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And while one study found that parental help with homework generally doesn’t boost students’ achievement—and can even have a negative effect— another concluded that economically disadvantaged students whose parents help with homework improve their performance significantly.That seems to run counter to another frequent objection to homework, which is that it privileges kids who are already advantaged.
If a child wants to learn to play the violin, it’s obvious she needs to practice at home between lessons (at least, it’s obvious to an adult).
And psychologists have identified a range of strategies that help students learn, many of which seem ideally suited for homework assignments.
For example, there’s something called “retrieval practice,” which means trying to recall information you’ve already learned.
The optimal time to engage in retrieval practice is not immediately after you’ve acquired information but after you’ve forgotten it a bit—like, perhaps, after school.
Those arguments have merit, but why homework boost academic achievement?
The research cited by educators just doesn’t seem to make sense.Some schools are eliminating homework, citing research showing it doesn’t do much to boost achievement.But maybe teachers just need to assign a different kind of homework.Students from less educated families are most in need of the boost that effective homework can provide, because they’re less likely to acquire academic knowledge and vocabulary at home.And homework can provide a way for lower-income parents—who often don’t have time to volunteer in class or participate in parents’ organizations—to forge connections to their children’s schools.One possible explanation for the general lack of a boost from homework is that few teachers know about this research.And most have gotten little training in how and why to assign homework.One study found that lower-income ninth-graders “consistently described receiving minimal homework—perhaps one or two worksheets or textbook pages, the occasional project, and 30 minutes of reading per night.” And if they didn’t complete assignments, there were few consequences.I discovered this myself when trying to tutor students in writing at a high-poverty high school.A homework assignment could require students to answer questions about what was covered in class that day without consulting their notes.Research has found that retrieval practice and similar learning strategies are far more powerful than simply rereading or reviewing material.