Share via Email Studies have linked homework to anxiety and stress. I teach both primary and secondary, and regularly find myself drawn into the argument on the reasoning behind it — parents, and sometimes colleagues, question its validity. Parent-teacher interviews can become consumed by how much trouble students have completing assignments.
All of which has led me to question the neuroscience behind setting homework. Is it worth it? The anxiety related to homework is frequently reviewed. These same students reported that the demands of homework caused sleep deprivation and other health problems, as well as less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits.
When students learn in the classroom, they are using their short-term or working memory. This information is continually updated during the class. On leaving the classroom, the information in the working memory is replaced by the topic in the next class. Adults experience a similar reaction when they walk into a new room and forget why they are there.
The new set of sensory information — lighting, odours, temperature — enters their working memory and any pre-existing information is displaced. But education is about more than memorising facts. Students need to access the information in ways that are relevant to their world, and to transfer knowledge to new situations.
Similarly, students must practise their skills in different environments. Revising the key skills learned in the classroom during homework increases the likelihood of a student remembering and being able to use those skills in a variety of situations in the future, contributing to their overall education.
The link between homework and educational achievement is supported by research: However, it makes a bigger difference in secondary schools. His explanation is that students in secondary schools are often given tasks that reinforce key skills learned in the classroom that day, whereas primary students may be asked to complete separate assignments.
The science of homework: In my own practice, the primary students I teach will often be asked to find real-life examples of the concept taught instead of traditional homework tasks, while homework for secondary students consolidates the key concepts covered in the classroom.
For secondary in particular, I find a general set of rules useful: This includes elaborating on information addressed in the class or opportunities for students to explore the key concept in areas of their own interest. Make sure students can complete the homework. A high chance of success will increase the reward stimulation in the brain. Get parents involved, without the homework being a point of conflict with students.
Make it a sharing of information, rather than a battle. Check the homework with the students afterwards. This offers a chance to review the key concepts and allow the working memory to become part of the long-term memory. While there is no data on the effectiveness of homework in different subjects, these general rules could be applied equally to languages, mathematics or humanities.
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