“…He may be the only teacher in his high school who has nixed take-home work completely, but Mr. Martin is part of a growing cohort of parents, educators and even administrators who are “anti-homework” — viewing it as a stress-inducing, mostly useless practice that saps students’ desire to learn rather than nurture it. It’s a movement that has risen alongside the return of free play, the concern about raising innovative young people primed for the knowledge economy and families’ increasingly busy lives packed with extra-curricular activities. This week, Collège de Saint-Ambroise in Saguenay, Que., launched a year-long pilot project banning homework for students in Grades 1-6. Like in Mr. Martin’s class, the way students spend time time at school will be restructured to make sure children do not fall behind, school board spokesperson Marie-Ève Desrosiers told The Canadian Press.
The news reinvigorated a debate about the value of homework — a conversation that has bubbled up and receded over the past five to seven years, gaining converts along the way. Even still, the issue remains divisive, with some parents campaigning hard for a homework-free experience that would give them their life back — and others worried about their children falling behind or failing to learn the discipline and time management required in high school and beyond. As one Collège de Saint-Ambroise parent said, “I’ll see how the year goes, but I’m very afraid. Homework is a way for us parents to evaluate whether things are going well, and to guide us in helping and supporting them.”
The research is also split or viewed with skepticism, muddying the waters for parents and educators.
“If you look at all of the different types of homework of all students, it has a moderate effect. It’s not big, but you can say ‘This does enhance student achievement,’” said Robert Marzano, CEO of Marzano Research Laboratory in Boulder, Co., which does research and development for K-12 education. “Do you actually have to have homework? No. You could have a system that didn’t have any homework and it could still be a good system. I can’t recommend getting rid of it, though, except at the primary level. But make sure you use it purposefully.”
A 2009 systematic review by the Canadian Council on Learning found that homework is linked to higher student achievement — but only if it is “judiciously assigned” and engaging to the student. ”
“Parents were confused — where was the homework that made clear what the students were learning in class? Some parents even asked that their children be enrolled in a class led by a more traditional teacher who assigned homework.
“As parents we still expect our kids’ school experience to look like ours and I’m not sure it should. That’s part of it,” she said. “Parents go ‘Why don’t you have homework?’ and it does put a bigger onus on the teacher to communicate it.’
The whole point of nixing homework, she said, was to create a more equitable learning experience — and you would see the difference in submitted homework, some with “parents’ fingerprints all over them,” as Jessica Lahey at The New York Times‘s Parent-Teacher Conference blog puts it, and some in which it was clear there was no help at all.”