I spent this evening with several concerned parents who were discussing their concerns with the amount of homework that their children in elementary school have to do. Near the end of our talk, I was told about a recent article in a national newspaper, written by the Canadian Council on Learning. You may remember that the CCL received $85 million from Canadian taxpayers last year to set up five knowledge centres. In Words of Comfort to Parents About Homework, posted on the CCL site, Paul Cappon states:
Research supports the idea that homework assignments in reasonable amounts can substantially contribute to learning. Not surprisingly, students who do homework perform better on tests and other assessments than students who duck it. And, up to a point “there is such a thing as too much homework” the more homework students do, the better they perform.
Please Mr. Cappon; what research? The only positive research that I know of was conducted by students; was not peer reviewed; and had small sample sizes. Please post references to any other valid research data here, in case I am ignorant of some reputable studies on the subject.
So, do reasonable amounts of homework contribute to learning? The authors of The Homework Myth, The Case Against Homework and The End of Homework, strongly disagree, and cite several studies to support this position. In our small group of parents, several with PhD’s and statistical analysis expertise, not a single person has been able to find any data to support this statement by the CCL. Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth, puts it quite categorically:
For starters, there are no data whatsoever to show that elementary school students benefit from doing homework. None. And even in high school there’s only a modest correlation between time spent on homework and achievement – with little reason to think that the achievement was caused by doing more homework. Then there’s other evidence, including a brand-new study of TIMSS data from 50 countries, and it shows no positive effects from homework, even for older students. I wasn’t able to find any reason to believe that students would be at any sort of intellectual disadvantage if they had no homework at all.
So why is a publicly-funded learning institution making flawed statements in the national press about educational practices? These are words of discomfort for me.