Not all homework is created equal


Homework can do a lot of good, but it can do just as much harm with the wrong approach.

It’s not a new debate. We’ve being weighing the pros and cons of sending kids home from school with homework for decades. Since digital tools have been integrated into the education system, homework has continually amplified society’s existing inequities.

For many students, at-home practice is essential to retain new concepts taught in class. Assigning things like readings for at-home completion allows teachers to use finite classroom time as efficiently as possible, but there is such thing as effective and ineffective homework.

For example, when homework is assigned for the sake of having something to grade, it can lead students to disengage with their education. No one likes to feel their time is being wasted—and kids are no exception. Assigning pointless busy work to check boxes isn’t educating.

It’s also important to consider students need and deserve time to decompress after spending a full day at school. For students taking part in extracurricular activities, there’s even less free time available after factoring in homework.

The traditional approach to homework, particularly at the high-school level, is classist. Some students can afford to pay tutors to guide them through assignments after school while others must work as much as possible to help support their families.

For homework to be an effective learning tool, we need to solve the barriers making it inaccessible. If homework depends on access to a stable internet connection outside of school or it’s assigned without considering neurodivergent students, it’s not supporting everyone’s learning.

Most homework assignments assume neurotypicality and don’t leave room for flexibility for students with different learning styles. Accessible homework, on the other hand, is adaptable to whatever resources each individual student has available to them, is not technology dependent, and acknowledges neurodivergence. 

All the issues homework suffers from are symptoms of greater social issues like generalized ableism and income inequality. The classroom structure is rigid and doesn’t allow for more accommodating practices, even when teachers want to implement them.

Unfortunately, the ideal homework approach requires resources and manpower most schools lack. Educators are underpaid and underappreciated, which limits the quality of education they’re able to provide. Investing in education means providing schools with the resources necessary to make the changes students need.

It’s hard to learn anything without practice, and the reality is there isn’t enough time in the school day to devote to it. That’s where completion grades and general feedback come in.

Correcting and providing feedback on homework that doesn’t impact their grades is valuable for students of all ages. For younger children, this approach could positively impact their self-esteem, while older students will feel encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning.

Perhaps what makes homework so valuable is its effectiveness as a tool for learning time management and self-motivation. Learning how to learn and how to support your own learning is an essential skill—unlike being able to label a cell diagram.

Kids need reinforcement to stay engaged, and homework can provide positive reinforcement opportunities if executed the right way. But sometimes real learning falls through the cracks when we focus too closely on going through the motions.

Eliminating homework is a non-solution. We need better homework.

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