Mathematics homework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The homework debate has been raging for many decades, with no end in sight. On one hand there are the proponents of homework who swear by its benefits and efficacy, and on the other hand we have the detractors who would like schools to end the practice of giving homework to students. Among the proponents there is also the burning question of just how much homework should be given to students. Parents, educators, students and indeed the general public have all been deeply divided over the homework issue for a long time. It seems as though the numbers of detractors are slowly growing. Some schools in the United States and elsewhere have a no homework policy. The French president Francois Hollande proposed a no homework policy last year in his plans for educational reform. His rationale being that students do not have a level playing field when it comes to the matter of homework, because some have parents who can help them while others do not.
The experts also disagree over the advantages and disadvantages of homework. Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006), for instance, concluded that there is a positive correlation between the amount of homework students do and their achievement levels. Other researchers, such as Alfie Kohn and Timothy Naughton, state that there is little or no benefit to giving homework and that it does not really lead to improved academic performance. Alfie Kohn, (2006), wrote “The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing.” Even the title is eloquent.
Let us consider the pros and cons of homework and then make an informed decision and recommendation about its value.
- Homework helps to consolidate and clarify what was learned during the school day.
- It gives practice with content, concepts and skills.
- Homework improves performance in standardized tests.
- It is an extension of classwork that allows students to achieve mastery of the content or skills to be learned.
- Students do not have enough time during the day to fully understand all the information they are given.
- Homework facilitates rote learning.
- It lets parents see what their children are doing at school.
- Homework teaches self-discipline, time management and research skills.
- It reduces time for TV and video games and promotes good study habits.
- It increases interest in schoolwork when it is corrected quickly.
- Homework must be corrected quickly or students get frustrated and lose interest.
- It can be too burdensome and stressful at times.
- Homework disturbs family life and prevents students from doing household chores.
- Parents or relatives may do the homework for the student.
- Students need time to relax, play and pursue sports and hobbies.
- Homework can make students too tired after a long day at school.
- It keeps them up too late at night.
- Homework is often meaningless busywork which does not promote real learning.
- Students from middle- and upper-class homes have better resources to help them with homework.
After examining the pros and cons where do you stand on the homework issue? What would you add to the debate?
On the strength of 39 years of experience as an educator I firmly believe in the efficacy of homework. I know that more homework equates to better academic performance. I have seen it countless times. I wish to sound a note of caution though. Care must be taken to ensure that homework is relevant and linked to vital learning objectives at all times. It must be designed to deepen students’ understanding, and facilitate mastery of the material to be learned.
Finally, teachers should not overburden students with homework. There should always be reasonable homework timetables or schedules and homework should be age appropriate. In elementary schools homework should be light. It can be increased in secondary school on a sliding scale as the student progresses through the school. It can range from one hour or a little less per night in the lower school, to three hours or a little more per night in the upper school.
When no written homework is given, students should be encouraged to review the important elements of the day’s work or do additional reading as self-given homework. They need to understand that they are largely responsible for their own academic progress. When a student is absent from school he should contact a classmate to get the homework and do it .
NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education
Found In: teaching strategies
Some researchers are urging schools to take a fresh look at homework and its potential for engaging students and improving student performance. The key, they say, is to take into account grade-specific and developmental factors when determining the amount and kind of homework.
So, what's appropriate? What benefits can be expected? What makes for good homework policies? Research doesn't have all the answers, but a review of some existing data yields some helpful observations and guidance.
How Much Homework Do Students Do?
Survey data and anecdotal evidence show that some students spend hours nightly doing homework. Homework overload is the exception rather than the norm; however, according to research from the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation (see the Brown Center 2003 below). Their researchers analyzed data from a variety of sources and concluded that the majority of U.S. students spend less than an hour a day on homework, regardless of grade level, and this has held true for most of the past 50 years. In the last 20 years, homework has increased only in the lower grade levels, and this increase is associated with neutral (and sometimes negative) effects on student achievement.
How Much Is Appropriate?
The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter (e.g., 20 minutes for second grade, 120 minutes for twelfth). High school students may sometimes do more, depending on what classes they take (see Review of Educational Research, 2006).
What are the benefits?
Homework usually falls into one of three categories: practice, preparation, or extension. The purpose usually varies by grade. Individualized assignments that tap into students' existing skills or interests can be motivating. At the elementary school level, homework can help students develop study skills and habits and can keep families informed about their child's learning. At the secondary school level, student homework is associated with greater academic achievement. (Review of Educational Research, 2006)
What’s good policy?
Experts advise schools or districts to include teachers, parents, and students in any effort to set homework policies. Policies should address the purposes of homework; amount and frequency; school and teacher responsibilities; student responsibilities; and, the role of parents or others who assist students with homework.
- A Nation At Rest: The American Way of Homework ( PDF, 439 KB, 19 pgs.)
Summary and comments from authors) - Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 25(3) (2003, Fall). Gill, B. P., & Schlossman, S. L.
- Helping Your Child with Homework ( PDF, 378 KB, 25 pgs.)
U.S. Department of Education. (2002). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Research Spotlight on Best Practices in Education
A list of NEA Spotlights on best practices.
- NEA Reports & Statistics
Research reports reviewing data on educational issues and policy papers concerning NEA members, educators, and the public school community.