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Is Homework a Necessary Evil?

Sometimes, my Facebook feed suggests pages I might like and today, it was the Tedx Community that popped up with the emotive question, “is homework a necessary evil?” Unsurprisingly, opinion was divided and I thought I would briefly share my own thoughts on where I, personally, stand on the issue of homework.

homeworkIn Ireland, up until recently, there seemed to be an accepted norm that homework was good and necessary. However, when the question was raised a couple of years ago, the IPPN raised some doubts about its effectiveness. This caused much discussion in primary education circles with opinions also very divided. For me, however, I think the problem is not whether homework is necessary or not, I think the problem is that homework as it stands is not useful, at least in primary schools.

There are usually two main arguments in favour of homework. Firstly, it reinforces learning in school and secondly, it prepares children for the necessity of lots of homework in secondary school.

The latter argument irks me greatly. I don’t believe for one second that primary school should prepare children for secondary school. I think our function is to prepare children for the real world. My remembrance of homework in secondary school was to prepare me for the Leaving Cert and I do not believe it is the function of primary schools to do this.

The first argument is a reasonably fair one but it seems ludicrous that everybody gets the same homework if this is the case. Surely homework should be as differentiated as school work if we are reinforcing what we’re doing in school. In any case, I think that we’re doing homework all wrong. I cannot see why we are still doing homework in the form that we are doing it.

With information so easily accessible these days, I think homework should take one of two forms if we are to do homework at all.

3300215_origThe first is project-based homework, where a question or problem is asked of the children and they can work on this problem. It could be something as simple as to find out as much as they can about a particular topic and record it in a project to present in class the next day. This involves parents in their children’s learning and can be much more interesting than simply reading a few pages of a reader and learning a load of boring spellings (don’t get me started on that one!)

The second is pretty much the same as the first one except it has a fancy name: The Flipped Classroom. This is where children are supposed to learn their schoolwork at home through various types of instruction (pre-recorded video, research, etc.) and then the “homework” is done in school. There is lots of information about the Flipped Classroom and some good examples of Irish teachers putting it into practice.

Overall, homework in its current form is becoming obsolete and meaningless. It needs to change if it is to survive the 21st century. With lots of ways to invigorate and modernise the concept of homework, it may very well survive. However, if we continue to give homework the same way as we always have, it is likely that less and less children will bother doing it.

Last Update: August 17, 2017  

October 23, 2014   130   simon    Leadership  
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