In a valiant effort to make the case for better homework, Annie Murphy Paul in her recent Op Ed piece in the New York Times simply fails to grasp the immensity of what she’s up against. She truly can’t see the forest for the trees.
Paul goes on about how the better way to approach homework can be found in some studies that show how to improve test scores and retention via some “new methods”. Those would be “trees”. The forest is a real education, real learning. Paul has no idea that better test scores are not an indication of better, or actual, learning, just as better retention (recall) is also not an indication of learning. Learning is most emphatically NOT remembering. That’s been addressed here before, so let’s not go there.
Great that she sees that most homework out there is busywork and of little value, but unfortunate that the solution is focused on improving test scores. Why is it so darn difficult to understand that learning is something different from retention as evidenced on a test? Is this such a radical idea? So thoroughly on the educational margin that it’s out of focus to most – strike that, it’s not out of focus, it’s out of sight. Sadly, some educators will jump on this latest “fix”, change-up their approach to homework, have a parent night about how this will repair things and “boy, have we got a great solution for your kids”…. and in 3-5 years they’ll move on to something else, having forgotten that THIS was supposed to be the fix. What a system: conceive, apply, fail, repeat.
However, those marginalia ideas are out there, and slowly, in little blips, they are making headway.