Why Learning at Home is More Than Homework Alone
While home learning has long been a point of contention among teachers, parents and students, it can be a highly effective tool for cultivating self-efficacy and improving educational outcomes, writes Lynsey Porter, Director of Curriculum at Waverley College.
Teachers and parents play an equal role in children’s home learning, and it’s important that they work together to achieve the best outcomes. Home learning falls within two categories: compulsory homework and self-directed study. Whilst both types are extremely important, we often focus on the former and tend to neglect the latter.
Teachers should set homework that has clear academic objectives, challenges students and uses their time and energy efficiently. It should also hone in on students’ particular interests. In order to do this, teachers can build student choice into set homework, encourage blended learning and reverse the traditional learning environment through ‘the flipped classroom’.
Parents should encourage their children to follow a home learning schedule, with a weekly plan that allows time for both compulsory homework and self-directed study. Time spent on home learning should increase as they get older, from 30-60 minutes a day in school years 7-9 to 90-120 minutes a day in years 10-12. Parents should also ensure that students can access a quiet space to help them study more effectively.
Home learning is particularly important for students in years 10-12. John Hattie’s study Visible Learning found that homework has the most significant effect on students in the senior years of high school. The study looked at nearly 1,200 pieces of research on the effects of various educational practices.
Developing students’ self-directed study skills is especially important when preparing them for HSC subjects. Students must incorporate the development of major works and performance practice into their schedules while also making time for other subjects. This can be particularly difficult during examination periods. During this time, self-directed learners who’ve developed good study habits tend to manage this pressure better than others.
Although the benefits of home learning are clear, many teachers and parents find it troubling from a fairness standpoint. In her webinar ‘Rethinking Homework: New Practices, New Roles’, Dr. Cathy Vatterott points out that homework can ‘entrench privilege…and discriminate against others.’
Factors such as lack of computer or internet access, unavailability of a quiet study space, and having non-English speaking parents can put students at a disadvantage. Schools, teachers and parents should work together to counteract such disadvantages in home learning.
Despite being a common cause for debate, it’s clear that home learning has a positive effect on students’ educational outcomes. In order to fully reap the benefits, teachers and parents should encourage the development of self-directed study skills along with supporting compulsory homework.
About the Author
Lynsey Porter is the Director of Curriculum at Waverley College