The following information presented in this article is a mixture of personal observations and beliefs, and academic research. All unoriginal material and information will be referenced at the end of the article, with links to the sites. Please bear in mind that this article was written under extreme time constraints and is open to scrutiny from any readers.
For many long standing years, the topic of homework has been in grueling debate. Stances on whether or not it is useful and even if it accurately depicts academic performance levels, are in constant toss-up. Critics butt heads and cannot decide on exactly what do about the homework situation.
However, I wish to bring attention to this topic, in specific relations to the education system itself. Let us address this grueling question: should homework be used in education? To answer this question, we should consider the following questions: what is homework? What is the purpose of homework? Is it helpful for students? Compared to primary and secondary education, how does homework in higher education fare? How do students respond to homework? After addressing each of these questions, we can continue with our discussion.
Let’s start with some basic information about homework. First of all, what exactly is homework? Homework can be defined in two ways:
- Schoolwork assigned to be done at home
- Thorough preparatory study of a subject
This means that homework can come in the form of extending work done in the classroom into the residential space, or it can come in the form of doing research for the sake of applying said research into the active learning process. These definitions also extend into the actual purpose of homework.
While there are many opinions about the purpose of homework and its uses, the actual intent of homework can be broken down into a few different statements:
- Homework helps students practice material learned in the classroom to reinforce the mastery of the material
- Homework primes students with knowledge of a subject to familiarize them with the topic, which they will further investigate during class time
- Homework facilitates applying reinforced knowledge into different contexts for the sake of using that knowledge with more efficiency and benefit
As stated earlier, the actual definition of homework extended inevitably into its purposes. These purposes can be used in combination, separation, and in a variety of ways to give the most benefit to the student. Naturally, these purposes are executed for the sake of benefiting the student but theory and practice are two different realms of reality.
Exactly, how helpful is homework for students? Many studies have found that homework is indeed beneficial for those who do it. Even if the homework is not completed, homework still applies its purpose for that particular study or mastery. Homework, therefore, cannot be helpful to those who do not do it; it goes without saying that those who don’t try, don’t benefit. Most studies support these statements, noting that homework is designed to help, not to hurt.
While we now understand the general atmosphere around homework, let’s more closely examine its structures in education. First, let’s start with examining how homework is used in primary and secondary educational systems. Within primary education, homework is used in the context of schoolwork that is assigned to be done at home, with the purpose of reinforcing material learned in the classroom. At this stage, the learning process is about exposing the students to as much basic material as possible. It is about cramming as much knowledge into their brains and reinforcing it as best as possible.
Once these students move into secondary education, homework takes on a slightly different role. It still is schoolwork that is assigned to be done at home; however, it now is no longer only about reinforcing material but also about trying to apply the already reinforced knowledge to different contexts. During the period of secondary education, more knowledge is still being learned but now the curriculum prioritizes being able to apply what you know to solve problems in other fields. Specifically in high school, homework then encompasses the purpose of preparatory studying but the main focus remains on reinforcement and applying knowledge to other areas.
The structure of higher education regarding homework is different. After the student is released from the curriculum of required education and moves on to higher education, homework becomes specific to the environment it is in. In higher education, sometimes homework is not even used; some professors do not find the need to assign homework. In most cases however, when homework is used, it is used as preparatory study for a subject to be further discussed. It becomes less about reinforcing and more about priming your brain with knowledge about something you will encounter in the classroom. As in higher education, there is a slight stigma that the students will reinforce the knowledge on their own time or for their own purposes, therefore homework does not need to focus on mastery. Simultaneously, homework in higher education focuses on applying knowledge to many areas, in attempts to prepare the student for flexible thinking.