The ongoing contentions about the importance of homework have been in discussion for years among educators, parents and students. There are parents and educators who support this practice but there are also those who are not in favor of making students do extra school work at home. There are even some countries that implement a no homework policy. Is homework really an integral part of learning?
List of Pros of Homework
1. It makes up for the insufficient time children spend in school to learn.
Proponents say that giving school children activities to do at home can offer them more time to master a subject. Teachers give school assignments to students on the lessons they have tackled in the classroom to assess if students have understood what was learned from academic subjects like Math, Physics and English. Advocates of homework believe the time spent in school to learn is not always sufficient and letting students spend extra time to solve problems and learn new vocabulary words is crucial to their learning . It also serves as a foundation for further learning that students will benefit from in the long run.
2. It is an effective way for students to learn discipline.
People who support the giving of homework to students is a way to teach young individuals and growing children discipline since they will have to learn how to focus and set aside unimportant activities to prioritize finishing the tasks they have to submit the following day. For homework supporters, not giving students school work at home might make them derelict with their studies and be lazy.
3. Mastery of knowledge and skills depend on practice.
Aside from the time allotted for students to learn during class hours, continuing their learning at home can enhance what they already know. Take home activities give students more time to practice. Homework given to college and high school students give them more time to master their subjects and absorb the teachings of their professors and teachers.
4. Parents can see what their children are doing in school and help with the homework as well.
Another benefit of homework is to both the parents and students. If students have school work to do at home, parents will be able to see the kind of education their kids are getting. They are assured their children are into their studies and are really learning from school. Moreover, this can be a bonding time between parents and children especially if they will be able to help their kids with their homework and school projects.
5. It can instill good study habits and reduce time spent on watching television and playing video games.
By giving students projects and take home assignments, students, especially the younger ones can acquire good study habits at an early age. With the evolution of technology and the myriad of gadgets and computer games to keep children distracted, it is best to give them something worthwhile to do so they can understand the importance of studying and learn to like it as well. Moreover, they will be motivated to use their gadgets and computers for studying and research instead of spending hours playing video games, checking their Facebook accounts and watching television on end.
6. It prepares them for the real world once they finish education.
By giving homework, children will learn to be responsible, solve problems, analyze, manage their time and take on responsibilities. The skills they learn from school are the same skills they will need when they start their independence and be young adults. Proponents are firm in saying that when these kids become adults and be members of the workforce or even be entrepreneurs themselves, they will be using what they have or not have learned while studying. Extra time spent at home for doing school work can help them overcome the challenges they will face when they get out of the real world.
List of Cons of Homework
1. It can be stressful for the student especially for young kids.
Critics argue that homework given to students especially the younger school children are too much to handle. If this is the case, homework can be a stressor instead of a motivator. If bombarded with lessons at school and even at home, children might lose interest and worse, dread school days. This is a concern that bothers some parents and even educators.
2. It is not as effective as proponents say it is.
Some opponents say that homework is not a guarantee that students will master skills and absorb what they learned from school. They say that some parents or tutors are the ones doing the homework instead of the students. If this is the case, giving homework is irrelevant when it comes to knowledge enhancement. They also point out that there are students with parents to help them with their school projects and there are those who don’t have parents to guide them which make homework an uneven playing filed for students.
3. Homework does not necessarily result to improving school performance.
For opponents, homework gives less or no benefit when it comes to motivating students to improve performance in school. They oppose what proponents are saying that there is a positive correlation between homework and how students perform in school for the reason that not all students have equal levels of intelligence. What might be helpful and easy for students who are good in a certain subject might be useless and difficult to students who have different levels of intelligence.
4. It can be a burden to students, especially younger kids.
With all the activities in school, both academic and extracurricular, students, specifically the young ones, are already tired when they get home. Having to solve difficult math problems, memorize long lines or read several chapters can be tiresome for them. Not only will they end up staying up late but they might not be able to absorb anything.
Both proponents and opponents have presented rational and acceptable views about homework. While it can be an effective way to master the skills of students, too much homework can also drain the minds of students. Perhaps one question needs to be answered. How much homework should a student has to be given? In the end, it is best to assess the student’s level of learning and give homework accordingly.
TO GIVE OR NOT TO GIVE HOMEWORK…That is the question!
The amount of homework students are given differs greatly across grade levels and states. Some students are given hours of work while other students are assigned little or no work to be done at home.
So what’s appropriate? What is the purpose of homework? What are the advantages and disadvantages of homework? How much homework should be assigned? How important is the quality of the assignments? And most importantly: Does homework increase student achievement?
These questions represent the ongoing debate surrounding homework for the past two decades. According to a survey by the University of Michigan, homework has doubled over the last twenty years, especially in the younger grades, due to the school’s requirement to meet higher-than-ever achievement goals for children. Although homework has academic and non-academic advantages and disadvantages, the majority of studies conducted reveal inconclusive evidence that assigning homework increases student achievement. Most studies show positive effects for certain students, others suggest no effects, and some even suggest negative effects according to research by Alfie Kohn, an independent scholar (2006).
Let’s begin with the purpose of homework…
Educators assign homework for different reasons and purposes. Homework is assigned either as practice, preparation, extension, or integration of grade-level skills and concepts.
PRACTICE HOMEWORK reinforces learning from the skills and concepts already taught in the classroom. Practice homework promotes retention and automaticity of the concept, skill, and content taught. Examples include practicing multiplication facts or writing simple sentences in order to commit theses skills and concepts to long-term memory.
PREPARATION HOMEWORK is assigned to introduce content that will be addressed in future lessons. However, research suggests that homework is less effective if it is used to teach new or complex skills. For these types of assignments, students typically become stressed which can create a negative perspective towards learning and school.
EXTENSION HOMEWORK requires students to use previously taught skills and concepts and apply them to new situations or projects. For instance, students may use the concept of area and perimeter to build a flowerbed.
INTEGRATION HOMEWORK requires the student to apply learned skills and concepts to produce a single project like reading a book and writing a report on it.
Homework also serves other purposes not directly related to instruction. Homework can help establish communication between parents and children; it can be used as a form of discipline; and it can inform parents about school topics and activities.
The Homework Debate
The homework debate often focuses on how and why homework affects student learning and achievement. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology, and colleagues (2006) found there are both positive and negative consequences of homework.
Homework provides practice with content, concepts, and skills taught at school by the teacher. It can foster retention and understanding of the academic content. Some studies suggest that homework correlates with student achievement. Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) discovered a positive correlation between the amount of the homework students do and their achievement at the secondary level. Some studies also suggest that assigning homework improves the achievement of low-performing students and students in low-performing schools. However, the correlation between student achievement and homework given to elementary students is inconclusive. Most research only supports homework for middle and high school students (Cooper 1989a; Kohn 2006).
There are also non-academic reasons for assigning homework. Corno and Xu (2004) discovered that homework fosters independence, develops time-management skills, and teaches responsibility. Assigning homework to primary age students can establish better study habits and skills for secondary education (Bempechat, 2004). Homework promotes a positive attitude towards school and keeps families informed about their child’s learning.
The Potential Harm
Homework also has negative associations. It can lead to boredom if the student has already mastered the skills, and it can lead to loss of interest in school due to burnout. Cheating is involved with homework by either copying another student’s work or when help is received from adults in an attempt to finish all the assignments. Also, assigning excessive amounts of homework may result in unneeded stress and pressure on the child, which affects the student’s emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health.
The correlation between homework and student achievement is inconsistent. In TheBattle Over Homework, Cooper determined that the average correlation between the time primary children spent on homework and achievement was around zero. Not to mention, the amount of homework completed had no effect on test scores. David Baker and Gerald LeTendre, professors of education at Penn State, found that countries that assign minimal amounts of homework, like Japan, were the most successful school systems compared to Greece and Iran school systems where students are given a lot of work.
Another concern surrounding homework is its interference with the student’s time to relax and take their minds off work as well as family time. Students are spending too much time completing homework assignments instead of playing outside or enjoying leisure activities, which teach and enhance important life skills.
In addition, homework decreases the time spent with family. As Alfie Kohn states in The Homework Myth, “Why should children be asked to work a second shift? It’s unconscionable to send children to work for nearly eight hours a day, then have them go home and work for 2-5 more hours. Secondly, it reduces the amount of time that children could be spending with their families. Family time is especially important to a growing child and without it social problems can crop up and a family unit can be compromised by a lack of time being spent together.”
The Amount of Homework
The frequency and duration of each assignment does not necessarily suggest a correlation between homework and student achievement. “We found that for kids in elementary school there was hardly any relationship between how much homework young children did and how well they were doing in school, but in middle school the relationship is positive and increases until the kids were doing between an hour to two hours a night, which is right where the 10-minute rule says it’s going to be optimal,” stated Harris Cooper. The 10-minute rule was created by the National PTA which suggests 10 minutes per a grade should be assigned (e.g., 70 minutes for 7th grade). “After that it didn’t go up anymore. Kids that reported doing more than two hours of homework in middle school weren’t doing any better in school than kids who were doing between an hour to two hours,” said Harris Cooper.
Quantity Versus Quality
Effective homework is homework with a purpose. According to Cooper, some teachers assign ‘shotgunhomework’: blanket drills, questions, and problems. Students are given homework that is not furthering the concepts and skills. The homework is assigned because it has been drilled into our collective mind that homework produces higher performing students. However, homework is most effective when it covers material already taught, is given for review, or is used to reinforce skills previously learned. Students should not be assigned homework on concepts and skills they do not grasp.
DataWORKS Educational Research recommends assigning homework to provide additional repetitions of the content to promote retention and automaticity. The reason for homework is to practice the content, NOT to learn the content. Students learn the content (skills and concepts) from the lesson taught at school. Students need to be able to complete the work at home without assistance because some students do not have an English-speaking parents or guardians to help them.
In conclusion, research is inconsistent in determining if homework increases student achievement. As educators, the amount, frequency, and the purpose should be considered prior to assigning homework. Homework should be used effectively! Instead of the quantity of homework, educators should improve the quality of the assignments. Homework assignments must be well-designed. So, when assigning homework, please consider the effectiveness of it, homework should positively impact the student learning. Otherwise, the debate about homework will continue without an answer – to give or not to give!
Kohn, Alfie (2007). Rethinking Homework.
Kohn, Alfie. The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006).
Cooper, H. (1989). Homework. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research. 1987–2003. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), 1–62.
What is your stance on homework? What do you think is an appropriate amount of homework? Why do you assign homework? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.
Author: Patricia Bogdanovich
Patricia has held various positions with DataWORKS since 2002. She currently works as a Curriculum Specialist. Patricia helped develop and create many of the early resources and workshops designed by DataWORKS, and she is an expert in analysis of standards. Patricia plans to blog about curriculum and assessments for CCSS and NGSS, classroom strategies, and news and research from the world of education.