The Great Homework Debate: Where Does Authenticity Meet Redundancy?


It may seem counterintuitive, but homework doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. For all the well-intentioned noise, the Great Homework Debate is still one of the least publicized (and most internalized) consternations for today's students and families.

Yes, there is a deep Lexus Nexus catalogue of articles about the pros and cons of homework in American education. And yes, Alfie Kohn has a quotable list of jeremiads against the ills of busy-work. But the real tug-of-war takes place at dinner tables each night, when school children have not yet completed their hours of worksheets.

This same push-and-pull continues in faculty meetings where educators wrestle with “how much is too much.” The rebranding of homework as “flipping the classroom” has only muddied the waters. Now instead of reading 20 pages of the textbook, kids watch 20 minutes of instructional videos. At bedtime, though, the question still lingers: where do authentic practice and independent learning meet redundant worksheets and desultory assignments?

Many institutions that have investigated the homework issue report increased learning when nightly burdens are lessened. Especially when it comes to ”studying,” the shifting of emphasis away from teacher-prescribed tasks to student-initiated review makes a world of difference in mastery and understanding.


We’ve offered ideas before about ways to teach without worksheets. This concept can hopefully apply to homework, too. Some terrific ideas come from this Jo Townsend “60 Minutes” video from Australia. It addresses the decline in time spent with friends and hobbies. It also mentions that 71 percent of parents feel they aren’t spending enough quality time with their children. They are instead worrying with homework and running the household. The video ends by referencing Finland, where students have no homework at all, and which consistently outranks other nations in its literacy achievements.

60 Minutes, 'Homework' infographic. from on Vim

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