The average American adult works about eight hours a day, five days a week, and usually has time in the rest of the day to do chores, run errands, or even just kick back and relax. The average American child also deals with a five-day eight-hour week, but theirs is spent getting an education. Between the ages of 5 and 18, 22 if college is an option, American children go to school for eight hours, but unlike their adult counterparts, have little to no time in the rest of the day do do their chores, or run their errands, or kick back and relax (Suskind “What Students Would do if They did not do Their Homework”). Kids these days are pressured to start working at an early age, or to join extracurricular activities that would look good on their future resumes. However, in today’s society, some kids might not even have time for those things either, because of the homework they are assigned to do.
Homework has always been around, and the homework debate has just been as back-and-forth back then as it is today. In the 1940s, parents thought that homework was unnecessary, as it would interfere with the student’s post-school chores and family time (Marzano and Pickering 74). However, after the Russians launched Sputnik in the 1950s, that opinion quickly changed, and parents and teachers alike felt that students needed that extra push to stay on track with their studies (Marzano and Pickering 74). There have been many studies throughout the years that explores both the benefits and disadvantages of the use of homework, yet no concrete solution has been suggested for this issue.
The main concern when it comes to the homework debate is that the same groups that benefit from its effects can also be at a disadvantage. Of those groups, the one that is most affected are the students. There are many students that benefit from homework and don’t mind putting in the extra work. Usually, these students are the ones that tend to pay attention in class, understand the material being taught, and have a better grasp of time management. They also are less involved in extracurricular activities that could possibly restrict their homework time.
While there are many students that benefit from the effects of homework, there are also many that view homework as an extra burden in their daily lives. In addition to having the opposite traits of the students that benefit from homework (poor time management, not fully understanding the material, etc), these students might suffer from learning disabilities or attention disorders, such as ADHD. These students also tend to be involved in one or more extracurricular activity outside of school, including sports. In the case of high schoolers, these students could also be working part-time jobs.
Another group that both benefits and loses in the homework debate are the teachers. While teachers work very hard to ensure that their students receive a quality education, there are no two teachers that are the same. All teachers have their own methods of teaching, and therefore have their own ways of using homework to keep up with those methods. Some teachers only assign homework a few times a week. Other teachers assign all the homework at the beginning of the week and have it due by the end, so that the students can keep up with the work at their own pace. There are also teachers that assign one thing per night, or even multiple assignments per night. The underlying issue is that most teachers don’t know the difference between too much or too little homework.
Referring back to the point that all teachers have their own unique method of teaching, their students also have their own reactions to said teaching methods; some students might respond well to one method over another. Teachers sometimes forget that not all students will benefit from their methods, and might have to change them so everyone can understand the material being taught. In other cases, some teachers aren’t taught about the kinds of learning disabilities they could possibly encounter, or have never taught any students with disabilities, which could lead to some frustration in the teacher-student dynamic.
When it comes to the homework debate, most studies are focused on the teachers and students. However, another group that can be affected by homework are the students’ parents. If a student is doing well and keeping up with their assignments with little to no issue, usually the parents don’t get too involved in their child’s schooling. However, if a student is falling behind in their studies, not completing homework assignments, and has declining test scores, the teacher might ask the parents to get involved in the situation. This method could lead to two possible outcomes. The first is the child responding well to their parents’ involvement, leading to better communication between the student and their parents, as well as the student and their teachers, and can also lead to the student becoming more confident in asking for help. The second outcome is the student viewing their parents’ intervention as additional pressure, which could cause a strained relationship. Psychologist Kenneth Goldberg explains how parents should be involved in helping the student succeed without causing too pressure:
Parents should be observers not enforcers. Parents should describe what their child did without fear that they will be judged by the school. Teachers should provide parents with tools to identify those variables that may be helpful in devising educational plans (Goldberg 87).
Just like the teachers and students in this great homework debate, the parents also find themselves in a win-lose situation. Either their intervention or encouragement will help their child improve, or will cause their child additional stress, leading to little to no improvement of the initial situation.
As stated perviously, there is no official proposed solution to the homework debate. However, there are many possible solutions that could make homework more manageable to all parties involved. One method is to make tutors easily accessible to all students. In recent years, schools have adapted to having students tutor other students (also known as “peer tutoring”), and although it has proven to be an effective method, some students still need an extra push. When it comes to this, it is usually up to the parents to seek a tutor for their children outside of the school. If the school provided tutors that were familiar with the teachers and their teaching methods, or even if the teachers themselves volunteer their time to tutor after school hours, the student is provided with additional opportunities to receive help.
A possible second solution is to encourage teachers to really get to know their students individually and learn to work with their specific needs, which is sometimes easier said than done. According to research, if a teacher provides an inclusive environment and assignment accommodations to the students, homework can become less of a burden and students have a higher chance of succeeding (Carr 170). Some teachers try to do this to the best of their abilities, and it tends to yield positive results. Something as simple as extending the deadline an extra twenty-four hours for a student that had to work the night the homework was assigned or even meeting with a student one-on-one every week to discuss their progress can positively impact a student’s progress in school. However, there are some teachers that feel that all of their students should be treated equally with no exceptions. Although this is usually not a big problem in most schools, it could seriously hinder the confidence of students that tend to struggle more than others.
A third proposed solution is another one involving the teachers and ties in to the second solution, but this time it’s before they even enter the classroom. While taking classes for their degrees and certifications, teachers aren’t really taught about the benefits and disadvantages of homework. If teachers are educated of it before they start their jobs, then they could learn how to utilize it with their preferred teaching methods. For example, a teacher could start out giving a moderate amount of homework, see how the students react and how it reflects in their grades, and then decide if they should give less or more as the year goes on. Teachers are also learning right alongside their students, and by experimenting with different homework amounts, they learn about how it benefits their students and their grades.
The homework debate will most likely never end. There are people that are firm with their opinions on both sides, and will continue to argue their points and conduct research. Homework is never going to completely go away, but with some additional research and the cooperation from both teachers and students, it can become less of an issue and more of a beneficial supplement to the learning experience.