“It’s worth asking not only whether there are good reasons to support the nearly universal practice of assigning homework, but also why that practice is so often taken for granted—even by the vast numbers of parents or teachers who are troubled by its impact on children.” —Alfie Kohn, The Homework Myth
Most parents tell pollsters they’re happy with the amount of homework their children bring home from school. Some say they want more. But the polls tell us almost nothing about whether parents are happy with the kind and quality of the homework assigned to students or the real effects homework has on student learning and development. Whatever your beliefs about homework as an educator, you’ll be challenged to rethink a host of assumptions about this “universal practice” and find new ways to engage your students out of the classroom when you read Alfie Kohn’s thought-provoking book The Homework Myth, the latest ATPE Book Circle selection. Join the discussion May 4 through June 15 to earn up to seven hours of continuing professional education (CPE) credit.
In his book, Kohn presents new research that shows that despite a general increase in the practice of assigning homework, there is little indication that it is academically beneficial or intellectually valuable in its current iterations. He reasons that the pressure to complete many hours of homework every night after working all day at school can lead kids to suffer from “the loss of cheer, the loss of self-confidence, the loss of sleep [and] in extreme cases, over time, the loss of childhood.” Kohn also argues that the practice of assigning excessive homework can be a burden on parents and leave students “mystified, alienated and less likely to succeed.”
The Homework Myth offers new insight into ways that educators can “rethink homework” and take an active, professional role in shaping homework culture in their classrooms and schools. Above all, Kohn makes the case that “we should insist on homework that isn’t merely defensible but truly justified.”
Not sure if this discussion would be right for you? Here’s a quick preview of Kohn’s ideas, which will be covered in the upcoming Book Circle discussion:
- Always take into account an assignment’s likely impact on students’ interest in learning and in the topic at hand.
- Place limits on how much time students will be made to spend on their assignments.
- Ask yourself how each assignment applies a philosophy of teaching and a theory of learning; use the following questions to guide you:
- Does the assignment seem to assume that children are meaning makers or empty vessels?
- Is learning regarded as a process that’s mostly active or passive?
- Is the assignment about wrestling with ideas or following directions?
- Design activities naturally suited to the home and that involve family participation and self-guided reading.
To view past ATPE Book Circle discussions, share lessons and ideas, and network with other Texas educators, join the ATPE Idea Exchange at http://atpe.websitetoolbox.com.