

"Homework has to be purposeful, specific, and reinforce learning. If it's just to finish work, that may not help the student at all," Mr Bentley said.

In fact, too much homework can be worse than useless: It can be detrimental.

"For students in grades three or four, more than 20 minutes of homework can exhaust them. They go into cognitive load, and their ability to learn goes into a decline," Mr Bentley said.

"They can develop a negative attitude towards learning. It's about getting the balance right."

Cognitive load refers to the total amount of mental effort being used: a heavy cognitive load creates errors or interference.

That 20 minutes is not a guideline for each day: "There needs to be a good argument for having homework every single night," Mr Bentley said.

"Schools have to understand why they are giving homework. Without a good purpose and a rationale: Reconsider it."

He says that homework can be ramped up as students get older, but even in grade 10, research shows that, "if it's more than an hour, it's a waste of time."

Designing effective homework also depends upon how much the student is able to learn.

"Adults can learn about seven things at a time. For young children, that's maybe two or three," Mr Bentley said. "You only need 20 minutes to reinforce that."

However, he says the benefits of homework are not just about reinforcing learning, and that if it does not turn students off, it can teach important study habits.

He agrees that family time and relaxation can be more important than homework.

"Developing good habits and attitudes through interaction with parents can be good — every time you interact with your children, you are teaching assumptions," he said.

On the other hand, too much homework can lead to conflicts with parents.

"Parents are keen for their children to be the best, so they may ask about homework, and may do it for their children, which defeats the purpose," Mr Bentley said.

Topics:education, children, secondary-schools, primary-schools, schools, youth, australia

Key points:

  • Academics agree that too much homework can harm learning
  • Good homework is 'purposeful, specific, and reinforces learning'
  • Time spent with family after school can be more important than more study
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