School – Home – Work; a trinity. After school you go home and do your homework. It is as old as the way to Rom. There is a lot to be said about the merits of doing homework, and a lot against it (1). Agreed upon is that it is not being liked by students. But that is not really a valid argument because anyone nowadays brings work to home. One may not like it; it is, however, a necessity of life today. In this sense homework prepares for a future at work, one could say. A pragmatic reason for homework is that not everything can be treated to the full during school-time. So, working on assignments at home is a kind of overflow of learning into another arena. Strangely enough this argument is not very popular. More widely adopted are statements like: it is good to practice, some repetition might be useful; preparation for what is to come; extra time benefits learning; transfer occurs when learning in a different context (2) . Next to: it keeps them of the street; it is good to create a study attitude, and it can be motivating to do assignments in your own pace and time. So, where lies the truth about doing homework?
A study helps to clarify the issue. In a carefully controlled design having a large groups of students, three types of home work conditions were compared using mathematics assignments to work on. In a practice condition students were asked to complete assignments that had been worked upon in the classroom before. In an preparation class the students had to learn the topics to be covered in the next lesson. In an extension treatment transfer of learning to new tasks was promoted by giving additional more in-depth assignments’ of what was treated in the lesson. It turned out that the extension treatment resulted in higher math grades. The authors attributed this to the higher cognitive demands the treatment placed on learning.
The implicit warning made by the study is clear. Do not give homework to kill time with boring, repetitive assignments on what was done already in the classroom but initiate to keep on learning. Doing your homework needs close attention, not cutting corners. Homework is not something additional, something extra. It is more like what has been done at school. But one might wonder then: if you can do at home what is done at school why or what do we need schools for then?
Does homework design matter? The role of homework’s purpose in student mathematics achievement by Pedro Rosário, José Carlos Núñez, Guillermo Vallejo, Jennifer Cunha, Tânia Nunes, Rosa Mourão, Ricardo Pinto. IN: Contemporary Educational Psychology 43 (2015) 10–24.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2015.08.001 0361-476X/© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.