Homework: Is Less More?

‘The more you put in, the more you get out.’ As a VCE Teacher, this is often my catch cry to my students, particularly in relation to studying for SACS and end of year exams.

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However, after reading 10 Things Schools Get Wrong & How We Can Get Them Right by Dr Jared Cooney Horvath and David Bott, perhaps a ‘less is more’ approach is far more valuable to support students to achieve their best results.

All schools have different guidelines when it comes to homework for VCE students. Some suggest two hours a night, while others suggest closer to four. In my current school context, I’ll take any amount homework I can get from my students, but the most pertinent question for us as teachers is: How do we get the most out of students without overburdening them and burning them out?

Horvath and Bott, (2020) bring the science to back up the opinion on homework, noting the measurement between duration and outcome is not linear.  More homework does not necessarily mean more learning. The authors assert that homework in shorter time periods can help improve student learning, with middle years students ideally completing 45 minutes a night and VCE students completing 60 minutes a night. So, what does that mean for us as teachers?

Well firstly, with over 90% of teenagers not meeting the basic daily recommendations for physical movement (Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018), it means encouraging young people to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle rather than burying their heads in books.  Through giving students from Years 7-10 short amounts of homework of between 5-10 minutes a night per subject, students can build on the skills and knowledge learnt in class to improve learning. By setting short amounts of homework, not only are we allowing our students the opportunity to develop interests outside of the school context, but we are giving them achievable goals that will hold them in good stead for the senior years of school. When it comes to VCE, rather than giving students 30 minutes to an hour a night per subject, encourage students to be consistent with their homework in order to consolidate learning and memory.  Ask them to complete 10-15 minutes a night regularly, rather than cramming one week before the SAC.

Whilst there are students who will have no trouble completing hours and hours of homework a night, it is important that as teachers we understand the science behind our pedagogy and try to best support all students to retain knowledge and practice their skills.  This can be done through a less is more approach, rather than bombarding students with practice questions and quizzes.

References:

Shaun Bourke

Classroom Teacher, Heathmont College

2nd Year Humanities teacher specialising in History and Politics. 

Comments

Go to the profile of Ken Wong
6 months ago

Thanks for sharing your view on homework. I agree, less is best. But with the demands from the education systems and competition for grades etc, families feel that their children must do more to achieve the best grades. I think that the term "homework" has negative connotations and we should call homework "revision" or "home tasks", anything but homework. Students need to be taught how to be efficient when completing tasks at home, schools need to also timetable when assignments and assessments are given during the year without dumping it all at the same time.