The debate over homework rages on.
In response to an Opinion essay by a teacher titled “What Do You Mean My Kid Doesn’t Have Homework?”, many Facebook users took to the comments section to voice their perspectives on whether assigning homework is outdated and unnecessary—especially during a pandemic—or whether it’s a critical step to cultivating learning.
The benefits of homework have long been disputed, especially at the elementary school level. In 2018, Marva Hinton wrote about how homework was assigned at early grades and the potential effects on these young students. Some schools embraced homework, like Arlington Traditional School, a countywide elementary school in Arlington, Va., where kindergartners were expected to complete a minimum of 30 minutes of homework a night, Monday through Thursday. But some teachers such as Cathy Vatterott, a professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the author of Rethinking Homework worried that adjusting to school routines combined with homework could sour young students on school.
But what about the benefits for older students? In a 2019 article, Education Week Assistant Editor Stephen Sawchuk unpacked the results of a Center for American Progress analysis, which found that while much of the homework assigned to the students in the study aligned with the Common Core State Standards, it did not contribute to building more difficult skills called for in the standards, like analyzing or extending their knowledge to new problems.
Beyond considering the efficacy of homework, the debate over how much time students should spend daily on take-home assignments dates back to the early 1900s. The public furor even led some state lawmakers to ban homework entirely at one point. Multiple studies over the years have examined different angles of the homework debate, including just how much homework students were assigned. In 2003, a pair of national studies found that most American students spent less than an hour daily on homework, and the workload was no bigger than it was 50 years prior.
“There is this view in the popular media that there has been this terrible burden of homework on children, and that the homework is increasing,” said Tom Loveless, the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution to Education Week’s Debra Viadero in a 2003 article. “That is not the case.”
Fast-forward to the present, teachers and students alike might find themselves at another crossroads in the homework debate. The pandemic brought with it the advent of strategies like “flipped learning”, which relies heavily on homework as an integral component of the lesson. While this might work for some, many students grew weary of the reliance on homework during remote and hybrid learning. This is on top of the potential equity issues arising from lack of internet access affecting students’ ability to complete the steady stream of homework being assigned, and the uptick in mental health issues in students.
So what do teachers really think about homework? Here’s what they had to say in response to the recently resurfaced essay by Samantha Hulsman.
Some agree that at its core, homework is practice, which is a needed element to achieving learning.
Others aren’t as convinced it’s actually a good tool for assessing comprehension.