Have you ever stopped for a few minutes to think about the importance of homework? Why is it so hated by both students who have to spend some of their free time to do it and teachers who have to correct it? Have you noticed that some parents are so eager to see if their children have brought homework to be done or the opposite, i.e., parents who detest the idea of having to sit with their children and help them do it? What about adults, who almost never “have time” to do their homework?

A lot of people are going to argue that we give homework to our students so that they keep on practicing after school hours (maybe teachers think the time spent at school is not long enough for students to acquire some knowledge properly, and they decide that some reinforcement is important), or that the students need to remember what was learned, and even maybe they think it is a way of working on home-school connections. On the other hand, when we start reflecting on meaningful learning (it refers to a learning way where the new knowledge to acquire is related with previous knowledge – Ausubel 2000), we can view teaching from a different perspective. It is very interesting to compare and/or contrast meaningful learning with rote learning (when you memorize something without full understanding and you don’t know how the new information relates to your other stored knowledge).  Anyway, there are some theories for and against the use of homework.

One thing is important to note: when teachers assign homework, they have  to be aware of its purpose. What do I want to get by having my students do it? Is it useful? Reasonable? Beneficial? How am I going to correct it? Am I going to grade it? Is it a kind of assessment?

First of all, let’s agree that there is no perfect assignment that will stimulate every student because one size simply doesn’t fit all. Moreover, most schools and teachers agree that a lack of homework assignments may reflect an insufficient commitment to academic achievement.

Having said that, I am going to stick to the idea that students benefit from some types of homework practice.

It is accepted by most people that taking time at home to dedicate to a learning task provides additional hours of effort, exposure, and experience, which enhance or reinforce the potential for meaningful learning. Furthermore, they experience the results of their effort as well as the ability to cope with mistakes and difficulty (Bempechat, 2004).

Once a teacher assigns homework to the students, it must be corrected as soon as possible, and appropriate feedback, such as correcting misunderstanding, validating process and highlighting errors in thinking, has to be given because students’ achievement can vary based on the kind of feedback is provided by the teacher (Walberg, 1999).

Grading homework is useful, but homework in which a teacher has embedded helpful comments has the best effect on learning.  So, there’s no use in giving a great deal of homework if teachers do not dedicate enough time to correcting it. Homework can also be an excellent mirror of what is happening during classes. It enables teachers to check if their students understand what was taught, if they have mastered what they have learned, and if they need more explanations or extra practice on a specific subject. Nowadays, there is online homework, such as MyEnglishLab www.myenglishlab.com by Pearson, which is automatically corrected, and students know instantly  whether they have done right or wrong, while the teacher receives feedback from the program. Very useful and practical!

Teachers should also bear in mind that applying consistent consequences is a  tradition in some schools that they may or may not want to follow – positive recognition for homework completion and appropriate consequences for lack of completion (but remember that some students may feel unmotivated for being “punished”). The simple fact that the homework was corrected and soon returned can be a great stimulus for some students. What is inappropriate is what happens in some schools: the deliverance of late homework right before a test. What’s the use of it? Neither students nor teachers benefit from such practice. The teacher will go crazy trying to correct everything in no time and the student won’t have enough time to understand what he or she has done wrong.

When it comes to adults, there is always a “good excuse” for not having done the assigned homework. They work long hours, they have the family to take care of, they have already extra work to be done, etc. Moreover, modern life gifts people with a lot of extra and different activities, so the excuses may vary. The truth is that they do not want to have more obligations after classes. They want to enjoy life. Adult learners can be addressed in different ways. The MyEnglishLab tool may be of great service, in this case, because it spares students a lot of time spent on writing answers on activity books.

In a nutshell, we can conclude that believing in homework is a personal matter, and the amount given depends on each teacher, provided there is a real purpose in doing so, as well as sufficient and fast feedback. As for me, I prefer to rely on the proverb “practice makes perfect.”


This post is offered by: Pearson