The Homework Myth — Alfie Kohn

The Homework MythAlfie Kohn says that homework is worthless. According to his book, there is no evidence that typical homework is beneficial in any way for junior schoolkids, and minimal evidence that it’s worthwhile for any students at all. In fact, there is evidence that it can be harmful to the kids’ attitudes to learning and stress levels. Homework also has opportunity costs, given that homework takes time that could be used doing something else like physical play, reading or family activities. This book lays out Kohn’s case against homework as currently practised.

Kohn’s website has a wealth of related essays following up the points in the book. For example, he argues that homework does not offer academic benefits.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Kohn’s nemesis seems to be Harris Cooper, a leading homework researcher. Cooper tends to come down on the pro-homework side, though Kohn says the research doesn’t bear it out. In fact, Kohn takes researchers to task for the way they draw their conclusions.

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham is another dissenter. He thinks that Alfie Kohn is bad for you and dangerous for your children. But do read Kohn’s reply too, linked from the end of the article.

Willingham has his own book out too, called Why Don’t Students Like School? It’s more about how to change classroom teaching to make it more effective. It doesn’t focus on homework so much.

Along the same lines as Kohn’s book is The Case Against Homework. I haven’t read the book (yet) but one of its authors has set up the website, which is work a look.

I first encountered Alfie Kohn’s work when I read his book Punished By Rewards. The ideas in it chimed with other favourite books of mine, like the classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Both these books have influenced my parenting a lot. Once my children grow up I will finally find out whether it worked.

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