Homework, or a homework assignment, is a set of tasks assigned to students by their teachers to be completed outside the classroom. Common homework assignments may include required reading, a writing or typing project, mathematical exercises to be completed, information to be reviewed before a test, or other skills to be practiced.
The effects of homework are debated. Generally speaking, homework does not improve academic performance among young children, because children need more sleep to develop and grow. Homework may improve academic skills among older students, especially lower-achieving students. However, homework also creates stress for students and parents, and reduces the amount of time that students can spend in other activities.
The basic objectives of assigning homework to students often align with schooling in general. However, teachers have many purposes for assigning homework, including:
- reinforcing skills taught in class
- extending skills to new situations
- preparing for future class lessons
- engaging students in active learning
- developing time management and study skills
- promoting parent-student communications
- encouraging collaboration between students
- fulfilling school/district policies
- demonstrating a rigorous school program to others
- punishing a student or a class
Homework research dates back to the early 1900s. However, no consensus exists on the general effectiveness on homework. Results of homework studies vary based on multiple factors, such as the age group of those studied and the measure of academic performance.
Younger students who spend more time on homework generally have slightly worse, or the same academic performance, as those who spend less time on homework. Homework has not been shown to improve academic achievements for grade school students. Proponents claim that assigning homework to young children helps them learn good study habits. Essentially, they advocate for doing potentially unnecessary homework from approximately age five to ten as a way of practicing for doing necessary homework from age 10 to 15. No research has ever been conducted to determine whether this claim has any merit.
Among teenagers, students who spend somewhat more time on homework generally have higher grades, and somewhat higher test scores than students who spend less time on homework. Large amounts of homework cause students' academic performance to worsen, even among older students. Students who are assigned homework in middle and high school score somewhat better on standardized tests, but the students who have more than 90 minutes of homework a day in middle school or more than two hours in high school score worse.
Low-achieving students receive more benefit from doing homework than high-achieving students. However, school teachers commonly assign less homework to the students who need it most, and more homework to the students who are performing well. In past centuries, homework was a cause of academic failure: when school attendance was optional, students would drop out of school entirely if they were unable to keep up with the homework assigned.
Epstein (1988) found a near-zero correlation between the amount of homework and parents' reports on how well their elementary school students behaved. Vazsonyi & Pickering (2003) studied 809 adolescents in American high schools, and found that, using the Normative Deviance Scale as a model for deviance, the correlation was r = 0.28 for white students, and r = 0.24 for African-American students. For all three of the correlations, higher values represent a higher correlation between time spent on homework and poor conduct.
Bempechat (2004) says that homework develops students' motivation and study skills. In a single study, parents and teachers of middle school students believed that homework improved students' study skills and personal responsibility skills. Their students were more likely to have negative perceptions about homework and were less likely to ascribe the development of such skills to homework. Leone & Richards (1989) found that students generally had negative emotions when completing homework and reduced engagement compared to other activities.
Health and daily life
Homework has been identified in numerous studies and articles as a dominant or significant source of stress and anxiety for students. Studies on the relation between homework and health are few compared to studies on academic performance.
Cheung & Leung-Ngai (1992) surveyed 1,983 students in Hong Kong, and found that homework led not only to added stress and anxiety, but also physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches. Students in the survey who were ridiculed or punished by parents and peers had a higher incidence of depression symptoms, with 2.2% of students reporting that they "always" had suicidal thoughts, and anxiety was exacerbated by punishments and criticism of students by teachers for both problems with homework as well as forgetting to hand in homework.
A 2007 study of American students by MetLife found that 89% of students felt stressed from homework, with 34% reporting that they "often" or "very often" felt stressed from homework. Stress was especially evident among high school students. Students that reported stress from homework were more likely to be deprived of sleep.
Homework can cause tension and conflict in the home as well as at school, and can reduce students' family and leisure time. In the Cheung & Leung-Ngai (1992) survey, failure to complete homework and low grades where homework was a contributing factor was correlated with greater conflict; some students have reported teachers and parents frequently criticizing their work. In the MetLife study, high school students reported spending more time completing homework than performing home tasks. Kohn (2006) argued that homework can create family conflict and reduce students' quality of life. The authors of Sallee & Rigler (2008), both high school English teachers, reported that their homework disrupted their students' extracurricular activities and responsibilities. However, Kiewra et al. (2009) found that parents were less likely to report homework as a distraction from their children's activities and responsibilities. Galloway, Conner & Pope (2013) recommended further empirical study relating to this aspect due to the difference between student and parent observations.
Galloway, Conner & Pope (2013) surveyed 4,317 high school students from ten high-performing schools, and found that students reported spending more than 3 hours on homework daily. 72% of the students reported stress from homework, and 82% reported physical symptoms. The students slept an average of 6 hours 48 minutes, lower than recommendations prescribed by various health agencies.
A 2007 study from the University of Michigan concluded that the amount of homework given is increasing. In a sample taken of students between the ages of 6 and 9 years, it was shown that students spend more than 2 hours a week on homework, as opposed to 44 minutes in 1981.
Some educators argue that homework is beneficial to students, as it enhances learning, develops the skills taught in class, and lets educators verify that students comprehend their lessons. Proponents also argue that homework makes it more likely that students will develop and maintain proper study habits that they can use throughout their educational career.
The modern concept of homework was conceived by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who was trying to rally support for a unified German state. Fichte developed the system of the Volksschule, Germany's compulsory school system, as a way to increase German nationalism and force citizens to dedicate time to their country. To demonstrate the power of the nation-state of Germany, even during personal time, students were given mandatory assignments to be completed at home on their own time. The concept soon spread across Europe.
Horace Mann, a 19th century American politician and educational reformer, traveled to Prussia in 1843 and attended the Volksschulen. This visit inspired Horace Mann to bring homework into the American education system.
It is often thought that the Venetian teacher Roberto Nevilis invented homework as a punishment for his students in 1905. However, due to the lack of historic evidence, this claim appears to be an internet myth.
Historically, homework was frowned upon in American culture. With few students able to pursue higher education, and with many children and teenagers needing to dedicate significant amounts of time to chores and farm work, homework was disliked not only by parents, but also by some schools. The students' inability to keep up with the homework, which was largely memorizing an assigned text at home, contributed to students dropping out of school at a relatively early age. Attending school was not legally required, and if the student could not spend afternoons and evenings working on homework, then the student could quit school.
Complaints from parents were common at all levels of society. In 1880, Francis Amasa Walker convinced the school board in Boston to prohibit teachers from assigning math homework under normal circumstances. In 1900, journalist Edward Bok railed against schools assigning homework to students until age 15. He encouraged parents to send notes to their children's teachers to demand the end of all homework assignments, and thousands of parents did so. Others looked at the new child labor laws in the United States and noted that school time plus homework exceeded the number of hours that a child would be permitted to work for pay. The campaign resulted in the US Congress receiving testimony to the effect that experts thought children should never have any homework, and that teenagers should be limited to a maximum of two hours of homework per day. In 1901, the California legislature passed an act that effectively abolished homework for anyone under the age of 15. While homework was generally out of favor in the first half of the 20th century, some people supported homework reform, such as by making the assignments more relevant to the students' non-school lives, rather than prohibiting it.
In the 1950s, with increasing pressure on the United States to stay ahead in the Cold War, homework made a resurgence, and children were encouraged to keep up with their Russian counterparts. From that time on, social attitudes have oscillated approximately on a 15-year cycle: homework was encouraged in the 1950s to mid-1960s; it was rejected from the mid-1960s until 1980; it was encouraged again from 1980 and the publication of A Nation at Risk until the mid-1990s, when the Cold War ended. At that time, American schools were overwhelmingly in favor of issuing some homework to students of all grade levels. Homework was less favored after the end of the Cold War.
British students get more homework than many other countries in Europe. The weekly average for the subject is 5 hours. The main distinction for UK homework is the social gap, with middle-class teenagers getting a disproportionate amount of homework compared to Asia and Europe.
In 2012, a report by the OECD showed that Spanish children spend 6.4 hours a week on homework. This prompted the CEAPA, representing 12,000 Spanish parent associations, to call for a homework strike.
Homework and its effects, justification, motivations and alleged benefits have been the subject of sharp criticism among many education experts and researchers.
Homework is sometimes used to outsource school material that was not completed in class at home. This leaves children with homework that is not designed to be done on their own, and leaves parents often feeling helpless and frustrated. As a consequence, students often have to use the internet or other resources for help, which provides disadvantages for students without internet access. Homework thus fails to promote equality of opportunity. Homework without professional feedback from the teacher often has little effect on the learning success of students.
When assigning homework, each student is usually given the same exercises, regardless of how well the student is performing. This leaves some students under-challenged and others overwhelmed by their homework. For others, the degree of difficulty of homework may be appropriate, but students are unable to decide for themselves whether they need to deepen their knowledge in a particular subject or whether to use the time in other subjects with which they experience more difficulty, despite the fact that homework is often seen as a way of encouraging self-regulation. Proponents of self-regulated learning are often against homework, as it is external control over the subjects and the methods by which students have to learn.
Students also need different times to complete their homework. Even if it is generally not wanted by homework distributors (unless homework is given as a punishment), homework may take up a large part of the student's free time. It is often the case that children try to finish their homework until late at night, which can lead to sleep disorders and unhealthy stress. Children may feel overwhelmed when they have too much homework, which can negatively affect children's natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge.
According to a study by the Dresden University of Technology, there is no evidence that homework improves academic performance. Already well-performing students would not noticeably benefit from homework, while for other students, simply repeating material at home would not necessarily improve understanding. In the study, homework is described as "an educational ritual". In addition, the 2008 meta study Visible Learning, which synthesized more than 1,700 meta-analyses spanning over 100,000 studies of 300 million students around the world, suggests that homework has relatively little impact on student performance.
A study by the UCL Institute of Education, which concerned the impact of homework in different countries, discovered that the pressure associated with homework causes arguments among family members. The study also showed that homework can lead to anxiety and emotional exhaustion among children.
Notes and references
- Synthesis of research on homework. H Cooper - Educational leadership, 1989 - addison.pausd.org
- Needlmen, Robert. "Homework: The Rules of the Game".
- Epstein, Joyce L.; Voorhis, Frances L. Van (2001-09-01). "More Than Minutes: Teachers' Roles in Designing Homework". Educational Psychologist. 36 (3): 181–193. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3603_4. ISSN 0046-1520.
- Trautwein & Köller (2003).
- Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), p. 1.
- Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), pp. 42–51.
- Bazelon, Emily (2006-09-14). "Forget Homework". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
- Wallis, Claudia (August 29, 2006). "The Myth About Homework". Time Online.
- Coughlan, Sean (2016-09-28). "Is homework worth the hassle?". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
- Onion, Rebecca (2019-10-04). "The Long History of Parents Complaining About Their Kids' Homework". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
- Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), p. 47.
- Xu & Yuan (2003).
- Bauwens & Hourcade (1992), Conner & Denise (2009) harvp error: no target: CITEREFConnerDenise2009 (help), Hardy (2003), Kouzma & Kennedy (2002), West & Wood (1970), Ystgaard (1997).
- Cheung & Leung-Ngai (1992), p. 146.
- Galloway & Conner (2013), p. 493. sfnp error: no target: CITEREFGallowayConner2013 (help)
- Markow, Amie & Margot (2007), p. 137. sfnp error: no target: CITEREFMarkowAmieMargot2007 (help)
- Markow, Amie & Margot (2007). sfnp error: no target: CITEREFMarkowAmieMargot2007 (help)
- Seligman, Katherine (1999-12-19). "Parents: Too much homework". Hearst Communications Inc. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
- Grohnke, Kennedy, and Jake Merritt. "Do Kids Need Homework?" Scholastic News/ Weekly Reader Edition 5/6, vol. 85, no. 3, 2016, pp. 7.
- "History of Homework". The San Francisco Chronicle. 1999-12-20. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
- Coughlan, Sean (11 December 2014). "UK families' 'long homework hours'". BBC News. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
- Marsh, Sarah (2 November 2016). "Parents in the UK and abroad: do your children get set too much homework?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
- Mathews, Jay (2007-02-20). "Homework Critics vs. Me". Washington Post.
- "Homework Is Bad, Research Confirms". www.vice.com. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
- WELT (2016-08-28). "Schulleiter warnen: Hausaufgaben gefährden Chancengleichheit". DIE WELT. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
- "The Case Against Homework: Why It Doesn't Help Students Learn | Resilient Educator". ResilientEducator.com. 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
- "Is homework too like hard work?". www.irishtimes.com. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
- Pinsker, Joe (2019-03-28). "The Cult of Homework". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
- "Studie: Hausaufgaben bringen überhaupt nichts". DIE WELT. 2008-02-01. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
- "Homework causes family arguments". Times of Malta. 2004-02-14. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
Effectiveness of homework
- Cooper, Harris; Robinson, Jorgianne C.; Patall, Erika A. (2006). "Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003". Review of Educational Research. 76 (1): 1–62. doi:10.3102/00346543076001001.
- Epstein, Joyce L. (1988), "Homework practices, achievements, and behaviors of elementary school students", Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools
- Trautwein, Ulrich; Köller, Olaf (2003). "The Relationship Between Homework and Achievement—Still Much of a Mystery". Educational Psychology Review. 15 (2): 115–145. doi:10.1023/A:1023460414243.
- Vazsonyi, Alexander T.; Pickering, Lloyd E. (2003). "The Importance of Family and School Domains in Adolescent Deviance: African American and Caucasian Youth". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 32 (2): 115–128. doi:10.1023/A:1021857801554.
Homework and non-academic effects
- Bauwens, Jeanne; Hourcade, Jack J. (1992). "School-Based Sources of Stress Among Elementary and Secondary At-Risk Students". The School Counselor. 40 (2): 97–102.
- Bempechat, Janine (2004). "The Motivational Benefits of Homework: A Social-Cognitive Perspective". Theory in Practice. 43 (3): 189–196. doi:10.1353/tip.2004.0029.
- Cheung, S. K.; Leung-Ngai, J. M. Y. (1992). "Impact of homework stress on children's physical and psychological well-being" (PDF). Journal of the Hong Kong Medical Association. 44 (3): 146–150.
- Conner, Jerusha; Pope, Denise; Galloway, Mollie (2009). "Success with Less Stress". Health and Learning. 67 (4): 54–58.
- Cooper, Robinsin & Patall (2006, pp. 46–48) harvtxt error: no target: CITEREFCooperRobinsinPatall2006 (help)
- Galloway, Mollie; Conner, Jerusha; Pope, Denise (2013). "Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools". The Journal of Experimental Education. 81 (4): 490–510. doi:10.1080/00220973.2012.745469.
- Hardy, Lawrence (2003). "Overburdened, Overwhelmed". American School Board Journal. 190: 18–23.
- Kiewra, Kenneth A; Kaufman, Douglas F.; Hart, Katie; Scoular, Jacqui; Brown, Marissa; Keller, Gwendolyn; Tyler, Becci (2009). "What Parents, Researchers, and the Popular Press Have to Say About Homework". Scholarlypartnershipsedu. 4 (1): 93–109. Archived from the original on 2018-03-16. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
- Kouzma, Nadya M.; Kennedy, Gerard A. (2002). "Homework, stress, and mood disturbance in senior high school students". Psychological Reports. 91 (1): 193–198. doi:10.2466/pr0.2002.91.1.193. PMID 12353781.
- Leone, Carla M.; Richards, H. (1989). "Classwork and homework in early adolescence: The ecology of achievement". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 18 (6): 531–548. doi:10.1007/BF02139072. PMID 24272124.
- Markow, Dana; Kim, Amie; Liebman, Margot (2007), The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: The homework experience (PDF), Metropolitan Life Insurance Foundation, archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-20, retrieved 2016-11-03
- Sallee, Buffy; Rigler, Neil (2008). "Doing Our Homework on Homework: How Does Homework Help?". The English Journal. 98 (2): 46–51.
- West, Charles K.; Wood, Edward S. (1970). "Academic Pressures on Public School Students". Educational Leadership. 3 (4): 585–589.
- Xu, Jianzhong; Yuan, Ruiping (2003). "Doing homework: Listening to students', parents', and teachers' voices in one urban middle school community". School Community Journal. 13 (2): 25–44. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.471.2773.
- Ystgaard, M. (1997). "Life stress, social support and psychological distress in late adolescence". Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 32 (5): 277–283. doi:10.1007/BF00789040. PMID 9257518.
- Cooper, Harris (2007). The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. ISBN 9781412937139.
- Holt, John (1983). How Children Learn. Reading, MA: Da Capo Press.
- Kohn, Alfie (2006). The Homework Myth. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-7382-1085-8. Chapter 2 is free to read.
- Duke Study: Homework Helps Students Succeed in School, As Long as There Isn't Too Much
- The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It by Sarah Bennett & Nancy Kalish (2006) Discusses in detail assessments of studies on homework and the authors' own research and assessment of the homework situation in the United States. Has specific recommendations and sample letters to be used in negotiating a reduced homework load for your child.
- Closing the Book on Homework: Enhancing Public Education and Freeing Family Time by John Buell (2004)
- The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents by Harris Cooper (2007)
- The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn (2006)
- The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Etta Kralovec and John Buell (2000)