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Less is better for K-6 homework

New research shows homework has little benefit to primary school children and that too much could be a bad thing. The release of a book urging teachers to revaluate how much homework is given to children follows a move in France to ban it for students up until age 11.

Professor Mike Horsley of Central Queensland University, said primary school students are doing tasks that may not contribute to their learning. Horsley is co-author of Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies.

He pointed to research that revealed younger students who do a small amount of study after school perform better in international testing. “Homework doesn’t necessarily contribute to learning,” he said, adding that excessive amounts can breed anxiety. But Horsley isn’t calling for the end of homework altogether. Instead he argues for less work that is of a higher quality. “Students benefit from homework that is well-prepared, interesting and challenging, but not overtaxing. We’re not saying homework should be abolished, just reformed and refined,” he said.

There needs to be a wider conversation about the purpose of the homework. “[Teachers] need to plan the homework when planning the other parts of the curriculum and that this planning process should involve parents as well.”

The book outlines ways in which homework can be effective and help kids learn. It also provides insight into the importance of support and guidance from parents and teachers.

Horsely said “high quality” tasks motivate students to invest effort in their homework, which leads to improved learning.

At a recent research symposium, Horsley and co-author of the book, Richard Walker from Sydney University, received feedback from parents on the anxiety produced by certain types of homework. Also, parents who work full-time highlighted the difficulty in helping their kids complete their homework due to time constraints.

Horsely said some parents did mention the benefit of working together with the child’s teacher to set the right amount of homework.

He said the next step is to start a wider conversion with teachers about the nature of homework tasks.

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