(Mis)understanding homework – Part I
Homework is one of the most controversial topics in education. We cannot say for sure when it was invented, but it has probably existed as long as education itself, in one form or the other. In my home country Norway, it has been etched into history since the 18th century, when we had an ambulatory school system. As it, in most parts of the sparsely populated country, was not possible to gather students in a schoolroom, the teachers traveled around from hamlet to hamlet to teach.The schoolswere operated by ambulatory teachers, hence the name of the school arrangement.The students were then given assignments to work on during the weeks they did not attend school.
The important thing when discussing homework is to be aware of its purposes. Traditionally, they have been many, and have varied in time and place, although most institutions and teachers would probably agree on most of them.
- Reinforce what students have learned during the day, and allow them to practice it
- Let the students investigate on their own, finding their own answers to questions
- Let students develop their own schedules, and learn how to organize themselves
- Complete what they could not finish at school
- A control instrument to see if students have mastered the concepts and ideas in question
- To be a channel of communication between parents and the school
- Vertical focus, where the students do in-depth studies of specific topics, allowing them to go beyond what is required
- Make students responsible and accountable
- Make students capable of meeting demands and requirements
- Prepare students for real life
All this is well and good in a traditional setting, where learning is mainly teacher-centered. In such a system, students are passive learners, and homework then serves the purpose of developing them as independent learners. But what about schools were learning is more student-driven? The very methodologies associated with this type of educational philosophy generally incorporates all of the above, and thus renders homework obsolete, save for completing what they could not finish at school, as well as reinforcing their learning.
However, because it is so deeply rooted in education, changing the concepts of this is very difficult, and there is a lot of resistance to such changes, especially among parents. As such, I ask all parents to take a critical approach to their view on the purpose and usefulness of homework, and not just regard it as a necessary evil that all children have to do. In fact, I challenge you to propose less unpleasant waysof achieving the same, or better, results.