Homework Review Results
Homework has been under review for quite some time at St Kevin’s. We have listened to parents, teachers and students. We have sought to give all a voice in their thoughts on this often contentious issue. Personally I have read many studies and research on the topic over the past few months. There are studies that can provide support for any point of view. Current research is however quite clear on the effect of homework and provides substantial evidence in support.
One of the most prominent figures in learning is Professor John Hattie. Hattie conducted the largest ever meta-analysis of effect factors in student learning. Among his many roles he is currently the Chair of Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.
Hattie’s study ranked 138 influencing factors in student learning from positive effect, to factors that have a detrimental effect on learning outcomes. The average effect size for these was 0.40. So in looking at factors that can positively affect student outcomes, educators should aim at and above this mark.
So, where does homework fit in this table? Homework sits at 88. It’s effect size being just 0.29. This takes into account that homework has higher value as a student progresses through school. This notion of increasing effect is supported by many other academics. There is a doubling effect from primary to junior secondary to VCE. This has also been quantified further by Hattie who says: “Homework in Primary School has an affect of around 0. In High School it is larger. Which is why we need to get it right, not why we need to get rid of it. It’s one of those low hanging fruits that we should be look at in our Primary Schools and saying, is it really making a difference?” While these are Hattie’s words, the data provided in his research puts the Primary School effect size at 0.15. Further research outlines that for those students that struggle in some areas, homework can actually have a negative effect sending the message that they are not capable of schoolwork and this can lower both their motivation and engagement.
What are high-performing educational systems doing in other countries?
- In Finland, they place high importance on developing a reading culture. Homework is not done at all in the early and middle years of schooling. Their system has the smallest difference between weakest and strongest student in the world. Finland consistently outperforms most other countries in education.
- In Spain, Homework is forbidden by Law in all schools in the primary section.
In every study related to homework that I have read, positive effects of homework are only evidenced in the mid to late years of schooling. Having a history of participating or not participating in homework in the preceding years had no effect on the evidence.
I have listened to many parents both personally and within our school survey that like homework purely because it assists children to “get ready for secondary school” or that it helps their children develop good time-management skills. In all of the current available research, there is none that provides evidence that homework assists children in the development of time management skills.
This now leads us directly to where our school will be going with homework. As stated earlier, we have sought to give all parents a say in the homework process, most of the results of our survey have been published for all parents to read. The complete data has also been given to the Parish Education Board. Any parent wanting to view the full set (with personal information removed) is free to come to school and read this. Our staff have also given considerable time to this issue.
At St Kevin’s we have decided to remove the existing structure of homework based on this evidence. We will not however be removing homework from our school.
- We believe that there is value in students completing homework that supports the school programs.
- We believe that as the name suggests, homework should be monitored by the parent.
- We believe that reading should form an integral component of homework at every year level.
- Homework is an excellent structure for the areas of rote learning such at number facts and tables.
- Homework should include non-academic areas.
- Homework is not a vehicle for student remediation.
Background Information for Parents on the Homework Grid
The Homework Grid Based on the work of Dr Ian Lillico
There is no doubt that children need to practise concepts learnt at school, within time constraints, but we need to broaden the definition of Homework. Any work that children do at home needs to be counted and parents and teachers should work together to ensure that children do some work at home, but not a lot of sedentary work. The Homework Grid is a solution to this old question of getting kids to do something at home and not opt out of family life. It will enable parents to get children to do their share of work in the home including housework, shopping, physical activity such as sport training and family outings such as walking, fishing and exploring the world – activities which enhance family life. It also covers areas such as reading, being read to, playing a game with parents, researching on the computer, music practice and many others. The Homework Grid philosophy emphasises diversity, family life and active pursuits. It gradually increases in time and complexity from Foundation to Year 6.
The Role of Parents
Making a plan to complete homework is quite often one of the most challenging tasks for students – deciding when the tasks can be completed will be affected by their extra-curricular activities and family commitments. It is a good idea to look at the homework tasks set for the week when they are received (Fridays or last day of the school week) and work out a plan for completion. You may wish to help them order the sequence of tasks and then set an amount of time to finish it. Students should not spend wasted hours each night stewing over difficult work as they begin to get a negative attitude to it as a result. If the homework is too difficult for your children, please speak to your teacher. Give positive feedback and praise for good work completed. It is important to show an interest in your child’s work as it encourages them to do their best.
Parents can assist by asking children questions prior to, during or after their reading – this directs their reading. It is also helpful for children to verbalise what they are about to write prior to writing. This can mean talking to you about the topic or explaining the main points. This process greatly aids fluency and volume and helps cement thoughts prior to writing.
Parents can find out more ways to assist their children at home by participating in our Parent Helper program, attending information or curriculum nights or drawing on the expertise of your classroom teacher at a parent/teacher interview. Helping in the classroom also helps to give an insight into modern school life and the concepts being taught at school.
Not the Role of Parents
It is not the role of parents to teach unknown curriculum content to the their children. As well as being stressful for the parents trying to do this, it can also create difficulties for the children and teachers when a variety of strategies or information is given. Homework is not supposed to be an extension of the school day; it is for developing organisation and responsibility, revision, and learning skills that have a limited development at school (for example road safety practise, using home appliances)
Over the remainder of Term 1 and for the whole of Term 2, St Kevin’s will trial a modified Dr Ian Lillico Homework Grid. Following is some background information and descriptors about the types of homework that children will be receiving.
Every week Maths, Reading and Spelling will be present in the homework grid. All students from Prep to Year 6 are also required to complete the reading log at the top of the sheet. The remaining boxes will be populated with activities from the list below.
Homework Grid Descriptions
The following outlines the purpose or reasoning behind the homework categories. Some categories will be included each week (such as daily reading), the others will be used intermittently depending on the level and curriculum. Some target particular school levels more than others.
Learn to read and spell your word list. This may include having somebody from home say the words for you to spell.
Read your take home reader, share your favourite stories from the library together, listen to an ebook. Complete your home reading record.
Practise number facts, times tables and mental mathematics, play dice games, listen to times tables songs or tapes, complete maths challenges in the newspaper, Studyladder tasks, card games.
Read and discuss literature circle books and books of personal choice. Read both fiction and nonfiction texts including newspaper articles, magazines, online resources, comics etc.
Building our Faith Community
Take time to share the values and faith of your family and our Catholic community.
Help at home
Do a job at home to help your family. Some ideas may include: tidy your room, help to set the table for dinner, play with or feed your pet. When housework is done with parents and siblings, it becomes a bonding activity and can enhance family life. It teaches the values of responsibility and respect.
Find out something by investigating the inquiry topic. This might include looking for information in books or using the internet.
Remember to bring
Bring in materials for learning activities eg collecting paddle pop sticks, show and share items, cardboard boxes for construction, special clothes (swimmers, dress ups etc).
Refer to your diary to see if you have additional homework to complete for this week.
Play a game with an adult
This is a special time to develop communication, problem solving and skills that can be transferred from adult to child. It can also teach the child to win and lose graciously. This could include outdoor games as well as indoor pastimes such as crosswords, Scrabble and a plethora of other board games which emphasise pictorial, verbal, linguistic, monetary and even social skills.
Teach your parents
One of the best ways of consolidating what one has learnt is to teach the concept to another. This can be set for class work or happen spontaneously to enable students to brief parents about work covered, but go a step further and try to explain and teach particular topics learnt that day or that week.
This can be expanded to include, artistic pursuits such as painting, drawing and sketching, sewing and general creative pursuits and hobbies. It might also include dancing, singing, listening to music, playing an instrument or practising another language.
This includes both formal sporting activities as well as activities with parents and siblings such as walking, riding a bicycle, bushwalking, fishing, walking the dog and a whole range of active pursuits both indoors and outdoors.
On the computer
ICT plays an important role in our lives for both work and leisure. Teachers may suggest websites or apps to practise concepts taught at school, including Studyladder.
This is a fantastic opportunity to spend time together and provides a real life context to apply mathematical concepts and language including money, size, length and volume. For example, you could count numbers of items, find the cheapest item, calculate simple totals, point to the longest/shortest, heaviest/lightest item.
Your teachers may set a challenge question or puzzle for you to have a go at. Good luck!
Teachers may also create new grid items relevant to their curriculum programs. At times, different year levels may have “Special Homework” particular to their class or individuals (for example, a class teddy in the junior years or a task linked to Sacrament preparation).
Sample Homework Grids
Below is a sample grid for each level – Junior (P-2), Middle (3-4) and Senior (5-6). Included on the grid are activities similar to those that will appear in the weekly homework. The Reading Log is designed to record your child’s reading on a daily basis. This allows both parents and teachers to track what the students are reading. All students should read every day. In the senior level this log would include both fiction and nonfiction material. Reader Response, Spelling and Mathematics will also appear each week. Mathematics will focus on mental computations and basic maths concepts required for more advanced mathematical procedures. Often it is a failure of the basics that hold children back. The other activities are from the list and will change from week to week.
Please take the time over the next week to talk to your child about the Homework Grid. They might even like to try out some of the activities. If you have any questions regarding the Homework, don’t hesitate in talking to your child’s teacher.
Sample Homework Grid Junior
Sample Homework Grid Middle
Sample Homework Grid Senior