I have written what seems to be endless posts on homework … arghh!!

You would imagine that the question “does homework work?” would be easy to answer, wouldn’t you? As a teaching body, we are all professionals and you would think we would be able to come up with some conclusive proof, either way to put this ol’ chestnut to bed – once and for all!

But hell! No! Research concerning homework presents a fragmented picture, due to the multifaceted and complex nature of the topic e.g. what it is, its purpose, time spent, its effectiveness and then you have the government coming in and publishing best practice “guidelines” etc.

I’m going to admit to having a bit of a personal interest in homework – If I do something I need to know its purpose and be able to measure it effectiveness (call me weird!) and homework is somewhat a bane in my life – it has been a topic for one of my Masters assignments and when I have blogged about it for the past two summers I have vowed to do something differently. Personally, homework is something that school policies, government guidelines and even my initial teacher training taught me I need to do, and so it is something that I try do as part of the teaching process, but it feels a bit like “I’m setting it for setting its sake” and that it is just a fact of life.

HOWEVER … and here is the kicker … some researchers would suggest that little has been written about certain aspects of homework. There is very little large-scale valid research as to its effectiveness, and any concrete benefit, and the little that has been done was in the USA and for a relatively short period of time. What you will find is that what has been written can be easily counter-argued against with another study. Basically much of what is out there offer diametrically opposing opinions.

I could point you in the direction of:

  • Research back to 1897 casting doubt on whether or not setting spelling homework made any impact;
  • 1960’s research looking at 17 studies which produced a mixed bag of results and some saying it made no difference;
  • 1970s research looking at 5 studies: 1 showed it helped, 2 that it didn’t and 2 were mixed;
  • The 1980s also showed research with conflicting results (I can point you in the right direction if you’re really THAT interested);
  • Research in the new millennium is no different – this time the reasons for “inconclusiveness” suggest that the methodologies were flawed.

Personally I would argue that any relationship between time spent on homework, or type of homework and achievement is unlikely to be simple. I have to be honest I regularly set homework without sufficient regard as to its effectiveness. Not because I don’t believe it is effective – I think that the right homework, set for the right reason has its place; I also believe that its benefits don’t necessarily always come from learning “stuff” or practicing “stuff” it has other benefits like teaching self -discipline and time-management etc.,

The long and the short of it is that most parents expect some form of homework to be set. Last year I did some analysis of the amount of time I spent “administering” homework – I mean handing it out, collecting it and then chasing non submissions (including consequences) – not including the time spent writing it or marking it. Over 2 months I spent about 11% of my lesson time and that is not an effective use of my time – it sounds a lot but 6 minutes out of a lesson is nothing! I don’t know about you but I value every single minute of teaching time and if you’re a parent I would ask you to question your value set and whether you REALLY believe it makes a difference.

Please don’t see this as me shirking or trying to get out of setting homework – given that we operate in the school system we do that values exam results (rightly or wrongly depending on your views) I would like to have the ability to set homework that works towards that end goal of making the students better “at exams”, and ideally I’d like to set it when it was right to set it, and if that meant one big homework every couple of weeks, then so be it. What really worked for me last year was past papers and I’m thinking about this for my years 9 and 10 groups is this ->  (Here is the post) – I’m already doing it weekly with our super group, if somewhat less formally, but next week I think I will formalise it so there is a tracker in their books.

However schools have policies which need to be followed, and follow them I will. I just need to find something for years 7 and 8 that works and that makes a difference. Our parents seems to place a value on homework, but don’t like “mymaths” (which was purchased before our arrival and we won’t be renewing next year! I do sometimes see it as a cop out if I’m honest!!) so I’m putting together some bespoke sheets that we’ll logo up for the school too (and maybe get the rest of the department to make as they go along too ready for next year) similar to the below.

 surveys 2


What I really want to know is when did “homework” become “home learning” …. are we scared of the word “work”???