New attitude to homework will help children – study

New attitude to homework will help kids – study

Homework can create stress and undermine learning, says a leading school principal, who recommends youngsters learn to cook family meals rather than wade through worksheets.

Now a growing number of parents are being urged to follow a new approach to homework to boost children’s success at school.

A copy of the Best Evidence Synthesis (BES), which gathered work from 134 studies, is being sent to every school in the country.

“Homework can support or undermine student achievement, depending on how it is designed,” the study said.

“It is possible for schools to invest considerable time, energy and resources in engaging with families and communities in ways that have little or even negative impacts on student outcomes.”

Education Minister Anne Tolley said the research by Auckland University experts had significant implications for schools.

Amongst those driving new approaches to homework is the principal of Windsor School in Christchurch, Neill O’Reilly, whose homework policy has spread to about 100 other schools.

O’Reilly did not need to wait for Auckland researchers to tell him all was not well in home learning.

“A lot of what we have been sending home simply creates stress and isn’t improving outcomes for children,” he said. “Stop making them do it and try to just help them to love doing it.”

He said the only things that should be compulsory for homework were learning basic facts and reading. Work sheets, mini-projects and other programmes that imposed heavily on home life were out.

“The important thing is, we don’t just say to parents, `You have to do this’, because what we need to try to engender in children at primary school age is a love of learning,” O’Reilly said.

Windsor School had five sets of challenges for children to tackle for optional homework, beyond compulsory reading and fact-recall work, he said.

“These challenges recognise that learning doesn’t just happen in a vacuum within the school. We acknowledge that there are already great things going on in our homes, so it starts to acknowledge the sports, the music and the Scouts.”

Year 3 pupils would make a meal for their family as homework. By year 6, they would make three three-course meals, with mood music and lighting, he said.

Tolley launched the BES at a function at Auckland University this week, saying it was considered a “must-read” for everyone involved in education.

Michael Fullan, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, said the BES was “an important contribution to education not only in New Zealand, but also internationally”.


Last updated 05:00 09/11/2009