School: how important is homework during a pandemic?

School: how important is homework during a pandemic?

Some primary school teachers have cut back or altogether cut homework because of the pandemic. How do parents and experts feel about this?

October 14, 2020 | Some primary school teachers have cut back homework and home assignments due to the pandemic. This strategy was not met with a unanimous reception by education experts, other teachers and parents—only the children seem to agree that it’s a good thing!

“I used to give home assignments, but I’ve changed the way I operate since the onset of the pandemic, says Annie, a 6th grade teacher in the east end of Montréal. I think the stress level in households is high enough as it is and I believe the homework and home assignments period is a source of stress in a lot of households.”

As many of her colleagues have done, Annie has adapted her teaching method to this unprecedented situation. “Every week, I propose complementary work to kids and their parents via a virtual platform, but it’s for those who are interested, totally optional,” she explains.

“Lighter” Homework…

For Sophie, a 2nd grade teacher of the Québec City area, homework is still on the agenda, but the requirements are lighter. “I give them homework like reviewing their vocabulary, basic math notions, but nothing that takes too much of their time’ she says. It’s usually about 10 to 15 minutes, thrice a week and one of them can be done during the weekend.”

She believes completely stopping home assignments would be counterproductive: she has indeed noticed several pupils have started lagging in their learnings. “Self-isolation and the closing of schools hurt some pupils, especially those with learning difficulties or disabilities,” says the teacher who works for a school located in an underprivileged area.

… And Even No Homework at All

Many parents have noticed a change in the workload their children bring home. In the Centre de services scolaire des Patriotes, for example, certain establishments told parents, early during the school year, that there would be no homework assignments. The decision was made in order to “focus on at school learning” and to avoid “overloading the children,” says a mother of two who attend one of those schools.

The same policy was adopted by a school that’s part of the Centre de services scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys. “I wasn’t too happy about it,” confides Philippe, who is the father of a 1st grader and a 2nd grader. “The main reason they gave us is the transportation of material: the direction wants to limit the back and forth of notebooks and manuals between the school and the kids’ homes because of the risk of transmission… But really, how well can the coronavirus propagate that way? It’s really unclear.”

What About the Experts?

If the pandemic has once more brought forward the relevance of home assignments, the question has been controversial for quite some time in education circles. “This didn’t start yesterday,” says Rollande Deslandes, professor emeritus at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and a researcher at the Centre de recherche et d’intervention sur la réussite scolaire. “Already in 1989, the book The Battle Over Homework exposed the tension created between children and their parents because of homework just around dinner time.”

According to Rollande Deslandes, there is no consensus on the benefits of homework on grades, at least in primary school. “A child who does well will like school, she says, and will gladly do their homework and even ask for more. The reverse is true for a child with difficulties: they could probably benefit from doing a bit of homework, but they hate it! We can therefore question ourselves: will homework be a boon or a bust for that child?”

Julie Fontaine, president of the Association québécoise des enseignantes et des enseignants du primaire, also questions the goal of those home assignments. “If the pupil didn’t understand the problem in class, they won’t understand it anymore once they’re at home, and at the other end, if they understood it in class, why ask them to do it again after school?”

She mentions how tired children are after a full day of being stimulated at school: “Imagine asking a parent to turn on their computer after dinner and after a long day at work…”

On the other hand, she is quick to remind us that home assignments, especially in 5th grade and up, can help a child learn how to manage their material, their time and how to be organized and plan ahead. “The most important thing is reading as often as possible,” she says. “In an ideal world, children would read every night, whether it’s alone or with a parent.”

What exactly is a good homework assignment?
  • It should focus on quality and not quantity.
  • And a quality homework assignment is one that is useful and, therefore, related with the topic being learned.
  • It has to be clearly explained by the teacher.
  • The pupil must understand the goal of the assignment.
  • It should also engage the child.

Source : Rollande Deslandes, professor emeritus at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and researcher at the Centre de recherche et d’intervention sur la réussite scolaire


Maude Goyer — Naître et grandir

Naître et grandir


Photo: Gettyimages/Zolga_F