Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Shock findings - high achievement causes more homework

The poor man may have been misquoted - after all, the article was written by a mere journalist, but embedded in the following quote is (by implication) a classic False Cause fallacy (Post hoc?... ergo propter hoc?).

John Roulston, executive director of Independent Schools Queensland said a good rule of thumb was that homework should be assigned on the basis of 10 minutes for each grade level up until senior school.

Dr Roulston said homework at most independent schools ranged from 10 minutes a day for Year 1 students to 20 minutes a day for Year 3, 60 minutes a day for Years 6 and 7, 75 minutes for Year 8 and 90 minutes for Year 9. Year 12 students often did up to three hours home work a day, he said.

"Schools in which homework is routinely assigned and graded tend to have higher achieving students," Dr Roulston said. "The more homework students complete, especially from grades 6 to 12, the better they do in school. "The correlation between homework and higher achievement is higher the further a student moves through school."

Sounds reasonable but... higher aspiring students, with pushy parents, might do more homework - and achieve higher results - because of their pushy parents and higher aspirations. More homework might not "cause" higher achievement, despite the superficial attractiveness of such an assumption.

Maybe Doctorates in education cause executive directors of independent schools to jump to hasty conclusions - or to confuse correlation with causation? The only way to really test Roulston's assumption that more homework gives more betterer results in school would be to force slackers to do mountains of homework and to forbid keen students to do any. I shall be applying for a grant to conduct just such a study.

Tagged - , , .