These anecdotal reports have been corroborated by research that finds a statistically significant positive relationship between a shallow or superficial approach to learning, on the one hand, and high scores on various standardized tests, on the other. . Whats more, this association has been documented at the elementary, middle, and high school level. Standardized tests are even less useful when they include any of these features: * If most of the questions are multiple-choice, then students are unable to generate, or even justify, their responses. . to that extent, students cannot really demonstrate what they know or what they can do with what they know. . Multiple-choice tests are basically designed so that many kids who understand a given idea will be tricked into picking the wrong answer. If the test is timed, then it places a premium not on thoughtfulness but on speed. If the test is focused on basic skills, then doing well is more a function of cramming forgettable facts into short-term memory than of really understanding ideas, making connections and distinctions, knowing how to read or write or analyze problems in a sophisticated way. If the test is given to younger children, then, according to an overwhelming consensus on the part of early-education specialists, it is a poor indicator of academic skills. .
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Relationship Of these eight comparisons, then, the only positive correlation and it wasnt a large one was between how much homework older students did and their achievement as measured by grades.26 If that measure is viewed as dubious, if not downright silly, then one. The last, and most common, way of measuring achievement is to use standardized test scores. . Purely because theyre standardized, these tests are widely regarded as objective instruments for assessing childrens academic performance. . But as ive argued elsewhere at some length,27 there is considerable travels reason to believe that standardized tests are a poor measure of intellectual proficiency. . They are, however, excellent indicators of two things. . The first is affluence: Up to 90 percent of the difference in scores among schools, communities, or even states can be accounted for, statistically speaking, without knowing anything about what happened inside the classrooms. . All you need are some facts about the average income and education levels of the students parents. . The second phenomenon that standardized tests measure is how skillful a particular group of students is at taking standardized tests and, increasingly, how much class time has been given over to preparing them to do just that. In my experience, teachers can almost always identify several students who do poorly on proposal standardized tests even though, by more authentic and meaningful indicators, they are extremely talented thinkers. . Other students, meanwhile, ace these tests even though their thinking isnt particularly impressive; theyre just good test-takers. .
cooper and his colleagues conducted a study in 1998 with both younger and older students (from grades 2 through 12 using both grades and standardized test scores to measure achievement. . They also looked at how much homework was assigned by the teacher as well as at how much time students spent on their homework. . Thus, there were eight separate results to be reported. . Heres how they came out: younger students Effect on grades of amount of homework assigned no sig. Relationship Effect on test scores of amount of homework assigned no sig. Relationship Effect on grades of amount of homework done Negative relationship Effect on test scores of amount of homework done no sig. Relationship Older students Effect on grades of amount of homework assigned no sig. Relationship Effect on grades of amount of homework done Positive relationship Effect on test scores of amount of homework done no sig.
In the second kind of study, course grades are used to determine whether homework made a difference. . The problem here is that a grade, as one writer put paper it long ago, essay is an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has attained an undefined level of mastery of an unknown. Any given assignment may well be given two different grades by two equally qualified teachers and may even be given two different grades by a single teacher who reads it at two different times. . The final course grade, moreover, is based on a combination of these individual marks, along with other, even less well defined considerations.24 As bad as grades are in general, they are particularly inappropriate for judging the effectiveness of homework for one simple reason: The same. The final grade a teacher chooses for a student will often be based at least partly on whether, and to what extent, that student did the homework. . Thus, to say that more homework is associated with better school performance (as measured by grades) is to provide no useful information about whether homework is intrinsically valuable. . Yet grades are the basis for a good number of the studies that are cited to defend that very conclusion. . The studies that use grades as the outcome measure, not surprisingly, tend to show a much stronger effect for homework than studies that use standardized test scores.25 Heres one example. .
It turns out that whats actually being measured at least in all the homework research ive seen — is one of three things: scores on tests designed by teachers, grades given by teachers, or scores on standardized exams. . About the best thing you can say for these numbers is that theyre easy for researchers to collect and report. . Each is seriously flawed in its own way. In studies that involve in-class tests, some students are given homework which usually consists of reviewing a batch of facts about some topic and then they, along with their peers who didnt get the homework, take a quiz on that very material. . The outcome measure, in other words, is precisely aligned to the homework that some students did and others didnt do — or that they did in varying amounts. . Its as if you were told to spend time in the evening learning the names of all the vice presidents of the United States and were then tested only on those names. . If you remembered more of them after cramming, the researcher would then conclude that learning in the evening is effective.
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In any event, anyone who reads the research on this topic cant help but notice how rare it is to find these same cautions about the misleading nature of correlational results when those results suggest a positive relationship between homework and achievement. . Its only when the outcome doesnt fit the expected pattern (and support the case for homework ) that theyre carefully explained away. In short, most of the research thats cited to show that homework is academically beneficial really doesnt prove any such thing. Do we words really know how much homework kids do? The studies claiming that homework helps are based on the assumption that we can accurately measure the number and length of assignments. . But many of these studies depend on students to tell us how much homework they get (or complete). .
When cooper and his associates looked at recent studies in which the time spent on homework was reported by students, and then compared them with studies in which that estimate was provided by their parents, the results were quite different. . In fact, the correlation between homework and achievement completely disappeared when parents estimates were used.18 This was also true in one of coopers own studies: Parent reports of homework completion were. Uncorrelated with the student report.19 The same sort of discrepancy shows up again in cross-cultural research — parents and children provide very different accounts of how much help kids receive20 — and also when students and teachers are asked to estimate how much homework was. These first two flaws combine to cast doubt on much of the existing data, according to a damning summary that appears in the Encyclopedia of Educational Research : Research on homework continues to show the same fundamental weaknesses that have characterized it throughout the century: . Homework studies confuse grades and test scores with learning. Most researchers, like most reporters who write about education, talk about how this or that policy affects student achievement without questioning whether the way that word is defined in the studies makes any sense. . What exactly is this entity called achievement thats said to go up or down? .
Or that better students simply spend more time on home study.13 In still other cases, a third variable for example, being born into a more affluent and highly educated family might be associated with getting higher test scores and with doing more homework (or attending. Again, it would be erroneous to conclude that homework is responsible for higher achievement. . Or that a complete absence of homework would have any detrimental effect at all. Sometimes its not easy to spot those other variables that can separately affect achievement and time spent on homework, giving the impression that these two are causally related. . One of the most frequently cited studies in the field was published in the early 1980s by a researcher named Timothy keith, who looked at survey results from tens of thousands of high school students and concluded that homework had a positive relationship to achievement.
But a funny thing happened ten years later when he and a colleague looked at homework alongside other possible influences on learning such as quality of instruction, motivation, and which classes the students took. . When all these variables were entered into the equation simultaneously, the result was puzzling and surprising: homework no longer had any meaningful effect on achievement at all.14 In other words, a set of findings that served and, given how often his original study continues. Several studies have actually found a negative relationship between students achievement (or their academic performance as judged by teachers) and how much time they spend on homework (or how much help they receive from their parents).15 But researchers who report this counterintuitive finding generally take. That sounds plausible, but of course its just a theory. . One study found that children who were having academic difficulties actually didnt get more homework from their teachers,17 although its possible they spent longer hours working on the homework that they did get. . But even if we agreed that doing more homework probably isnt responsible for lowering students achievement, the fact that theres an inverse relationship seems to suggest that, at the very least, homework isnt doing much to help kids who are struggling. .
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Limitations of the research. . At best, most homework studies show only an association, not a causal relationship. Statistical principles dont get much more best basic than correlation doesnt prove causation. . The number of umbrellas brought to a workplace on a given morning will be highly correlated with the probability of precipitation in the afternoon, but the presence of umbrellas didnt make it rain. . Also, id be willing to bet that kids who ski are more likely to attend selective colleges than those who dont ski, but that doesnt mean they were accepted because they ski, or that arranging for a child to take skiing lessons will improve her. nevertheless, most research purporting to show a positive effect of homework seems to be based on the assumption that when students who get (or do ) more homework also score better on standardized tests, it follows that the higher scores were due to their having. There are almost always other explanations for why successful students might be in classrooms where more homework is assigned let alone why these students might take more time with their homework than their peers. . even cooper, a proponent of homework, concedes that it is equally plausible, based on the correlational data that comprise most of the available research on the topic, that teachers assign more homework to students who are achieving better.
he also reviewed surveys that attempted to correlate students test scores with how much homework they did. . Forty-three of fifty correlations were positive, although the essay overall effect was not particularly large: Homework accounted for less than 4 percent of the differences in students scores.9 cooper and his colleagues published a review of newer studies in 2006. . Those that compared students with and without homework found a stronger association with achievement than the earlier studies had, but these new experiments measured achievement by students scores on tests that had been designed to match the homework they had just done. . As for more recent studies looking for a relationship between achievement and time spent on homework, the overall correlation was about the same as the one found in 1989.10 Among the recent studies not included in coopers new review: One, using a methodology associated with. (By contrast, the amount of time children spent reading for pleasure was strongly correlated with higher scores.)12 taken as a whole, the available research might be summarized as inconclusive. . But if we look more closely, even that description turns out to be too generous. . The bottom line, ill argue in this chapter, is that a careful examination of the data raises serious doubts about whether meaningful learning is enhanced by homework for most students. . Of the eight reasons that follow, the first three identify important limitations of the existing research, the next three identify findings from these same studies that lead one to question homework s effectiveness, and the last two introduce additional data that weaken the case even.
important contributor to academic achievement. Research casting doubt on that assumption goes back at least to 1897, when a study found that assigning spelling homework had no effect on how proficient children were at spelling later., a reviewer tracked down 17 experimental studies, most of which produced mixed results. One found that homework helped, two found that it didnt, and two found mixed results.4 Yet another review was published a few years later, this one of eight articles and seven dissertations that had appeared from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. . The authors, who included a long-time advocate of traditional educational policies, claimed the results demonstrated that homework had powerful effects on learning.5 But another researcher looked more carefully and discovered that only four of those fifteen studies actually compared getting homework with getting no homework. The literature reviews done over the past 60 years. Report conflicting results, one expert concluded in 1985. . There is no good evidence that homework produces better academic achievement.7 four years later, harris cooper, an educational psychologist, attempted to sort things out by conducting the most exhaustive review of the research to date. . he performed a meta-analysis, which is a statistical technique for combining numerous studies into the equivalent of one giant study.8 Cooper included seventeen research reports that contained a total of 48 comparisons between students who did and did not receive homework. . About 70 percent of these found that homework was associated with higher achievement. .
Their assessments ranged from homework having positive effects, no effects, or complex effects to the suggestion that the research was too sparse or poorly conducted to allow trustworthy conclusions.1. When you think about it, any number of issues could complicate the picture and make it more or less likely that homework would appear to be beneficial in a given study: What kind of homework are we talking about? . Fill-in-the-blank worksheets or extended projects? . In what school subject(s)? . How old are the students? . How able and interested are they? . Are we looking at how much writings the teacher assigned or at how much the kids actually did? . How careful was the study and how many students were investigated? Even when you take account of all these variables, the bottom line remains that no definite conclusion can be reached, and that is itself a significant conclusion. .
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Chapter 2 of, the, homework, myth (da capo Press, 2006 copyright 2006 by Alfie kohn. By alfie kohn, because the question that serves as the title of this chapter doesnt seem all that complicated, you might think that after all this time wed have a straightforward answer. . you might think that open-minded father's people who review the evidence should be able to agree on whether homework really does help. If so, youd be wrong. . Researchers have been far from unanimous in their assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of homework as an instructional technique, according to an article published in the. Journal of Educational Psychology. . The conclusions of more than a dozen reviews of the homework literature conducted between 19 varied greatly. .