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Make sure you complete your homework.
If only things were that straightforward.
Since the late nineteenth century, educators have debated the merits of assigning homework to students. Things have only gotten more complicated in recent years, as a result of concerns raised by some parents and teachers that children are being overburdened with homework.
Dr. Janine Prusina, a developmental psychologist and clinical professor at Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, says homework can be difficult to complete. Education Next's winter 2019 issue contains an article by Prusina titled "The Case for (Quality) Homework—Why It Improves Learning and How Parents Can Help." Prusina investigated how the debate about homework is influencing teacher preparation, parent and student beliefs about learning, and school policies.
Specifically, she is concerned about students from low-performing schools who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and who, according to research conducted by Prusina and others, receive little or no homework.
I believe that teachers assign homework in elementary school as a way to help students develop skills that will be useful later in life—for example, beginning to instill a sense of responsibility, as well as learning planning and organizational skills. That, I believe, is the most important benefit of homework: it helps students develop positive attitudes toward learning as well as the skills necessary for academic success. If we drastically reduce or eliminate homework in elementary school, we deprive children and their parents of opportunities to instill these critical learning habits and skills in themselves and their children.
The completion of homework and academic success have been shown to be highly correlated since late middle school and have remained so through high school, according to the research.
That, I believe, is the most important benefit of homework: it helps students develop positive attitudes toward learning as well as the skills necessary for academic success.
You speak of the importance of doing high-quality homework. What exactly is it?
Homework that is of high quality is engaging and relevant to children's lives. It empowers them and encourages them to become involved in their communities and with their families. Worksheets can be extremely beneficial in certain subjects, such as mathematics. It has everything to do with the importance of practicing over and over again.
The debate over homework is having an impact on teacher preparation, parent and student beliefs about learning, and school policies, according to Dr. Prusina, who has studied how the debate about homework is influencing these factors as well as school policies. "They can assist in other ways as well, such as assisting children in organizing a study space, providing snacks, serving as a source of support, and assisting children in working in groups with siblings or friends." Cydney Scott captured this image.
What are your main concerns about homework and low-income children in general?
The argument that some people make—that homework "punishes the poor" because lower-income parents may not be as well-equipped to help their children with homework as more affluent parents—is extremely concerning to me. There are no parents who are unconcerned about their children's educational development. Parents don’t actually have to help with homework completion in order for kids to do well. They can also assist in other ways, such as assisting children in organizing a study space, providing snacks, serving as a source of support, and assisting children in working in groups with siblings or friends.
Isn't it true that the debate over eliminating homework is primarily taking place in affluent communities?
Yes, and the stories we hear about kids who are stressed out because they have too much homework—four or five hours of homework a night—are true in some cases. That is detrimental to one's physical and mental health, as well as one's overall well-being. However, according to the findings of the study, higher-income students are assigned significantly more homework than lower-income students.
Teachers of lower-income students may not have the same high expectations as those of higher-income students. Schools should be held accountable for providing students with the resources they need to complete their homework, such as after-school clubs, community support, and peer group support, among other things. When our expectations of children are lower than those of adults, we are doing them an injustice.
It's fair to say that the conversation about homework is a social class and social justice issue to some extent. If we eliminate homework for all children because affluent children have too much, we are doing a great disservice to children from low-income families, according to the research. They require a challenge, and every student is capable of meeting that challenge if the necessary supports are in place.
What did you take away from your investigation into how education schools prepare future teachers to deal with homework?
We conducted interviews with faculty members at education schools, as well as supervising teachers, to determine how students are being prepared for their future careers. Margarita Jimenez-Silva is a colleague at the University of California, Davis, School of Education. And it appeared as though they weren't. Readings on the research did not appear to be included, nor did there appear to be any discussions about what constitutes high-quality homework and how to create it.
What kind of training did you receive in order to deal with homework, Erin?
Although I had outstanding professors at Wheelock, I never had to do any homework during my time there. I had a lot of experience with student teaching. On one hand, I've been in classrooms where teachers didn't assign any homework, and on the other, I've been in classrooms where teachers assigned hours of homework every night. However, I never even considered homework as something that I could choose to do on my own. I just assumed it was something I could pull out of a book and throw together quickly.
This year, on the first night of school, I began assigning homework to students. My first assignment was to go home and draw a picture of the room where you do your homework. I completed this assignment in one day. I'd like to know if you're sitting at a table with chairs around it and if your mother is preparing dinner while you're working on your homework.
On the second night, I asked them to talk to a parent or guardian about how they were going to be able to complete their homework during the school week. It was a huge hit with the kids. It's become a running joke that I'm a life skills instructor.
On Friday nights, I read aloud to me all of my children's responses to their homework from the previous week, and it's wonderful. They pour their hearts out on the page. You could almost imagine us having a conversation on my couch Friday night.
It is important to know that your teacher is concerned about you and that what you have to say is taken into consideration. Homework serves as a link between the home and the school... for parents to be aware that their children's teachers are welcoming to them and their families
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