If you ask five plumbers why they always install drain pipes with a gradient of at least 1.65%, they’ll all tell you that it’s the minimum safe ‘fall’ to prevent waste-water backflow.
If you ask five pro tennis players why they commonly change racquets during a match, they’ll all tell you that it helps maintain consistent string tension.
If you ask five teachers why they regularly assign homework, they’ll all likely tell you something very different -- from providing practice opportunities, to flipping classroom learning, to engaging parents in the learning process, and so on.
Despite this lack of consensus, the popular justifications for homework generally appear to be reasonable and logical. However, upon deeper inspection, it turns out these justifications often reflect personal preference rather than a robust base of evidence
In Australia, a country with around 10,000 schools, students this year will collectively complete approximately 400 million hours of homework. That’s more than 45,000 years’ worth of time!
And this, by the way, is in a country where over 90% of 13 to 17-year-olds fail to meet the minimum basic physical activity guidelines (according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).
This is not to suggest that kids should necessarily be running around instead of doing homework -- although a compelling argument could be made for this. Instead, it's meant to emphasize that with such a massive investment of time and energy, it’s reasonable to assume we must have very clear answers to questions like:
Is homework actually effective at improving student learning and performance? How much homework is ideal? How frequently should it be assigned? For which age groups is it best suited?
Unfortunately, for most schools and parents, these answers are elusive and/or irrelevant in the face of the well-worn “homework is important because we’ve always done it” argument (although, to be fair, in recent years the blind cult of homework has faced more rigorous scrutiny across the globe).
In my latest 'From Theory to Practice' video, I examine a research study that helps us better answer some of the aforementioned questions about homework:
Adolescents’ Homework Performance in Mathematics and Science: Personal Factors and Teaching Practices (Fernández-Alonso, et al | 2015)
Here are some of the questions I tackle in this installment: