The Hygiene of Home Study
William H. Burnham
Nearly twenty years ago, on the recommendation of Gen. Francis A. Walker and others, the school board of Boston passed the following order concerning the study of arithmetic: "Home lessons in arithmetic should be given out only in exceptional cases." And in an address on the subject of arithmetic in the Boston schools, President Walker expressed the opinion,—which may fairly be taken as the view of hygienists—that arithmetic is a subject peculiarly ill-fitted for home study, and he adds:
"Over and over again have I had to send my own children, in spite of their tears and remonstrances, to bed, long after the assigned tasks had ceased to have any educational value and had become the means of nervous exhaustion and agitation, highly prejudicial to body and to mind; and I have no reason to doubt that such has been the experience of a large proportion of the parents whose children are habitually assigned home lessons in arithmetic."
If one asks a body of teachers their opinion in regard to the value and place of home study, some are likely to emphasize very strongly the importance of it; others, with perhaps equal emphasis, will say there should be none of it; and a third class will reply that under certain conditions a reasonable amount is very valuable. Teachers of classics are likely to say that it is impossible to d) the work of the school without home tasks; teachers of science may say that there is need of little or no outside work. Writers upon pedagogy likewise divide into similar classes. Hygienists, on the other hand, generalizing from the experience of injurious results in certain cases, are inclined to condemn the giving of home tasks altogether. All are expressing merely personal opinion based upon limited observation and e experience.
This is a care Where it is desirable to know the facts before laying down general rules. It does not seem a problem that lends itself easily to experimental investigation; and yet here as often the method of experiment is valuable just because it enables one to study all the facts involved. Dr. Friedrich
( 214) Schmidt, working under the direction of Külpe and Neumann, has made this problem a subject of experimental study, and has attempted to get to close quarters with the facts that bear upon it.
First of all, it is useless to talk about home study when there is no home. In the large cities many of the children live in tenements where study seems to be hygienically out of the question. Statistics, for example, collected a few years ago in regard to Berlin showed that there were 25,769 cellars occupied as dwellings; 3,385 dwellings on the fifth story; 343 still higher; 56o ground stories with 175 to 200 tenants each; 154 with 226 to 250 inhabitants each; 110 with 301 to 350 inhabitants each; and 6 with a still larger number of people. Further it was re-ported that in 205,734 rear tenements there were 19,805 rooms that could not be heated. There were 1,749 common kitchens; and 112,114 common closets; altogether in Berlin there were 6,779 dwellings without heated rooms, in which 15,273 people lived. The climax of misery was represented by 4,086 dwellings which consisted only of a kitchen. In dwellings with only one heated room the number of inhabitants was 14,100. In each of 487 of these kitchens 3 people lived; in 250, 4 people in each; in 122, 5 in each; in 56, 6 in each; in 27, 7 in each; in 7, 8 in each; in 4, 9 in each; in 1, II; in 1, 12.
In some of the large cities of this country, a few years ago at least, the conditions were often just as bad; and in many tenement districts to-day the misery is perhaps nearly or quite as great.
Many other facts must be considered. Among the factors which will influence home study are the following: the place where the parents work, whether in the home or outside; the presence of brothers and sisters; the place where the home is situated, whether on the first floor, the middle stories, or the top floor; the condition of the home, whether heated or not; the location of it in relation to the street; the conditions of light, etc.; the time of day when the home work is done; the conditions of sleep, nutrition, pauses, interruptions; the use of coffee, tea, and the like; the general social environment of the child, etc. Dr. Schmidt has considered all of these factors, and in regard to many of them collected definite statistics. For ex-
( 215) -ample, in the case of pupils in his own class he found that 12% of the fathers did their work in the home; 88% outside the house; of the mothers 80% worked in the home, 20% outside the house. 35% lived on the ground floor, 2% on the top story. 45% lived in dwellings of two rooms, 6% in one room dwellings.
Dr. Schmidt tried to control the conditions in his investigation. The following method was adopted: two tasks of as nearly equal difficulty as possible were chosen, one was given to the class, to be performed in school, the other was given, to be per-formed at home by the same pupils. After three weeks the same two tasks w ere given again to the same pupils. Also the same tasks were given to another class who had not had any home work previously. All the pupils were between the ages of 12 to 13 years. They knew nothing about the experiment. To avoid the effect of practice, work in which they were al-ready skilled was given them, and it was adapted to their apperception; both tasks were allotted for definite days or hours. The teachers made no suggestions. Thus the conditions were normal. The material from all these pupils was made the basis of the study, and not only the average but the mean variation was calculated.
For a single illustration we may take the test in arithmetic for Dr. Schmidt's own class. The home work consisted first of ordinary examples in multiplication and long division. The total number of errors was for the home work 209.69; for the school, 146.51. For the test with the repeated task in the home work 222.63; in the school work, 137.88. Again, for a second test, the total number of errors in the home work was 351.577; in the school work, 268. For the repeated test in the homework, 260.31; in the school work, 218 95. Again, for the third test with applied problems the total number of errors in the home work was 248.38; in the school work, 199.44.' For the repeated work, in the home tasks, 294.95; in the school work, 160.01. Summarizing the results for all the classes it appeared:
1. That in respect to content the home tasks were strikingly inferior to the reckoning in the school. As regards form one group of the school tasks showed more errors than the corresponding home work.
2. The mean variations in content and form appeared in favor of the school work in three cases.
Still more strikingly in favor of class work were the results of the test in copying, and in general the majority of the children made more mistakes in the home work than in the schoolwork. The errors made in the home work differ, however, from those made in the class. The value of home work is dif-
( 216) -ferent for different subjects and it is different for different ages.
A most noteworthy illustration was furnished by the test of writing original essays in the mother tongue. Those pupils who worked in the solitude of their own rooms, especially in individual cases, did much better work than those who wrote in the class-rooms. This, Dr. Schmidt explains on the ground that solitude favors the activity of imagination. Probably in general with children as with adults the conditions of solitude are necessary for the best results in original thinking.
On the basis of his extended investigations, Dr. Schmidt draws the following practical conclusions:
1.The investigation in regard to the quality of the home work showed that in general this was inferior to the school work. An inference in regard to the abolition of home work cannot be drawn from this, however, since in special cases the latter was qualitatively superior to the school work. The home tasks have in themselves an incontestible value.
2 The daily preparation of home tasks should be avoided, since it is shown that this is accompanied with a tendency to routine and superficial work, while such pupils as prepare no tasks at home show in a home test both in content and form better productions, which in a typical case may even surpass the school work.
3 In city schools with instruction both in the forenoon and afternoon, home tasks should clearly be omitted. The same is true for the winter schools in the country.
4. Written home tasks in arithmetic should be omitted, since their quality is inferior.
5. In case of home essays it is indicated that when it is possible the pupils should prepare them at a time when they can work alone. Such essays prepared in quiet solitude are qualitatively better than those done in the school tinder the influence of the class.
6 Home tasks to be given at intervals should be derived directly from the instruction, therefore well prepared for and most carefully controlled.
Some noteworthy incidental results were found by Dr. Schmidt. The experimental method used by him gave him an intimate knowledge of the individual pupils, their manner of work, and the errors to which they were liable. In correcting the home work of the pupils he came to know them accurately as working individuals; for example, he found that one pupil of the upper class could not write one of the German letters, another regularly gave a false result in the simple multiplication table, a third had a false idea of things, conditions, and qualities. He points out that it is not without value to know
( 217) the conditions under which each individual pupil works. The insight into the home conditions of the pupil is important not only for a correct estimate of the home tasks but for the treatment of the pupil in general.
This study by Schmidt illustrates very well the advantages and the limitations of experimental pedagogy in dealing with a question of this kind. It is impossible to eliminate all the sources of error, although they are minimized by the precautions that may be taken, by having a large amount of material, and by estimating not only the average but the mean variation; and yet the application of the scientific method is specially valuable as a means of studying the many factors involved in such a problem and bringing one to close quarters with the facts. The fallacy of the practical teacher who makes light of such work is in supposing that because the psychologist by the scientific method is unable to estimate all the factors adequately, therefore, the teacher without any such method is able to estimate them all. While from a strictly scientific point of view, the results of such a study are largely unsatisfactory, from a practical point of view they are far more valuable than mere personal opinion or even the pooling of opinions based upon desultory observation. The main point for pedagogy is that the work should be done by the pupils under normal conditions.
The child studying school tasks at home is relatively isolated; in the class he is one of a social group with common aims. Studies in social psychology have shown that an individual alone and the same individual in a group are two different psychological beings. The child working alone is different from the child working in a class. Dr. Mayer, of Würzburg (8), has studied experimentally this difference as regards the ability to do school work. His problem was to determine whether and under what conditions the work of pupils in a group gave better results than the individual work of the isolated pupil. He tested the ability of pupils to work alone or in company with others, using dictation, mental arithmetic, memory tests, the combination tests after the manner of Ebbinghaus, and writ-ten arithmetic.
Dr. Mayer's method was briefly as follows: a number of boys in the 5th school year of the People's school in Würzburg were given five different tasks as class exercises, and in addition each boy was required to prepare a similar task for comparison in which he sat alone in the class-room, only the class teacher or a colleague being present. The material for the tasks was carefully chosen and was familiar to the pupils. The pupils were representative of very different elements as regards school ability, behavior, temperament, and home conditions. The whole number tested was 28, the average age 12 years.
In general the result of the work of the pupils in groups was superior to their work as individuals. This appeared not only in the decrease of time but in the superior quality of the work done. In individual cases the saving of time was specially striking; for example, one pupil for a combination test required to minutes and 25 seconds when working alone, for a similar test when working with a group 7 minutes and 30 seconds; another, alone 13 minutes and 11 seconds, with the group 6 minutes and 45 seconds; another, 6 minutes and 52 seconds alone, with the group 4 minutes and 40 seconds; still another, 12 minutes and 48 seconds alone, 5 minutes and 50 seconds with the group.
In another series of experiments the pupils were urged to work slowly and carefully, "Rechtschön und langsam," and given as much time as they desired. Here the stimulus from the group seemed to be lost. In only 41% of the cases was the class work done in shorter time. In the majority of cases the isolated pupils worked more rapidly. In another series they were told to work very rapidly, Recht rasch. Here again, only in 4o% of the cases was the time shorter for class work than for work alone.
These results did not appear from similar experiments in vacation. When the directions were to do the work rapidly and well the favorable influence of class work did not appear. Class work in vacation was not done more quickly than the individual work. Mayer's explanation is that the ambition of pupils is the cause of the increased amount of class work, and this is not as potent in vacation, as the children do not then work for examinations.
The pupil in the presence of others is influenced by suggestion. First of all is the direct suggestion from the presence of the teacher in the class-room and the consciousness of the pupils that their performance will be compared with those of other pupils; but besides this there is an indirect, unconscious suggestion, using the word in the broad sense. Wherever men are together the individual is influenced by others without being aware of it. This is specially well illustrated by certain experiments in the laboratory. Neumann cites the case of a subject whose work at night with the ergograph had a very definite value. Accidentally one day he entered the laboratory, and at once the work done was decidedly increased in comparison with that of other evenings and this without the subject's making any voluntary effort to accomplish more. In such experiments the subject always attempts to do his utmost, and hence the significance of the increased work done in the presence of another individual. Many examples of such effect of suggestion have been reported by psychologists.
Dr. Triplett (20) tested the influence of the presence of a co-worker on a simple physical performance. His subjects were 40 school children, and he had them turn a wheel as rap-idly as possible. The children turned the wheel now alone and then in company with another child; in both cases with directions to turn as rapidly as possible. Two results were noted. It appeared, on the one hand, that pupils work more rapidly as soon as another child works in combination; but, on the other hand., in case of many children, hasty uncoördinated movements appeared which reduced their performance. We have to do here probably with very deep-seated and fundamental characteristics of the psycho-physical organism, on which are based the instincts of workmanship, imitation and rivalry.
Féré (2) has made an interesting investigation which throws light on the influence of suggestion on work. He found, for example, that the work with the ergograph is de-creased when the subject is blindfolded, and even when the room is darkened, the light having a stimulating effect upon the worker. Again, if the subject while experimenting looks at another person who makes the same finger movement with-out lifting a weight, the amount of work done is increased, the second person acting as a sort of pace-maker for the subject. It is even sufficient if the subject for a time before beginning the work watches the movements of another, although if the subject watches another for too long a period before the experiment the amount of work done is decreased. The effect of such suggestive influence is stronger if the subject is in a condition of fatigue than when he is fresh, In over-fatigue, when the nervous system is in a condition of "irritable weakness" so-called, such suggestive influences have great effect upon the work. Féré compares the fatigued man with the hysteric, both showing increased sensibility and suggestibility.
Meumann (9), in experiments in the People's schools, corroborated the results of Triplett and Féré in a striking manner. Seven pupils of the age of 13 or 14 were tested repeatedly with the dynamometer and ergograph. In case of the test of the pupilsseparately, with no one else in the room, the amount of work was always less than when others were present. If the experiments were made in the presence of the teacher alone, the pupils did not do as much work as when they were all together without the teacher. On another day the pupils came to the test at 4 o'clock in the afternoon after the school work. It would be supposed, if we may trust the experiments made by Kemsies and others, that at this time of the day there would be a considerable decrease in the amount of work that could be done; but Meumann tried the experiment of suggestion by say-
( 220) -ing to them that youth of their years ought not to be affected by a little school work, a view which they eagerly approved. As a result of the experiment, it appeared that while the two weakest of the seven pupils showed a considerably less ability to work than on occasion of an earlier morning experiment, and two others of rather slight muscular strength did not do quite as much work as before, the other boys showed quite different results, and did more work than at the earlier test. As a general result Meumann concludes that with every change in the external situation, in the co-workers present, in the suggestion given by the experimenter, the amount of work is altered in a typical manner, and these changes appear in the same way in the case of children of different ages.
From this it appears, as Mayer points out, that pupils in a class are in a sort of mental rapport; they hear, see, and know continually what the others are doing, and thus real class work is not a mere case of individuals working together and their performance the summation of the work of many individuals; but there is a sort of class spirit, so that in the full sense of the word one can speak of a group performance which may be compared with an individual performance. The pupils are members of a community of workers. The individual working by himself is a different person.
A noteworthy result of these investigations is the apparent immunity of children to distraction from ordinary causes. Schmidt found that the outside disturbances,—the noise from the street, from adjoining rooms, and the like, had little effect upon them. It was only interruptions that distracted their attention, such as conversation with others, that affected the quality of their work. It appeared even that a home task completed without disturbance might be poorer than the corresponding class work, and that a home task when the pupil was disturbed might be better than the class work. And from Mayer's study it appeared that the tendency to distraction is diminished rather than increased by class work.
Meumann in tests of the memory of pupils alone and when working together found similar results. Disconnected words of two syllables were used which were written down, pronounced once to the pupils, and then written down immediately by them from memory. Two groups of words,—one, substantives of concrete perceptive content familiar to all the pupils; the other, abstract nouns such as mankind, order, organ, culture, and the like were used. As a rule the class teachers pronounced the words, giving first three words, then four words, then five, then six, then seven. As soon as the series was ended the time was noted in which the quickest pupils finished the task. After the experiment was completed, Meumann took
( 221) certain individual children of the class for a repetition of the experiment alone and gave them new words similar to those used in the class. It would naturally be supposed that the children working in the class-room with all the inevitable noises and disturbances would not remember as well as when tested alone. The result of Meumann's investigation, how-ever, was surprising. While in case of children 13 and 14 years of age there was no essential difference in memory for the individual and toe common test, the difference was remarkably large in case of the younger children, especially in case of those 8 and 9 years of age. On an average of all the tests Meumann found that when three words were given the children remembered them correctly. With 5 words 4.9 were remembered correctly. In case of 7 words 4.6. On the other hand, with the individual test, on an average all remembered 3 correctly; incase of 5 only 3.4 were remembered; in case of 7 only 3.2 of the words. Thus on an average with the individual test the children remembered considerably less than in the class. The results were so constant that not a child was found who remembered more in the individual test than in the class test. From this Meumann concludes that the great number of disturbing influences to which children are inevitably exposed in the class-room,—the noise of writing, whispering, walking about, the occasional words of the teacher, the sight of the movements of the pupils, and the like, which one would naturally suppose would make the results inferior, have no special influence.
Meumann asked a number of the pupils in case of the individual tests whether they would prefer to take such exercises in the class or alone, whether they were disturbed by the noise of the other pupils. To his surprise 8o% of the pupils gave the decided answer that they would prefer to do the work in the class. Some 15% gave no definite answer. The others, an extremely small minority, replied that they were disturbed in the class-room; and in most cases these were sensitive, nervous or weak children, although among them were some individuals of decided talent.
Meumann cites similar instances when external disturbances do not affect one, for example, in psychophysic experiments the striking of one or several metronomes in the case of most persons has no effect upon their work. Frequently we do better work when surrounded by noises in some such way; and experiments, as well as the experience of daily life, show that the total absence of noise frequently relaxes our energy for work. Meumann gives the case of his own experience in studying on Sunday in the totally empty university building at Leipzig, where there was a deathly stillness. At first he began to work with the expectation of doing a specially large amount,
(222) but regularly found that this absolute stillness made him sleepy, and had a stupifying effect which decreased the amount of work done. Most external disturbances are not real disturbances of the progress of mental work. They are rather stimuli for increasing the energy of concentration. On the other hand, a decrease of the mental work is brought about only when the attention is turned from the work in hand and busies itself with these stimuli. Again we have a remarkable ability of adapting ourselves to distracting stimuli, and thus of gradually overcoming the strongest disturbances. Meumann found one subject who even under the strong influence of an electric current could observe just as well as before. With children this seems to he perhaps even more true than with adults. Apparently we need not worry overmuch about noise and other ordinary disturbances, but should aim to keep them from the habit of dawdling in study, distraction of attention, and confusion of association.
Again, as Meumann points out, a fundamental law of the will is involved in any activity of this kind. The better results of class work are probably largely due to the greater effort of the will (the Antrieb as Kraepelin calls it) put forth by the individual pupils, while in case of work at home or individual work there is likely to be less stimulus of this kind.
It is significant that when the pupils in the class were instructed to work very rapidly, Recht rasch, the results were less uniform, and in general not as good as when working under normal conditions. On the other hand, from Mayer's study it appears that when pupils working at home were urged by their parents to work rapidly the result was likely to be advantageous. In the former case there was already, by the presence of the class and the conditions of the work, sufficient stimulus to the will; the added stimulus of the exhortation to work very rapidly defeated its own end by over-stimulation. Whereas in case of the latter, the pupil lacking adequate stimulus to effort, the exhortation to hasten proved beneficial. The bad effects of over-stimulation of the will is illustrated also in many of Dr. Triplett's subjects and has often been shown by experiments in the laboratory.
As Meumann points out, the general result of investigation is against home work; but there are some noteworthy exceptions. School work or the work of pupils in a group is on an average in all years of the People's school superior both in quantity and quality to home work and to work in solitude; but the general exceptions can be formulated as follows: home work is the more valuable the more the child's work takes on the character of an individual performance requiring the stamp of personality, and the more the higher mental faculties,—im-
(223) -agination, judgment, etc., are required; and the school work, on the other hand, is the more valuable the more the work bears the character of a mechanical, memoriter performance, and the less it demands the stamp of personality. Hence home work is specially valuable in the writing of compositions in the mother tongue, and perhaps in work in geometrical problems, and original drawings and modelings; on the other hand, the ordinary school practice of giving material to be learned by heart and written arithmetic for home tasks is contradicted. Such work is apt to result in untrustworthy and inaccurate memorizing which is injurious. The value of home work, according to Meumann's observations of the notebooks of the pupils, increases with the age, and not until the last two school years of the eight-year course attains a value which would make home work appear as an essential complement of the school work.
Actual practice as regards home study in this country and in Europe varies greatly. In 25 European cities Buchneder (I) found all degrees of home work from total freedom to an astounding amount. But home tasks were given in all these cities except Zürich.
In Zürich a school regulation forbids the giving of home tasks in the elementary schools, and recommends reducing the home tasks to a minimum in the higher grades. The regulation in respect to home tasks in the secondary schools reads as follows: "The home work must be thoroughly prepared for by the instruction The repeated copying of the same task as a mere means of punishment is inappropriate. From the fore-noon to the afternoon of the same day no tasks may be given. For Sundays and holidays, as well as the vacations, no more tasks are to be given than from one day to another. Where several teachers give instruction in the same class, there should be an understanding in regard to the number and extent, and a proper division, of the home tasks."(I)
The Prussian Hesse regulations for the higher schools are: for pupils 10-11 years old,1 hour or 1 1/2 hours; for those 12 to13, 2 hours; for those 14 to 15, 2% hours; for those 16 to 18, 3 ½ hours for daily tasks, with Sunday free. (7)
In Wurttemberg the statute of March 19, 1896, in regard to home tasks is as follows:
"1. The house-tasks, including the memoriter material, should be not more than 1 hour for pupils of the 1st to the 3d classes on full school days, and not more than 1 1/2 hours on days when there is no school in the afternoon. 2. For pupils of the 4th class not more than 1 1/2 hours, or two hours when there is no school. 3. For the other classes, in accordance with the programme of 1891, the time allotted for home tasks
(224) should be limited on full days to 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours, on afternoons when there is no school to 2% to 3 hours." (4)
The regulations for the higher schools in Elsass-Lothringen may be taken perhaps as typical of the German states (12). They prescribe the following maximal norms:
For the pupils of
Vorschule, from 6 to 9 years, 30-40 minutes.
Sexta and Quinta,from 9 to 11 years, 1 hour.
Quarta und Untertertia, from 11 to 13 years, 2 hours.
Obertertia und Untersekunda, from 13 to 15 years, 2 1/2 hours.
Obersekunda, Unter-u. Oberprima, from 15 to 18 years, 3 hours.
The official norms for home work vary, however, in different States. In Prussia for the instruction and home work together in the higher grades 8 hours is the maximum. In Hesse the home work for the middle classes is limited to 2 1/2 hours, for the upper classes to 3. Württemberg considers the matter of afternoon instruction,—21/2 to 3 hours of home work is prescribed for the free days, and 11/2 to 2 hours for the days with afternoon instruction.
As a matter of fact, according to Dr. Jäger, occasion is frequently given for working more than this amount; but even regularly this amounts to a daily task of never less than 8 but for the most part 9 to ro hours of mental work. This, he thinks, a conservative estimate for the 15-year-old boy. In criticism of this he argues that the normal day's work for the brain worker should never be more than the hours for one who does physical work, and when we consider that the pupils are in the period of growth and development this demand of 8 to 10 hours daily work indicates over-pressure and seriously threatens the health of the growing youth. Still further danger lies in the fact that the larger part of the work must be done in a sitting posture and in closed rooms. Still further, one cannot stop mental work at once as one does physical work, and the strain, the worry, and the repetition of associations, continue after the time of the actual tasks even into sleep, and the brain of the children—even of the most thick-skinned—is apt to be kept in a state of continued tension and excitement.
Dr. Jäger further points out that it is not those lacking in talent, not the lazy, the indifferent, and not the rogue, who are most seriously affected, but the most talented and the conscientious and ambitious pupils, who desire to fulfill all the demands of the school and who are ashamed to avail themselves of forbidden helps with which the other pupils know how to protect themselves. These are the ones who suffer most and are soonest injured.
In 1898–99 the Prussian Kultus-minister made an inquiry in regard to the home work of the pupils in the higher schools of
(225) Berlin and the Province of Brandenburg (7). The basis of their results were the daily records and the reports of the pupils themselves. Out of 91 institutions 57 reported that the prescribed limit of time for home study was not surpassed; in case of the others, this occurred onlyin individual cases in Tertia; in Untersekunda, in 14 cases out of 88; in Obersekunda, in 6 out of 57; in Prima, in 21 out of 102. An older investigation made by Alexi found the actual amount of time spent in home work by the students of the Berlin Gymnasien to be in Sexta ro hours; in Quinta I I; in Quarta 141/2;in Tertia 18-22 hours; in Secunda 33 hours; and in Prima over 33 hours per week. This, too, without reckoning the hours in which the teachers gave the pupils extra assistance, which amounted to considerable in the lower and middle classes. These long days were not confined to the boys. Daiber reported diligent pupils in the upper classes of the girls' schools who worked to or 12 hours daily. In his famous address at the opening of the Berlin School Conference the German Emperor declared that when he was a student in the Gymnasium at Cassel, the pupils were obliged to report to the Director each morning the number of hours spent in preparing the task for the day. From thoroughly honest reports it appeared that the students in Prima spent from 5 1/2 to 7 hours in home study.
Kemsies (6)has made a very careful study of the home work of his own pupils in an Oberrealschule in Berlin. The average amount of home work per pupil per day was r hour and 7 minutes, the average for Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays being somewhat more than this, the amount for the other three days amounting to less than an hour. Quite a different picture appears from the study of the work of individual pupils. Here enormous contrasts appear; one pupil, for example, reports for one day only 15 minutes, another, 1 hour and 52 minutes.
In this country we have no definite statistics in regard to the amount of home work done by pupils. Perhaps in most schools home tasks are allotted; but the amount of time actually spent by the pupils .varies greatly from perhaps an average of 33 minutes in the grammar grades, as found by Mr. Lyford in a Worcester school, to 1 to 3 hours found probably often in high schools (5 and 16) ; and the individual differences are enormous some pupils working not at all while others spend many hours in home study.
It should be noted that in this country a large part of the older pupils, especially the boys, do work outside the school. While we have little statistical data in regard to this, studies by Scudder and others indicate that the percentage of boys who have such work is large. Mr. Johnson (5), in his Study of the Habits of Work of High School Pupils in seven cities in
(226) Indiana, found that of 600 pupils 512 had some employment other than school work; the boys delivering papers, working in stores, etc., the girls employed in household duties, etc. The seniors he found devoting more than two hours a day to employment other than school work.
Miss Trumbull (21), a teacher in the English High School in Worcester, found among 380 boys 172 who were thus employed, that is, a total of 45.26%. Of these 29 were only occasional workers, but the average time of work for the remaining 143 was 15 hours and 31 minutes per week for each pupil. The minimum time of employment was 20 minutes, and the maximum 48 hours per week.
Among the varied employments of these boys were the following: "work on farm, care of horses, driving team (grocery, laundry, etc.), baggage transfer, jobbing, choring, tending boiler, care of private grounds, janitor, work in markets and stores, in shops, factories and printing offices, running elevators, bill-posting, doing errands, delivery with automobile, work in laboratory assisting a teacher, employment in offices (doctor's, insurance, etc.), agent, reporter, extra work in a newspaper office (one pupil being thus employed from 6 p. m. to 1 a. m.), draughting, work in library, in the post office, ushering at theatre, and lastly, lighting lamps, delivering papers and peddling milk."
In individual cases the work of these pupils was obviously a serious interference with their school work and decidedly injurious. Miss Trumbull gives the following illustrations: "No.48 on list delivers papers from 5 to 7.36 A. M.; No. 127 does the same from 4 to 6 A. M.; No. 142 has a milk route of four hours before 8.30 A. M.; No. 148 has a paper route from 3.30 to 7 A. M.; No. 151 works four evenings a week from 7 to 12; and No. 102 works from 6 p. M. to 1 A. M. daily.
"I once rebuked a junior boy," she writes, "for being abstracted and absent-minded in his fourth-hour recitation. . . .
. . and he blazed out a remark . . . . the content of which was that he guessed if I got' up at half-past two, and peddled papers till six, I would be stupid, too, when eleven o'clock came.
" . . . . But the worst display of temper I ever encountered on this subject was from a first year boy, whose work was absolutely worthless. He was rebuked in class for his poor work and inattention, when he returned this appalling answer that he rose at midnight and peddled milk till just time to get his breakfast and come to school, and if he could sleep in the afternoon he was going to, whether he knew anything about algebra
(227) or not. I had nothing to say. I should have felt that way myself.”
Educators seem to be pretty well agreed that the reason for home tasks is to give opportunity for self-activity and for memory drill in what: has already been studied; and there is also a consensus that all tasks allotted for home work should be anticipated in the school.
The main point of the instructions in the Prussian decree of 1884 is that absolutely nothing should be given for home work which has not thoroughly been prepared for in school. The law is explicit almost to prolixity upon this point. "It is recognized," sags the decree, "as an undoubted need in the process of instruction that, for example, in the linguistic instruction the mastery of the forms and of the vocabulary in learning a foreign language should be accomplished essentially in the hours of instruction, and the home work should be devoted merely to completing the accurate learning, and that a definite introduction should be given to the preparation for the reading in the foreign tongue where it first occurs; that the home tasks in the written translation into a foreign tongue should be thoroughly prepared for in oral exercises in reading; likewise, in the field of mathematics it is demanded that the tasks allotted for home work should be thoroughly prepared for by the hours of instruction and in no way should they go beyond the ability of the pupils thus developed. And in general it is to be demanded that the home work of the pupils should in no case be' employed as a substitute for that which the hours of instruction can usually furnish, but as a continuation and supplement of the hours of instruction."
Schmidt found suggestions of individual differences in children in regard to home work, and further investigation he thinks might show that perhaps there are two types—some who naturally do their best work in the school, others who do their best at home—typical school workers, and typical home workers. Perhaps the number of home workers increases with the age of the pupils. Mr. Johnson enquired in regard to the high school pupils' preference for working at school or at home. Two-thirds of the pupils preferred to study at home rather than at school, and yet all the pupils came "from schools in which the discipline is excellent and all the school arrangements such as to make study at school pleasant and effective." Also the preference was decidedly in favor of studying alone rather than with others; 272 preferred to study alone, 59 with others. The proportion of those preferring to study alone increases with but one exception throughout the years of the
(228) course, only 5 out of 53 seniors preferring to study in company with others, and nearly all who preferred to study at home preferred also to study alone; while about half of those who preferred to study at school preferred also to study with others.
The trend of opinion now is rather strongly against the giving of home tasks. The opinion of hygienists is that it leads to over-pressure, at least in many individual cases. The opinion of many school men also is that it leads to deception and slovenly work, and that only a minimum amount is necessary. Schanze's resolution at the Nuremberg Congress (13) expresses this view perhaps none too strongly. "The house-tasks, with the exception of those which relate to instruction in foreign languages, are to be looked upon from the point of view of instruction as unnecessary; from the educational point of view they do more harm than good. Their abolition, therefore, should he striven for." On the other hand, Schmidt's study, in which he carefully considers all the facts involved, corroborates the verdict of experience that often such home study is of great pedagogical value.
In the case of the poor, where home conditions make hygienic study impossible, or where so much work must be done by the pupils that there is no time for study, the allotment of home tasks should be altogether condemned. In case of the well-to-do, where the parents wish to share in the education of their children and where outside tasks like instruction in music, domestic duties, or the like, may be quite as important as the school work, the allotment of home tasks is likewise undesirable. The safe rule would seem to be that no home work should be prescribed; but where this seems desirable, suggestion for spontaneous work on the part of the pupil may well be given.
From the results of experiment and from observation, the following inferences seem to be justified:
1. In many individual cases there is clearly danger to health from home work, but under favorable conditions home study is of great pedagogical value.
2 The general rule from the point of view of hygiene is that wherever possible home tasks should be limited to spontaneous work suggested by the teacher.
3. The special evils likely to be connected with home study are the tendency to deception, slovenly work, the formation of habits of carelessness, dawdling, error, and confusion.
4. There is a consensus both of educators and hygienists that whatever home tasks are allotted should be carefully pre-
(229) -pared for in the school. German experience has so fully established this point that it is incorporated in the Prussian law.
5. Home study can more advantageously be given in drill in language forms already learned, especially in the foreign languages, and in the writing of essays in the mother tongue and other original work. Home work in arithmetic and the like is of doubtful value, and often injurious to health.
There is evidence from experiment that the quality of home work in the grammar grades is usually inferior to that of school work. Experiment also indicates that some kinds of work are done better in the class, some are done better when pupils work alone in the home. The more the work requires the exercise of individual talent, the better can it be done alone; the more it is mechanical and does not demand original thinking, the more likely is it to be done better in the class.
6. Ordinary interruptions by parents and others, noise in the street and the like do not seem to be serious distractions to most pupils; but the quality of their work is more seriously affected by psychic distractions.
7. It is probable that there are great individual differences in ability to work in home surroundings. Perhaps, as Schmidt suggests, there are two distinct classes,—typical home workers and typical school workers.
8. In order to give home tasks safely and judicially, intimate knowledge of the pupils and their home surroundings is essential; and for studying these facts at first hand a method like that of Dr. Schmidt, for those who have time for it, seems to be specially commendable. It is valuable because it is a means of coming to close quarters with the facts.
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