Homework And Parents

Certainly, young children are still developing skills that enable them to focus on the material at hand and study efficiently.

Teachers’ goals for their students are also quite different in elementary school as compared to secondary school.

Allison, a mother of two middle-school girls from an affluent Boston suburb, describes a frenetic afterschool scenario: “My girls do gymnastics a few days a week, so homework happens for my 6th grader after gymnastics, at p.m. My 8th grader does her homework immediately after school, up until gymnastics.

She eats dinner at and then goes to bed, unless there is more homework to do, in which case she’ll get to bed around 10.” The girls miss out on sleep, and weeknight family dinners are tough to swing.

As the educational psychologist Lyn Corno wrote more than two decades ago, “homework is a complicated thing.” Most research on the homework-achievement connection is correlational, which precludes a definitive judgment on its academic benefits.

Researchers rely on correlational research in this area of study given the difficulties of randomly assigning students to homework/no-homework conditions.

Contrary to previous findings, researchers reported a stronger relationship between homework and achievement in the elementary grades than in middle school.

As the study authors note, one explanation for this finding could be that in elementary school, teachers tend to assign more homework in math than in other subjects, while at the same time assigning shorter math tasks more frequently.

Why, then, should we burden young children and their families with homework if there is no academic benefit to doing it?These findings suggest a causal relationship, but they are limited in scope.Within the body of correlational research, some studies report a positive homework-achievement connection, some a negative relationship, and yet others show no relationship at all. Researchers point to a number of possible factors, such as developmental issues related to how young children learn, different goals that teachers have for younger as compared to older students, and how researchers define homework.But in families of limited means, it’s often another story.Many low-income parents value homework as an important connection to the school and the curriculum—even as their children report receiving little homework.Overall, high-school students relate that they spend less than one hour per day on homework, on average, and only 42 percent say they do it five days per week.In one recent survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a minimal 13 percent of 17-year-olds said they had devoted more than two hours to homework the previous evening (see Figure 1).Indeed, perhaps it would be best, as some propose, to eliminate homework altogether, particularly in these early grades.On the contrary, developmentally appropriate homework plays a critical role in the formation of positive learning beliefs and behaviors, including a belief in one’s academic ability, a deliberative and effortful approach to mastery, and higher expectations and aspirations for one’s future.While teachers at both levels note the value of homework for reinforcing classroom content, those in the earlier grades are more likely to assign homework mainly to foster skills such as responsibility, perseverance, and the ability to manage distractions. Might a focus on homework in a specific subject shed more light on the homework-achievement connection?A recent meta-analysis did just this by examining the relationship between math/science homework and achievement.

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