Teachers, Students, Parents And Homework

We assign homework day-in-day-out. We tend to think that it is part and parcel of our job and our students’ duty. We never question or discuss homework policies and practices. However, there is clear evidence of the importance of raising our attention to  an insightful reflection on homework especially nowadays that technology has entered  majestically into every home, making so many more resources available to learners outside the classroom.

This post is one in a series of two which will try to answer the following questions:

  1. What is a homework?
  2. Why should we assign homework?
  3. What are the teachers and students’ attitudes towards homework?
  4. How can we make the homework an effective tool of learning?
  5. What are the various forms of  homework?

What is homework?

Homework is defined as out-of-class tasks assigned to students as an extension or elaboration of classroom work. There are three major categories of homework: practice, preparation, and extension.

Practice assignments reinforce newly acquired skills. For example, students who have just learned a new English tense should be given sample exercise to use the tense accurately in model sentences. Preparation assignments help students get ready for activities that will occur in the classroom. Students may, for example, be required to do background research on a topic to be discussed later in class. Extension assignments are frequently long-term continuing projects that parallel classwork. Students must apply previous learning to complete these assignments.

Reasons for homework

Homework is expected by students, teachers and institutions. It reinforces and helps learners to retain information taught in the classroom as well as increase their general understanding of the language.

  • Homework develops study habits,  independent learning and self discipline.
  • It encourages learners acquire resources such as dictionaries and grammar reference books.
  • It also benefits problem solving skills.
  • It offers opportunities for extensive activities in the so called  “receptive” skills which there may not be time for in the classroom.
  • It may also be part of ongoing learning such as project work.
  • Homework provides continuity between lessons. It may be used to consolidate classwork but also for preparation for the following lesson.
  • It may shift repetitive mechanical time consuming tasks out of the classroom.
  • Homework bridges the gap between school and home. Students, teachers and parents can monitor progress.

Attitudes towards homework

Teachers, students and parents may have negative feelings about homework.

  • While teachers recognize the importance of homework, they observe negative attitudes. Marking and giving useful feed back on homework can take up a large proportion of  teacher’s time, mostly after school hours.
  • Students complain that the homework they are given is boring or pointless, perceiving it as a sort of punishment rather than a tool for learning progress. This loss of interest  is a result of poor quality homework that some teachers may assign such as memorizing lists of vocabulary items. Other negative effects of poorly managed homework result from lack of sufficient and necessary leisure time. These problems are often the cause of avoidance techniques such as completing homework tasks in class, collaborating and copying or simply not doing it at all.
  • Parents complain that homework is a tiring experience when it takes too much time leaving the kids without leisure time. Lack of an established homework policy may place either insufficient or unrealistic demands on children. They may receive too many assignments from different teachers on the same evening.

In the next post I will show how teachers can use homework effectively and what type of homework they should focus on.

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