New research suggests that a lot of assigned homework amounts to pointless busy work that doesn’t help students learn, while more thoughtful assignments can help them develop skills and acquire knowledge. How would you characterize the homework you get?
In the Sunday Review article “The Trouble With Homework,” Annie Murphy Paul reviews the research on homework:
The quantity of students’ homework is a lot less important than its quality. And evidence suggests that as of now, homework isn’t making the grade. Although surveys show that the amount of time our children spend on homework has risen over the last three decades, American students are mired in the middle of international academic rankings: 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, according to results from the Program for International Student Assessment released last December.
In a 2008 survey, one-third of parents polled rated the quality of their children’s homework assignments as fair or poor, and 4 in 10 said they believed that some or a great deal of homework was busywork. A new study, coming in the Economics of Education Review, reports that homework in science, English and history has “little to no impact” on student test scores. (The authors did note a positive effect for math homework.) Enriching children’s classroom learning requires making homework not shorter or longer, but smarter.
She goes on to enumerate some of the aspects of effective independent assignments, like “retrieval practice,” which basically means doing practice tests to reinforce learning and commit it to memory, and “interleaving,” in which problems are not grouped into sets by type, but rather scattered throughout an assignment, which makes the brain work harder to grasp the material.
Students: Tell us how effective you think your homework is. What kinds of assignments seem pointless? Which ones are confusing or frustrating? Which ones are most engaging and interesting? Which ones are you fairly sure help you learn and grow?
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.
How to do homework fast: 10 helpful tips
Even though many students dislike homework, teachers still assign it. Many students have homework every single night. When students are busy with after-school jobs, caring for family members, or attending athletic practices, they do not always have enough time to complete their homework assignments. In order to complete assignments and still have time to fit everything in, here are 10 helpful tips:
- Use your computer. If your teacher gives you a handout to complete, answer the questions on your computer. Most people type faster than they write, so you will be able to answer the questions faster.
- Find a spot where you can work. Distractions, like mobile phones, televisions, and other people, can get in the way of completing homework quickly. Finding a distraction-free area is one step to finishing faster.
- Start your work at school. Many teachers give students some free time at the end of class. Instead of talking to students or lining up at the door, spend that time starting on your homework. Those extra five minutes can make a big difference, especially if you have five extra minutes six times each day.
- Turn off your mobile. Phones are extremely distracting. If you do not need it for your homework, then turn it off and leave it somewhere else in your home. Whatever texts pop up when you are working can wait until you are finished.
- Have your materials handy. Your workspace should be stocked with paper, pens, a calculator, and other necessary items. You do not need to waste time if everything you need is in arm’s reach.
- Dedicate time each day. Even if you do not have any homework, you can still dedicate some time to improving your learning. Read a book or write in a journal, but do something each day so you build a routine for each day.
- Know who can help. If you know your dad is better at math, then do not go to you mom for math help. If your dad cannot spell, do not waste your time asking him how to spell.
- Record your assignments. It does not matter if you use a mobile phone or a paper planner, do not try to memorize your assignments. If you record them in your calendar, you can easily access them at home and you do not have to waste time calling someone for the assignment.
- Hire someone to complete your work. If you do this, you will not need to do any of your homework. You might need a job to be able to pay for all of those assignments, but they will get done.
- Time yourself. Use a timer to see how long it takes you to complete your homework. Then, the next night, give yourself a minute less to get your work done. Continue dropping a minute or another interval each night and see how much faster you get.