The Department of Education released a report last week which concluded that spending more than two hours a night on homework is linked to achieving better results in English, Mathematics and Science. These findings over simplify the true impact of homework. Any experienced teacher knows that it is not the amount of time spent on homework that will help children achieve academic results, it is how that study time is spent. Quality, not quantity, is what’s important.
The key to successful homework lies both with teachers and with their students. A child who is motivated, engaged and interested in pursuing their studies at home may spend less or more than the allotted time , yet the process and outcomes will reflect the commitment to study and the genuine pleasure in extending learning beyond the classroom.
From the teachers’ perspective, homework should be set as an extension of classwork. The type of homework should be varied reflecting the age, progress and term weariness of the pupil. Thus it should include guided research and investigation, writing and problem solving and reading. Through the key stages, the quantity of homework set should be progressive and above all, homework should always be something that students can undertake on their own, giving them a rewarding sense of achievement once completed.
A passion for learning, instilled in the classroom by inspiring teachers and challenging material, will naturally lead to more time being voluntarily spent by students on homework and here there is an important balance to be struck. At the Foundation we monitor carefully the quality and quantity of homework our students are undertaking. In our experience bright, enquiring girls have a greater tendency to become absorbed in their individual studies and to lose track of time. This, of course, can be extremely rewarding if the pupil’s curiosity is piqued and they want to learn more, however, it is important to keep this enthusiasm in check as teenage girls, in particular, can put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves and can become unnecessarily tired and stressed.
A conversation with members of Year 11 last week about homework and workload in general was very encouraging. It was good to listen to students who felt empowered by their studies and not overwhelmed by them, who felt very well prepared for the first major public examination hurdle facing them after Easter. I wish all our students preparing for examinations all good fortune and a well deserved break over the holidays!