Research Against Homework

Research Against Homework-14
This stems from a difficulty I have when I hear or read, fairly often, that ‘research shows that homework makes no difference’. Or, from two classes, 21 times out of a 100, using homework will be more effective. Turn the page: The studies show that the effect size at Primary Age is d = 0.15 and for Secondary students it is d = 0.64! On this basis, homework for secondary students has an ‘excellent’ effect.It is cited as a hard fact in articles such as this one by Tim Lott in the Guardian: Why do we torment kids with homework? Hattie then says that terms such as ‘small, medium and large’ need to be used with caution in respect of effect size. I am left thinking that, with a difference so marked, surely it is pure nonsense to aggregate these measures in the first place? Maybe, but the detail, as always, is worth looking at.Hattie is at pains to point out that there will be great variations across the different studies that simply average out to the effect size on his barometers. Finally, the evidence is that teacher involvement in homework is key to its success.

This stems from a difficulty I have when I hear or read, fairly often, that ‘research shows that homework makes no difference’. Or, from two classes, 21 times out of a 100, using homework will be more effective. Turn the page: The studies show that the effect size at Primary Age is d = 0.15 and for Secondary students it is d = 0.64! On this basis, homework for secondary students has an ‘excellent’ effect.It is cited as a hard fact in articles such as this one by Tim Lott in the Guardian: Why do we torment kids with homework? Hattie then says that terms such as ‘small, medium and large’ need to be used with caution in respect of effect size. I am left thinking that, with a difference so marked, surely it is pure nonsense to aggregate these measures in the first place? Maybe, but the detail, as always, is worth looking at.Hattie is at pains to point out that there will be great variations across the different studies that simply average out to the effect size on his barometers. Finally, the evidence is that teacher involvement in homework is key to its success.

They can discuss their assignments or any problems that they are having with parts of their textbooks, before or after classes.

The second benefit is that it can bring families closer together as students may ask their parents or siblings for help on their homework.

The key is to think about the micro- level issues, not to lose all of that in a ridiculous averaging process.

Even at primary level, students are not all the same.

Not only will this help the students get a better understanding of their work with any parts they are stuck on, it will also allow parents to get more involved in their child's educational life.

Thirdly, doing homework will prepare students for the big end tests.Even though Tim is talking about his 6 year old, and cites research that refers to ‘younger kids’, too often the sweeping generalisation is applied to all homework for all students. I have written about my views on homework under the heading ‘Homework Matters: Great Teachers set Great Homework’ . He is ambitious and won’t accept comparison with 0.0 as a sign of a good strategy. Homework, taken as an aggregated whole, shows an effect size of d= 0.29 that is between small and medium? Hattie goes on to report that other factors make a difference to the results: eg when what is measured is very precise (eg improving addition or phonics), a bigger effect is seen compared to when the outcome is more ephemeral. Hattie suggests that the reason for the difference between the d=0.15 at primary level at d=0.64 at secondary is that younger students can’t under take unsupported study as well, they can’t filter out irrelevant information or avoid environmental distractions – and if they struggle, the overall effect can be negative.I’ve said that all my instincts as a teacher (and a parent) tell me that homework is a vital element in the learning process; reinforcing the interaction between teacher and student; between home and school and paving the way to students being independent autonomous learners. He cites Cohen as suggesting with reason that 0.2 is small, 0.4 is medium and 0.6 is large and later argues himself that we need a hinge-point where d 0.6 to be considered excellent. So, we need to be clear: what is measured has an impact on the scale of the effect. That matches my predisposed bias so I should be happy. At secondary level he suggests there is no evidence that prescribing homework develops time management skills and that the highest effects in secondary are associated with rote learning, practice or rehearsal of subject matter; more task-orientated homework has higher effects that deep learning and problem solving.Older, more able students in Year 5/6 may well benefit from homework where kids in Year 2 may not. Also, what Hattie shows is that educational inputs, processes and outcomes are all highly subjective human interactions.Expecting these things to be reduced sensibly into scientifically absolute measured truths is absurd.If a child does poorly on an assignment then they will learn what is necessary to do well on the next test without being punished.It also provides students with the opportunity to practice at what it takes to be successful in school. Doing homework is also a great way to develop responsibilities.The key outcomes are interesting, suggesting a number of key factors that are likely to make the greatest impact in classrooms and more widely in the lives of learners. In a key example, he describes a study of five meta-analyses that capture 161 separate studies involving over 100,000 students as having an effect size d= 0.29. This is the best typical effect size across all the studies, suggesting: However, there are other approaches such as the ‘common language effect’ (CLE) that compares effects from different distributions.My main interest here is to explore what Hattie says about homework. For homework a d= 0.29 effect translates into a 21% chance that homework will make a positive difference.(For Teach First #TDC2018: slides are here: Teach First Homework) This is an excellent book.It is an attempt to distil the key messages from the vast array of studies that have been undertaken across the world into all the different factors that lead to educational achievement.

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