Has any concept single-handedly caused more tantrums and tears? The word alone is enough to send kids screaming from a room. Parents dread forcing their children to do it and teachers dread having to mark it.
It’s a contentious issue even among the academic community, where studies on the effectiveness of homework are often inconclusive or contradictory. Some research has found that students assigned homework perform better in tests, while other studies suggest little or no correlation between homework and achievement for elementary school students.
In light of this divisive findings, primary schools around the world are adopting new approaches to homework – or, in many cases, abandoning homework altogether. In Australia, some schools have put the issue in the hands of the parents by allowing them to opt their child out of homework. “The school recognises that parents are best placed to make decisions about whether their children have the capacity or time to complete homework,” reads a letter to parents from Cambridge Park Public School in Sydney.
Going one step further, P.S. 116 in New York has completely stopped assigning homework to their students. Students are instead encouraged to engage in activities promoting social and mental development such as playing, spending time with their families and reading. The move – no doubt welcomed by students – has caused a stir among parents, many of whom are now setting their own homework assignments to fill the gap.
With all the conflicting information, opinions and strategies out there, what’s a teacher to do? The National PTA and the National Education Association both recommend the “10-Minute Rule”, where the maximum amount of homework assigned should not be more than 10 minutes per grade per night (10 minutes for 1st Grade, 20 for 2nd Grade, etc.) In following this guideline, it’s important to remember that some students will take longer at certain tasks than others.
The most essential thing, as always, is to maintain strong lines of communication between parent, teacher and student. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for homework: it’ll all depend on how your students respond to the tasks you set. Is being chained to a desk every night making them miserable? Are their parents frustrated? Is the homework you’re setting translating into effective learning? As with every teaching tool, it’s a matter of constant observation, dialogue and adjustment.
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.