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Home Learning of Homework?

Found in: Leadership Blog

Have you ever had a situation where you said something to someone and they HEARD you say something else?

I do a lot of presentations for principals and teachers around Australia – not as much now as I used to – but I recall, many times, talking about students learning timetables in class. I told teachers that they should always make sure tables are taught to assist mathematical fluency but not to assume their students knew what multiplication was just because they could rattle off their tables from memory. I told teachers that they were wasting their time teaching tables if students didn’t understand the concept of multiplication FIRST; they don’t understand what multiplication is for or what it is as a concept by being able to multiply or know their tables.

 I recall many times, this came back to me – sometimes months later – that I had told teachers not to teach timetables anymore!

A short time ago, Mr McNeill made some statements at an assembly at the Primary Campus about Homework. He said – correctly – that “research has found that doing homework has only a moderate impact on students’ achievement”.  At least one parent heard this as Mr McNeill saying “our teachers don’t set homework”.

Unfortunately, Mr McNeill did not tell the whole story. The above statement is correct only with the word ‘on average’ included at the end of this sentence. The words ‘on average’ need to be unpacked further; the impact of homework on student achievement is high for secondary students but virtually nil for early childhood students (K-2).

In secondary school, it is essential for students to do their homework if they want to achieve good grades. By contrast, in early childhood our teachers do not set homework, in recognition of the research. However, they do encourage home learning.

As a school we greatly recognise parents as our students’ first teachers. The learning that can occur in the home through parents and extended family, has an enormous impact on student development. In 2007 when the first data for the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) came in, it was discovered that many young children were not developing as fast in their learning as they should. There was a high correlation between these children and their socio-economic status – further research revealing that many of them came from households where both parents worked and hence the children weren’t getting enough ‘home-learning’ through parental engagement, stimulation and play.

There is a huge message in here for all parents; a reminder that your engagement with your children – particularly when they are young – is critical through home learning for their development. It’s also essential that, as your children get older, you support them to do their homework; give them time and space to do it and show them that you value it by encouraging and rewarding them if needed, without nagging them.

The biggest message is, make sure you process what you hear rather than filtering what you hear through your own belief system. 

Dr Thelma Perso
Director of Teaching and Learning