Friday, August 5, 2022

The effect of homework, with or without parental help.


            A recent Penn State study reported that “parental help has no impact on student achievement.” Guess what? Other studies have found that homework with or without parental help has no impact on student achievement.  Based on his review of the research, Kohn (2007) concluded that  “… there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.  At the high school level, the correlation is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied.“

            I suggest we try a different path: Decrease school pressure and encourage pleasure reading. In Stanovich and Cunningham (1993), college students who were more familiar with popular literature did better on a variety of tests of subject matter (including science, social studies, technology, and cultural knowledge, suggesting that those who read more, know more. In fact, familiarity with popular literature (including books and magazines but not TV) was a better predictor of performance on subject matter tests than high school grades.  (Of great interest is that those more familiar with popular literature knew more about practical matters, knowledge relevant to everyday living, e.g. how a carburetor works, how many teaspoons are equivalent to a tablespoon.)

            It is also reasonable to hypothesize that knowledge we absorb from reading we select ourselves lasts longer than what we learn from study. This was Plato’s view: “Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind” (Plato, The Republic).

            Let’s try providing more access to interesting reading material by investing more in libraries and librarians, and try giving young people more time to read for pleasure by reducing homework.

Kohn, A. 2007. Rethinking Homework.

Stanovich, K. and Cunningham, A.  1993. Where does knowledge come from? Journal of Educational Psychology. 85, 2: 211-229.   



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