To Enhance Learning, Homework Has To Be High-Quality

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Time spent on math and science homework doesn’t necessarily mean better grades, but it could lead to higher scores on standardized tests, a new study finds. As reported on the website Futurity:

“Researchers examined survey and transcript data of more than 18,000 tenth-grade students to uncover explanations for academic performance. The data focused on individual classes, examining student outcomes through the transcripts from two nationwide samples collected in 1990 and 2002 by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Contrary to much published research, a regression analysis of time spent on homework and the final class grade found no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not.

But the analysis did find a positive association between student performance on standardized tests and the time they spent on homework.

‘Our results hint that maybe homework is not being used as well as it could be,’ says lead investigator Adam Maltese, assistant professor of science education at Indiana University.

Homework assignments cannot replace good teaching, says co-author Robert H. Tai, associate professor of science education at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education.

‘I believe that this finding is the end result of a chain of unfortunate educational decisions, beginning with the content coverage requirements that push too much information into too little time to learn it in the classroom,’ Tai says.

‘The overflow typically results in more homework assignments. However, students spending more time on something that is not easy to understand or needs to be explained by a teacher does not help these students learn and, in fact, may confuse them.

The results from this study imply that homework should be purposeful,” he adds, “and that the purpose must be understood by both the teacher and the students.'” (Read more here.)

I’ve written about this before: the quality of homework is essential to its effectiveness. See, for example, this article I wrote in the New York Times, “Quality Homework: A Smart Idea.”

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