Homework—Does it Get a Passing Grade?

Tahlea Jankoski | Published  January 27, 2017





From sports and music to art and homework, are students taking on too much? Students' daily schedules have evolved to include many extracurricular activities, including the additional work they are assigned in class to do at home. With today's hectic family schedules, the commonly required hours of homework are being questioned. 

While some teachers wrestle with the balance of homework, some schools have make blanket policies of "no homework." How much homework is necessary? What type of homework should be assigned?

What does the research show?

At first glance, homework seems to be a great way to help students get ahead. Many educators feel that homework has purposes other than learning content, such as practicing time management skills. 

Although it isn't immediately obvious, homework does have its disadvantages.

Dr. Harris Cooper, psychologist and neuroscientist from Duke University, has completed close to 180 studies and found little evidence that homework benefits education. He found this to be especially true for elementary-age children. Homework for early grades did not improve academic success, and homework at a young age can have a negative impact on children's attitude toward learning. Even in middle school it showed little advantage, and it wasn't until high school that homework offered moderate academic achievement. 

On a positive note, Dr. Cooper's studies found that elementary-age children do better when given extra study time in school to work on assigned lessons. 

Dr. Cooper's recommendation for homework, followed by the National PTA, allows for a ten-minute guideline based on grade level. First-grade students may have ten minutes of homework, with second-graders having 20 minutes, and so on. With this rule, by the time students are in 12th grade, they would be assigned no more than two hours of homework a night. 

A study in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that most teachers were going beyond the PTA and NEA's recommendation to follow the 10-minute rule. Even some kindergartners were being assigned 30 minutes of homework every night. 

Busy schedules and family stress

With daily stress already mixed with family schedules, parents must be careful that homework does not lead their children to dislike learning. Family stress is especially increased when young children sit in a classroom most of the day and come home to sit again for homework. When their bodies are screaming for physical activity, being forced to do homework may be counterproductive. 

Time to recharge

Many children are involved in sports, dance, music lessons, all scheduled within the week. By the time students get home, they may have a quick dinner, shower, and then it's time for bed. There's rarely downtime when every minute of their day is scheduled. Add in homework and there's even less time for sleep, before the morning comes and the schedule starts again. 

Not having good enough-quality rest can lead to a poor attention span and hamper the ability to learn. Sleep is vital for learning and health. Homework is not. 

Use homework to reinforce a topic

Since students learn and comprehend at different levels and speeds, the best assigned homework reinforces and helps students practice what's being taught in class. New concepts should not be introduced as a homework assignment, as this either puts teaching on the parents' shoulders, or leaves students to figure it out on their own. 

What should be considered?

Based on Dr. Cooper's studies, homework assignments are most beneficial when the load of each student cantake based on their age, the reason for the assignment, and time constraints are all taken into consideration. 

The end goal is for the child to develop a deeper understanding of previously taught concepts, and have opportunities to practice and apply lessons to real-life situations. If independence, curiosity, and love of learning have been encouraged, then the homework assignment will benefit learning. The bottom line is to ensure homework doesn't become just a burden of busy work. 


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