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Unguided homework: A waste of time?

Studies have shown that homework is proven to be unproductive, and students, parents and teachers alike are frustrated by the classic homework structure that achieves little more than stress all round. Yet the fact remains that repetition and consolidation are essential parts of learning. Many students are now benefiting from a different model: a focused teaching session for 1 hour a week, either individually or in a very small group, that can really boost understanding and get homework done in record time.


Finland has the #1 education and results in the world and their key principle is no homework, but they do say that additional teaching when necessary is beneficial. Endless hours of worksheets get us nowhere!


Most teachers will tell you that learning activities or exercises without guidance or scaffolding through teacher questioning and discussion produce little of the desired effect. For example, in primary school classrooms, small reading groups are usually guided by a teacher, assistant or parent volunteer in each group, in order to ensure that students are not just getting through the text but are engaging with it meaningfully, and that every child is gaining understanding.


However, the fact is that in the Australian mainstream schooling model, students are given homework from a very early age right through to Year 12, and much of this is unsupervised. It is unrealistic for most parents to plan to sit down with their children to complete homework every night, and there are other common road bumps we hear parents encounter – such as the old chestnut, ‘You don’t know how to do it, Mum! That is not how our teacher taught us!’ Other problems with parent-guided homework sessions include:


  • Irregular availability or insufficient time
  • Other family and home demands at homework time
  • Unstructured learning environment
  • Teacher expectations unclear or child’s interpretation is hazy
  • Emotions and tempers!


As most would agree, an hour or two spent in a structured environment with a qualified teacher, such as an after-school homework club at your school or tuition centre (in a small group, in order to ensure individual attention and guidance!), or a one-to-one, personalised weekly session with a tutor, can go a long way to not only completing homework efficiently, but to maximizing learning and minimizing stress. There is no time wasted getting the space organized or having the usual tantrum or procrastination routine, when guided by a teacher in a tight time-frame!


Our children are tired at the end of a big school day and overwhelmed by the mountains of homework they have to do, week after week. As all parents understand, when their children act up at homework time it is partly because of this overwhelm and stress. One of our biggest sources of pride is seeing both children and their parents leave our centre with a big smile and a sigh of relief that homework has been conquered!

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