5 Reasons Homework Destroys Learning

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I have blasted homework for many years in many places, yet this awful practice continues in schools worldwide, stirring a hatred of learning in many children. Still, educators lean on traditional homework, like it’s the only way to deliver instruction.

5 reasons homework destroys learning

1 – Homework rarely connects to the real world — My daughter recently had to complete 14 long division problems. Frustrated, she asked, “Why do I even need to know this?” I couldn’t answer. Why not ask her to solve a problem on her iPad, using a cool math app? This is far more realistic.

2 – Most homework is assigned for practice — There is very little research supporting extra practice, such as 15 math problems or writing Spanish sentences, as a means of improving achievement. Application of skills to larger problems is much better for internalizing knowledge. Once, my son came home from school and said he had learned about surface area. He explained how to calculate area but said he didn’t understand why it was important.

We had a fascinating conversation about putting carpet in a room. “How would you decide what size piece of carpet to cut for the room?” I asked. The proverbial lightbulb came on and he said, “Oh, now I get it.” A teacher didn’t assign this, but applying a skill he’d learned in class was interesting to him. Most important, it was his choice.

3 – Students often don’t understand the homework assignment — My children come to me daily for help, because they don’t understand the assignment. Can someone explain why I have to do fourth-grade grammar? Why do fourth graders, for that matter?

4 – Homework cuts into family time — Today’s my birthday. We can’t celebrate, until homework is done. What’s up with that?

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5 – Homework is not fun — As Cindy Lauper once sang, “Girls just want to have fun.” (Boys too.) If homework is purportedly related to learning, and almost universally kids agree that it is not fun, then it stands to reason that homework destroys learning. Why would any educator ever give students something that destroys their love of learning? Still, the homework madness continues. Why?

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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