Why do teachers assign homework? How is the activity of homework viewed by students and parents? The answers to these questions have a direct bearing on how homework affects the learning that takes place. It is an indisputable fact that parents expect their children to have homework assignments to complete each night simply because they either want to make sure the students have something to do and that the assignments are an extension of the learning. Younger students love doing homework while older students detest it and often neglect to complete the assigned work.
Teachers often assign activities for homework that students do not complete in school. Sometimes this is a form of punishment for having wasted time in the classroom. Homework has a much more important quality than simply being busy work or completing work that should have been completed at another time.
Homework should have a positive effect on learning. The main reason is to help the students extend the learning that takes place in the classroom. It should be an opportunity for them to learn things on their own and find answers to questions they have regarding issues brought up in the classroom or questions posed in the textbooks they use.
Students remember about 50% of what the teacher explains in class. Many students do not adequately understand the concept and some are unable to concentrate with the other students talking or moving about. Doing homework on their own at home gives them a longer time to concentrate on the task without the interruption of school bells denoting that it is time to move onto other subjects. Through homework, students have the time they need to apply what they learn in school to the problems they have to solve, whether this is in Math or in any other subject.
When an issue of current news is discussed in the classroom, a homework activity that could be assigned would be for students to watch the news to gather further information about the topic. Then they can go back to school prepared to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the issue. Homework does not have to involve paper and pencil activities for it to affect learning. There are many ways in which students learn that this affects their interest in the school work.
Sometimes, homework can involve reading material based on a brief introduction the teacher provides in class. In this way, students are able to cover a much larger amount of material than is possible in the time constraints of class periods in school. Simple reading may be beneficial to some students, but for the most part, students do not retain much of what they read. It is when they complete other assignments on the reading material, such as writing an essay or answering questions, that they can internalize the information and learn the material.
Performing repetitive assignments simply to give homework does not reinforce learning. This makes the activity boring and once a student does have a good grasp of a concept there is no need to have them doing problems of the same nature or writing out answers to questions.
In order for homework to be effective in having an effect on student learning, teachers have to look at the students as individuals. Some students may need extra practice for homework, while others do not. Homework should be based on the individual needs of students so that they can learn in the manner in which they do best.