Homework is Wrong?
Doug Rogers is a Professional Educator who teaches Middle School Technology Education in Reading Pennsylvania, USA. He earned his Master’s Degree in Teaching and Curriculum from The Pennsylvania State University. Email: email@example.com
This article examines the topic of homework and whether the assigning of homework is right or wrong. The article will also review literature on the negative impacts homework has on students. The paper also examines whether or not there is data to support if homework correlates to academic achievement. The paper also discuss the concept of a flipped classrooms and how they are redefining homework and alleviating many of the negative physical impacts homework.
Homework is Wrong?
Homework is defined as any task assigned by school teachers intended for students to carry out during non-school hours (Cooper, 1989). The concept of homework has been a hot issue lately. Some researchers are trying to determine whether it is worthwhile and whether or not it correlates with academic achievement. Other researchers are trying to prove homework is bad for children and adversely affects students.
Homework was not always a component of the American educational system. According to Eren and Henderson (2011), during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, America had a strong anti-homework movement. This sentiment of less homework was extinguished with the 1957 Soviet launching of Sputnik (Eren & Henderson, 2011). Sputnik created the notion that the United States were falling behind educationally compared to the Russians. The 1990s was the decade where it was believed homework was essential to raise education standards and foster academic achievement (Eren & Henderson, 2011).
Fast forward to 2018 where the assigning of homework has soared at an alarming rate. This has caused research experts to attempt to determine if homework is beneficial to students. There are experts who believe homework is physically harmful to students (Li et al., 2013). According to Alfie Kohn (2006), there is no evidence that higher achievement is due to homework. Penn State professors and researchers, Gerald Letendre and David Baker (2006), did not find any correlation between national average student achievement and national averages in amount of homework assigned when reviewing the 1999 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data from 50 countries (Kohn, 2006).
As you read, please note this article is an attempt to look at the evolution of homework. The question is whether homework is wrong? This paper will present information regarding the inception of homework. In addition it will also examine the physical effects of homework as well as a perspective on homework and academic achievement. This article will also examine a new trend in education which may be redefining homework, the flipped classroom and how it may be the answer to the homework dilemma.
Physical impacts of homework
Over the past several years, accumulating studies indicated that sleep plays a particularly important role in attention, learning process, memory consolidation, and therefore, in children’s academic achievement and school performance (Poe, Walsh, & Bjorness 2010). The research data regarding the physical effects of homework comes from China. China’s information regarding the impacts is the most current and has the largest sample size (Sun et al., 2014). The study measured the relation among sleep duration, homework burden, and sleep hygiene in Chinese school-aged children (Sun et al., 2014). The researchers also revealed over 90% of the primary age children in Shanghai spent more than 1 hour on homework each day and over one-half of them spent more than 2 hours (Sun et al., 2014). Sun (2014) also determined children who spent more time on homework went to bed later and, subsequently, got less rest. They concluded that although better sleep hygiene is associated with earlier bedtime and longer sleep duration, heavy homework burden predominantly determined the amount of sleep of these children (Sun et al., 2014). This is a prime example of how homework negatively impacts a student.
Shenghui Li (2013), a Chinese researcher conducted a sleep series study which examined how a homework schedule adversely impacts on Chinese children's sleep and awake habits as well as sleep duration. The study entailed randomly selected 19,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 (Li, 2013).
Li surveyed the parents which ascertained the weekday sleep habits of the children. The study yielded information which indicated more homework was associated a later bedtime and shorter sleep duration which is consistent the Sun (2014) study. Li and his team (2013) also determined insufficient sleep and daytime sleepiness commonly existed with those who participated in the study. The homework appears to be counterproductive. Students are staying up late doing homework then have trouble being alert while in school (Li, 2013).
Homework and obesity
In addition to sleep deprivation, researchers have found homework also can adversely affect a child’s weight and physical activity which could lead to obesity. Researchers believe homework has detrimental effects on a young learner through eating which is induced by stress from homework (Michaud., et al, 2015). The overeating is compounded by the lack of physical activity (Michaud., et al, 2015).
Michaud (2015), led a group of researchers in a study to determine if homework contributed to obesity in children. Participants in the study were between the ages of 8 to 10 years old and came from a family where there was at least one obese parent. The parents agreed to have their child wear a device which measured their daily output of energy. The study separated genders and found girls do to a larger extent their homework but also spend more time eating. In the case of boys participating in this study, it was found, boys who did more homework and who were worried or stressed by schoolwork had an unfavorable anthropometric profile partly mediated through a lower physical activity profile (Michaud., et al, 2015).
As indicated above, homework poses serious health consequences for learners. However, if one is still not convinced homework has harmful of homework there is one more question to ask. Does homework increase academic achievement?
Homework versus academic achievement
Sixteen percent of 9-year-olds reported doing more than 1 hour of homework each day, and this figure jumped to 37% for 13-year-olds and 39% for 17-year-olds (Cooper et al., 2006). The question which needs to answered is whether time spent doing homework equates to higher academic achievement? In his book, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing, author, Alfie Kohn (2006) analyzed the homework reported data of the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress assessment. This is considered Nation’s report card revealing trends and correlations in education. Upon completion of the exam students are asked a series of questions regarding the amount of time spent on homework.
Kohn (2006) discovered that fourth graders who did no homework performed the same as those who did 30 minutes a night. The scores were lower for those who did 45 minutes, then declined again for those who did an hour or more. In eighth grade, those who did between 15 and 45 minutes a night scored higher than those who did no homework. The results were worse for those who did an hour’s worth, and worse still for those did more than an hour (Kohn, 2006).
Other researchers agree, studies have found that homework was linked to higher grades but not higher achievement on standardized tests (Krashen, 2013).
As indicated above, adding homework to the equation has not appeared to correlate to academic success. The flipped classroom appears to make perfect sense from a homework perspective.A flipped classroom is described as doing homework at school and doing classwork at home (Ash, 2012). Flipping the classroom changes the purpose of homework.
Flipped classroom as new homework?
The flipped classroom reverses the traditional learning environment. The theory is to have students complete their homework in the presence of a teacher during school time. Class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates (Brame, 2013). The flipped classroom applies components of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. The students are doing lower levels cognitive work outside of class. The homework consists of students getting familiar with the information through a form of online instructional videos. The higher level forms of cognitive work are done within the classroom where the teacher is available to assist the students. These consist of the application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Brame, 2013).
The flipped classroom is beneficial for those students who are absent. They can utilized the internet to gain an understanding of the material while they are away from school. Upon their return they can get caught up on the missed assignments with the aid of the teacher as opposed to struggling at home without an educator present.
Dr. Bishop, and Dr. Verleger (2013), completed a comprehensive study on the effectiveness of flipped classrooms. They wanted to ascertain if the idea of doing light homework and more thought provoking work in the classroom was an effective way of educating students (Bishop & Verleger 2013). Reports of student perceptions of the flipped classroom were mixed, but were generally positive overall. Students tended to prefer in-person lectures to video lectures, but prefer interactive classroom activities over lectures. They also found evidence which suggested student learning was improved via the flipped compared to traditional classroom (Bishop & Verleger, 2013).
The flipped classroom enables students to be better rested and alert during school hours. As stated the homework does not have the rigor associated with conventional homework. This will also reduce the stress, students are not burdened with hours of homework without proper help and guidance. The flipped classroom will also reduce the hours of inactivity from students sitting inside attempting to complete arduous homework assignments. The reduction of these factors and the premise of the flipped classroom does lead to academic achievement.
The concept of flipped classroom is different from a traditional classroom and the data suggest significant increases in student learning and achievement. Fulton (2012) examined Byron School District in Minnesota through 2010 utilized traditional teaching methods. In 2006, Byron’s high school math mastery level was 29.9% on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA). As a result the District realigned the curriculum and through data driven analysis they increased their mastery rate in math to 65.6% in 2010 (Fulton, 2012). The District was still not pleased with the math scores. The District decided to flip the classrooms within the math department in 2011. The change resulted in 73.8% mastery on the MCAs in 2011 (Fulton, 2013).
Since the launching of Sputnik, homework has been assigned in schools across America. However, over the past 61 years educators, researchers, parents, and school administrators still do not know if homework is beneficial to learning. There is evidence homework does have an impact on the health of students. Homework has resulted in sleep deprivation and obesity. There is also no hard evidence that proves homework correlates to academic achievement. However, there is a new concept sweeping across the academic landscape. The concept of flipped classrooms. Flipped classrooms do eliminate the long tedious hours of homework which induced stress and other physical ailments. The flipped classroom allows for the thought provoking painstaking homework to be completed in the classroom where there is a teacher to help.
After 61 years it is time for a paradigm shift. A progressive shift towards assigning homework which makes sense and will enable students to grow, and enjoy the learning process.
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