Across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), debates regarding the ban on homework are emerging after a ministry decision to scrap homework at several public schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The decision was back in 2020 when 23 and 233 schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively abolished homework on February 16 (Rizvi, 2020). The rationalization for this decision was that it helped improve the quality of teaching. The arguments have taken different turns and perspectives, mostly with the focus being on how such a decision affects learning activities and academic performance. For example, Edurabia (2020) reported that the no-homework policy could benefit girls more than boys as opined by education experts. Before the ban, the debates across the media in the UAE revolved around the question of whether children had too much homework (Time Out Editors, 2019). It can be argued that the decision reached was that homework prevented students from becoming well-rounded individuals as most of their life revolved around school (Veathika, 2018). Now that the ban has been implemented, it is time for scholars and practitioners to examine the potential ramifications for the teaching practice.
Issuing homework has been a major academic activity in schools across the world. Regardless of the debates surrounding the issue, it can be observed that policymakers have been reluctant to ban homework in schools until the recent efforts by the ministry in the UAE. Even after the ban, the debates on the ramifications have continued, which implies that most stakeholders in the education sector are unsure if this was the right decision. Rather than listening to commentaries and opinions on the subject, scientific and empirical evidence offers a pathway toward settling the debate. Past studies have often produced mixed results thus necessitating fresh studies. Additionally, contextual factors may play a critical role in academic outcomes, which means that each country, region, state, or province display different results. In Abu Dhabi, the no-homework policy has been implemented in public schools since 2020, which offers an opportunity for scholars to examine the advantages of such a policy. The primary schools in Abu Dhabi will need to be studied empirically to help determine the validity and usefulness of the no-homework policy.
Significance of Study
The no-homework policy has been implemented in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Therefore, it may seem pointless to dwell on the issue anymore. However, all policy decisions made have consequences for the entire education system, some of which may take a while to be observed. Since the topic remains contentious, the significance of this study is that it helps observe what is happening to the learners after the policy or how the ministry decision has shaped academic outcomes. In this case, the major idea is to confirm that the policy is the right one or highlight any negative consequences that have started to emerge since its implementation
Research Objectives and Questions
The primary objective of the study is to explore the benefits of implementing a no-homework policy in Abu Dhabi. The focus is on reshaping the education such that school life is separated from home life and assessing whether the intention of producing well-rounded students is met. Additionally, it is expected that the policy will be accompanied by some challenges, which need to be outlined. The specific objectives of this research are outlined below, followed by the derivative research questions.
- Examining the pros and cons of homework at the primary school stage.
- Establish how the no-homework policy applies across different subjects.
- Examine the challenges encountered with the no-homework policy.
- Outline the effects of the no-homework policy on parental engagement.
- Explore issues surrounding the time spent with family and how they affect the students’ wellbeing and behavioral outcomes.
- What are the pros and cons of homework at the primary school stage?
- How does the no-homework policy apply across different subjects?
- What are the challenges encountered in implementing the no-homework policy?
- What are the effects of a no-homework policy on parental engagement?
- What are the issues surrounding time spent with family and how do they affect students’ wellbeing and behavioral outcomes?
One of the most interesting aspects of the proposed research topic is that previous studies have yielded mixed results, which has only served to perpetuate the debates about the need for homework in schools. In some cases, it can be argued that the research approaches are responsible for the outcomes, which would then raise questions on what is the right methodological approach. Considering that each study focuses on different subjects and geographical locations, alternative explanations can emerge, including that homework works well for some people and not so for others. Some unique studies have explored student choice as one of the key determinants of the effectiveness of homework. The results indicate that such an approach could be effective, but only with the support of teachers (Scott and Glaze, 2017, p. 1). Overall, the fact that institutions are changing their homework policies indicates that practitioners are starting to follow the position that homework does not necessarily result in better academic performance. Those who hold onto the principles of homework are arguably the ones dwelling on re-designing it with the hope of producing better results.
Attempts to redesign homework practices have included varying homework amounts. A study on this approach was presented by Dolean and Lervag (2022, p. 280) where the focus is on an elementary school. The findings indicate that moderating homework at this age helps improve short-term and medium-term academic performance. The argument is that homework offers additional practice opportunities. An intriguing aspect of this study is the call for moderation despite showing homework to be positively related to performance. Such a sentiment comes from the mounting criticism of homework by scholars and practitioners, with most concluding that homework is a major source of stress among students. Therefore, moderation becomes the most rational tradeoff between the dangers and benefits of homework for students.
Non-academic impacts are studied considering that the outcomes of homework go beyond the classroom. According to Holland et al. (2021, p. 631), homework causes moderate detriments on non-academic aspects of life, including sleep, parent-child relations, and emotional health. These findings are backed by the observation that homework tends to occupy time that could have been spent with family or even sleeping, activities that are necessary for emotional and psychological wellbeing. Sleep deprivation may extend its impact to the classroom with the inability to concentrate in class causing deteriorating performance. Rather than discarding homework entirely, Holland et al. (2021, p. 631) acknowledge that homework has its uses. Therefore, the recommendation given is that teachers should use evidence-based practices when assigning homework, which is almost similar to the moderation suggested by Dolean and Lervag (2022, p. 280). In this case, homework should be used where it works well and eliminated where it fails to produce the desired results (Redmond, 2021, p. 75). Some scholars recommend professional development to determine the best practices. In this case, it is argued that best practices will yield positive results.
Some scholars have opted to explore homework practices, including how homework is designed and feedback presented. Several issues that affect the ability to homework to produce the desired outcomes emerge. For example, the time taken to design homework is usually class time, which means that homework indeed reduces the classroom learning time. Additionally, individualized feedback allows the students to make corrections and identify areas of difficulty and resolve them. However, the most important observation is that homework has been a pervasive practice, which means most institutions offer traditional homework majorly as a teaching norm (Fitzmaurice, Flynn, and Hanafin, 2020, p. 910). Some institutions are attempting modern approaches, including weekly homework as opposed to daily. Teachers’ perceptions affect their homework-related practices, where some prefer to check homework themselves while others recommend this role to be performed by parents (Özenç, 2020, p. 396). From this perspective, it can be argued that there is growing interest in the nature and design of homework as a determinant of the effectiveness of homework.
So far, the literature explored has revealed teachers’ perceptions of homework, the pervasive nature of this practice, and the positive effects of moderation support homework. There has been a mention of the detriments of homework to the non-academic outcomes (Holland, et al., 2021, p. 631). On academic performance, such scholars as Liu and Wu 92021, p. 244) explore how homework could be useful for mathematics, with the results showing that traditional homework practices remain an effective learning tool. This position is supported by the observation that students who completed homework performed better than those who do not. These findings contrast those of Cordova, Pagtulon-an, and Tan (2019, p. 144) who find no positive relationship between homework and academic performance. the difference across subjects is an area that has not been extensively studied, but the recommendations of evidence-based by Holland et al. (2021, p. 631) should be applied in these situations where homework is used where it produces results. Even online homework is deemed effective as long as the students complete their assignments.
A meta-analysis study may be effective research to summarize the effects of homework on academic performance. This approach has been used by Baş, Şentürk, and Ciğerci (2017, p. 31), whose results indicate that homework assignments had a small effect size on the academic achievement levels of students. Additionally, the course type was seen to be a major variable in the homework-performance dynamics. Besides mathematics as examined by Liu and Wu 92021, p. 244), other subjects, especially sciences, record better results when homework is used. Therefore, the course type as suggested by Baş, Şentürk, and Ciğerci (2017, p. 31), should be a key consideration when making homework policies. These results illustrate that the research findings on the effects of homework on academic performance cannot be generalized across all subjects or courses.
While some homework strategies involve getting the parents engaged, others are solely conducted by the teachers themselves. Perceived parental involvement is an issue that has not received much attention when addressing the question of whether or not homework is indeed helpful. Therefore, there is a need to acknowledge the efforts of Núñez et al. (2017, p. 1) to examine homework behaviors and their relation to perceived parental involvement. Low-achieving students have been observed to experience more parental control over the homework, which illustrates that parents are keen to contribute to their children’s academic success. In this case, the homework presents an opportunity for parent-child interaction. Additionally, this study reveals that the parents are often the ones complaining about inadequate homework practices, especially since they expect their children to bring assignments home. Parental support is critical, but there needs to be an exploration of how parental involvement in homework facilitates higher scores.
Another key observation regarding the use of homework as a major teaching practice is concerned with the time versus the amount or frequency of homework. A case study of Latin America presented by Fernández-Alonso et al. (2019, p. 1) reveals that at the individual level, time spent on homework had a little impact while the frequency showed a clearer effect. Additionally, the amount of homework assigned did not seem to have significant positive effects on performance. A similar study conducted by Valle et al. (2019, p. 423)presents a person-centered approach to examining the influence of homework time on school students. The findings indicate that students who managed time better recorded higher academic outcomes than those who were ineffective in time management. In this case, the argument is that time in itself does not produce results. Rather, it is a matter of how well the time is utilized. In other words, spending a lot of time on homework will only produce results if time management is effective. Fernández-Alonso et al. (2017, p. 1), recommends optimimal time for homework. Overall, practitioners should integrate time concerns in designing and administering homework.
In essence, the literature on homework reveals a growing concern among researchers and practitioners that the practice no longer produces the desired results. However, there are several cases where homework seems to be effective in boosting performance. Therefore, the main observation from this review of literature is that it is unwise to generalize the results across all subjects and courses since some of them could require homework. Additionally, the literature shows that the division between opponents and proponents of homework spreads across both research and practice, which could influence scholarly outcomes. In this case, the pressing issues when implementing a no-homework policy should be taking into account situations where homework might be necessary. Similarly, the literature reviewed indicates that there is a likelihood of critiquing the no-homework policy if the academic outcomes are to deteriorate across certain subjects.
Research Approach and Philosophy
The research philosophy used in this study is interpretivism, a paradigm based on the notion that knowledge is subjective, historically, and culturally situated. In this case, the main idea is that knowledge is based on the abstract descriptions of meanings obtained from human experiences (Ryan, 2018, p. 17). The rationale for using the interpretivist approach is that it offers a pathway to understanding the phenomenon from a participant’s perspective, which implies how the research population experiences, interprets and understands the research problem (Žukauskas, et al., 2018). The no-homework policy is a major change in academic practice that raises concerns among several stakeholders. The divisions between the proponents and opponents mean that there is a need to explore the underlying issues from the point of view of the stakeholders.
Interpretivism is often associated with qualitative approaches, even though quantitative methods can be used. This research is intended to be narrative research since it seeks to collect and analyze the accounts of the respondents to describe their experiences and interpret them. As an approach to qualitative inquiry, narrative research is designed to gather knowledge through a narrative inquiry about society and individuals (Wolgemuth and Agosto, 2019, p. 1). In this case, the two schools used for comparison represent the population on which a narrative inquiry is conducted. Qualitative methods entail a social action that focuses on how people interpret and make sense of their experiences (Mohajan, 2018, p. 24). Therefore, the narrative inquiry will be a qualitative study where qualitative data is collected and analyzed.
Case Study Research Design and Strategy
The research deployed is a case study, which is one of the most applicable designs in social sciences. According to Heale and Twycross (2018, p. 7), a case study can be defined as a research methodology involving an intensive and systematic investigation into a single subject, which allows in-depth analysis of the research phenomenon. Even though the definition suggests a single case or respondents or individuals, case studies tend to allow for more than one case, which makes it valid for this research with two institutions used for comparison. A multiple-case research study allows an in-depth analysis of the individual units individually and through comparison. When deployed in the two schools, this design will mean that each institution is investigated in detail, which will be followed by a comparison. The rationale for a case study is that it helps achieve the goals of an interpretivist study where in-depth investigations are the best approach to understanding phenomena from the respondents’ perspectives. Meanings and experiences are monitored easily when the subjects are fewer, which explains why two schools are used for comparison.
As a research strategy, the multiple-case study will follow certain protocols and steps. In the foundation phase, the philosophy and inquiry techniques have been described in the section above. In terms of epistemology, the interpretivist approach dictates that the nature of the research should be subjective, which explains why the perspectives of the respondents are considered. The pre-field and field phases focus on how the researchers plan and engage with the participants. In this case, all that is required is the section of two schools, from which a sample of teachers, students, and parents is gathered. What follows is the application of the data collection techniques as will be described in the section below. The reporting phase comes after the collection and analysis of the data. The research report is the main document for reporting the findings.
Data Collection and Analysis
The data collection methods are dictated by the approach and design used. Qualitative studies often tend to use ethnographies, observations, surveys, and interviews. In this case, a combination of data collection methods is deployed to allow the researcher to gather adequate information to help achieve the objectives of the inquiry. The respondents will include teachers, parents, and students and each of these groups will be assessed using specified techniques. Or parents, survey questionnaires are deemed effective since the respondents are dispersed. As for students and teachers, their availability within the school environment makes it possible to conduct interviews with easy scheduling. The questions for each of the three groups will be different since each of them has a different perspective on the issue. Additionally, experts on the subject could prove useful, which means that secondary data analysis will be needed. A review of past studies and other relevant documents will help answer those questions that parents, students, and teachers may not. Specifically, the secondary data will be focused on the scientific aspect of the research.
The analysis of data will require the selection of the best tools that help achieve the research objectives. Considering the amount of detail needed for the case study, a qualitative thematic analysis is preferred over content analysis. By definition, a thematic analysis entails the process of identification, analysis, organization, description, and reporting of major themes found in a data set (Nowell et al., 2017, p. 2). In other words, the major ideas from what the researcher gathers are classified into themes, under which a detailed analysis of what the theme implies is presented. A rigorous thematic analysis is capable of producing trustworthy and insightful findings. Even though the procedures for a rigorous thematic analysis are not standard, this case study focuses on accumulating and comparing the perceptions of respondents across all aspects of the research problem.
All primary research faces several ethical issues involving the protection of human subjects. Even though the topic of investigation is not sensitive or contentious, the responses given by participants are safeguarded through such ethical principles as privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity. Therefore, no private or personal data will be collected, and all responses will not be revealed to outside parties. Informed consent and voluntary participation mean that no individual will be forced to participate in the process against their will (Arifin, 2018, p. 30). As for the minors, consent will be obtained from either the parents or the teacher.
Dissemination of Results
The findings of the study will be presented in the form of a research project, a document comprising the final draft of the research. specifically, the findings and discussion chapters of the report summarized the research results and offer explanations as necessary. Additionally, the report is submitted to the school and shared with the relevant individuals, including the supervisor. Overall, the published document will be made available to authorized personnel and could be shared freely with the participants upon request.
Prior Stance Towards Use of Research in Professional Practice
Before undertaking this research proposal, my stance was that research and professional practice are inseparable. Through research, the theoretical models are deployed for practitioners to use in their profession. Additionally, research keeps updating these theories as new information, finding, or another conceptual change occurs that alters protocols and procedures in practice. Practitioners go through an education system where research is part of learning. My position was that the practitioners hone their skills and knowledge through research. Therefore, research involves building on professionals. The use of research is inevitable in professional practice if the position held is that knowledge and skills are built through research. after education, the only way for practitioners to keep their skills and knowledge is through research conducted either by themselves or by other scholars. Across disciplines, organizations have found the need to train and develop workers, which means that professional skills and knowledge need to be reassessed and updated with time. Practitioners can use current research to understand what is new and integrate it into their practice. Most importantly, some professions emphasize evidence-based practice, which means that they use research as a source of evidence.
Most Significant Learning
The most significant learning from this module is the role of research in informing policy-making in professional practice. In education, the ministry is often responsible for the formulation of policies that govern the entire system. Such regulations often have a direct implication for several stakeholders, including teachers and students. Using the example of the proposed research topic, a no-homework policy means less work for both teachers and students. The implications may as far as influencing the academic and behavioral outcomes depending on how students spend the extra time freed from the homework time. Overall, research offers scientific and empirical evidence that can be used in making such decisions. For instance, if the ministry had full knowledge that the no-homework policy causes a deterioration in academic outcomes, the most probable decision would have been to enforce more homework. In professional education, research informs policy, which in turn has consequences for the education system and practice.
Considering my prior stance and the major lessons regarding research, my future intentions regarding conducting and using research are to integrate research into my professional practice. The proposed research will be one of many to follow since I intend to fully embrace the concept of evidence-based practice. As explained above, such an approach to professional practice means that research forms the basis and backbone for all professional decisions. With the knowledge and skills required to be updated regularly, I believe that research will be the perfect approach to achieving this goal. Most importantly, my future intentions are to continue researching to fill in gaps in the literature, especially when new theories and ideas emerge. Similarly, I expect policies in my profession to keep changing, which means that only research can help me understand the full implications of the new policies. Lastly, my research can be used to support policy development.
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