Homework: helpful or harmful?

To give or not to give homework? That is the question.

For years, homework has been the topic of debate among educators, who have passionate and strong opinions about whether or not giving it is beneficial.

On one hand, homework teaches a student discipline. It exercises the child’s sense of responsibility when they are given work to complete outside of school hours. It also provides a sense of accomplishment when students are able to finish the task. It allows for the lesson to sink in, and lets the student practice skills for which there might not be enough time during class hours. Homework is also an opportunity for the student, teacher, and parents to work together.

On the other hand, homework decreases the child’s relaxation time, especially if and when schoolwork within the classroom is particularly heavy. It also takes away time from socialization, which growing children need. Sometimes, homework serves to increase conflicts between the parents and the child, especially when the child wants to do something other than the homework, and the parents take on the role of homework police. Some researchers further point out that homework is particularly disadvantageous for underprivileged students, who have to do household chores or even help with work outside of class.

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Of late, however, the general consensus is that homework may be beneficial, but only if it is used appropriately. It must not be a capricious exercise simply given to say that one has provided homework, but must be carefully planned for the purpose of benefiting student achievement.
To maximize the benefit of homework, guidelines are recommended by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. One is to assign purposeful homework, or homework that has legitimate goals. These include “introducing new content, practicing a skill or process that students can do independently but not fluently, elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students' knowledge, and providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest.”

The second recommendation is to design homework to maximize the chances that students will complete it. Students should be given homework that is not too difficult or heavy for their level, so that they will accomplish it instead of do other unrelated things.

It also recommends involve parents in appropriate ways without requiring parents to act as teachers or to police students' homework completion.

Lastly, it suggest carefully monitoring the amount of homework assigned so that it is appropriate to students' age levels and does not take too much time away from other home activities.

The debate on whether homework is helpful or harmful may not end anytime soon. However, analyzing its pros and cons, and following the recommendations on how to make it more beneficial may justify giving it for the sake of its values. In the end, teachers must be reminded not to give homework just for the sake of giving it, rather providing it to increase the students’ learning even after class hours are over.

by Sheila M. de Guzman
Calauag Elem. School

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