After the first two months of school and getting into the flow with all of my classes, my after-school routine has become like clockwork. Every day, I go home with a general understanding of how much time I have to spend on homework that night, and how much time I can spend on my individual interests.
Personally, with a relatively difficult course load, I spend around three to four hours on the average-night’s homework, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Accounting for time spent studying for assessments and working on projects, my workload can be as high as seven to nine hours in a single night.
Despite my gripes with the amount of time it takes me to finish my work, I don’t think there’s anything flawed in the general concept of homework. It’s undeniable that most people do not immediately grasp everything they do in class, and thus, need some sort of alternate exposure to the material to further retain the information. The current system of homework achieves this goal, giving students the ability to do many practice questions and read material many times before being assessed on it.
However, this system lacks efficiency.
After all this time of students prospering and figuring out a way to manage all of their sports, extracurriculars, and homework, why is there now a need for a change in the system? It may seem unnecessary to say, but at the end of the day, we are at a school that has a goal of not only preparing us for college, but also setting us up to be successful in the college admissions process. Haverford proudly advertises this, saying on its website that over the past five years, 95% of graduates were admitted into one of their top three college choices. Despite this fact, the current homework system contradicts the school’s focus on student’s admission to their top-college choices.
Though I’m far from an expert, it has been made clear to me by recent graduates that test scores and grades have started to matter less and less in the admissions process. These metrics are now replaced with a gravitation towards innovation, creativity, and uniqueness, which are not fostered in environments where students have to constantly focus on completing schoolwork. Innovation and creativity are found in free time, when people are able to pursue the things they enjoy doing. If the school is committed to keeping up its 95% statistic, it should consider coming up with ways to give students more free time.
There is an argument to be made that giving students more free time wouldn’t directly result in them pursuing innovation, but rather just further add to their screen time. While this is a valid point, there is a point of over-saturation of mindless TikTok scrolling and YouTube perusing where a student may find themselves with a long period of complete boredom. At that point of “I don’t want to look at my phone anymore” or “Maybe I should go touch grass,” ideas will form and students will finally want and have time to pursue them.
Other than the amount of time it takes to finish, there are two major shortcomings in how classes handle homework.
The first is the concept of classes revolving around what students did for homework the night before. We have all had classes like this, where the majority, if not all, of class time is spent reviewing things that were in the homework. The repetition often feels redundant and makes me wonder what the point of doing the homework the night before was if we were just going to cover the exact same material the next day in class. For classes like history and English, this repetition can easily be avoided by simply not assigning homework such as readings when the next class day will solely focus on reviewing topics and concepts from those same readings. As for reviewing homework in classes like math and science, providing answer keys for homeworks would allow students to view the process of solving a problem themselves before spending valuable class time on it the next day. Some may say that providing answer keys to the homework is an invitation for students to just copy off of it, but the responsibility for that falls on the students to bear, not the teachers to predict.
The next big problem is homework’s transactional nature. Personally, I do my homework not because I’m super excited about the article assigned or the problem-set due, but because if I don’t do my homework, my grade will go down. I often find myself tuning out of the task at hand and an hour later, realizing that it is finished without me taking away much from it. Though a lot of the blame for this falls on me for tuning out in the first place, I sometimes cannot help it just because homework often is super boring. It’s usually just busywork that doesn’t require much creativity or thinking.
What if that changed?
If homework assignments were a set of small problems or tasks that really required full attention and application for just thirty minutes, then kids would walk away from that half an hour with a deeper understanding of what they just did, and still have time to pursue their individual interests. This kind of system, where students are assigned very short assignments meant to test their application of skills will see far greater benefits for both educators and students.
It falls on the hands of our educators whether or not they are able to invest the time to create such assignments because they need to be proprietary to Haverford’s curricula. Teachers would have to formulate problems and assignments that best test the skills they want their students to walk away with, and they have to do so in a short number of problems or an assignment that takes no more than thirty minutes to complete. If teachers are able to invest the time to do this, the results could be tremendous.