Does homework work?

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As we sit with our children helping them on their nightly route of homework, does it cross your mind; does this actually help my child learn more? The simple answer is ‘yes’ but it is the time and effort we as parents put in to helping our children that is important. Humans are naturally curious and willing to learn and this is particularly true for children. Therefore we must presume that if we put a child in a room with a book they will learn. This innate learning must be taken as the baseline with only further leaning taken as a positive. How much they learn will depend on a number of factors but as parents we must be interested in what really helps our children learn more.

Educationists have been researching this idea for centuries and it would be useful if someone could quantify this research on a scale and show us clearly what makes a difference our children’s learning. This has been done and anyone who is interested in teaching and learning sees this an opportunity to determine if we are actually helping our children or hindering them.

Before we look at the things, which aid learning, it is best to know what is detrimental to learning as well? A real challenge in your child’s education is mobility, so you should make sure when you choice a school that you make the right decision and stay at that school. You heard it from your parents ‘that television is not good for you’. You guessed it, they are right, certainly from a learning prospective. But, the one that might surprise you the most is the long summer holiday. For best results, try and choose a school with a longer academic year to reduce the impact of this drop in performance on your child.

So if these are the things to try and avoid what can we actually do to help? As social creatures one of the most important aspect of learning is the relationship between student and teacher, if this is based on respect and understanding, more learning will take place. This relationship is better developed in smaller classes where the interactions are more frequent and are more personalised. Also, in smaller classes a more informed teacher can assess your child on a regular basis and use this formative assessment in their planning and delivery of lessons. But, one of the most dramatic improvements you and your child’s teacher can make is giving rapid feedback to the learning. So when at home helping with the homework the best thing to do is not to do it for your child but give them feedback on what they have done and how they can improve it.

Another major factor in improving learning is the behaviour of the class with inappropriate behaviour discouraged and students given clarity on classroom expectations from the teacher. Of course the major aid in learning is the curriculum and the central idea of the child being at the centre of his/her own learning with clear learning intentions given by the teacher. This is a core value of the IB PYP curriculum and One World International School, with the learner profile being at the heart of the educational system. If the student understands what they are learning and can report back to the teacher or parent what they have achieved and what their strengths and weaknesses are, that is a major goal in improving learning. This is clearly demonstrated in the idea of a ‘student led conference’, which the school should promote as the pinnacle of learning as this comes directly from the student to the parent. This participation from home is also crucial as parental involvement is another key indicator for success in learning. This comes in many forms but must be a partnership with the school so please make sure you have a voice and work with the school for better learning.

Coming back to the beginning of these thoughts – does homework work? As stated earlier, it does but it is much lower on the scale compared to the other points stated above. Therefore don’t concentrate too much on homework but on the real improvements which will allow your child to grow as a life-long learner.

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