Sunday, August 27, 2000

Does homework work? If it enhances class, most educators say




By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        From math drills to research papers to bug collections, homework assignments today often require large chunks of students' time.

map
        But hours of effort don't necessarily mean hours of learning. Parents need to look at what type of assignments are coming home.

        “Is the homework meaningful or just busy work?” asks Pam Sayler, principal of Walton-Verona High School. “I don't care if it's only 20 minutes, if it's busy work, I'm not for it.

        Meaningful homework enhances what goes on in the classroom, says Harris Cooper, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri and author of The Battle Over Homework. It's a reinforcement of the skills and concepts learned during the school day.

        That may include repetitive drills like spelling lists, vocabulary words and math worksheets. But students also need assignments that help them connect what they've learned in the classroom with real-life experiences outside of school, Mr. Cooper says.

        “The best strategy is to mix it up,” he says.

HOMEWORK SURVEY
  Parents, students: Use our email form to tell us about your homework experience.
        Parent Kathy Ruschman says the best homework assignments turn on a lightbulb over her 13-year-old son Joel's head. They help him to better understand what he's studying and get him excited about what he's learning at Little Miami Junior High, she says.

        “Like for a ballgame, you have to practice,” Ms. Ruschman says. “But it shouldn't be used as punishment.”

        Kids should engage in meaningful learning after school beyond teacher assignments, such as independent reading, watching the Discovery Channel, going to the library or doing research on the Internet, says Ann Boyle, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Princeton City Schools.

        Princeton also encourages interactive “lifework,” such as learning measurements by cooking with the family, Ms. Boyle says.

        Homework should not be an avenue to introduce new material that the teacher didn't have time to get to in class, says Thomas Guskey, a professor of educational policy studies and evaluation at the University of Kentucky. Even for older students, who are more capable of learning things on their own, homework should complement something already discussed in class.

        “Homework is not a good initial teacher. You can't expect kids to learn things from homework that they haven't learned primarily in school,” Mr. Guskey says.

        For elementary students, effective homework should involve the parents, Mr. Guskey says. Parents who participate in the homework process not only monitor their children's progress and what they're learning, but also show kids that they value education.

        But parents should stay involved in nightly homework even for high schoolers. “Their role becomes one of an interested supporter rather than an active partner,” Mr. Guskey says.

        If parents think their children are spending too much time on homework, they should look at their approach to assignments, Ms. Sayler says.

        “Having the right study skills can make the difference.”

       



Homework gets longer, tempers get shorter
- Does homework work? If it enhances class, most educators say
A teacher's first day
Dueling plans target inner-city
Needle implanted in brain aids Parkinson's patients
Workers proud of road job
WILKINSON: Numbers don't lie at polar opposites in Ohio
PULFER: Erin Phenix
Unitarians at history's crossroads
Volunteers help give school grounds a make-over
Baseball's effects on young boys studied
Cancer claims voice, but not will to work
DAUGHERTY: Dad's music doesn't play here anymore
Firm seeks Deerfield address
Food, music, food, fun, food
Handmade or factory-made?
Islamic school to be built
Ky. state police ordered to avoid racial profiling
KIESEWETTER: Local pair produce Keillor novel for TV
New & Noted: Beatin' the Heat
Official runs for two jobs
DEMALINE: Planning team turns over reins to arts alliance
Prayer vigil provides lift to Justin's adoptive parents
SAMPLES: Bilingual services welcome Hispanic workers
Stradivarius? No, it's a Gray
Throwing the book at Mike Mestemaker
MCGURK: Film series gives birth to local support group
BRONSON: No limits
CROWLEY: Campaign 2000
Get to it
Kentucky people you know
Pig Parade: Topigary
Tristate A.M. Report