What do Australian researchers do when they don’t want to do their homework? They make a study in which they prove homeworks aren’t useful. But jokes aside, Australian academics Richard Walker and Mike Horsley’s new book  – Reforming Homework – claims homework for young primary school children is of little or no value when it comes to academic achievement.

The book draws from other studies on the subject, and the first conclusion it draws is that the quality of the homework is much more important than the quantity. Associate Professor Walker, of the University of Sydney explains you have to tread lightly when talking about homework – still a touchy subject for many:

“There’s a lot of disagreement, I have to say. But the consensus findings would essentially be homework’s not very beneficial for primary school kids, very limited benefits for junior high school kids, and reasonable benefits for senior high school kids,” he said.

He explains that another important topic is the involvement of parents in doing the homework.

“Where parents are over-controlling or interfering in their student’s homework activities, then that’s been shown pretty clearly to not be beneficial,” he said. “But where parents support their children’s autonomy and essentially try to provide guidance and assistance rather than being interfering and controlling, that’s beneficial for students.”

Despite several studies concluding that homework was of limited value for younger children, the main idea is still…

Too much homework!

It’s not the quantity of the homework that matters, and this has been discussed time and time again. Don’t give the kids 10 exercises which they will not do, or do in total disgust, or copy, or just learn mechanically. Give them just a few, but focus on the quality.

“There’s probably too much homework and that most of this homework is of a drill or consolidation nature,” said Professor Horsley, from Central Queensland University. “In other words, we think that there’s probably too much worksheet-based homework. We think that there’s probably too much homework which is practice basically.”

He says that parents have just as much to learn from the book as students.

“What we’re proposing in our book is that teachers develop a homework curriculum,” he said.

“That is when the teachers are planning their unit of work they should probably plan homework at that time. Homework is often an add-on. So one of the things [is] to try and get the planning of homework to be more sophisticated and nuanced and much more structured and organised.”