After an analysis of research, we now know that there are ways that home learning can be helpful and supportive. But if rigidly applied and overly supervised, it can be demotivating and impede learning.
Many parents begin the year anxious to provide every opportunity for their children to succeed. They wonder about homework expectations and want to know how they can help. Hard work does make a difference but being rigid about specific hours required for homework can be problematic. After an analysis of research, we now know that there are ways that home learning can be helpful and supportive. But if rigidly applied and overly supervised, it can be demotivating and impede learning.
We believe the most important reason to engage in home learning is to reinforce concepts and information that pupils experience at school. Where the brain incorporates these concepts into neural networks - deep learning results. The brain has the capacity to remember new ideas for about 2 to 3 weeks. If the concepts are not revisited, used or are too hard to understand, they will be thrown out from the memory banks. This is an important survival process to prevent overload but it can be reversed when teachers organise and oversee learning to ensure that concepts are understood and become embedded. Home learning is most effective when linked to class activities and all students should develop habits to regularly review new skills, knowledge and concepts. While some people believe that cramming works for them, most of the information is not retained and this creates short-term surface learning.
When students have ownership of their learning at home, positive outcomes result. Asking genuine questions about your child’s experiences at school, reading together and supporting choices are important processes that support learning. When parents overly supervise homework, try to do the work for students or set rigid timelines, - these can result in negative effects and well-meaning people can inadvertently demotivate and disempower their child. The amount of homework needed to have an effect (how much it improves achievement) for junior school students (ages 5 – 10) is much lower than for senior school students (ages 11 – 18) (Hattie, Visible Learning page 235).
The best home learning enables students to establish routines of their own that will eventually support them for life. Homework guidelines are simply setting an expectation in place that learning happens at any time of the waking day and in many different ways. Research shows that “parent support for autonomous student behaviour shows a positive relationship to achievement.” (Hattie, Visible Learning page 235). There is no evidence however, that homework improves the development of time management in students of any age. As we work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for learning, the “fun factor, and feeling of success is something that is a powerful motivator. “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”