Homework, or not … ?
Homework can be very broadly described as “any task assigned by schoolteachers intended for students to carry out during non-school hours” [Cooper 2007:4]. This includes both the completion of work not finished in class, and set work for children to complete after school.
A more complex definition which attempts to be universally encompassing, describes homework as “the time students spend outside the classroom in assigned activities to practice, reinforce or apply newly-acquired skills and knowledge and to learn necessary skills of independent study” [Butler, 1987]. This description also seeks to establish boundaries which exclude from consideration such things as : home study courses, guided in-school study and extra-curricular activities generally.
[HOMEWORK : What Are the Upsides and Downsides ?, 1, p.2]
The above definitions give a basic understanding of what homework is said to be. Even though people believe they understand what homework is, and its purpose, ‘homework is [still] a topic of media, academic, parental, and community interest. While it [still receives] some prominence, homework has long been a controversial issue and a source of tension’. [Homework in the 21st Century, 5, p.1]
Today, most education systems and institutions favour “homework”. The amount and frequency varies from school/system/institution to school/system/institution and even between levels within these. There are also limited instances of non-conformity with the concept, as individual schools and institutions choose not to have homework in the traditional sense.
With all homework, there are, in fact, Three Groups involved. The first are the teachers who prepare/set the homework [and check the returned work], secondly the parents who are being relied on to provide support and to encourage/ensure its completion and thirdly students who have to complete the work required.
After being in all three groups, one can say there are positives and negatives for all involved !
Having said that, there also appear to be another Three Groups when it comes to homework : those who are passionate about it, those who don’t see any point and those who simply go along with whatever system operates at a particular time. You will know into which group you fall.
In updating this page, reviewing research has been an important process. Rather than simply rely on feelings, we have looked at what data is actually available both from Australia and overseas, reviewed the findings reached and applied this to the role of homework.
In doing so we have tried to cover some historical information; what types of homework are used; the arguments for and against; who should have homework; parental involvement; where should homework be done; what responsibilities do the various groups have; what other options might be available; the role of tutoring; and supplied a bibliography. All are covered in the sections linked below.
The last provides not only the sources for the included quotes [the numbers relate to the numbers on the listing], but access to a wide range of documents should you wish to read them.
You may strongly agree or disagree with any, or all, of what is included.
However, when modifying or developing your personal position on homework, we hope it assists you to reach a position supported by research rather than simply basing it on what others may “believe to be the case”. Hopefully, it proves not only worthwhile and interesting but leads you to a clearer understanding of the whole homework dilemma.
To access content for items below, Click on an individual link. To return to this page, click on a Back button.