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Homework: An unnecessary evil? … Surprising findings from new research

NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education

❶Certainly, inappropriate homework may produce little or no benefit—it may even decrease student achievement. Parents who get too involved in an assignment inhibit rather than enhance learning.

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The Case Against Homework
The Case for Homework

The comments on this article are sad. I am a kid and I know homework is a necessity. The studies proving that there is a positive correlation between homework and achievements is overwhelming. People need to stop hating homework and start working on it especially when it is helping THEM. Doing well in school is more important than sports. You can exercise any time you want and the chances of getting into a college due to a sports scholarship is very low.

Better to focus on your educacion. Because of this, it would result in lower grades and more stress. Would you rather have your student failing or have them ready to learn? I pesonaly have too much homework and it is terrible, my math teacher gives us home work every day and it takes forever.

Does this ten minute rule include all work such as reading, math facts, spelling, and special project work? I am doing research for the Educators Rising competition. I am writing a Creative Lecture on student voice and this has definitely helped me in amazing ways. Send This article to: Enter the e-mail address of the recipient. Multiple addresses need to be separated by commas characters max. Add your message optional: Enter your e-mail address required: NEA respects your privacy! Your e-mail address, and that of your recipient, will be used only in the case of transmission errors and to let the recipient know who sent the story.

The information will not be used for any other purpose. Your Email has been sent. Click here to return to the article. Great Public Schools for Every Student. What does the current research state? And the result of this fine-tuned investigation?

There was no relationship whatsoever between time spent on homework and course grade, and "no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not. This result clearly caught the researchers off-guard.

Frankly, it surprised me, too. When you measure "achievement" in terms of grades, you expect to see a positive result -- not because homework is academically beneficial but because the same teacher who gives the assignments evaluates the students who complete them, and the final grade is often based at least partly on whether, and to what extent, students did the homework.

Even if homework were a complete waste of time, how could it not be positively related to course grades? Even in high school. The study zeroed in on specific course grades, which represents a methodological improvement, and the moral may be: The better the research, the less likely one is to find any benefits from homework.

Maltese and his colleagues did their best to reframe these results to minimize the stunning implications. Those open to evidence, however, have been presented this Fall with yet another finding that fails to find any meaningful benefit even when the study is set up to give homework every benefit of the doubt. They argue that a six hours a day of academics are enough, and kids should have the chance after school to explore other interests and develop in other ways -- or be able simply to relax in the same way that most adults like to relax after work; and b the decision about what kids do during family time should be made by families, not schools.

Cool and Timothy Z. Keith, "Testing a Model of School Learning: Other research has found little or no correlation between how much homework students report doing and how much homework their parents say they do. The meta-analysis reviewed research dating as far back as the s; the study reviewed research from to Commenting on studies that attempted to examine the causal relationship between homework and student achievement by comparing experimental homework and control no homework groups, Cooper, Robinson, and Patall noted, With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant.

Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement. Although the research support for homework is compelling, the case against homework is popular. The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Kralovec and Buell , considered by many to be the first high-profile attack on homework, asserted that homework contributes to a corporate-style, competitive U.

The authors focused particularly on the harm to economically disadvantaged students, who are unintentionally penalized because their environments often make it almost impossible to complete assignments at home. The authors called for people to unite against homework and to lobby for an extended school day instead. These authors criticized both the quantity and quality of homework.

The authors suggested that individuals and parent groups should insist that teachers reduce the amount of homework, design more valuable assignments, and avoid homework altogether over breaks and holidays. In a third book, The Homework Myth: In this book and in a recent article in Phi Delta Kappan b , he became quite personal in his condemnation of researchers. Finally, Kohn urged teachers to involve students in deciding what homework, and how much, they should do. For example, it makes good sense to only assign homework that is beneficial to student learning instead of assigning homework as a matter of policy.

Many of those who conduct research on homework explicitly or implicitly recommend this practice. However, his misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the research sends the inaccurate message that research does not support homework. As Figure 1 indicates, homework has decades of research supporting its effective use. Certainly, inappropriate homework may produce little or no benefit—it may even decrease student achievement. All three of the books criticizing homework provide compelling anecdotes to this effect.

Schools should strengthen their policies to ensure that teachers use homework properly. If a district or school discards homework altogether, however, it will be throwing away a powerful instructional tool. Perhaps the most important advantage of homework is that it can enhance achievement by extending learning beyond the school day.

This characteristic is important because U. A report examined the amount of time U. To drop the use of homework, then, a school or district would be obliged to identify a practice that produces a similar effect within the confines of the school day without taking away or diminishing the benefits of other academic activities—no easy accomplishment.

A better approach is to ensure that teachers use homework effectively. To enact effective homework policies, however, schools and districts must address the following issues. Although teachers across the K—12 spectrum commonly assign homework, research has produced no clear-cut consensus on the benefits of homework at the early elementary grade levels.

In his early meta-analysis, Cooper a reported the following effect sizes p. The pattern clearly indicates that homework has smaller effects at lower grade levels. Even so, Cooper b still recommended homework for elementary students because homework for young children should help them develop good study habits, foster positive attitudes toward school, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as at school.

The Cooper, Robinson, and Patall meta-analysis found the same pattern of stronger relationships at the secondary level but also identified a number of studies at grades 2, 3, and 4 demonstrating positive effects for homework. In The Battle over Homework , Cooper noted that homework should have different purposes at different grade levels: For students in the earliest grades , it should foster positive attitudes, habits, and character traits; permit appropriate parent involvement; and reinforce learning of simple skills introduced in class.

For students in upper elementary grades , it should play a more direct role in fostering improved school achievement. In 6th grade and beyond , it should play an important role in improving standardized test scores and grades. One of the more contentious issues in the homework debate is the amount of time students should spend on homework. The Cooper synthesis a reported that for junior high school students, the benefits increased as time increased, up to 1 to 2 hours of homework a night, and then decreased.

The Cooper, Robinson, and Patall study reported similar findings: The researchers suggested that for 12th graders the optimum amount of homework might lie between 1. Still, researchers have offered various recommendations. For example, Good and Brophy cautioned that teachers must take care not to assign too much homework. Thus, 5 to 10 minutes per subject might be appropriate for 4th graders, whereas 30 to 60 minutes might be appropriate for college-bound high school students.

Cooper, Robinson, and Patall also issued a strong warning about too much homework: Even for these oldest students, too much homework may diminish its effectiveness or even become counterproductive. He added that when required reading is included as a type of homework, the minute rule might be increased to 15 minutes. Focusing on the amount of time students spend on homework, however, may miss the point.

A significant proportion of the research on homework indicates that the positive effects of homework relate to the amount of homework that the student completes rather than the amount of time spent on homework or the amount of homework actually assigned.

Thus, simply assigning homework may not produce the desired effect—in fact, ill-structured homework might even have a negative effect on student achievement. Teachers must carefully plan and assign homework in a way that maximizes the potential for student success see Research-Based Homework Guidelines.


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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.

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Is homework harmful or helpful? Education experts and parents weigh in. Topics To Do Connect. Edit Module “Homework is important because it’s an opportunity for students to review materials that are covered in the classroom. Kohn points out that no research has ever found any advantage to assigning homework — of any kind or in any.

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Research suggests that while homework can be an effective learning tool, assigning too much can lower student performance and interfere with other important activities. Help Customer Service eliminating traditional homework assignments in favor of family time. The change was quickly met with outrage from some parents, though it earned support from other.

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It’s important to remember that some people object to homework for reasons that aren’t related to the dispute about whether research might show that homework provides academic benefits. Even when homework is helpful, there can be too much of a good thing. "There is a limit to how much kids can benefit from home study," Cooper says. He agrees with an oft-cited rule of thumb that students should do no more than 10 minutes a night per grade level — from about 10 minutes in first grade up to a maximum of about two hours in high.