The value of homework

We are about far enough into the term work for the pencils that were once carefully honed have become a little bit blunt.  The exercise book that was being filled in with enormous care might just now be filled in with a little less.  We are moving into the time when students need to dig into their reserves of determination if they are to continue to work at the rate they started at.  For most this is easy enough during the school day as lessons give a structure.  There can be little doubt that a bigger challenge exists when it comes to independent work. Homework can be a challenge and it is a subject of much debate.  In the eyes of some students it is an instrument of frustration, something that gets in the way, for many teachers it is a vital part of the educational process.  Educationalists are split, for some it is a crucial element of the learning process while others believe it is nothing more than filling time.

I’m not sure I really like the idea of homework.  What I know I prefer is something more traditional.  For me, work outside of the classroom is best when it is the more old fashioned “prep”.  Curiously, new technologies aid students in their preparation. In the flipped classroom, students are prepared for their lesson outside the class-room and the time spent with the teacher is more about problem solving than simply delivering information. Time spent learning vocabulary or reading around is best done out of the classroom.  Research is often more developed when not done in the confines of timetabled lessons.  There is no point in using the valuable resource that is the teacher to supervise note taking.  Far better to have the teacher make sure that difficult concepts have been understood than use class time for basic tasks best done in preparation. Our aim as a school is to make both resources and opportunities available for students to use outside of the classroom, to pose challenges, to develop ideas, to keep learning interesting and stimulating.  It won’t be the case that the “finish off the class work” will vanish but it may well be the case that parents will see new types of homework being set.

Of course, there will never be an enormous amount of support for homework.  There are significant discussions in the French educational system about the role of work at home.  It is therefore important that we as teachers make it as practical, interesting and useful as possible.  I believe that “preparation” is a vital element of learning, it is a great habit to develop and we as a school will keep on setting it.

Nicholas Hammond