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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Homework considered harmful

Homework can be counterproductive, according to an article on the physorg.com website. Here are a few excerpts:
Instead of improving educational achievement in countries around the world, increases in homework may actually undercut teaching effectiveness and worsen disparities in student learning, according to two Penn State researchers.

Most teachers worldwide are not making efficient use of homework, said David P. Baker, professor of education and sociology. They assign homework mostly as drill, to improve memorization of material either in math, science or the humanities. While drills and repetitive exercises have their place in schooling, homework may not be that place....

The researchers analyzed data from the Third International Study of Mathematics and Sciences (TIMSS), which in 1994 collected a large amount of data from schools in 41 nations across the fourth, eighth and 12th grades....

Their findings indicated a frequent lack of positive correlation between the average amount of homework assigned in a nation and corresponding level of academic achievement. For example, many countries with the highest scoring students, such as Japan, the Czech Republic and Denmark, have teachers who give little homework. “At the other end of the spectrum, countries with very low average scores — Thailand, Greece, Iran — have teachers who assign a great deal of homework,” Baker noted.

“The United States is among the most homework-intensive countries in the world for seventh- and eighth-grade math classes. U.S. math teachers on average assigned more than two hours of mathematics homework per week in 1994-95,” said LeTendre. “Contrary to our expectations, one of the lowest levels was recorded in Japan — about one hour a week. These figures challenge previous stereotypes about the lackadaisical American teenager and his diligent peer in Japan.”

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