Is homework helpful or harmful for student development?
Education consultant says homework can be good, but can also turn students off about learning
A viral social media post has once again sparked the debate surrounding homework and whether or not it's healthy or detrimental to a child's learning.
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Callers into CBC Radio's BlueSky rallied support behind this Texas teacher's strategy saying homework has become too disruptive and interferes with family time in the evening.
One caller who said she grew up in Finland said homework is unnecessary and it's actually banned in her country. The caller added the Finnish education system also has shorter school days than Canada's.
Michael Riest is an educational consultant, author and former teacher. He told CBC News he could argue for both sides of the homework debate. On one hand, he said he's fine with a teacher going to a homework-free policy, but he said no homework means kids will likely end up watching television and being generally unproductive at home.
My main message to parents is don't let homework ruin your family evenings and don't let homework ruin your relationships with your children.- Michael Riest, education consultant
When he grew up, Riest said he and his peers only had television as a distraction. Today kids have tablets and video games, too.
On the other hand, Riest said homework can be a big turn-off for students, leaving them uninterested in the subject matter and uninterested in learning.
"I specialize in working with boys and for a lot of boys they figure they put in their six or seven hours [in at school] and when they come home and they have to do more, it turns them off school fundamentally, it turns them off literacy … and that's the negative side effect of too much homework," Riest said.
Another Bluesky caller said when homework is assigned, certain assumptions are made about the child's life at home, according to a former teacher.
"In my experience we really need to keep the playing field level and there's a lot of research that shows if we sent children home with homework we're making all kinds of privileged assumption of who is home to help them," the caller said. "The gap that exists because of poverty is wider and we really need to realize it's not acceptable."
Riest added that homework can also be a bonding and relationship-building experience for kids and their parents. But it might also hinder a child's relationship with parents.
"My main message to parents is don't let homework ruin your family evenings and don't let homework ruin your relationships with your children," Riest said.
He contends homework also helps keep parents in the loop about lessons.
"Without homework it's easy to lose sight of what children are learning in school and what parents know they are learning in school so homework helps bridge that gap."
Keeping a reputation as a firm teacher
Riest added assigning homework could be a symptom of teachers trying to maintain the reputation of being a hard teacher or an easy teacher— likening the practice of assigning homework as a sort of Public Relations exercise for educators.
"They are seen as tougher teachers if they give homework and they're seen as weaker teachers if they don't give homework so part of it is a PR thing too and we all need to have a discussion about it," Riest said. "Let's give kids a break and let's leave kids to be kids."
With files from CBC Radio's BlueSky