Homework refers to any tasks assigned to students by school teachers that are intended to be carried out during non-school hours. As such, it is the only learning strategy that crosses the boundary between the school and the home.
Teachers and parents have strong feelings, both positive and negative, about the value of homework. The practice of giving homework has come under critical review in recent years, with public attitudes around the globe changing and certain international trends emerging, such as eliminating homework in the first 2-3 years of primary school, limiting homework to reading only in the first 6 years of primary school, and eliminating weekend or holiday homework at all levels.
Despite that fact that much is claimed regarding the value and benefits of homework, research about the impact on academic achievement is mixed, inconclusive, and sometimes contradictory. This is unsurprising given that homework involves the complex interaction of a number of factors, such as differences in children, teachers, tasks, home environments, measurements of learning. Until recently, research on homework has tended to focus on the correlation between time and achievement, with no consideration of the type or quality of the homework task. Researchers still disagree as to whether or not homework enhances achievement, although it is increasingly apparent that what matters is not the time spent on homework but the nature and value of the work being assigned.
Teachers should look at homework in terms of what they intuitively know about their students, and apply the same principles of effective teaching and learning to homework that they would apply to the classroom. Teachers know that the organisation and structure of learning matters, that feedback about learning is critical, that the quality of a learning task matters, and that student differences in developmental levels, learning preferences and persistence must be considered.
Useful guidelines on whether or not to set homework, how much to set, and how to design high quality homework tasks.
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