In my opinion, this comes down to a short-term vs long-term impact view.
Socratic is not about one student's homework, or about how we could or could not be helping that student cheat on his assignment.
Our goal here is to teach and make learning easier by building a long-time resource available to students from all over the world. And solving homework-style questions helps us get closer to that goal.
Now, not all people who ask homework questions online are lazy. In my view, posting a question online and copying the answer someone else provided is not laziness, it's misplaced effort.
If we manage to answer questions in such a way that would help students who are looking to learn, then we've got the long-term part covered.
If we manage to answer questions in such a way that would make copying the text beneficial even to those students who are looking to copy it for their assignments, then we've got the short-term part covered.
The part about concepts being hard to understand - that's as relative of a concept as you'll ever see in education. Hard for whom? Hard from the teacher's point of view, or hard from the student's?
We have no way of knowing who these students are, or what their classroom teachers are doing to help them understand things. Will some of them be looking to cheat? Of course, it would be naive not to acknowledge that! But I think it's safe to say that not all of them fit that description.
Now, to your point about students looking at other solved questions for help - many are doing just that!
Our community has helped upwards of 8 million students - and counting! The ratio between questions asked and answers viewed confirms that we're helping students learn much more than we are helping them cheat. This is what the long-term part is all about.
The benefit of posting an answer that tackles concepts and walks the student through to the solution far outweighs the discomfort of knowing that some kid just copied your answer to avoid having to work on a math problem on a Friday night.
So, to wrap this up, it all comes down to your personal view. If you want to do something like
you are free to do just that. But as far as the long-term goal is concerned, there's no tangible difference (in my mind) between that and this
Should people be asking homework-style questions? Yes. Should people be answering homework-style questions? Yes.
Mark Trifilio, principal of the public pre-K-5th grade Orchard School in Vermont, sat down with the school’s 40 educators last summer to discuss the soon-to-start new school year and homework — how much kids were getting and whether it was helping them learn.
Trifilio had been pondering the issue for some time, he said, concerned that there seemed to be an uneven homework load for students in different classrooms within the same grade and that the differences from grade to grade didn’t make sense. He had looked up research on homework effectiveness and learned that, generally, homework in elementary school isn’t linked to better academic performance — except for after-school reading.
So at that meeting with teachers, he proposed an experiment: stopping all homework in every grade and asking students to read on their own at home — or, if they were not ready to read on their own, to do it with a parent or guardian. He said he was surprised when every one of them — classroom teachers as well as those who work with special-education students and English-language learners — signed on to the idea.
“All 40 voted yes,” he said, “and not just yes, but a passionate yes. When do you get 40 people to agree on something?”
So they instituted the policy, as this page on the school website shows:
No Homework Policy
Orchard School Homework Information
Student’s Daily Home Assignment
1. Read just-right books every night —
(and have your parents read to you too).
2. Get outside and play —
that does not mean more screen time.
3. Eat dinner with your family —
and help out with setting and cleaning up.
4. Get a good night’s sleep.
What’s the result?
Six months into the experiment, Trifilio says it has been a big success: Students have not fallen back academically and may be doing better, and now they have “time to be creative thinkers at home and follow their passions.”
Students are asked to read every night. Families are provided book recommendations, but kids are not required to fill out logs (because, he said, “we know that we all make up logs”).
Trifilio said he conducted a family survey asking about the policy, and most parents at the nearly 400-student school responded. The vast majority supported it, saying their kids now have time to pursue things other than math work sheets, and many report that students are reading more on their own than they used to. He said a small minority of parents are concerned that students are missing learning opportunities from doing homework and won’t be prepared for middle school.
The Burlington Free Press recently quoted parent James Conway as saying this about his son Sean, who is in kindergarten: “My son declared on Monday that he can read now and that he doesn’t need any help. So, something is working.”
What does the research say about the value of homework? While academics continue to study the subject, a meta-analysis of research on the subject, published in 2006 by researcher Harris Cooper and colleagues, is often cited. It found that homework in elementary school does not contribute to academic achievement and has only a modest effect on older students in terms of improving academic performance.
Homework: An unnecessary evil? … Surprising findings from new research
Homework: The useful and the useless
A new wrinkle in the research about the real value of homework
(Correction: Earlier version mistakenly said kids were being asked to read at school when it was supposed to be at home.)