This sample paper is an example of Ultius writing services and explores the current state of homework in the United States, gauging its effectiveness, or lack thereof, in developing and molding a young person’s mind. Ask any parent of an elementary student about homework and you will get a range of reactions. Some parents are happy as long as their children stay busy after school. Others bemoan the intrusion on valuable family time. A few of them will roll into a fetal position at the mention of the word “diorama.” This type of document might be found in a parenting magazine or as a childhood development essay assignment.
Just say “No” to homework
Curiously, no one challenges the notion of learning in school unless they have daily homework assignments. If their backpacks start weighing as much as they do, the only ones who will gain anything down the road are chiropractors. Research shows that older students get more out of homework than younger students who learn more through active learning. Children in lower grades should be responsible for reading daily and keeping track of it in a log. Yet despite the fact that this data has been presented in everything from undergraduate essays to doctoral dissertations, it remains relatively unknown.
However, endless worksheets should go the way of the dinosaur for three reasons. First, the research shows that it does not add much value, especially for younger students. If fact, it appears that homework does the opposite. Second, it does not promote independence. Finally, most homework is nothing more than busy work with no rhyme or reason to it.
Where do we see the value of homework?
One of the strongest arguments for homework is that it helps prepare students for the ACT/SAT exams. Administrators and parents alike seem to think that more homework means higher test scores. However, the United States falls behind other countries when it comes to achievement. Since the homework load is so much, should we not be at the top? We are actually far from it. Many countries with the highest scoring students on achievement tests, such as Japan, Denmark, and the Czech Republic, have teachers who assign little homework.
Meanwhile, countries such as Greece, Thailand, and Iran, where students have some of the worst average scores; have teachers who assign a lot of homework. American students do as much homework as their peers in other countries, if not more, but still manage to only score around the international average. (LeTendre) If students are spending the majority of their time after school on homework, why does this country lag so far behind other countries? More importantly, why do the highest scoring countries have the least amount of homework?
There is little value in a child going off for at least an hour to complete a battery of worksheets that forces them to regurgitate whatever they did in school that day. That would be like an adult coming home with a mountain of paperwork to do after a long eight hour day at work. They need their down time as much as grown ups do. Free time plays a key role in fostering both creativity and emotional development, factors just as basic to long term success as academic gains. (Buell) For example, children who participate in after school team sports learn social skills. Does copying twenty spelling words three times each really add that much value? That time could be spent reading or helping out around the home.
The negative effects of homework
There is evidence that supports the argument that homework leads to a reversal of value. The negative effects of homework are well known. They include children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning. (Kohn) High stakes testing puts tremendous strain on children to perform. The added pressure and the demanding workload are unhealthy. The result is students who suffer from anxiety disorders that used to wait until adulthood to rear their ugly heads. No one wants to see anyone suffer, but there is something very unsettling about a fifth grader having a panic attack on the day of a test.
Physical well-being is also affected by excessive homework. With childhood obesity rates increasing, kids need to be more active. They come home from school and raid the refrigerator to arm themselves with a snack to help them soldier through their homework. The only foundation this practice builds is one for health problems down the road, whether it be diabetes or heart disease.
Love of learning comes from other activities
Homework does not instill a love of learning, quite the opposite. Most children dread homework, or at best, see it as something to be gotten through. Thus, even if it did provide other benefits, they would have to be weighed against its likely effect on kids’ love of learning. (Kohn) Furthermore, the younger the student, the less value homework has for them. A research study by Duke University indicates that the age of the student is significant in determining the usefulness of homework.
Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and director of Duke’s Program in Education, said the research synthesis that he led showed the positive correlation was much stronger for secondary students – those in grades 7 through 12 – than those in elementary school. (Gilmer) The main point is that younger children gain more value from real-life applications like a trip to the grocery store than they do bubbling in answers on a homework sheet.
Changing societal norms
Homework should be done independently and younger children struggle with that more because of shorter attention spans. In fact, some children have ADHD and simply cannot concetrate on homework. Some parents even take it upon themselves to do their child’s homework. How is that helping anyone? I once met an administrator who said that the school did not take grades on homework because there was no guarantee that the child did their own work. So why assign it if no grade is taken? It is astonishing that these children labor for hours each week and their efforts may not even count towards their grades.
Homework is assigned mostly because of parent and district expectations. Parents want proof of what their kids are learning at school and districts want proof that they are preparing for those high-stakes standardized tests. It’s not as though most teachers decide now and then that a certain lesson really ought to continue after school is over because meaningful learning is so likely to result from such an assignment that it warrants the intrusion on family time. Homework in most schools isn’t limited to those occasions when it seems appropriate and important. Rather, the point of departure seems to be:
“We’ve decided ahead of time that children will have something to do every night (or several times a week). Later on, we’ll figure out what to make them do.” (Kohn)
There is no particular organization to how assignments are created. Most teachers copy pages from teacher resource books or download worksheets from any number of websites. Most teachers do not take courses specifically on homework during teacher training. In fact, research shows that the great majority are unaware of the research on the problems with homework. (Aloia) This kitchen sink approach to homework is not effective. Students have different needs and a boatload of worksheets is not the way to meet them. Staying busy does not equate to active learning.
We’re a different population today
In summary, the archaic homework practices of today are not building a generation of eager learners. In fact, they are doing more harm to students than people realize. Younger students sacrifice socialization and active play for homework when the research suggests that homework does not give them an advantage. We must acknowledge that homework should be limited to what the students just did not finish during the school day and that it should not last for more than an hour. Research tells us that it does not bring us up to speed with high-performing countries and that it does not benefit younger students.
The argument that homework fosters independence is undermined by parents doing their kids’ homework, which happens more than people care to admit. Also, teachers assign it en masse because that is what is expected. It should be more tailored to student needs and it should not be piled on like a ton of bricks. If homework assignments were shorter and geared more toward student success, there would be more value in doing it. But that is not how homework today is designed. It actually limits academic growth because there is too much of it.
Schools can and must do a better job, but punishing regimes for the children are not the way to go. A modest amount of independent work, say two hours a day, may well be appropriate for high school students, but let’s stop trying to buy school reform on the cheap at the expense of children and their families. Educational reform is a massive beast to tackle and it will not happen overnight. Eliminating homework is a step in the right direction.
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Aloia, Stephen. “Teacher Assessment of Homework.” Academic Exchange Quarterly (Fall 2003).
Buell, John. www.alternet.org. 21 August 2000. 22 10 2012 http://www.alternet.org/story/9682/back_to_school%3A_why_homework_is_bad_for_kids.
Gilmer, Kelly. www.today.duke.edu. 7 March 2006. 22 October 2012 http://today.duke.edu/2006/03/homework.html.
Kohn, Alfie. “Rethinking Homework.” Principal (January/February 2007).
LeTendre, David P. Baker and Gerald K. National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling. Stanford University Press, 2005.
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