08 February 2006

Uphill Through the Snow Both Ways

A recent AP-AOL poll suggests that parents and kids disagree about what the "right" amount of homework looks like.

"Parents polled said their children spend an average of 90 minutes a night on homework. The workload grows as the students do — 78 minutes of homework a night in elementary school, 99 minutes in middle school and 105 in high school." However, "most children aged 9, 13 and 17 years say they spend less than an hour a night on homework, according to a long-term federal study. That load has held steady, if not dropped, over the past 20 years. Plenty of students say they are not assigned any homework at all."

I wonder sometimes if parents, students, and teachers are in agreement about what homework "looks like." Does it have to involve a paper and pencil task? Could it be reviewing notes or reading in the text? Is homework something that is completed alone by the student or might it involve a study group or some parental help?

Several studies have aimed to find a relationship between homework and student achievement. Some of these point to the amount assigned. Others have been focused on the quality of the assignments. I do think that practice is important for any of us faced with learning new information. Different kinds of assignments can help make new neural connections and strengthen old ones.

I admit that I don't assign a lot of homework to my students. However, I do expect them to read and revise notes on an ongoing basis. I didn't have an opportunity to take an AP class in high school, so I really don't know how my expectations compare with the real experience. I remember spending about 45 minutes a day (on average) on homework in high school. I don't think 90 minutes is such a terrible expectation---that's about 15 minutes per class per day for a student. I'd bet that many students out there would disagree.


Anonymous said...

Liz from I Speak of Dreams here. "Homework" is such a vague descriptor. Do you count the independent reading expectation--a lot of elementary schools expect children in third grade and above to spend a certain number of minutes (commonly 30) in independent reading. Do you count studying for tests? Problem sets in math class? Around here (Silicon Valley) there's been an initiative in some of the public schools to reduce homework in the elementary grades. Parents complain about a lot of busy-work--assignments for the sake of giving assignments. An old rule of thumb used to be 10 minutes per grade--so 10 minutes in first grade and so on. That's not so burdensome in my opinion.

graycie said...

I want my high school freshman to spend 20-30 minutes per night studying for my class. I teach them how to study if they are visual or auditory, if the material is notes or vocabulary, etc. With this understanding, I assign VERY little specific homework. The kids who do what I ask are successful.

The Science Goddess said...

I think you've both hit the fuzzy nail on the head: What is "homework"?

Unless parents, kids, and teachers have the same definitions, there's probably not going to be any agreement about how much is assigned or whether it's "too much."