Thursday, 16 August 2007

Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Bueller?

Those who read Exeterra regularly will know that one of the drums I beat regularly is the need for empirical evidence (ie, real research and real data) to be the basis of our social policy.

This essay by Alfie Kohn makes a research-based critique of the value of homework. According to Kohn, the research is not very supportive. Here's a money shot:

The results of national and international exams raise further doubts. One of many examples is an analysis of 1994 and 1999 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data from 50 countries. Researchers David Baker and Gerald Letendre were scarcely able to conceal their surprise when they published their results last year: “Not only did we fail to find any positive relationships,” but “the overall correlations between national average student achievement and national averages in [amount of homework assigned] are all negative.”
According to Kohn, (and I should point out this is not my research area) nearly all of the research suggests homework is actually quite harmful to kids, in terms of how they learn, their attitudes towards learning, and their overall well-being. My personal experience supports this.

I would add most forms of exams to the list of useless learning aides as well. I can demonstrate this with a thought experiment: think of some times you have studied for a test, be it chemistry, mathematics, history, or anything else. Think of all those things you memorized. Do you remember them now? Did you remember them even one month after the test? What is the point of exams if you forget almost everything once the exam is finished?


Rovex said...

Ive always thought homework was little more than a way to compensate for poor teaching. I can remember a number of classes where we didn't do anything, the teaching was done through the homework assignments.

Ash said...

To be honest, I think homework can sometimes be pointless and sometimes be useful... but as for exams, I'm totally with you on that one! I am great at cramming for exams, but remember very little of the information afterwards.