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B.A., B.Ed., E.C.S. Dip.
On May 10th, Banbury Crossroads hosted Alfie Kohn to lecture at the University of Calgary on the topic of “The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing”. We were thrilled to present him to our city for the fourth time, and we enjoyed a dynamic evening. Early in the presentation, he asked the audience to pair up with a stranger and discuss the question, Why doesn’t homework work? Immediately, a deep-throated rumbling of animated conversation began, and didn’t let up for around 10 minutes, only stopping when Alfie asked for people’s attention. This is a topic of immense personal importance in households where families are occupied in this school-directed activity. We requested that Alfie speak about this issue, not because we need direction on it, since our philosophy on homework is aligned with his, but rather because one of our identified goals over the past 5 years has been to educate the public about schooling issues we hold dear. There is a lot of work to be done in the world, just generally speaking. What we can offer to the world is a fresh viewpoint derived from our work with children over the past 33 years. This conversation that we hold with the public during lectures such as this, or during the P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training) classes that we hold each year, is a means of extending our impact upon the wider community.
Another presentation we are going to host next year is a showing of the film, The Race to Nowhere. This movie is a series of interviews with parents, students and teachers across the United States, and it is a stark illumination of what happens when children’s school experiences are stressed and frustrated through an anxious focus on accountability and performance, high-stakes testing, over-scheduling in extra-curricular activities, large and impersonal groups in classrooms, not enough choice in how schooling is delivered, restricted access to preferred schools, and too much homework. It is an eye-opening exposé of how stress and fear inhibit learning. It leaves a strong impression, and I thought that people need to be aware that this is the end result of schools being huge institutions bent upon their own political goals, and unable to be responsive to individual student needs for health, appropriate stimulation and accomplishment.
My husband and I saw this movie last spring, at the University of Calgary. I thought, “Yes, that is the way it is in many schools…but not at Banbury! Our students are not stressed like that. There is a pervasive atmosphere of peacefulness in Banbury. That fact felt wonderful to acknowledge. There is a clip at the end of the movie that shows a small school in New York that looked a bit like ours. At one point, the Director throws wide his arms and exclaims, “Why shouldn’t school be fun?!” We agree, and not just for the immediate joy that children would experience. The benefits extend into the future, because people remember the emotional context around their learning. If something is learned with pain and hardship, that negativity will become attached to the concepts themselves. On the other hand, if young people experience pleasure in learning, then they will enter adulthood believing that learning is beneficial and possible. In this way, they will persist in learning how to handle and surmount their life’s challenges.
Then, yesterday, I noticed that I had received an email from the “Race to Nowhere” team that began by saying, “Did you know experts have concluded the link between homework and academic achievement is limited? Yet despite the research, our students are spending more time on homework — often at the cost of health and engagement.” I thought to myself, What do you know? They are taking up the homework topic. I should let them know about Alfie Kohn. Then I read down a few paragraphs and found out that they already know him. They have together joined with other homework experts, Sara Bennett and Etta Kralovec, to launch a petition asking the American National PTA to support healthy homework guidelines to better support learning and a spirit of engagement in our classrooms, and to remedy the academic stress and anxiety that accompanies current homework practices all across the continent.
Educators at all grade levels should assign homework only when assignments demonstrably advance a spirit of learning, curiosity and inquiry among students.
Educators at all grade levels, but particularly in elementary and middle grades, should limit take-home assignments to at-home reading or project-based work chosen by the student.
Educators at all grade levels should avoid assigning or requiring homework on non-school nights, holidays and breaks, on nights of major school events, when a child is sick or absent, or when it conflicts with a child’s family or religious obligations.”
They continue, “The ongoing debate about homework—how much, for whom and to what end—has picked up momentum in parenting and educational circles, as recent research studies continue to question the relationship between time spent doing homework and academic engagement among students.
Experts who have conducted or synthesized research on the links between homework, learning and test performance agree that the relationship between homework and school achievement is limited.
In a study released by the Economics of Education Review, homework in science, English and history was shown to have "little to no impact" on eighth graders' test scores in those subjects. Harris Cooper, Duke University, surveyed 15 years' worth of homework studies conducted across the country, and found diminishing returns for middle and high school students as the hours spent doing homework increased.
Moreover, homework has also been linked to stress and academic disengagement among both young children and teens. In a study by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, 70% of Bay Area parents reported that their 9- to 13-year-olds suffered "moderate to high levels of stress," and that schoolwork or homework was the most significant contributor.
Similarly, a Scholastic study of 500 children and their parents found that reading for pleasure decreased dramatically after age 8 (the age after which only 29% of students read every day). Parents identified homework as the number one reason their children didn't read more.
Change is possible.”
Aren’t you happy that change is already in place here at Banbury Crossroads?
May 24th, 2012
We offer self-directed learning, fostering student autonomy and liberty in a culture of mutual respect. Academics are individualized. We use a student-paced approach with tutorial instruction in small, multi-aged groups of 10:1. Collaboration within meaningful, trusting relationships enhances learning. Students connect with the community through field trips, volunteerism and internships.We communicate, negotiate, solve problems and develop soft skills. Students take responsibility for their own education.
Banbury Crossroads School is a private Gifted/Alternative day school in Calgary, Alberta. The school offers programs for grades JK to 12 with enrolment of 90 day students. Banbury Crossroads School has an average class size of 10 to 12 students and has a tuition cost of $7,500 to $8,500. Founded in 1979, this private school does not require students to wear uniforms and the language of instruction is English.
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