The role and purpose of homework in contemporary education
There are increasing calls for homework to be reappraised in terms of its relevance, and in some cases there have been moves to scrap the practice altogether.
What is the role and purpose of homework in contemporary education?
The setting of homework – additional tasks to be completed outside of session time to deepen and expand on classroom learning – has long been a part of formal education. From reading and simple numeracy and literacy exercises in primary schools, to long-form project work set in some secondary subjects, homework is embedded into the organisation of UK education. The educational value of homework has long been upheld, not just by custom and practice, but also through research-based evidence (Sharp, Keys, and Benefield, 2001). That said, there are increasing calls for homework to be reappraised in terms of its relevance, and in some cases there have been moves to scrap the practice altogether in its traditional form (BBC, 2016). In response to workload prioritisation challenges, at least one school has scrapped the setting of homework in order to give teachers more time to plan and prepare lessons (Espinoza, 2016).
Though homework represents a marking burden to teachers and a workload issue to learners, the educational value of reinforcing learning through additional work remains sustained, particularly as preparation for GCSE performance (Sylva et al, 2016). That said, there are pressures for a re-examination of the implementation of homework; electronic homework is now a staple from many schools, with exercises completed online remotely from the classroom. The setting of homework too often to learners appears subjective and overly-casual, though there are links drawn from parents and carers between the setting of homework and the perception of effectiveness of an educational establishment (Owen, 2016). Though there is the need to uphold standards and to embed learning, there is perhaps an opportunity through digital creativity to rethink the ways in which additional student work is set, studied, graded and fed back to learners in ways which make the homework process productive and meaningful to all.
BBC (2016) Colchester high school abolishes ‘traditional’ homework. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-37489414 (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Espinoza, J. (2016) School scraps homework to give teachers time to plan lessons. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/09/27/school-scraps-homework-to-give-teachers-time-to-plan-lessons/ (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Owen, C. (2016) ‘Do we need to re-think homework?’, Huffington Post, 9 September. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-clare-owen/do-we-need-to-rethink-hom_b_11912278.html (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Sharp, C., Keys, W. and Benefield, P. (2001) Homework: a review of recent research. Available at: https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/HWK01/HWK01.pdf (Accessed: 12 October 2016).
Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Siraj, I., Taggart, B., Smees, R., Toth, K., Welcomme, W. and Hollingworth, K. (2014) Students’ educational and developmental outcomes at age 16. Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/research/pdf/RB354_-_Students__educational_and_developmental_outcomes_at_age_16_Brief.pdf (Accessed: 12 October 2016).