The argument against homework is gaining traction among many school districts and parent groups. Proponents of “no homework policies” argue that extra assignments do not improve student outcomes (i.e., standardized test scores). Research studies indicate there is no correlation between academic achievement and homework.

Why this is true; many of these groups miss the point of the purpose of homework.

Homework is not an assessment; it is practice. It provides students with an opportunity to replicate or apply skills or concepts in order to master grade-level content. Think of homework as a type of “cognitive training” to refine a student’s intellectual knowledge and application of grade- level content. The more opportunities a student gets to practice the better he or she will achieve grade- level proficiency.

Because homework is practice, it is not meant to be graded.

Remember, students are completing homework “to get better” at mathematics, English, and science. When educators grade homework, they are determining a “final -grade” on preliminary knowledge. The schoolwork being assessed is not a student best effort, but his or her initial attempt at learning a concept or a skill. It is an inaccurate measure of what a student knows, understands, and is able to apply.

Instead, teachers ought to use summative tests or final projects to determine a final grade. These types of assessments determine what students have learned at the end of a unit of instruction or at the end of a grade level (e.g., through grade-level, standardized assessments). Summative assessment helps determine to what extent the instructional and learning goals have been met. Homework is not able to provide this level of information. It’s only purpose is to help students review and repeat applications to improve or maintain their proficiency.

How homework is being implemented by school districts shapes parents’ and students’ perception.

Which is often a negative impression. A common complaint among parents and students is that a majority of these assignments tend to be too long or disjointed. Many feel that homework is no more than busy work. This perception fuels the anti-homework movement.

Changing this sentiment is difficult, but it can be done through design. For homework to make a cognitive difference in a student’s learning experience, it must be meaningful and coherent.

Homework tasks should center on one particular learning exercise or topic. Its goal should be to help students attain mastery of the content or skills being taught in the classroom. Every assignment should only take 20-30 minutes to complete.  

It is important that students have a clear understanding of their homework’s instructional or learning purpose. This way students know their assignments are relevant to what they are learning in the classroom.

Homework is good for students if implemented correctly. It’s about quality, not quantity.    

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