Karl Taro Greenfeld’s essay "My Daughter's Homework Is Killing Me" provides an interesting insight into the amount of homework middle school students at an elite, competitive school are required to complete during the course of a week. It also provides an insight into the impact that homework can have on students and parents, and captures the ambiguous feelings that many parents have about the demands that schools place on their children. Greenfeld obviously values the education his daughter is receiving at the LAB school, so that even though she is required to undertake extremely high levels of homework that have her working well beyond a 13-year-old’s bedtime, and which sometimes leave her upset and exhausted, he doesn’t ever consider the option of a less demanding and competitive school. Instead, he tries to influence individual school teachers to reduce the amount of homework they set for their students, though with limited success.
My colleague, Mike Horsley, and I wrote our book Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policy so that teachers, parents, and students would have access to the research evidence on homework in a concise and readable form. We hoped that the book would provide the basis for discussions around the benefits and costs of homework and would help school communities to develop fair and reasonable homework policies based on research evidence. Effective school homework policies can go a long way towards limiting excessive homework demands on students; in particular, they can prevent a situation where teachers ignore or are unaware of the requirements of other teachers.
Here are the issues we encourage teachers, parents, and students to consider when they talk about homework:
What is the purpose of homework? Research has focused on the achievement benefits of homework, the extent to which homework assists in the development of self-directed learning skills, the impact of parental involvement in homework activities, and more recently, ways that homework can be made more motivating for students.