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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

My teacher gives more homework

February 1, 2012

Do you ever hear this complaint? Kids know which teacher gives the most homework AND which teacher gives almost no homework at all. I think there are two issues here: how much homework is good? And should teachers at the same grade level give the same amount of homework?

How much homework is good? If you've seen the documentary Race to Nowhere, you may be thinking that no homework is good homework. The research on homework, including a summary from a meta-analysis by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics suggests that recommendations vary by grade and subject matter. For example, homework that involves studying for discrete tests such as those at the end of a unit seems to be beneficial for younger students (although the studies didn't examine long-term retention of that information). Outside of preparing for a specific test, homework appears to be only mildly helpful for younger students. For high-school students, there appears to be a threshold of benefits to homework, suggesting a 90 to 120 minutes maximum.

To the second question, should teachers within a grade level at a school give the same (or similar) amount of homework? I can't find any research that answers that question, but anecdotally I think the answer is a resounding YES. I think it presents a united effort to meet curricular goals. I think it also helps parents feel as though their child is getting the same level of preparation, regardless of teacher.

I'm curious! Do the teachers at your school (within a grade level) collaborate on homework? Or is there disparity among classrooms?

Related reading:

Key Lessons: What Research Says About the Value of Homework

What does good homework look like?

Five Homework Strategies for Teaching Students With Learning Disabilities

Homework Tips for Parents

Comments

This is such a great topic! My students were almost over-committed with after-school activities, so homework was a burden on family time for students who did not get home until 7PM. My strategy was to build my relationship with students and parents and prove by what I assigned that my homework was connected to our learning goals. If there was a night when I did not need for students to complete homework, then I did not assign homework. I vowed never to send home "busy work" that is, in essence, disrespectful of students and parents. Because of this, parents helped to make sure my homework was completed and helped reinforce my consequences when something was not done. As a middle school teacher, my students had five or six other teachers. My goal was to make sure my specific assignment took only ten to twenty minutes to complete so that students had time for other subject areas.

At my school, there really hasn't been much collaboration which makes things difficult. I teach at an international school, so our kids have not only homework from the English teachers (who teach most academic subjects), but from the Spanish teachers as well. We did do a survey to learn more about the workload of homework on our students (and did some research) dso there is a greater awareness now, but teachers normally do not know what the other teachers are giving. I would like to see greater collaboration, and more uniformity in homework among the different grade levels.

This might be a silly question, but I am wondering why there is not enough time for students to complete their school work during the 6-7 hours they are in school? My husband teaches high school government and world history and does not assign homework. The students study for tests and prepare for class discussions at home, but this is their choice, not an assignment. His classes score well on tests and he is reguarded as one of the schools best teachers. Is it possible other teachers could re-examine their teaching methods?

This is a really interesting subject and very interesting comments. As homework is done at home, I think there is certainly a great opportunity for teachers (across grade-level teams) and parents to collaborate. While I do not think that parents should dictate how much homework their children receive, I think their input as to the quality and meaningfulness of the homework assignment should be taken into account. I also think that teachers should collaborate when assigning homework to ensure that relatively equal amounts of homework are assigned each night and that large projects or papers are not due in close proximity.

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