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Home Learning: Time to Challenge the Status Quo?
Kyle Hawkins, Assistant Principal of the Primary School, and David Secomb, PYP Coordinator

At ISZL we pride ourselves on our innovative teaching and learning methods and are always striving to enhance the learning experience for our students. Current research and best practices in education drive improvements to our pedagogical practices and the ongoing refinement of our curriculum. We also have a responsibility to ensure that the decisions we make regarding teaching have the greatest possible impact on learning, and this is achieved through a continual dialogue between teachers, students and parents. It is of the utmost importance that we critically reflect on conventional thinking in education and challenge the status quo.

So, what happens when we consider the idea of home learning and its place in the Primary School? The research presents some surprising conclusions for us to consider.

It has long been assumed that home learning has a positive impact on learning. While this thinking seems logical there is a large body of research that that shows home learning for Primary aged children has little impact on achievement. 1

It is also commonly assumed that children who are experiencing difficulties at school are supported by spending more time studying at home. The evidence actually shows that these children who require the most academic support get the least benefit out of home learning. 2

While some practitioners have accepted that home learning has a limited impact on learning, it has often been argued that home learning aids in the development of other helpful skills such as time management, organization, self-discipline, independence or responsibility. Again the research evidence shows the contrary. Home learning can actually undermine motivation, reinforce errors, and create less effective study habits. 3

Parents may also feel that greater gains can be made by supporting their children with their home learning. However, the research shows that parental involvement in home learning actually has a negative impact on learning. 4

The research suggests that home learning has little impact on a child’s academic progress and does not support the development of good study habits. There is also a lack of research to support the claim that it helps children prepare for more demanding academic experiences later in their school lives. There is significant evidence that home learning often leads to conflict in the home, takes time away from children for processing the learning they have engaged in throughout the day, and prevents them from engaging in other activities which have a significant impact on their mental and physical well-being.

There is a definite opportunity cost of spending a significant amount of time in the evening completing home learning. We need to weigh up the value of home learning against the value of physical activity, recreation, leisure, reading for pleasure, imaginative play, or any other pursuit a child might engage in. How is a child’s time best spent if our intention is to best support their holistic development?

It is important that we use the research we have available to review our policies and expectations regarding home learning. Over the past 12 months the three divisions of the school have engaged in a thorough review of recent research as we review our policy on home learning. In the Primary division this process has included consultation with the Parent’s Advisory Committee, the teaching staff, focus groups and the instructional leadership team. The evidence suggests that home learning has the greatest impact with High School aged students, and the least impact in Primary School. As a result, guidelines will vary in each division of the school, with the most significant improvements taking place in the Primary School.

 

Links to further reading:

Healy, M. (2017, August 1). New Trend: No Homework for Elementary Students | Psychology Today. Retrieved February 23, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-development/201708/new-trend-no-homework-elementary-students

“Homework in primary school has an effect of zero” (J. Hattie). (2014, September 11). Retrieved February 23, 2018, from https://visible-learning.org/2014/09/john-hattie-interview-bbc-radio-4/

Strauss, V. (2012, November 26). Homework: An unnecessary evil? … Surprising findings from new research. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2012/11/26/homework-an-unnecessary-evil-surprising-findings-from-new-research/

Kohn, A. (2006). Does Homework Improve Learning? In The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. Retrieved from https://www.alfiekohn.org/homework-improve-learning/

 

Notes

1.     Cooper, 1989; Greathouse, 1998; Epstein and Van Voorhis 2001; Hattie, 2012; Nunez et. al., 2015

2.     Trautwein et. al., 2002; Kohn, 2006; Ronning, 2011; OECD, 2014

3.     Kohn, 2006; Hattie, 2009

4.     Cooper, Jackson, Nye, and Lindsay, 2001; Karbach et. al. 2013

 

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