Purpose of Homework
by Ron Kurtus (revised 8 July 2012)
Teachers often give assignments consisting of reading, problem solving, or writing that the students must do after class—usually at home.
Ideally, the purpose of homework is to help reinforce what was taught in class. Sometimes its purpose is to gather extra information beyond what was taught in class.
Unfortunately, there are some teachers who just don't understand the meaning of homework and give it as something to keep the students busy.
Questions you may have include:
- How does homework reinforce knowledge?
- What homework goes beyond what was taught in class?
- What is meaningless homework?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Although your teacher can provide information and explain the subject in class, you typically will only remember about 50% of the information you get by seeing and hearing the explanations.
Problem solving assignments
Although, you can ask your teacher questions if you do not completely understand the principles or facts involved, you still need to apply the information to learn the subject and turn it into knowledge. That is a major reason for homework assignments.
In class, Megan's teacher explained how to solve a certain type of math problem. But after Megan went home, she didn't bother doing her math homework or try to solve any math problems herself.
By the next day, she had already forgotten what had been taught the previous day.
Likewise, your teacher may explain the reasons for the action of people in an historical event. When you later read about the event, you can understand what really happened and why.
Going beyond what is taught in class
Sometimes teachers will only give an overview of material and then assign reading for the students to get the major part of the information. Then the next day, the teacher will answer any questions students may have or perhaps verbally quiz them on the material.
History, English Literature and Sociology are examples of classes that require extensive reading outside of class.
Jerry was glad he was able to speed-read, because he had so many reading assignments in his History class. Some of the slow readers were just left behind in the class.
Besides assigning reading, the students may be required to write an essay or answer questions in the book on what was read. This homework will be graded to verify that the student did the assignment and understood the material.
The advantage of outside reading is that much more material can be covered than what could be covered in class. The disadvantages to you are that questions you have may not be answered and there is no reinforcement to enhance understanding what was read.
The worst type of homework is the type that is meaningless or just "busy-work".
One example of this type of homework is having to do repetitive problems or solving puzzles that really don't add to your knowledge. Unfortunately, you may have to do this sort of nonsense to get a good grade in the class.
Making it meaningless
It is popular for teachers to assign students to look up some subject on the Internet and put together an essay on it. Many students will find a number of resources and copy and paste the material without really reading or understanding it.
All this amounts to is an exercise in using Google to find things, as opposed to actually learning something. It is also plagiarism, if the material is not written in your own words.
The purpose of homework is to help you learn what was taught in class or to gain information by reading and answering questions.
One type of homework reinforces what was taught in class. Another type consists of studying beyond what was explained in class. A third type of homework is simply meant to keep the students busy.
In any case, it is necessary to do your homework—and do it well—in order to get a good grade in the class.
You learn by doing
Resources and references
Homework Helper - Lists of homework webistes for all levels from CollegeScholarships.org
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Purpose of Homework