Does Homework Really Help Students Learn?

A conversation with a Wheelock researcher, a BU student, and a fourth-grade teacher

child doing homework

“Quality homework is engaging and relevant to kids’ lives,” says Wheelock’s Janine Bempechat. “It gives them autonomy and engages them in the community and with their families. In some subjects, like math, worksheets can be very helpful. It has to do with the value of practicing over and over.” Photo by iStock/Glenn Cook Photography

Do your homework.

If only it were that simple.

Educators have debated the merits of homework since the late 19th century. In recent years, amid concerns of some parents and teachers that children are being stressed out by too much homework, things have only gotten more fraught.

“Homework is complicated,” says developmental psychologist Janine Bempechat, a Wheelock College of Education & Human Development clinical professor. The author of the essay “ The Case for (Quality) Homework—Why It Improves Learning and How Parents Can Help ” in the winter 2019 issue of Education Next , Bempechat has studied how the debate about homework is influencing teacher preparation, parent and student beliefs about learning, and school policies.

She worries especially about socioeconomically disadvantaged students from low-performing schools who, according to research by Bempechat and others, get little or no homework.

BU Today  sat down with Bempechat and Erin Bruce (Wheelock’17,’18), a new fourth-grade teacher at a suburban Boston school, and future teacher freshman Emma Ardizzone (Wheelock) to talk about what quality homework looks like, how it can help children learn, and how schools can equip teachers to design it, evaluate it, and facilitate parents’ role in it.

BU Today: Parents and educators who are against homework in elementary school say there is no research definitively linking it to academic performance for kids in the early grades. You’ve said that they’re missing the point.

Bempechat : I think teachers assign homework in elementary school as a way to help kids develop skills they’ll need when they’re older—to begin to instill a sense of responsibility and to learn planning and organizational skills. That’s what I think is the greatest value of homework—in cultivating beliefs about learning and skills associated with academic success. If we greatly reduce or eliminate homework in elementary school, we deprive kids and parents of opportunities to instill these important learning habits and skills.

We do know that beginning in late middle school, and continuing through high school, there is a strong and positive correlation between homework completion and academic success.

That’s what I think is the greatest value of homework—in cultivating beliefs about learning and skills associated with academic success.

You talk about the importance of quality homework. What is that?

Quality homework is engaging and relevant to kids’ lives. It gives them autonomy and engages them in the community and with their families. In some subjects, like math, worksheets can be very helpful. It has to do with the value of practicing over and over.

Janine Bempechat

What are your concerns about homework and low-income children?

The argument that some people make—that homework “punishes the poor” because lower-income parents may not be as well-equipped as affluent parents to help their children with homework—is very troubling to me. There are no parents who don’t care about their children’s learning. Parents don’t actually have to help with homework completion in order for kids to do well. They can help in other ways—by helping children organize a study space, providing snacks, being there as a support, helping children work in groups with siblings or friends.

Isn’t the discussion about getting rid of homework happening mostly in affluent communities?

Yes, and the stories we hear of kids being stressed out from too much homework—four or five hours of homework a night—are real. That’s problematic for physical and mental health and overall well-being. But the research shows that higher-income students get a lot more homework than lower-income kids.

Teachers may not have as high expectations for lower-income children. Schools should bear responsibility for providing supports for kids to be able to get their homework done—after-school clubs, community support, peer group support. It does kids a disservice when our expectations are lower for them.

The conversation around homework is to some extent a social class and social justice issue. If we eliminate homework for all children because affluent children have too much, we’re really doing a disservice to low-income children. They need the challenge, and every student can rise to the challenge with enough supports in place.

What did you learn by studying how education schools are preparing future teachers to handle homework?

My colleague, Margarita Jimenez-Silva, at the University of California, Davis, School of Education, and I interviewed faculty members at education schools, as well as supervising teachers, to find out how students are being prepared. And it seemed that they weren’t. There didn’t seem to be any readings on the research, or conversations on what high-quality homework is and how to design it.

Erin, what kind of training did you get in handling homework?

Bruce : I had phenomenal professors at Wheelock, but homework just didn’t come up. I did lots of student teaching. I’ve been in classrooms where the teachers didn’t assign any homework, and I’ve been in rooms where they assigned hours of homework a night. But I never even considered homework as something that was my decision. I just thought it was something I’d pull out of a book and it’d be done.

I started giving homework on the first night of school this year. My first assignment was to go home and draw a picture of the room where you do your homework. I want to know if it’s at a table and if there are chairs around it and if mom’s cooking dinner while you’re doing homework.

The second night I asked them to talk to a grown-up about how are you going to be able to get your homework done during the week. The kids really enjoyed it. There’s a running joke that I’m teaching life skills.

Friday nights, I read all my kids’ responses to me on their homework from the week and it’s wonderful. They pour their hearts out. It’s like we’re having a conversation on my couch Friday night.

It matters to know that the teacher cares about you and that what you think matters to the teacher. Homework is a vehicle to connect home and school…for parents to know teachers are welcoming to them and their families.

Bempechat : I can’t imagine that most new teachers would have the intuition Erin had in designing homework the way she did.

Ardizzone : Conversations with kids about homework, feeling you’re being listened to—that’s such a big part of wanting to do homework….I grew up in Westchester County. It was a pretty demanding school district. My junior year English teacher—I loved her—she would give us feedback, have meetings with all of us. She’d say, “If you have any questions, if you have anything you want to talk about, you can talk to me, here are my office hours.” It felt like she actually cared.

Bempechat : It matters to know that the teacher cares about you and that what you think matters to the teacher. Homework is a vehicle to connect home and school…for parents to know teachers are welcoming to them and their families.

Ardizzone : But can’t it lead to parents being overbearing and too involved in their children’s lives as students?

Bempechat : There’s good help and there’s bad help. The bad help is what you’re describing—when parents hover inappropriately, when they micromanage, when they see their children confused and struggling and tell them what to do.

Good help is when parents recognize there’s a struggle going on and instead ask informative questions: “Where do you think you went wrong?” They give hints, or pointers, rather than saying, “You missed this,” or “You didn’t read that.”

Bruce : I hope something comes of this. I hope BU or Wheelock can think of some way to make this a more pressing issue. As a first-year teacher, it was not something I even thought about on the first day of school—until a kid raised his hand and said, “Do we have homework?” It would have been wonderful if I’d had a plan from day one.

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Sara Rimer

Sara Rimer A journalist for more than three decades, Sara Rimer worked at the Miami Herald , Washington Post and, for 26 years, the New York Times , where she was the New England bureau chief, and a national reporter covering education, aging, immigration, and other social justice issues. Her stories on the death penalty’s inequities were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. Her journalism honors include Columbia University’s Meyer Berger award for in-depth human interest reporting. She holds a BA degree in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Profile

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There are 81 comments on Does Homework Really Help Students Learn?

Insightful! The values about homework in elementary schools are well aligned with my intuition as a parent.

when i finish my work i do my homework and i sometimes forget what to do because i did not get enough sleep

same omg it does not help me it is stressful and if I have it in more than one class I hate it.

Same I think my parent wants to help me but, she doesn’t care if I get bad grades so I just try my best and my grades are great.

I think that last question about Good help from parents is not know to all parents, we do as our parents did or how we best think it can be done, so maybe coaching parents or giving them resources on how to help with homework would be very beneficial for the parent on how to help and for the teacher to have consistency and improve homework results, and of course for the child. I do see how homework helps reaffirm the knowledge obtained in the classroom, I also have the ability to see progress and it is a time I share with my kids

The answer to the headline question is a no-brainer – a more pressing problem is why there is a difference in how students from different cultures succeed. Perfect example is the student population at BU – why is there a majority population of Asian students and only about 3% black students at BU? In fact at some universities there are law suits by Asians to stop discrimination and quotas against admitting Asian students because the real truth is that as a group they are demonstrating better qualifications for admittance, while at the same time there are quotas and reduced requirements for black students to boost their portion of the student population because as a group they do more poorly in meeting admissions standards – and it is not about the Benjamins. The real problem is that in our PC society no one has the gazuntas to explore this issue as it may reveal that all people are not created equal after all. Or is it just environmental cultural differences??????

I get you have a concern about the issue but that is not even what the point of this article is about. If you have an issue please take this to the site we have and only post your opinion about the actual topic

This is not at all what the article is talking about.

This literally has nothing to do with the article brought up. You should really take your opinions somewhere else before you speak about something that doesn’t make sense.

we have the same name

so they have the same name what of it?

lol you tell her

totally agree

What does that have to do with homework, that is not what the article talks about AT ALL.

Yes, I think homework plays an important role in the development of student life. Through homework, students have to face challenges on a daily basis and they try to solve them quickly.I am an intense online tutor at 24x7homeworkhelp and I give homework to my students at that level in which they handle it easily.

More than two-thirds of students said they used alcohol and drugs, primarily marijuana, to cope with stress.

You know what’s funny? I got this assignment to write an argument for homework about homework and this article was really helpful and understandable, and I also agree with this article’s point of view.

I also got the same task as you! I was looking for some good resources and I found this! I really found this article useful and easy to understand, just like you! ^^

i think that homework is the best thing that a child can have on the school because it help them with their thinking and memory.

I am a child myself and i think homework is a terrific pass time because i can’t play video games during the week. It also helps me set goals.

Homework is not harmful ,but it will if there is too much

I feel like, from a minors point of view that we shouldn’t get homework. Not only is the homework stressful, but it takes us away from relaxing and being social. For example, me and my friends was supposed to hang at the mall last week but we had to postpone it since we all had some sort of work to do. Our minds shouldn’t be focused on finishing an assignment that in realty, doesn’t matter. I completely understand that we should have homework. I have to write a paper on the unimportance of homework so thanks.

homework isn’t that bad

Are you a student? if not then i don’t really think you know how much and how severe todays homework really is

i am a student and i do not enjoy homework because i practice my sport 4 out of the five days we have school for 4 hours and that’s not even counting the commute time or the fact i still have to shower and eat dinner when i get home. its draining!

i totally agree with you. these people are such boomers

why just why

they do make a really good point, i think that there should be a limit though. hours and hours of homework can be really stressful, and the extra work isn’t making a difference to our learning, but i do believe homework should be optional and extra credit. that would make it for students to not have the leaning stress of a assignment and if you have a low grade you you can catch up.

Studies show that homework improves student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results, and the likelihood to attend college. Research published in the High School Journal indicates that students who spent between 31 and 90 minutes each day on homework “scored about 40 points higher on the SAT-Mathematics subtest than their peers, who reported spending no time on homework each day, on average.” On both standardized tests and grades, students in classes that were assigned homework outperformed 69% of students who didn’t have homework. A majority of studies on homework’s impact – 64% in one meta-study and 72% in another – showed that take home assignments were effective at improving academic achievement. Research by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) concluded that increased homework led to better GPAs and higher probability of college attendance for high school boys. In fact, boys who attended college did more than three hours of additional homework per week in high school.

So how are your measuring student achievement? That’s the real question. The argument that doing homework is simply a tool for teaching responsibility isn’t enough for me. We can teach responsibility in a number of ways. Also the poor argument that parents don’t need to help with homework, and that students can do it on their own, is wishful thinking at best. It completely ignores neurodiverse students. Students in poverty aren’t magically going to find a space to do homework, a friend’s or siblings to help them do it, and snacks to eat. I feel like the author of this piece has never set foot in a classroom of students.

THIS. This article is pathetic coming from a university. So intellectually dishonest, refusing to address the havoc of capitalism and poverty plays on academic success in life. How can they in one sentence use poor kids in an argument and never once address that poor children have access to damn near 0 of the resources affluent kids have? Draw me a picture and let’s talk about feelings lmao what a joke is that gonna put food in their belly so they can have the calories to burn in order to use their brain to study? What about quiet their 7 other siblings that they share a single bedroom with for hours? Is it gonna force the single mom to magically be at home and at work at the same time to cook food while you study and be there to throw an encouraging word?

Also the “parents don’t need to be a parent and be able to guide their kid at all academically they just need to exist in the next room” is wild. Its one thing if a parent straight up is not equipped but to say kids can just figured it out is…. wow coming from an educator What’s next the teacher doesn’t need to teach cause the kid can just follow the packet and figure it out?

Well then get a tutor right? Oh wait you are poor only affluent kids can afford a tutor for their hours of homework a day were they on average have none of the worries a poor child does. Does this address that poor children are more likely to also suffer abuse and mental illness? Like mentioned what about kids that can’t learn or comprehend the forced standardized way? Just let em fail? These children regularly are not in “special education”(some of those are a joke in their own and full of neglect and abuse) programs cause most aren’t even acknowledged as having disabilities or disorders.

But yes all and all those pesky poor kids just aren’t being worked hard enough lol pretty sure poor children’s existence just in childhood is more work, stress, and responsibility alone than an affluent child’s entire life cycle. Love they never once talked about the quality of education in the classroom being so bad between the poor and affluent it can qualify as segregation, just basically blamed poor people for being lazy, good job capitalism for failing us once again!

why the hell?

you should feel bad for saying this, this article can be helpful for people who has to write a essay about it

This is more of a political rant than it is about homework

I know a teacher who has told his students their homework is to find something they are interested in, pursue it and then come share what they learn. The student responses are quite compelling. One girl taught herself German so she could talk to her grandfather. One boy did a research project on Nelson Mandela because the teacher had mentioned him in class. Another boy, a both on the autism spectrum, fixed his family’s computer. The list goes on. This is fourth grade. I think students are highly motivated to learn, when we step aside and encourage them.

The whole point of homework is to give the students a chance to use the material that they have been presented with in class. If they never have the opportunity to use that information, and discover that it is actually useful, it will be in one ear and out the other. As a science teacher, it is critical that the students are challenged to use the material they have been presented with, which gives them the opportunity to actually think about it rather than regurgitate “facts”. Well designed homework forces the student to think conceptually, as opposed to regurgitation, which is never a pretty sight

Wonderful discussion. and yes, homework helps in learning and building skills in students.

not true it just causes kids to stress

Homework can be both beneficial and unuseful, if you will. There are students who are gifted in all subjects in school and ones with disabilities. Why should the students who are gifted get the lucky break, whereas the people who have disabilities suffer? The people who were born with this “gift” go through school with ease whereas people with disabilities struggle with the work given to them. I speak from experience because I am one of those students: the ones with disabilities. Homework doesn’t benefit “us”, it only tears us down and put us in an abyss of confusion and stress and hopelessness because we can’t learn as fast as others. Or we can’t handle the amount of work given whereas the gifted students go through it with ease. It just brings us down and makes us feel lost; because no mater what, it feels like we are destined to fail. It feels like we weren’t “cut out” for success.

homework does help

here is the thing though, if a child is shoved in the face with a whole ton of homework that isn’t really even considered homework it is assignments, it’s not helpful. the teacher should make homework more of a fun learning experience rather than something that is dreaded

This article was wonderful, I am going to ask my teachers about extra, or at all giving homework.

I agree. Especially when you have homework before an exam. Which is distasteful as you’ll need that time to study. It doesn’t make any sense, nor does us doing homework really matters as It’s just facts thrown at us.

Homework is too severe and is just too much for students, schools need to decrease the amount of homework. When teachers assign homework they forget that the students have other classes that give them the same amount of homework each day. Students need to work on social skills and life skills.

I disagree.

Beyond achievement, proponents of homework argue that it can have many other beneficial effects. They claim it can help students develop good study habits so they are ready to grow as their cognitive capacities mature. It can help students recognize that learning can occur at home as well as at school. Homework can foster independent learning and responsible character traits. And it can give parents an opportunity to see what’s going on at school and let them express positive attitudes toward achievement.

Homework is helpful because homework helps us by teaching us how to learn a specific topic.

As a student myself, I can say that I have almost never gotten the full 9 hours of recommended sleep time, because of homework. (Now I’m writing an essay on it in the middle of the night D=)

I am a 10 year old kid doing a report about “Is homework good or bad” for homework before i was going to do homework is bad but the sources from this site changed my mind!

Homeowkr is god for stusenrs

I agree with hunter because homework can be so stressful especially with this whole covid thing no one has time for homework and every one just wants to get back to there normal lives it is especially stressful when you go on a 2 week vaca 3 weeks into the new school year and and then less then a week after you come back from the vaca you are out for over a month because of covid and you have no way to get the assignment done and turned in

As great as homework is said to be in the is article, I feel like the viewpoint of the students was left out. Every where I go on the internet researching about this topic it almost always has interviews from teachers, professors, and the like. However isn’t that a little biased? Of course teachers are going to be for homework, they’re not the ones that have to stay up past midnight completing the homework from not just one class, but all of them. I just feel like this site is one-sided and you should include what the students of today think of spending four hours every night completing 6-8 classes worth of work.

Are we talking about homework or practice? Those are two very different things and can result in different outcomes.

Homework is a graded assignment. I do not know of research showing the benefits of graded assignments going home.

Practice; however, can be extremely beneficial, especially if there is some sort of feedback (not a grade but feedback). That feedback can come from the teacher, another student or even an automated grading program.

As a former band director, I assigned daily practice. I never once thought it would be appropriate for me to require the students to turn in a recording of their practice for me to grade. Instead, I had in-class assignments/assessments that were graded and directly related to the practice assigned.

I would really like to read articles on “homework” that truly distinguish between the two.

oof i feel bad good luck!

thank you guys for the artical because I have to finish an assingment. yes i did cite it but just thanks

thx for the article guys.

Homework is good

I think homework is helpful AND harmful. Sometimes u can’t get sleep bc of homework but it helps u practice for school too so idk.

I agree with this Article. And does anyone know when this was published. I would like to know.

It was published FEb 19, 2019.

Studies have shown that homework improved student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results, and the likelihood to attend college.

i think homework can help kids but at the same time not help kids

This article is so out of touch with majority of homes it would be laughable if it wasn’t so incredibly sad.

There is no value to homework all it does is add stress to already stressed homes. Parents or adults magically having the time or energy to shepherd kids through homework is dome sort of 1950’s fantasy.

What lala land do these teachers live in?

Homework gives noting to the kid

Homework is Bad

homework is bad.

why do kids even have homework?

Comments are closed.

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Should Kids Get Homework?

Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say.

Mother helping son with homework at home

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Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful.

How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.

Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.

But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.

Value of Homework

Homework provides a chance to solidify what is being taught in the classroom that day, week or unit. Practice matters, says Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University 's Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice," she adds. "We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there."

Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.

"The children are bringing things from the school into the home," says Paula S. Fass, professor emerita of history at the University of California—Berkeley and the author of "The End of American Childhood." "Before the pandemic, (homework) was the only real sense that parents had to what was going on in schools."

Harris Cooper, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," examined more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and found that — when designed properly — homework can lead to greater student success. Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary.

"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level," he says. "For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest."

Negative Homework Assignments

Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.

But assignments that are just busy work, that force students to learn new concepts at home, or that are overly time-consuming can be counterproductive, experts say.

Homework that's just busy work.

Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful, experts say. Assignments that look more like busy work – projects or worksheets that don't require teacher feedback and aren't related to topics learned in the classroom – can be frustrating for students and create burdens for families.

"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense," says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.

Homework on material that kids haven't learned yet.

With the pressure to cover all topics on standardized tests and limited time during the school day, some teachers assign homework that has not yet been taught in the classroom.

Not only does this create stress, but it also causes equity challenges. Some parents speak languages other than English or work several jobs, and they aren't able to help teach their children new concepts.

" It just becomes agony for both parents and the kids to get through this worksheet, and the goal becomes getting to the bottom of (the) worksheet with answers filled in without any understanding of what any of it matters for," says professor Susan R. Goldman, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois—Chicago .

Homework that's overly time-consuming.

The standard homework guideline recommended by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association is the "10-minute rule" – 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level. A fourth grader, for instance, would receive a total of 40 minutes of homework per night.

But this does not always happen, especially since not every student learns the same. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that primary school children actually received three times the recommended amount of homework — and that family stress increased along with the homework load.

Young children can only remain attentive for short periods, so large amounts of homework, especially lengthy projects, can negatively affect students' views on school. Some individual long-term projects – like having to build a replica city, for example – typically become an assignment for parents rather than students, Fass says.

"It's one thing to assign a project like that in which several kids are working on it together," she adds. "In (that) case, the kids do normally work on it. It's another to send it home to the families, where it becomes a burden and doesn't really accomplish very much."

Private vs. Public Schools

Do private schools assign more homework than public schools? There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.

Of course, not all private schools are the same – some focus on college preparation and traditional academics, while others stress alternative approaches to education.

"I think in the academically oriented private schools, there's more support for homework from parents," says Gerald K. LeTendre, chair of educational administration at Pennsylvania State University—University Park . "I don't know if there's any research to show there's more homework, but it's less of a contentious issue."

How to Address Homework Overload

First, assess if the workload takes as long as it appears. Sometimes children may start working on a homework assignment, wander away and come back later, Cooper says.

"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it," he adds. "They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it."

But if homework is becoming stressful or workload is excessive, experts suggest parents first approach the teacher, followed by a school administrator.

"Many times, we can solve a lot of issues by having conversations," Steckler says, including by "sitting down, talking about the amount of homework, and what's appropriate and not appropriate."

Study Tips for High School Students

High angle view of young woman sitting at desk and studying at home during coronavirus lockdown

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How to use homework to support student success.

  • by: Sandra Chafouleas
  • January 13, 2022
  • Community Engagement

Female teacher wearing mask helps young student.

Editor’s Note: Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Sandra Chafouleas shares insights on supporting students’ homework during the pandemic in the following piece, which originally appeared  in Psychology Today , where she publishes a blog.

COVID has brought many changes in education. What does it mean for homework?

School assignments that a student is expected to do outside of the regular school day—that’s homework. The general guideline is 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level beginning after kindergarten. This amounts to just a few minutes for younger elementary students to up to 2 hours for high school students.

The guidance seems straightforward enough, so why is homework such a controversial topic? School disruptions, including extended periods of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, have magnified the controversies yet also have provided an opportunity to rethink the purpose and value of homework.

Debates about the value of homework center around two primary issues: amount and inequity.

First, the amount of assigned homework may be much more than the recommended guidelines. Families report their children are stressed out over the time spent doing homework. Too much homework can challenge well-being given the restricted time available for sleep, exercise, and social connection. In a 2015 study , for example, parents reported their early elementary children received almost three times the recommended guidelines. In high school, researchers found an average of three hours of homework per night for students living in economically privileged communities.

“ Debates about the value of homework center around two primary issues: amount and inequity.”

Second, homework can perpetuate inequities. Students attending school in less economically privileged communities may receive little to no homework, or have difficulty completing it due to limited access to needed technology. This can translate into fewer opportunities to learn and may contribute to gaps in achievement.

There isn’t a ton of research on the effects of homework, and available studies certainly do not provide a simple answer. For example, a 2006 synthesis of studies suggested a positive influence between homework completion and academic achievement for middle and high school students. Supporters also point out that homework offers additional opportunities to engage in learning and that it can foster independent learning habits such as planning and a sense of responsibility. A more recent study involving 13-year-old students in Spain found higher test scores for those who were regularly assigned homework in math and science, with an optimal time around one hour—which is roughly aligned with recommendations. However, the researchers noted that ability to independently do the work, student effort, and prior achievement were more important contributors than time spent.

Opponents of homework maintain that the academic benefit does not outweigh the toll on well-being. Researchers have observed student stress, physical health problems, and lack of life balance, especially when the time spent goes over the recommended guidelines. In a survey of adolescents , over half reported the amount and type of homework they received to be a primary source of stress in their lives. In addition, vast differences exist in access and availability of supports, such as internet connection, adult assistance, or even a place to call home, as 1.5 million children experience homelessness in the United States

The COVID-19 pandemic has re-energized discussion about homework practices, with the goal to advance recommendations about how, when, and with whom it can be best used. Here’s a summary of key strategies:

Strategies for Educators

Make sure the tasks are meaningful and matched..

First, the motto “ quality over quantity ” can guide decisions about homework. Homework is not busy-work, and instead should get students excited about learning. Emphasize activities that facilitate choice and interest to extend learning, like choose your own reading adventure or math games. Second, each student should be able to complete homework independently with success. Think about Goldilocks: To be effective, assignments should be just right for each learner. One example of how do this efficiently is through online learning platforms that can efficiently adjust to skill level and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

Ensure access to resources for task completion.

One step toward equity is to ensure access to necessary resources such as time, space, and materials. Teach students about preparing for homework success, allocating classroom time to model and practice good study habits such as setting up their physical environment, time management, and chunking tasks. Engage in conversations with students and families to problem-solve challenges When needed, connect students with homework supports available through after-school clubs, other community supports, or even within a dedicated block during the school day.

Be open to revisiting homework policies and practices.

The days of penalizing students for not completing homework should be long gone. Homework is a tool for practicing content and learning self-management. With that in mind, provide opportunities for students to communicate needs, and respond by revising assignments or allowing them to turn in on alternative dates. Engage in adult professional learning about high-quality homework , from value (Should I assign this task?) to evaluation (How should this be graded? Did that homework assignment result in expected outcomes?). Monitor how things are going by looking at completion rates and by asking students for their feedback. Be willing to adapt the homework schedule or expectations based on what is learned.

Strategies for Families

Understand how to be a good helper..

When designed appropriately, students should be able to complete homework with independence. Limit homework wars by working to be a good helper. Hovering, micromanaging, or doing homework for them may be easiest in the moment but does not help build their independence. Be a good helper by asking guiding questions, providing hints, or checking for understanding. Focus your assistance on setting up structures for homework success, like space and time.

Use homework as a tool for communication.

Use homework as a vehicle to foster family-school communication. Families can use homework as an opportunity to open conversations about specific assignments or classes, peer relationships, or even sleep quality that may be impacting student success. For younger students, using a daily or weekly home-school notebook or planner can be one way to share information. For older students, help them practice communicating their needs and provide support as needed.

Make sure to balance wellness.

Like adults, children need a healthy work-life balance. Positive social connection and engagement in pleasurable activities are important core principles to foster well-being . Monitor the load of homework and other structured activities to make sure there is time in the daily routine for play. Play can mean different things to different children: getting outside, reading for pleasure, and yes, even gaming. Just try to ensure that activities include a mix of health-focused activities such as physical movement or mindfulness downtime.

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What’s the Right Amount of Homework?

Decades of research show that homework has some benefits, especially for students in middle and high school—but there are risks to assigning too much.

Many teachers and parents believe that homework helps students build study skills and review concepts learned in class. Others see homework as disruptive and unnecessary, leading to burnout and turning kids off to school. Decades of research show that the issue is more nuanced and complex than most people think: Homework is beneficial, but only to a degree. Students in high school gain the most, while younger kids benefit much less.

The National PTA and the National Education Association support the “ 10-minute homework guideline ”—a nightly 10 minutes of homework per grade level. But many teachers and parents are quick to point out that what matters is the quality of the homework assigned and how well it meets students’ needs, not the amount of time spent on it.

The guideline doesn’t account for students who may need to spend more—or less—time on assignments. In class, teachers can make adjustments to support struggling students, but at home, an assignment that takes one student 30 minutes to complete may take another twice as much time—often for reasons beyond their control. And homework can widen the achievement gap, putting students from low-income households and students with learning disabilities at a disadvantage.

However, the 10-minute guideline is useful in setting a limit: When kids spend too much time on homework, there are real consequences to consider.

Small Benefits for Elementary Students

As young children begin school, the focus should be on cultivating a love of learning, and assigning too much homework can undermine that goal. And young students often don’t have the study skills to benefit fully from homework, so it may be a poor use of time (Cooper, 1989 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). A more effective activity may be nightly reading, especially if parents are involved. The benefits of reading are clear: If students aren’t proficient readers by the end of third grade, they’re less likely to succeed academically and graduate from high school (Fiester, 2013 ).

For second-grade teacher Jacqueline Fiorentino, the minor benefits of homework did not outweigh the potential drawback of turning young children against school at an early age, so she experimented with dropping mandatory homework. “Something surprising happened: They started doing more work at home,” Fiorentino writes . “This inspiring group of 8-year-olds used their newfound free time to explore subjects and topics of interest to them.” She encouraged her students to read at home and offered optional homework to extend classroom lessons and help them review material.

Moderate Benefits for Middle School Students

As students mature and develop the study skills necessary to delve deeply into a topic—and to retain what they learn—they also benefit more from homework. Nightly assignments can help prepare them for scholarly work, and research shows that homework can have moderate benefits for middle school students (Cooper et al., 2006 ). Recent research also shows that online math homework, which can be designed to adapt to students’ levels of understanding, can significantly boost test scores (Roschelle et al., 2016 ).

There are risks to assigning too much, however: A 2015 study found that when middle school students were assigned more than 90 to 100 minutes of daily homework, their math and science test scores began to decline (Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, & Muñiz, 2015 ). Crossing that upper limit can drain student motivation and focus. The researchers recommend that “homework should present a certain level of challenge or difficulty, without being so challenging that it discourages effort.” Teachers should avoid low-effort, repetitive assignments, and assign homework “with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-directed learning.”

In other words, it’s the quality of homework that matters, not the quantity. Brian Sztabnik, a veteran middle and high school English teacher, suggests that teachers take a step back and ask themselves these five questions :

  • How long will it take to complete?
  • Have all learners been considered?
  • Will an assignment encourage future success?
  • Will an assignment place material in a context the classroom cannot?
  • Does an assignment offer support when a teacher is not there?

More Benefits for High School Students, but Risks as Well

By the time they reach high school, students should be well on their way to becoming independent learners, so homework does provide a boost to learning at this age, as long as it isn’t overwhelming (Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). When students spend too much time on homework—more than two hours each night—it takes up valuable time to rest and spend time with family and friends. A 2013 study found that high school students can experience serious mental and physical health problems, from higher stress levels to sleep deprivation, when assigned too much homework (Galloway, Conner, & Pope, 2013 ).

Homework in high school should always relate to the lesson and be doable without any assistance, and feedback should be clear and explicit.

Teachers should also keep in mind that not all students have equal opportunities to finish their homework at home, so incomplete homework may not be a true reflection of their learning—it may be more a result of issues they face outside of school. They may be hindered by issues such as lack of a quiet space at home, resources such as a computer or broadband connectivity, or parental support (OECD, 2014 ). In such cases, giving low homework scores may be unfair.

Since the quantities of time discussed here are totals, teachers in middle and high school should be aware of how much homework other teachers are assigning. It may seem reasonable to assign 30 minutes of daily homework, but across six subjects, that’s three hours—far above a reasonable amount even for a high school senior. Psychologist Maurice Elias sees this as a common mistake: Individual teachers create homework policies that in aggregate can overwhelm students. He suggests that teachers work together to develop a school-wide homework policy and make it a key topic of back-to-school night and the first parent-teacher conferences of the school year.

Parents Play a Key Role

Homework can be a powerful tool to help parents become more involved in their child’s learning (Walker et al., 2004 ). It can provide insights into a child’s strengths and interests, and can also encourage conversations about a child’s life at school. If a parent has positive attitudes toward homework, their children are more likely to share those same values, promoting academic success.

But it’s also possible for parents to be overbearing, putting too much emphasis on test scores or grades, which can be disruptive for children (Madjar, Shklar, & Moshe, 2015 ). Parents should avoid being overly intrusive or controlling—students report feeling less motivated to learn when they don’t have enough space and autonomy to do their homework (Orkin, May, & Wolf, 2017 ; Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008 ; Silinskas & Kikas, 2017 ). So while homework can encourage parents to be more involved with their kids, it’s important to not make it a source of conflict.

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What’s the Purpose of Homework?

author avatar

  • Homework teaches students responsibility.
  • Homework gives students an opportunity to practice and refine their skills.
  • We give homework because our parents demand it.
  • Our community equates homework with rigor.
  • Homework is a rite of passage.
  • design quality homework tasks;
  • differentiate homework tasks;
  • move from grading to checking;
  • decriminalize the grading of homework;
  • use completion strategies; and
  • establish homework support programs.
  • Always ask, “What learning will result from this homework assignment?” The goal of your instruction should be to design homework that results in meaningful learning.
  • Assign homework to help students deepen their understanding of content, practice skills in order to become faster or more proficient, or learn new content on a surface level.
  • Check that students are able to perform required skills and tasks independently before asking them to complete homework assignments.
  • When students return home, is there a safe and quite place for them to do their homework? I have talked to teachers who tell me they know for certain the home environments of their students are chaotic at best. Is it likely a student will be able to complete homework in such an environment? Is it possible for students to go to an after school program, possibly at the YMCA or a Boys and Girls Club. Assigning homework to students when you know the likelihood of them being able to complete the assignment through little fault of their own doesn’t seem fair to the learner.
  • Consider parents and guardians to be your allies when it comes to homework. Understand their constraints, and, when home circumstances present challenges, consider alternative approaches to support students as they complete homework assignments (e.g., before-or after-school programs, additional parent outreach).

what is homework in education

Howard Pitler is a dynamic facilitator, speaker, and instructional coach with a proven record of success spanning four decades. With an extensive background in professional development, he works with schools and districts internationally and is a regular speaker at national, state, and district conferences and workshops.

Pitler is currently Associate Professor at Emporia State University in Kansas. Prior to that, he served for 19 years as an elementary and middle school principal in an urban setting. During his tenure, his elementary school was selected as an Apple Distinguished Program and named "One of the Top 100 Schools in America" by Redbook Magazine. His middle school was selected as "One of the Top 100 Wired Schools in America" by PC Magazine. He also served for 12 years as a senior director and chief program officer for McREL International, and he is currently serving on the Board of Colorado ASCD. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator, Apple Teacher, National Distinguished Principal, and Smithsonian Laureate.

He is a published book author and has written numerous magazine articles for  Educational Leadership ® magazine,  EdCircuit , and  Connected Educator , among others.

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Homework in America

  • 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education

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Tom loveless tom loveless former brookings expert @tomloveless99.

March 18, 2014

  • 18 min read

Part II of the 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education

part two cover

Homework!  The topic, no, just the word itself, sparks controversy.  It has for a long time. In 1900, Edward Bok, editor of the Ladies Home Journal , published an impassioned article, “A National Crime at the Feet of Parents,” accusing homework of destroying American youth.  Drawing on the theories of his fellow educational progressive, psychologist G. Stanley Hall (who has since been largely discredited), Bok argued that study at home interfered with children’s natural inclination towards play and free movement, threatened children’s physical and mental health, and usurped the right of parents to decide activities in the home.

The Journal was an influential magazine, especially with parents.  An anti-homework campaign burst forth that grew into a national crusade. [i]   School districts across the land passed restrictions on homework, culminating in a 1901 statewide prohibition of homework in California for any student under the age of 15.  The crusade would remain powerful through 1913, before a world war and other concerns bumped it from the spotlight.  Nevertheless, anti-homework sentiment would remain a touchstone of progressive education throughout the twentieth century.  As a political force, it would lie dormant for years before bubbling up to mobilize proponents of free play and “the whole child.” Advocates would, if educators did not comply, seek to impose homework restrictions through policy making.

Our own century dawned during a surge of anti-homework sentiment. From 1998 to 2003, Newsweek , TIME , and People , all major national publications at the time, ran cover stories on the evils of homework.  TIME ’s 1999 story had the most provocative title, “The Homework Ate My Family: Kids Are Dazed, Parents Are Stressed, Why Piling On Is Hurting Students.” People ’s 2003 article offered a call to arms: “Overbooked: Four Hours of Homework for a Third Grader? Exhausted Kids (and Parents) Fight Back.” Feature stories about students laboring under an onerous homework burden ran in newspapers from coast to coast. Photos of angst ridden children became a journalistic staple.

The 2003 Brown Center Report on American Education included a study investigating the homework controversy.  Examining the most reliable empirical evidence at the time, the study concluded that the dramatic claims about homework were unfounded.  An overwhelming majority of students, at least two-thirds, depending on age, had an hour or less of homework each night.  Surprisingly, even the homework burden of college-bound high school seniors was discovered to be rather light, less than an hour per night or six hours per week. Public opinion polls also contradicted the prevailing story.  Parents were not up in arms about homework.  Most said their children’s homework load was about right.  Parents wanting more homework out-numbered those who wanted less.

Now homework is in the news again.  Several popular anti-homework books fill store shelves (whether virtual or brick and mortar). [ii]   The documentary Race to Nowhere depicts homework as one aspect of an overwrought, pressure-cooker school system that constantly pushes students to perform and destroys their love of learning.  The film’s website claims over 6,000 screenings in more than 30 countries.  In 2011, the New York Times ran a front page article about the homework restrictions adopted by schools in Galloway, NJ, describing “a wave of districts across the nation trying to remake homework amid concerns that high stakes testing and competition for college have fueled a nightly grind that is stressing out children and depriving them of play and rest, yet doing little to raise achievement, especially in elementary grades.”   In the article, Vicki Abeles, the director of Race to Nowhere , invokes the indictment of homework lodged a century ago, declaring, “The presence of homework is negatively affecting the health of our young people and the quality of family time.” [iii] 

A petition for the National PTA to adopt “healthy homework guidelines” on change.org currently has 19,000 signatures.  In September 2013, Atlantic featured an article, “My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me,” by a Manhattan writer who joined his middle school daughter in doing her homework for a week.  Most nights the homework took more than three hours to complete.

The Current Study

A decade has passed since the last Brown Center Report study of homework, and it’s time for an update.  How much homework do American students have today?  Has the homework burden increased, gone down, or remained about the same?  What do parents think about the homework load?

A word on why such a study is important.  It’s not because the popular press is creating a fiction.  The press accounts are built on the testimony of real students and real parents, people who are very unhappy with the amount of homework coming home from school.  These unhappy people are real—but they also may be atypical.  Their experiences, as dramatic as they are, may not represent the common experience of American households with school-age children.  In the analysis below, data are analyzed from surveys that are methodologically designed to produce reliable information about the experiences of all Americans.  Some of the surveys have existed long enough to illustrate meaningful trends.  The question is whether strong empirical evidence confirms the anecdotes about overworked kids and outraged parents.

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provide a good look at trends in homework for nearly the past three decades.  Table 2-1 displays NAEP data from 1984-2012.  The data are from the long-term trend NAEP assessment’s student questionnaire, a survey of homework practices featuring both consistently-worded questions and stable response categories.  The question asks: “How much time did you spend on homework yesterday?”  Responses are shown for NAEP’s three age groups: 9, 13, and 17. [iv]

Table 21

Today’s youngest students seem to have more homework than in the past.  The first three rows of data for age 9 reveal a shift away from students having no homework, declining from 35% in 1984 to 22% in 2012.  A slight uptick occurred from the low of 18% in 2008, however, so the trend may be abating.  The decline of the “no homework” group is matched by growth in the percentage of students with less than an hour’s worth, from 41% in 1984 to 57% in 2012. The share of students with one to two hours of homework changed very little over the entire 28 years, comprising 12% of students in 2012.  The group with the heaviest load, more than two hours of homework, registered at 5% in 2012.  It was 6% in 1984.

The amount of homework for 13-year-olds appears to have lightened slightly. Students with one to two hours of homework declined from 29% to 23%.  The next category down (in terms of homework load), students with less than an hour, increased from 36% to 44%.  One can see, by combining the bottom two rows, that students with an hour or more of homework declined steadily from 1984 to 2008 (falling from 38% to 27%) and then ticked up to 30% in 2012.  The proportion of students with the heaviest load, more than two hours, slipped from 9% in 1984 to 7% in 2012 and ranged between 7-10% for the entire period.

For 17-year-olds, the homework burden has not varied much.  The percentage of students with no homework has increased from 22% to 27%.  Most of that gain occurred in the 1990s. Also note that the percentage of 17-year-olds who had homework but did not do it was 11% in 2012, the highest for the three NAEP age groups.  Adding that number in with the students who didn’t have homework in the first place means that more than one-third of seventeen year olds (38%) did no homework on the night in question in 2012.  That compares with 33% in 1984.  The segment of the 17-year-old population with more than two hours of homework, from which legitimate complaints of being overworked might arise, has been stuck in the 10%-13% range.

The NAEP data point to four main conclusions:

  • With one exception, the homework load has remained remarkably stable since 1984.
  • The exception is nine-year-olds.  They have experienced an increase in homework, primarily because many students who once did not have any now have some.  The percentage of nine-year-olds with no homework fell by 13 percentage points, and the percentage with less than an hour grew by 16 percentage points.
  • Of the three age groups, 17-year-olds have the most bifurcated distribution of the homework burden.   They have the largest percentage of kids with no homework (especially when the homework shirkers are added in) and the largest percentage with more than two hours.
  • NAEP data do not support the idea that a large and growing number of students have an onerous amount of homework.  For all three age groups, only a small percentage of students report more than two hours of homework.  For 1984-2012, the size of the two hours or more groups ranged from 5-6% for age 9, 6-10% for age 13, and 10-13% for age 17.

Note that the item asks students how much time they spent on homework “yesterday.”  That phrasing has the benefit of immediacy, asking for an estimate of precise, recent behavior rather than an estimate of general behavior for an extended, unspecified period.  But misleading responses could be generated if teachers lighten the homework of NAEP participants on the night before the NAEP test is given.  That’s possible. [v] Such skewing would not affect trends if it stayed about the same over time and in the same direction (teachers assigning less homework than usual on the day before NAEP).  Put another way, it would affect estimates of the amount of homework at any single point in time but not changes in the amount of homework between two points in time.

A check for possible skewing is to compare the responses above with those to another homework question on the NAEP questionnaire from 1986-2004 but no longer in use. [vi]   It asked students, “How much time do you usually spend on homework each day?” Most of the response categories have different boundaries from the “last night” question, making the data incomparable.  But the categories asking about no homework are comparable.  Responses indicating no homework on the “usual” question in 2004 were: 2% for age 9-year-olds, 5% for 13 year olds, and 12% for 17-year-olds.  These figures are much less than the ones reported in Table 2-1 above.  The “yesterday” data appear to overstate the proportion of students typically receiving no homework.

The story is different for the “heavy homework load” response categories.  The “usual” question reported similar percentages as the “yesterday” question.  The categories representing the most amount of homework were “more than one hour” for age 9 and “more than two hours” for ages 13 and 17.   In 2004, 12% of 9-year-olds said they had more than one hour of daily homework, while 8% of 13-year-olds and 12% of 17-year-olds said they had more than two hours.  For all three age groups, those figures declined from1986 to 2004. The decline for age 17 was quite large, falling from 17% in 1986 to 12% in 2004.  

The bottom line: regardless of how the question is posed, NAEP data do not support the view that the homework burden is growing, nor do they support the belief that the proportion of students with a lot of homework has increased in recent years.  The proportion of students with no homework is probably under-reported on the long-term trend NAEP.  But the upper bound of students with more than two hours of daily homework appears to be about 15%–and that is for students in their final years of high school.

College Freshmen Look Back  

There is another good source of information on high school students’ homework over several decades.  The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA conducts an annual survey of college freshmen that began in 1966.  In 1986, the survey started asking a series of questions regarding how students spent time in the final year of high school.  Figure 2-1 shows the 2012 percentages for the dominant activities.  More than half of college freshmen say they spent at least six hours per week socializing with friends (66.2%) and exercising/sports (53.0%).  About 40% devoted that much weekly time to paid employment.

Figure 21

Homework comes in fourth pace. Only 38.4% of students said they spent at least six hours per week studying or doing homework. When these students were high school seniors, it was not an activity central to their out of school lives.  That is quite surprising.  Think about it.  The survey is confined to the nation’s best students, those attending college.  Gone are high school dropouts.  Also not included are students who go into the military or attain full time employment immediately after high school.  And yet only a little more than one-third of the sampled students, devoted more than six hours per week to homework and studying when they were on the verge of attending college.

Another notable finding from the UCLA survey is how the statistic is trending (see Figure 2-2).  In 1986, 49.5% reported spending six or more hours per week studying and doing homework.  By 2002, the proportion had dropped to 33.4%.  In 2012, as noted in Figure 2-1, the statistic had bounced off the historical lows to reach 38.4%.  It is slowly rising but still sits sharply below where it was in 1987.

Figure 22

What Do Parents Think?

Met Life has published an annual survey of teachers since 1984.  In 1987 and 2007, the survey included questions focusing on homework and expanded to sample both parents and students on the topic. Data are broken out for secondary and elementary parents and for students in grades 3-6 and grades 7-12 (the latter not being an exact match with secondary parents because of K-8 schools).

Table 2-2 shows estimates of homework from the 2007 survey.  Respondents were asked to estimate the amount of homework on a typical school day (Monday-Friday).  The median estimate of each group of respondents is shaded.  As displayed in the first column, the median estimate for parents of an elementary student is that their child devotes about 30 minutes to homework on the typical weekday.  Slightly more than half (52%) estimate 30 minutes or less; 48% estimate 45 minutes or more.  Students in grades 3-6 (third column) give a median estimate that is a bit higher than their parents’ (45 minutes), with almost two-thirds (63%) saying 45 minutes or less is the typical weekday homework load.

Table 22

One hour of homework is the median estimate for both secondary parents and students in grade 7-12, with 55% of parents reporting an hour or less and about two-thirds (67%) of students reporting the same.  As for the prevalence of the heaviest homework loads, 11% of secondary parents say their children spend more than two hours on weekday homework, and 12% is the corresponding figure for students in grades 7-12.

The Met Life surveys in 1987 and 2007 asked parents to evaluate the amount and quality of homework.  Table 2-3 displays the results.  There was little change over the two decades separating the two surveys.  More than 60% of parents rate the amount of homework as good or excellent, and about two-thirds give such high ratings to the quality of the homework their children are receiving.  The proportion giving poor ratings to either the quantity or quality of homework did not exceed 10% on either survey.

Table23

Parental dissatisfaction with homework comes in two forms: those who feel schools give too much homework and those who feel schools do not give enough.  The current wave of journalism about unhappy parents is dominated by those who feel schools give too much homework.  How big is this group?  Not very big (see Figure 2-3). On the Met Life survey, 60% of parents felt schools were giving the right amount of homework, 25% wanted more homework, and only 15% wanted less.

Figure 23

National surveys on homework are infrequent, but the 2006-2007 period had more than one.  A poll conducted by Public Agenda in 2006 reported similar numbers as the Met Life survey: 68% of parents describing the homework load as “about right,” 20% saying there is “too little homework,” and 11% saying there is “too much homework.”  A 2006 AP-AOL poll found the highest percentage of parents reporting too much homework, 19%.  But even in that poll, they were outnumbered by parents believing there is too little homework (23%), and a clear majority (57%) described the load as “about right.”  A 2010 local survey of Chicago parents conducted by the Chicago Tribune reported figures similar to those reported above: approximately two-thirds of parents saying their children’s homework load is “about right,” 21% saying it’s not enough, and 12% responding that the homework load is too much.

Summary and Discussion

In recent years, the press has been filled with reports of kids over-burdened with homework and parents rebelling against their children’s oppressive workload. The data assembled above call into question whether that portrait is accurate for the typical American family.  Homework typically takes an hour per night.  The homework burden of students rarely exceeds two hours a night.  The upper limit of students with two or more hours per night is about 15% nationally—and that is for juniors or seniors in high school.  For younger children, the upper boundary is about 10% who have such a heavy load.  Polls show that parents who want less homework range from 10%-20%, and that they are outnumbered—in every national poll on the homework question—by parents who want more homework, not less.  The majority of parents describe their children’s homework burden as about right.

So what’s going on?  Where are the homework horror stories coming from?

The Met Life survey of parents is able to give a few hints, mainly because of several questions that extend beyond homework to other aspects of schooling.  The belief that homework is burdensome is more likely held by parents with a larger set of complaints and concerns.  They are alienated from their child’s school.  About two in five parents (19%) don’t believe homework is important.  Compared to other parents, these parents are more likely to say too much homework is assigned (39% vs. 9%), that what is assigned is just busywork (57% vs. 36%), and that homework gets in the way of their family spending time together (51% vs. 15%).  They are less likely to rate the quality of homework as excellent (3% vs. 23%) or to rate the availability and responsiveness of teachers as excellent (18% vs. 38%). [vii]

They can also convince themselves that their numbers are larger than they really are.  Karl Taro Greenfeld, the author of the Atlantic article mentioned above, seems to fit that description.  “Every parent I know in New York City comments on how much homework their children have,” Mr. Greenfeld writes.  As for those parents who do not share this view? “There is always a clique of parents who are happy with the amount of homework. In fact, they would prefer more .  I tend not to get along with that type of parent.” [viii] 

Mr. Greenfeld’s daughter attends a selective exam school in Manhattan, known for its rigorous expectations and, yes, heavy homework load.  He had also complained about homework in his daughter’s previous school in Brentwood, CA.  That school was a charter school.  After Mr. Greenfeld emailed several parents expressing his complaints about homework in that school, the school’s vice-principal accused Mr. Greenfeld of cyberbullying.  The lesson here is that even schools of choice are not immune from complaints about homework.

The homework horror stories need to be read in a proper perspective.  They seem to originate from the very personal discontents of a small group of parents.  They do not reflect the experience of the average family with a school-age child.  That does not diminish these stories’ power to command the attention of school officials or even the public at large. But it also suggests a limited role for policy making in settling such disputes.  Policy is a blunt instrument.  Educators, parents, and kids are in the best position to resolve complaints about homework on a case by case basis.  Complaints about homework have existed for more than a century, and they show no signs of going away.

Part II Notes:

[i]Brian Gill and Steven Schlossman, “A Sin Against Childhood: Progressive Education and the Crusade to Abolish Homework, 1897-1941,” American Journal of Education , vol. 105, no. 1 (Nov., 1996), 27-66.  Also see Brian P. Gill and Steven L. Schlossman, “Villain or Savior? The American Discourse on Homework, 1850-2003,” Theory into Practice , 43, 3 (Summer 2004), pp. 174-181.

[ii] Bennett, Sara, and Nancy Kalish.  The Case Against Homework:  How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It   (New York:  Crown, 2006).  Buell, John.  Closing the Book on Homework: Enhancing Public Education and Freeing Family Time . (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004). Kohn, Alfie.    The Homework Myth:  Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing  (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006).  Kralovec, Etta, and John Buell.  The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning  (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000).

[iii] Hu, Winnie, “ New Recruit in Homework Revolt: The Principal ,” New York Times , June 15, 2011, page a1.

[iv] Data for other years are available on the NAEP Data Explorer.  For Table 1, the starting point of 1984 was chosen because it is the first year all three ages were asked the homework question.  The two most recent dates (2012 and 2008) were chosen to show recent changes, and the two years in the 1990s to show developments during that decade.

[v] NAEP’s sampling design lessens the probability of skewing the homework figure.  Students are randomly drawn from a school population, meaning that an entire class is not tested.  Teachers would have to either single out NAEP students for special homework treatment or change their established homework routine for the whole class just to shelter NAEP participants from homework.  Sampling designs that draw entact classrooms for testing (such as TIMSS) would be more vulnerable to this effect.  Moreover, students in middle and high school usually have several different teachers during the day, meaning that prior knowledge of a particular student’s participation in NAEP would probably be limited to one or two teachers.

[vi] NAEP Question B003801 for 9 year olds and B003901 for 13- and 17-year olds.

[vii] Met Life, Met Life Survey of the American Teacher: The Homework Experience , November 13, 2007, pp. 21-22.

[viii] Greenfeld, Karl Taro, “ My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me ,” The Atlantic , September 18, 2013.

Education Policy K-12 Education

Governance Studies

Brown Center on Education Policy

Dick Startz

February 29, 2024

Zsófia L. Bárány, Pauline Corblet, Moshe Buchinsky

February 26, 2024

Ashley Edwards, Justin Ortagus, Jonathan Smith, Andria Smythe

February 22, 2024

The Cult of Homework

America’s devotion to the practice stems in part from the fact that it’s what today’s parents and teachers grew up with themselves.

what is homework in education

America has long had a fickle relationship with homework. A century or so ago, progressive reformers argued that it made kids unduly stressed , which later led in some cases to district-level bans on it for all grades under seventh. This anti-homework sentiment faded, though, amid mid-century fears that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union (which led to more homework), only to resurface in the 1960s and ’70s, when a more open culture came to see homework as stifling play and creativity (which led to less). But this didn’t last either: In the ’80s, government researchers blamed America’s schools for its economic troubles and recommended ramping homework up once more.

The 21st century has so far been a homework-heavy era, with American teenagers now averaging about twice as much time spent on homework each day as their predecessors did in the 1990s . Even little kids are asked to bring school home with them. A 2015 study , for instance, found that kindergarteners, who researchers tend to agree shouldn’t have any take-home work, were spending about 25 minutes a night on it.

But not without pushback. As many children, not to mention their parents and teachers, are drained by their daily workload, some schools and districts are rethinking how homework should work—and some teachers are doing away with it entirely. They’re reviewing the research on homework (which, it should be noted, is contested) and concluding that it’s time to revisit the subject.

Read: My daughter’s homework is killing me

Hillsborough, California, an affluent suburb of San Francisco, is one district that has changed its ways. The district, which includes three elementary schools and a middle school, worked with teachers and convened panels of parents in order to come up with a homework policy that would allow students more unscheduled time to spend with their families or to play. In August 2017, it rolled out an updated policy, which emphasized that homework should be “meaningful” and banned due dates that fell on the day after a weekend or a break.

“The first year was a bit bumpy,” says Louann Carlomagno, the district’s superintendent. She says the adjustment was at times hard for the teachers, some of whom had been doing their job in a similar fashion for a quarter of a century. Parents’ expectations were also an issue. Carlomagno says they took some time to “realize that it was okay not to have an hour of homework for a second grader—that was new.”

Most of the way through year two, though, the policy appears to be working more smoothly. “The students do seem to be less stressed based on conversations I’ve had with parents,” Carlomagno says. It also helps that the students performed just as well on the state standardized test last year as they have in the past.

Earlier this year, the district of Somerville, Massachusetts, also rewrote its homework policy, reducing the amount of homework its elementary and middle schoolers may receive. In grades six through eight, for example, homework is capped at an hour a night and can only be assigned two to three nights a week.

Jack Schneider, an education professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell whose daughter attends school in Somerville, is generally pleased with the new policy. But, he says, it’s part of a bigger, worrisome pattern. “The origin for this was general parental dissatisfaction, which not surprisingly was coming from a particular demographic,” Schneider says. “Middle-class white parents tend to be more vocal about concerns about homework … They feel entitled enough to voice their opinions.”

Schneider is all for revisiting taken-for-granted practices like homework, but thinks districts need to take care to be inclusive in that process. “I hear approximately zero middle-class white parents talking about how homework done best in grades K through two actually strengthens the connection between home and school for young people and their families,” he says. Because many of these parents already feel connected to their school community, this benefit of homework can seem redundant. “They don’t need it,” Schneider says, “so they’re not advocating for it.”

That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that homework is more vital in low-income districts. In fact, there are different, but just as compelling, reasons it can be burdensome in these communities as well. Allison Wienhold, who teaches high-school Spanish in the small town of Dunkerton, Iowa, has phased out homework assignments over the past three years. Her thinking: Some of her students, she says, have little time for homework because they’re working 30 hours a week or responsible for looking after younger siblings.

As educators reduce or eliminate the homework they assign, it’s worth asking what amount and what kind of homework is best for students. It turns out that there’s some disagreement about this among researchers, who tend to fall in one of two camps.

In the first camp is Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Cooper conducted a review of the existing research on homework in the mid-2000s , and found that, up to a point, the amount of homework students reported doing correlates with their performance on in-class tests. This correlation, the review found, was stronger for older students than for younger ones.

This conclusion is generally accepted among educators, in part because it’s compatible with “the 10-minute rule,” a rule of thumb popular among teachers suggesting that the proper amount of homework is approximately 10 minutes per night, per grade level—that is, 10 minutes a night for first graders, 20 minutes a night for second graders, and so on, up to two hours a night for high schoolers.

In Cooper’s eyes, homework isn’t overly burdensome for the typical American kid. He points to a 2014 Brookings Institution report that found “little evidence that the homework load has increased for the average student”; onerous amounts of homework, it determined, are indeed out there, but relatively rare. Moreover, the report noted that most parents think their children get the right amount of homework, and that parents who are worried about under-assigning outnumber those who are worried about over-assigning. Cooper says that those latter worries tend to come from a small number of communities with “concerns about being competitive for the most selective colleges and universities.”

According to Alfie Kohn, squarely in camp two, most of the conclusions listed in the previous three paragraphs are questionable. Kohn, the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing , considers homework to be a “reliable extinguisher of curiosity,” and has several complaints with the evidence that Cooper and others cite in favor of it. Kohn notes, among other things, that Cooper’s 2006 meta-analysis doesn’t establish causation, and that its central correlation is based on children’s (potentially unreliable) self-reporting of how much time they spend doing homework. (Kohn’s prolific writing on the subject alleges numerous other methodological faults.)

In fact, other correlations make a compelling case that homework doesn’t help. Some countries whose students regularly outperform American kids on standardized tests, such as Japan and Denmark, send their kids home with less schoolwork , while students from some countries with higher homework loads than the U.S., such as Thailand and Greece, fare worse on tests. (Of course, international comparisons can be fraught because so many factors, in education systems and in societies at large, might shape students’ success.)

Kohn also takes issue with the way achievement is commonly assessed. “If all you want is to cram kids’ heads with facts for tomorrow’s tests that they’re going to forget by next week, yeah, if you give them more time and make them do the cramming at night, that could raise the scores,” he says. “But if you’re interested in kids who know how to think or enjoy learning, then homework isn’t merely ineffective, but counterproductive.”

His concern is, in a way, a philosophical one. “The practice of homework assumes that only academic growth matters, to the point that having kids work on that most of the school day isn’t enough,” Kohn says. What about homework’s effect on quality time spent with family? On long-term information retention? On critical-thinking skills? On social development? On success later in life? On happiness? The research is quiet on these questions.

Another problem is that research tends to focus on homework’s quantity rather than its quality, because the former is much easier to measure than the latter. While experts generally agree that the substance of an assignment matters greatly (and that a lot of homework is uninspiring busywork), there isn’t a catchall rule for what’s best—the answer is often specific to a certain curriculum or even an individual student.

Given that homework’s benefits are so narrowly defined (and even then, contested), it’s a bit surprising that assigning so much of it is often a classroom default, and that more isn’t done to make the homework that is assigned more enriching. A number of things are preserving this state of affairs—things that have little to do with whether homework helps students learn.

Jack Schneider, the Massachusetts parent and professor, thinks it’s important to consider the generational inertia of the practice. “The vast majority of parents of public-school students themselves are graduates of the public education system,” he says. “Therefore, their views of what is legitimate have been shaped already by the system that they would ostensibly be critiquing.” In other words, many parents’ own history with homework might lead them to expect the same for their children, and anything less is often taken as an indicator that a school or a teacher isn’t rigorous enough. (This dovetails with—and complicates—the finding that most parents think their children have the right amount of homework.)

Barbara Stengel, an education professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, brought up two developments in the educational system that might be keeping homework rote and unexciting. The first is the importance placed in the past few decades on standardized testing, which looms over many public-school classroom decisions and frequently discourages teachers from trying out more creative homework assignments. “They could do it, but they’re afraid to do it, because they’re getting pressure every day about test scores,” Stengel says.

Second, she notes that the profession of teaching, with its relatively low wages and lack of autonomy, struggles to attract and support some of the people who might reimagine homework, as well as other aspects of education. “Part of why we get less interesting homework is because some of the people who would really have pushed the limits of that are no longer in teaching,” she says.

“In general, we have no imagination when it comes to homework,” Stengel says. She wishes teachers had the time and resources to remake homework into something that actually engages students. “If we had kids reading—anything, the sports page, anything that they’re able to read—that’s the best single thing. If we had kids going to the zoo, if we had kids going to parks after school, if we had them doing all of those things, their test scores would improve. But they’re not. They’re going home and doing homework that is not expanding what they think about.”

“Exploratory” is one word Mike Simpson used when describing the types of homework he’d like his students to undertake. Simpson is the head of the Stone Independent School, a tiny private high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that opened in 2017. “We were lucky to start a school a year and a half ago,” Simpson says, “so it’s been easy to say we aren’t going to assign worksheets, we aren’t going assign regurgitative problem sets.” For instance, a half-dozen students recently built a 25-foot trebuchet on campus.

Simpson says he thinks it’s a shame that the things students have to do at home are often the least fulfilling parts of schooling: “When our students can’t make the connection between the work they’re doing at 11 o’clock at night on a Tuesday to the way they want their lives to be, I think we begin to lose the plot.”

When I talked with other teachers who did homework makeovers in their classrooms, I heard few regrets. Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Joshua, Texas, stopped assigning take-home packets of worksheets three years ago, and instead started asking her students to do 20 minutes of pleasure reading a night. She says she’s pleased with the results, but she’s noticed something funny. “Some kids,” she says, “really do like homework.” She’s started putting out a bucket of it for students to draw from voluntarily—whether because they want an additional challenge or something to pass the time at home.

Chris Bronke, a high-school English teacher in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, told me something similar. This school year, he eliminated homework for his class of freshmen, and now mostly lets students study on their own or in small groups during class time. It’s usually up to them what they work on each day, and Bronke has been impressed by how they’ve managed their time.

In fact, some of them willingly spend time on assignments at home, whether because they’re particularly engaged, because they prefer to do some deeper thinking outside school, or because they needed to spend time in class that day preparing for, say, a biology test the following period. “They’re making meaningful decisions about their time that I don’t think education really ever gives students the experience, nor the practice, of doing,” Bronke said.

The typical prescription offered by those overwhelmed with homework is to assign less of it—to subtract. But perhaps a more useful approach, for many classrooms, would be to create homework only when teachers and students believe it’s actually needed to further the learning that takes place in class—to start with nothing, and add as necessary.

Part 7: The First Week of School

What is the ideal amount of homework to assign.

A typical school day in the United States is six to six and half hours long. During this time, teachers are required to teach four to five core subjects, including math, English, science, and history. In addition, they must find time to include the fundamental supplementary subjects. These supplementary subjects include, but are not limited to, physical education, health, art, music, and foreign language. In these six hours, lunch and recess must also take place. Because of the large curriculum and the limited time, many teachers assign homework.

What is Homework?

Homework is work assigned to students, by teachers, to be completed outside of the school. “It is used as an instructional supplement to classroom teaching.” (6) Although it is not required, homework is typically counted as part of the students’ grade. “The U.S. is one of the few nations where teachers include homework scores as an element of course grades.” (2) Forms, objectives, and lengths of homework vary. A large debate surrounds the importance of homework and the time restraints it places on today’s students.

History of the Homework Debate

The debate over the importance of homework is not a new one. It has been debated since the late 1800s. Between the late 1800s and the mid 1900s some cities in the United States banned homework on the account that it was affecting the health of children; “many thought (homework) was an overemphasis on at-home drill and memorization”.(2) Children were spending so much time on schoolwork and homework that they were mentally and physically exhausted. However, in the 1950s and ’60s homework loads began to increase. The government felt that the “United States was becoming less economically competitive” (2). A major event that sparked these notions was the Russians’ launch of the Sputnik satellite (7). This increase of homework lasted until the 1970s, in which it once again made a drastic decline. In the 1980s the load once again begins to increase (2). This time it is due to the incompetence on international tests. In 2002, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act under President George W. Bush. Under this act, teachers and administrators are required to submit their school’s achievements on state standardized test to the federal government. Failure to comply or to reach the goals set forth by the state leads to a range of consequences. The most severe consequence is the replacement of staff in those failing schools. According to the NCLB Act, all students must be proficient in math and reading by 2014 (2).

Types of Homework

Homework is assigned in a multitude of varieties. Some assignments include reading specific content, problems at the end of a chapter, worksheets, research papers, and creative projects. Teachers may assign daily homework in which the assignment is to be completed and turned in on the following school day. Alternatively, teachers may assign long-term assignments; giving the students a week or more to complete the assignment. Homework assignments can be used to reinforce lessons taught in class, or elaborate on briefly introduced material (2). In addition, homework assignments may be used to prepare the students for an upcoming lesson (5).

Purpose of Homework

“Different homework assignments serve different purposes, so it is important to consider the goal of each exercise.” (5) Some valid purposes of homework assignments include knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. (5) Homework assigned to reinforce lessons gives students the opportunity to practice newly acquired skills. They also help teachers assess the students’ understanding and comprehension of the lessons. Homework assigned to elaborate on newly introduced material requires students to take initiative and learn independently. This type of assignments also allows teachers to introduce more material throughout the school year. Homework assignments designed as preparation for upcoming lessons introduces the lesson to the students beforehand and therefore increases their ability to comprehend it. All of these reasons are intended to have a direct effect on students’ learning and academic performances. In addition to these academic lessons, homework results in positive non-academic lessons. Homework teaches the values of responsibility, good work-study habits, time management, initiative, and motivation. “Perhaps the most important advantage of homework is that it can enhance achievement by extending learning beyond the school day.” (8)

The Effects of Homework

Does the amount of homework assigned have an impact on the academic success of students? Unfortunately, there is no straightforward concrete answer. Research shows that homework affects students differently depending on their age and grade level. The effect of homework on academic success increases as age and grade levels increase. The National Education Association and the National Teacher Association endorse a 10 minute per grade rule of thumb (2). This rule of thumb suggests that first graders should be assigned approximately ten minutes of homework, second graders about twenty, and twelfth graders about two hours.

Elementary School

Although homework has the least effect on elementary aged students, research shows that the homework loads have increased in the elementary schools over the last decade (2). “Research shows little evidence that homework improves learning or school achievement for children in the early grades.” (2) Students at this age have a limited attention span and grasp of study skills. A vast amount of homework may actually inhibit their academic achievement; “it can be counter productive, children will show signs of fatigue and frustration”. (7) Homework, in moderation, is more important at this age level to foster good work-study habits and teach self-motivation and responsibility.

Middle School

Research is inconclusive on regards to the effects of homework on middle school students. However, research does show that middle school is the stage of school that our students began falling behind on an international level; “by middle school U.S. scores begin to fall (on international achievement tests)” (2).

High School

Homework has the most effect on the academic success of high school students. There is a correlation between homework and scores on achievement tests and overall grades. (6) Following the ten-minute rule of thumb, the optimal amount of homework for high school students is approximately two hours. The more the better does not apply after two hours. Each added hour doing homework shows a smaller pay off in achievement (6).

Too Much or Too Little

A major debate surrounds the effect and time restriction that homework has on school-aged children. Should homework be required? How much is too much? Critics against required homework argue that if students are assigned too much homework it leaves no time for family, extra curricular activities, and play. “Research shows (these activities) are more highly correlated with cognitive development and achievement than is homework.”(2) Too much homework can lead to stress, sleep deprivation and even depression. An unreasonable amount of homework dims children’s love of learning and too much may “diminish its effectiveness or become counter productive”. (2) On the other side, critics that are for required homework argue that the schools are not assigning enough homework. “Mastering a subject or skill takes practice, and homework can provide that practice.” (5) Students have the weekends, holidays, and summer to play. The amount of time spent on academics, to include the length of school days and school years as well as time spent on homework, does not compare with other industrialized countries, such as Asia and Europe. (2) Supporters of homework argue that homework adds to study time, and study time is the chief determinant of how much students learn. (2)

Importance of the Type of Homework Assigned

The type of homework that a teacher assigns can have a lot to do with its effectiveness. “Even more important than how much homework is what kind.” (2) If students are required to complete repetitive, long, ill thought out assignments, the knowledge they gain by doing so is minimal (8). For example, if there are 40 math problems assigned focusing on the same material, a student that knows the material may feel that it is repetitive and pointless. On the other hand, a student that is having a hard time with the material may get frustrated and disengaged. An approach taken by many teachers to avoid these issues is to use the five-problem rule recommended by the U.S. Department of Education (2). This rule suggests that teachers should not assign more than five problems of any given content. Five problems are enough to assess weather a student comprehends the material or not. Furthermore, “if a child who did not get the right idea in class slogs through thirty problems, she is just cementing the wrong method in her brain” (2).

Teachers must carefully plan and assign homework in a way that maximizes the potential for student success (2). Not all students learn the same way. Students may be visual, verbal, or logical learners. Teachers need to be aware of the different learning strengths of their students and vary the types of homework they assign to include all types of learning styles. In addition, assignments must be realistic in length and difficulty (8). First graders should not be expected to learn twenty-five seven-letter words for a spelling test. Teachers need to take in to account their students logical and mental capabilities. Teachers should limit assignments to important and thoughtful ones (2). They should not assign homework just because it is expected by the parents and/or students. Generally, students complete their assignments because of expectations, as opposed to the educational gain they will receive by doing so. Keeping this in mind, teachers should assign homework that will keep the students interested while expanding their knowledge.

Homework is a hot-button topic in education. Some view homework as a needless waste of time and effort, and source of tremendous stress for students; while, others view it as an excellent study and review tool. As a middle school teacher, I see it as a way for my students to hone the information they learned in class and also continually spiral back to retain information learned previously. Also, it can be used as a way to introduce new topics and peak interest in a student. It is a valuable resource one can use to their advantage. However, it should not be a determining factor in a student’s grade point or average, as it is merely a tool and not a fundamental aspect of any course; the heart of the material should be assessed and covered in class. In fact, many teachers refuse to even assign homework as it is understood that students rarely complete it or put great effort into it. Whatever one’s feeling regarding homework, there is a definite ‘best’ method one can employ to reap the full benefits of homework. As pointed out by the National Education Association, “ensuring students’ success is a shared responsibility” (NEA, 2006, p. 2). That is, as parents and educators, we should be utilizing every avenue available to us to assist our students in their journey for academic success. As the achievement gap becomes a gorge the world grows ever more competitive and unforgiving. So, what can we do to make homework work? First, we can be prepared. Secondly, be on the same page as the instructor or teacher—understand their policy. Thirdly, be accessible and willing to model your expectations. Also, utilize all of your resources and stay in touch. Finally, foster learning even outside of school. (NEA, 2006, p. 1-3).

Multiple Choice Questions

Click to reveal the answer.

Homework has the greatest positive effects on…

C. High school students

Which of the following is not a valid purpose of assigning homework?

B. Punishment

The effectiveness of homework depends on the type assigned.

Which of the following is a value that homework teaches?

D. All of the above

Ms. Jackson is a 6th grade teacher. She often gives her students brief assignments for homework that pique their interest and goes back to information in the beginning if the year. This is an example of someone using homework to

B. Be a valuable review resource.

With homework, it is important to

D. Be accessible and willing to model your expectations.

Mr. Anderson is a third grade teacher. For homework he gives each child an old magazine. The students are to circle at least ten proper nouns they come across. They started proper nouns one day earlier. What is one thing we can say about Mr. Anderson’s choice of homework?

C. The assignment is good practice for the students, but should not be graded because it is such a new concept.

Essay Question

Click to reveal sample responses.

In having the opportunity to teach high school students, I have also had the chance to develop homework policies for my students. Homework is considered a tool to reinforce new and existing material that has been learned within the classroom. My class used computers for 90% of their class assignments. Homework consists of work that can be completed outside of class, without using a computer. By completing the assignments this allows students to become independent learners, as they work on self discipline and prepare themselves for higher academia. Students receive points for completing homework; however, they do not receive a grade for homework. The points that the students receive are incentive points and are translated into extra credit points for taking time to complete assignments outside of class. Students are assigned long-term projects. The long-term projects can be completed outside of class; however, students have enough time within class to complete the assigned project. The purpose for allowing students to complete long-term projects in class is to be able to support the student’s questions, concerns and or ideas.

Students who do not take the opportunity to complete assignments outside of class do not receive any points. The points are not averaged into grades; but, by completing homework assignments students will have additional points to add to their original grade. The points that are added to the original grade can make a difference between a B or an A, or a D or a C. Students do not have any other opportunities to receive extra credit; therefore, all students make an effort to complete the homework assignments that are assigned to them.

I plan to teach Kindergarten and I don’t think that I will be giving them homework unless it is something that isn’t too time consuming such as reading a story to a parent. I feel that students work hard enough at school and they need time to relax and be kids. Students are in school for six or six and a half hours five days a week. That’s a lot of time to be learning new things. I think that homework should be different at different grade levels. For example if I was teaching sixth grade then they would definitely have to have homework. Subjects such as math require homework because you need to make sure you understand the material. Some teachers take the homework overboard though, because some teachers forget that the students have other classes and want to give them tons of work to do. When this happens the students are doing homework all night and don’t get much of a break; especially if they are involved in extra-curricular activates. That is why I think that homework should only be given if necessary. —Katherine Owen

If I was a teacher for school I would give my students homework but I would not collect it. A lot of teachers give out homework and then they collect it for part of the student’s grade. Homework should always be offered but it should not be graded because homework is suppose to help students learn the information better so if a student does not do their homework and gets a bad grade on the test then that would be their fault. Students would then realize that even though homework is not collected you should still do it so you will be able to do well on your test. Another reason why I would not collect it for a grade is so the student can have more time studying for a class that he needs help in, because if a student knows the information and gets homework on that information then its a waste of time and that would take time from him studying for a class maybe he is struggling on. When I was a teacher I hated teachers that gave out a lot of homework and collected it for a grade because it takes all of your time. I feel like a student has been in school for 8 hours of the day, so they should get some free time and enjoy being a kid, not going straight home and cracking down on the books for another couple hours. —Kurt Johnson

I believe that homework is a crucial part of the learning process. It gives children a chance to attempt problems on their own. This allows them to discover their weaknesses and strengths before a test is given. It will also helps the children to learn valuable study skills. In addition, assigning homework gives parents a chance to become involved in what their children are learning. Parents’ support is crucial to the education of younger children. When I become a teacher, I definitely plan on assigning homework. However, I will do it in moderation. I believe that the 10 minutes per grade level rule is an excellent amount. Younger children should not be expected to spend as much time as older children on homework.

I would not assign homework over the weekends or during holiday breaks. Everyone needs a break now and then so that they do not become “burned out”. Also, with this break and rest from school work, the children will return feeling refreshed and ready to start learning again. I also think that long term assignments are a great learning tool. Children can begin these assignments and work on them little by little as they learn new skills. This would help the children see the progress of their knowledge and help them to realize how their lessons are related. —Kristy Currin

As a future fourth grade teacher, I plan to assign a minimal amount of homework. I intend to allow class time to complete assignments. If the student does not use his or her time wisely, then the work will have to be completed as homework. However, I realize that there will be occasions when assignments will have to be completed at home due to disruptions in the school day, such as assemblies. Also, due to extracurricular activities, many students have to rush to complete homework in order to get to participate in the activity or parents do the work for them just to get it done. If students have to rush through their work, they will not learn the necessary material, which will create problems for the student later. When students do their homework during class, I know whose work I will be grading. Another reason I plan to assign a minimal amount of homework is because I believe children need time to be children. If they have to go home and complete two hour’s worth of homework, when will they have time to play? In addition to getting their exercise, children learn when they are able to play and explore outdoors, which creates a happy, healthy child and a successful student. —Amanda Hughes

I plan on teaching 3rd grade and I think homework is a great opportunity to do some work on their own time. This can also teach the students good time management and how not to procrastinate. I do not plan on assigning a lot of homework but I believe it’s an important learning skill. Homework also gives the parents an idea of what their children are learning in class and what their children’s learning level is at. I also intend on giving students time in class to do their assignments and if they do not finish them in class they will have to finish at home. This also gives the students the opportunity to ask me questions if they have any. I think that homework is a good idea and I intend on giving some, but maybe not on the weekends. —Diane Berry

I plan to be a third grade teacher. At that age, I think it’s important to not give an overload of homework. Some homework is inevitable. It is a great opportunity to see how the students work without the teacher’s help, and their parents get to see how and what they are learning in school. However, I think children do enough work during the school day. When they go home at the end of the day, they should be able to play and enjoy their time away from school. Family time is also important for the development of small children. There is plenty of time in the school day for them to complete all their work and stay on track with the students from other classrooms that are given homework every night. If the student doesn’t complete the given classwork in school, then it school be completed at home, but as a teacher I would try to my best to not give homework. —Whitney Medeiros

As a future high school or middle school history and government teacher, homework will be an important part of my class. I believe that at those ages, students should be serious about their education and willing to do outside of the classroom work in order to enhance their learning. Teachers do not give homework just to give it. Homework is given to supplement the present lesson or to get students to think about the next lesson they will be going over. I believe that some homework assignments can also help students because some people learn better on their own and it also helps reinforce what they have already learned. In my class, there will most likely be a lot of essay questions, reading and paper writing. I not only want my students to learn about history and government, but also use the tools they have learned in other classes such as English. Most likely I will have my students read a section in the book before we go over it, just so they have a basic understanding of the material. After we cover the material, they will complete worksheets that correspond. Any assignments that are not finished in class will be considered homework. I will also have my students complete long term assignments, such as a term paper. I do not want to assign my class loads of homework each night because I know that there will be some students who will not complete the work, but students who do complete homework assignments will be rewarded. Homework grades will be a small portion of the final grades for students, so they need to take it seriously. —Tara Saylor

I plan to be a kindergarten teacher. I will probably not assign that much homework to them. Children are in school for a long enough period during the day that at such a young age I don’t think that it is necessary for them to be assigned work to do at home. I plan on giving them a few activities to complete at home though, but I will make sure it is all things that they would enjoy. By working with young children, I have observed that when they are in kindergarten they actually think it’s kind of “cool” to have homework. It makes them feel older and gives them a sense of accomplishment. I also feel that if they have some homework it will give the children a chance to ask their parents questions. By doing so parents (or guardians) and children can have a chance to spend time together and talk about what the child is learning in school. Although I feel that homework can be very essential to students at higher grade levels, I feel that in elementary school homework should be used to reinforce what was learned during the school day and give a chance for parents and children to spend time together at home. I do not believe that children (especially in elementary schools) should have so much work to take home that it makes going home a stressful event. —Marinda Gregory

Some people dislike the idea of homework and they say that it’s a waste of time and it is not an effective way to reinforce material. I believe that homework can be a really useful tool in the classroom and I think that it will benefit my students in the long run. I plan to become a Spanish teacher, and learning a language other than one’s own can be difficult, so I will give my students homework so they can get a grasp of the concepts presented to them. It is easy for kids to forget what they are taught, especially when a plethora of new ideas are thrown at them over the course of six hours a day, so my homework assignments will help them retain information and practice using the language outside of the classroom. I will not, however, make homework a major part of my student’s grades. Homework will only be mandatory if students fail to show mastery of a skill on tests or quizzes. If they maintain at least a “B” and aren’t showing any problems, then they do not have to do the assignment if they don’t want to. I don’t think it is a good idea to make students do homework if it doesn’t help them learn anything new. If their grades are not up to par then they will have required homework assignments until their quiz or test grades are adequate. This will keep them on task and then they will be rewarded in the end for making progress. —Lauren Spindle

First and foremost, I am not a big fan of long, drawn out homework assignments. I do not believe they enhance learning or lead to better comprehension of material (in agreement with this article). For my classrooms, I will only assign homework as needed. When we are working on math problems, which require practice, I will assign a few (no more than five) for my students to practice after school. Spelling words or simple papers will be the maximum for my language arts classes. All other topics will have assignments on an as needed basis. I hope to be able to cover all material and reach my students in class, without the need for after school work. The higher grade levels will require more homework, due to the amount of material that must be covered. For example, fifth graders are required to learn many more difficult topics than first graders, but their attention span and cognitive abilities are also greater. I had many friends who became “burnt out” from large homework loads and will make it a goal of mine to limit the amount of homework I assign. If I were to teach high school, obviously the workload would be higher. These students are preparing for college and must learn how to properly manage time and complete multiple assignments on time. The length of time we are given with our students is adequate, but reinforcement of skills will still be necessary. Therefore, it will be necessary to assign some homework, but it is still my job to teach the material and I intend to do so in class and without the need of learning skills at home. There is no way to get around studying for tests, but if the material is presented properly study time should be minimal. Homework will be solely for reinforcement of skills and practice. —April K. Smith

I would like the opportunity to teach second grade. I would assign homework to my students but only work that is manageable and acceptable. Personally, I believe homework should be a review and work that can be done. Too often homework has been work that takes hours or discourages students. I can remember doing homework in elementary school and feeling hopeless. The homework was overwhelming and took hours, when it should not have. Throughout middle and high school homework was the same. I spent way too long doing it and it became draining. Homework should be a review from that day’s lesson and not teach something new. My policy would be homework would be nightly and work from that day could help with the assignments. I know now, I would ask students to read every night but I would never ask them to read something out of the ordinary knowing they cannot read it. I believe in homework but it should be used when needed and necessary. —Meryl Cox

I am currently teaching twelfth grade honors English at Menchville High School in Newport News. This is my second year teaching this class and, with the help of the other honors English teacher, I have adopted very specific homework policies that I think are very effective. I spent last year perfecting these policies, and this year, I have found it even easier to enforce. My seniors have reading homework almost every night. It usually is not an excessive amount, but at the same time, it is difficult reading that requires a certain degree of effort and hard work. When they complain, I remind them that the point of this class is to prepare them for life after high school. Because it is an honors class, it is expected that the majority of these students will go on to college next year. Those who don’t will be entering the work force or the military, and like in college, they will have certain duties they will be expected to complete. The homework assignments are designed to make them think on their own and prepare them for life after high school. With every reading assignment, they know there is a possibility for a quiz the following class period. Failing several quizzes in a row as a result of not doing homework, will significantly lower a student’s grade. Therefore, they are much more likely to do the reading because they don’t want their grades to drop. —Erin Eudy

I am going to be a music teacher which will not require assigning homework, but I would also like to teach music theory which would. This would be a high school class. This subject is one that is very methodical and can only be learned through working out written examples. While taking music theory in high school about twenty minutes of homework was a sufficient amount for the class to master the material, generally. I would try to assign only that much, especially since I know the core classes would be assigning more and I wouldn’t want my students to get stressed out. However, if I didn’t feel enough material was covered during class, I would assign more. Homework is something to aid in the learning process, in my opinion, and it should not be assigned just for homework’s sake, so I would keep that in mind as well. Also, I would check the homework to see whether or not the students made an attempt and that would determine their grade, not how well they did it. However, I would edit them for mistakes to make sure they understand the material. Homework is a learning experience and the student should not be faulted if they don’t understand something. —Brittany Cannon

As a high school Spanish teacher, I think that it would be necessary to have homework for the students on a regular basis so that they get time to practice the language that they are learning. There is no way they will be able to learn the language if they only ever use it or think about it just in class, so I know that I would have homework for my kids every week. That said, I also think that I would be lenient in the homework that I give. It would follow the ten minute rule for the most part and be a review of the things that we learned in class that day, either some sort of grammar or vocabulary assignment. I would work with the children who were having trouble with the activity and use the homework in class as a review so that they get the opportunity to learn from each other and from me. I would also make sure that I know my kids well and know their backgrounds and stories so that I can work with children who do not have time or maybe a place at home to complete their homework, or have to work to help support their family. I think it is important to be firm in making students do homework as a review, but there will always be exceptions to that rule, there will always be students with special needs that you will have to work with so that they are able to succeed in the class and I think it is important to remember that when assigning homework especially. —Jessie Neumann

I am going to teach math at the high school level. Math is a subject that must be practiced at home to make sure the student can solve a problem on their own. I am also a mother of two children who are both in elementary school. I feel homework is very important for students no matter what the grade. Homework should be a review of what is taught in the class and just a way for students to test their understanding of the daily lessons taught. I do not feel that giving students more tougher homework will help our students to become smarter. The above article talks about how “by middle school U.S. scores begin to fall (on international achievement tests)”. I do not believe more homework will solve this problem. I think the approach to teaching needs to change so students are learning the most up to date information possible. Technology today allows for many new and entertaining ways to teach students. I feel we need to focus more on the what and how we are teaching our kids rather than the amount of homework time. In my opinion too hard of homework or overloaded homework will many times only be completed by the students who have a strong support system at home. Sadly many times students do not have a strong support system at home. Many students do not have help on the hard homework assignments and become discouraged when they are unable to complete the assignment. Many students live for today and easily become unmotivated when they are given too much homework deciding not to do any of the homework because they feel they were given an unreasonable amount. I also feel that as important as homework is, exercise is just as important. Kids need to have time to go outside for at least an hour so they keep their bodies healthy. Students go to school for about 6 hours five days a week and even though they get holidays and summers off, it is very important that students are happy with as little stress as possible because that is how the brain learns best, according to Dr. Allen’s lecture on “The Brain”. When I teach I will only use homework as practice to ensure the students understand the material taught. —Victoria Monaghan

  • Bempechat, Janine. “The motivational benefits of homework: a social-cognitive perspective.” Theory Into Practice Summer 2004: 8pp. FindArticles. 8 Sept. 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NQM/is_3_43/ai_n6361599/print
  • Clemmitt, Marcia. “Students Under Stress.” CQ Researcher 17 (2007): 577-600. CQ Researcher Online. 2 Sept. 2007. http://library.cqpress.com.ezproxy.vccs.edu:2048/cqresearcher/cqresrre2007071300
  • Coutts, Pamela. “Meanings of homework and implications for practice.” Theory Into Practice Summer 2004: 7pp. FindArticles. 15 Sept. 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NQM/is_3_43/ai_n7069035/print
  • “Do Students Have Too Much Homework?” A Report by The Brown Center on Education Policy. Oct. 2003. The Brookings Institution. 3 Sept. 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20040427043131/http://www.brookings.edu/gs/brown/20031001homework.htm
  • Junior Science Support Service. Department of Education and Science. 6 Sept. 2007 http://juniorscience.ie/jsss/Files/se_homework.pdf
  • Keith, Timothy, Christine Diamond-Hallam, and Jodene Fine. “Longitudinal Effects of In-School and Out-of-School Homework on High School Grades.” School Psychology Quarterly 19.3 (2004): 187-211.
  • Marshall, Patrick. “Homework Debate.” CQ Researcher 12 (2002): 993-1012. CQ Researcher Online. 2 Sept. 2007 < http://library.cqpress.com.ezproxy.vccs.edu:2048/cqresearcher/cqresrre2002120600 >.
  • Marzano, Robert, and Debra Pickering. “The Case For and Against Homework.” Educational Leadership 64.6 (2007): 74-79.
  • Van Voorhis, Frances L., (2004), Reflecting on the Homework Ritual: Assignments and Designs, Theory Into Practice; Vol. 43 Issue 3.
  • The Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University Retrieved November 11, 2007 from www.csos.jhu.edu/P2000/tips/index.htm
  • National Education Association. (2006). Bridging the Great Homework Divide: A Solutions Guide for Parents of Middle School Students. http://www.nea.com . Retrieved November 8, 2007 from ERIC database.
  • Strauss, Valerie. “As Homework Grows, So Do Arguments Against It.” The Washington Post Online (2006), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/11/AR2006091100908.html
  • Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education: A Student-Authored Textbook. Authored by : Dwight W. Allen, Patrick O'Shea, and Peter Baker. Provided by : Old Dominion University. Located at : https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Social_and_Cultural_Foundations_of_American_Education . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike

Center for American Progress

Homework and Higher Standards

  • Report    PDF (736 KB)

How Homework Stacks Up to the Common Core

CAP analysis found that homework is generally aligned to Common Core State Standards, but additional policy changes would make it more valuable.

what is homework in education

Education, Education, K-12, Modernizing and Elevating the Teaching Profession

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In this article

A teenager helps her younger sister complete her math homework at their Denver home, January 2018. (Getty/The Denver Post/AAron Ontiveroz)

Introduction and summary

For as long as homework has been a part of school life in the United States, so too has the debate over its value. In 1900, a prominent magazine published an article on the evils of homework titled, “A National Crime at the Feet of Parents.” 1 The author, Edward Bok, believed that homework or too much school learning outside the classroom deprived children of critical time to play or participate in other activities at home. The very next year, California, influenced by those concerns, enacted a statewide prohibition on homework for students under the age of 15. 2 In 1917, the state lifted the ban, which has often been the case as districts have continually swung back and forth on the issue. 3

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More than 100 years later, homework remains a contentious issue, and the debate over its value rages on, with scholars coming down on both sides of the argument. Homework skeptic Alfie Kohn has questioned the benefit of homework, arguing that its positive effects are mythical, and in fact, it can disrupt the family dynamic. 4 He questions why teachers continue to assign homework given its mixed research base. Taking the opposite view, researchers Robert Marzano and Debra Pickering have voiced their support for purposeful homework that reinforces learning outside of school hours but still leaves time for other activities. 5

In 1989, prominent homework scholar Harris Cooper published a meta-analysis of more than 100 studies on homework in a survey that found a correlation between homework and performance on standardized tests, but only for certain grade levels. According to Cooper’s research, for students in late-elementary grades through high-school, there was a link between homework and improved standardized test performance. However, there was no evidence of the same correlation for younger students. 6 Even without a connection to academic achievement, Cooper still recommended assigning homework to younger students because it helps “develop good study habits, foster positive attitudes toward school, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as school.” 7

Far from academia, parents—not surprisingly—are some of homework’s most ardent supporters and, also, its most vocal critics. For better or worse, many parents help or are involved in their child’s homework in some way. As a result, homework can shape family dynamics and weeknight schedules. If a child receives too much homework, or only busywork, it can cause stress within families and resentment among parents. 8 Some parents report spending hours each night helping their children. For instance, a 2013 article in The Atlantic detailed a writer’s attempt to complete his 13-year-old daughter’s homework for a week. The headline simply read: “My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me.” 9 The father reported falling asleep trying to thoughtfully complete homework, which took around three hours per night. 10 On the other hand, some parents appreciate the glimpse into their child’s daily instruction and value homework’s ability to build positive learning habits.

It is no surprise that the debate over homework often spills onto the pages of newspapers and magazines, with calls to abolish homework regularly appearing in the headlines. In 2017, the superintendent of Marion County Public Schools in Florida joined districts in Massachusetts and Vermont in announcing a homework ban. To justify his decision, he used research from the University of Tennessee that showed that homework does not improve student achievement. 11 Most recently, in December 2018, The Wall Street Journal published a piece that argued that districts were “Down With Homework”—banning it, placing time caps or limiting it to certain days, or no longer grading it—in order to give students more time to sleep, read, and spend time with family. 12

Given the controversy long surrounding the issue of homework, in late spring 2018, the Center for American Progress conducted an online survey investigating the quality of students’ homework. The survey sought to better understand the nature of homework as well as whether the homework assigned was aligned to rigorous academic standards. Based on the best knowledge of the authors, the CAP survey and this report represent the first-ever national study of homework rigor and alignment to the Common Core State Standards—rigorous academic standards developed in a state-led process in 2010, which are currently in place in 41 states and Washington, D.C. The CAP study adds to existing research on homework by focusing on the quality of assignments rather than the overall value of homework of any type. There are previous studies that considered parental involvement and the potential stress on parents related to homework, but the authors believe that this report represents the first national study of parent attitudes toward homework. 13

For the CAP study, the authors used the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) online survey tool to collect from parents their child’s actual homework assignments. Specifically, as part of the survey, the authors asked parents to submit a sample of their child’s most recent math or language arts homework assignment and have the child complete questions to gauge if the assignment was challenging, as well as how long it took to complete the assignment. In all, 372 parents responded to the survey, with CAP analyzing 187 homework assignments.

Admittedly, the methodological approach has limitations. For one, it’s a convenience sample, which means people were not selected randomly; and broadly speaking, the population on the MTurk site is younger and whiter than the U.S. population as a whole. However, research has shown that MTurk yields high-quality, nationally representative results, with data that are at least as reliable as those obtained via traditional methods. 14

In addition, the homework sample is not from a single classroom or school over the course of a year; rather, it is a snapshot of homework across many classrooms during the span of a few weeks in May 2018. The assumption is that looking at assignments from many classrooms over a short period of time helps to construct a composite picture of mathematics and language arts homework.

Moreover, the design of the CAP study has clear advantages. Many of the previous existing studies evaluated homework in a single district, whereas the CAP study draws from a national sample, and despite its limitations, the authors believe that the findings are robust and contribute significantly to the existing research on homework.

Three key findings from the CAP survey:

  • Homework is largely aligned to the Common Core standards. The authors found that the homework submitted is mostly aligned to Common Core standards content. The alignment index that the authors used evaluated both topic and skill. As previously noted, the analysis is a snapshot of homework and, therefore, does not allow the authors to determine if homework over the course of a year covered all the topics represented in the standards.
  • Homework is often focused on low-level skills in the Common Core standards, particularly in the earlier grades. While the authors’ analysis shows that there was significant alignment between Common Core and the topics represented in the homework studied, most of the assignments were fairly rote and often did not require students to demonstrate the full depth of knowledge required of the content standards. There was clear emphasis on procedural knowledge, and an even stronger emphasis on memorization and recall in language arts. Common Core content standards, on the other hand, require students to demonstrate deeper knowledge skills, such as the ability to analyze, conceptualize, or generate. 15
  • Homework frequently fails to challenge students. Nearly half of the parents who responded to the CAP survey reported that homework is too easy for their child. In particular, parents of primary-grade children were most likely to agree or strongly agree that the homework assignment they submitted was too easy for their child.

Based on these key findings, CAP recommends that states, districts, and schools improve the quality of homework and increase opportunities for students to practice rigorous grade-level content at home. Specifically, the authors—drawing from this survey and other existing research on homework—recommend the following actions to improve the role of homework in education:

  • Schools and districts should develop homework policies that emphasize strategic, rigorous homework. In many cases, the homework debate is limited and short-sighted. Currently, many arguments focus on whether or not students should have homework at all, and there are entire school districts that have simply banned homework. Instead of debating the merits of banning homework, reformers and practitioners should focus on improving the rigor and effectiveness of all instructional materials, including

Districts, schools, and teachers should ensure that the total amount of homework students receive does not exceed the 10-minute rule—that is to say, no more than 10 minutes of homework multiplied by the student’s grade level. 16 According to research, any more than that can be counterproductive. 17 Also, too much homework may be an unnecessary burden on families and parents. Homework should be engaging and aligned to Common Core standards, which allow students to develop deeper-level learning skills—such as analysis or conceptualization—that help them increase retention of content.

  • Districts and schools should periodically audit homework to make sure it is challenging and aligned to standards. Rather than implementing homework bans, district policymakers and school principals should regularly review examples of homework assignments to ensure that it is aligned to grade-level standards and requires students to demonstrate conceptual learning. In instances where the district or school finds that homework assignments are not aligned or take too much or too little time to complete, they should help teachers improve homework assignments by recommending instructional materials that may make it easier for them to identify appropriate, grade-level homework assignments.
  • Schools and districts should provide access to technology and other supports that can make it easier for students to complete rigorous schoolwork at home. Technology can also provide additional support or scaffolding at home, allowing more students to complete homework without help from adults or older siblings. For instance, programs such as the Khan Academy can give students rigorous homework that’s aligned to Common Core standards. 18 Unfortunately, many households across the nation still do not have adequate access to devices or internet at home. Schools and districts should consider options to ensure that all students can benefit from technology and broadband. Greater access to technology can help more students benefit from continual innovation and new tools. While most of these technologies are not yet research-based, and the use of devices may not be appropriate for younger children, incorporating new tools into homework may be a low-cost method to improve the quality of student learning.
  • Curriculum reform and instructional redesign should focus on homework. There are many states and districts that are reforming curriculum or adopting different approaches to instruction, including personalized learning. Curriculum reform and personalized learning are tied to greater academic outcomes and an increase in motivation. Homework should also be a focus of these and other efforts; states and districts should consider how textbooks or other instructional materials can provide resources or examples to help teachers assign meaningful homework that will complement regular instruction.

The findings and recommendations of this study are discussed in detail below.

Homework must be rigorous and aligned to content standards

All homework is not created equal. The CAP study sought to evaluate homework quality—specifically, if homework is aligned to rigorous content standards. The authors believe that access to grade-level content at home will increase the positive impact of adopting more rigorous content standards, and they sought to examine if homework is aligned to the topics and skill level in the content standards.

The 10-minute rule

According to Harris Cooper, homework is a valuable tool, but there is such a thing as too much. In 2006, Cooper and his colleagues argued that spending a lot of time on homework can be counterproductive. He believes that research supports the 10-minute rule—that students should be able to complete their homework in no more than 10 minutes multiplied by their grade. For example, this would amount to 20 minutes for a second-grade student, 50 minutes for a fifth-grade student, and so on. 19

The Common Core, developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, established a set of benchmarks for “what students should know and be able to do” in math and language arts by the end of the academic year in kindergarten through high school. 20 The math standards focus on fewer concepts but in more depth and ask students to develop different approaches to solve similar problems. In language arts, the standards moved students away from narrative-based assignments, instead concentrating on using evidence to build arguments and reading more nonfiction.

The Common Core is not silent in the cognitive demand needed to demonstrate mastery for each standard. 21 For example, a second grade math standard is “[s]olve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, using $ and ¢ symbols appropriately.” For this standard, a second-grader has not mastered the standard if they are only able to identifying the name and value of every.

Remember, apply, integrate: Levels of cognitive demand or depth of knowledge

There are numerous frameworks to describe levels of cognitive skills. One of the most prominent of these models, Bloom’s taxonomy, identifies six categories of cognition. The original levels and terms were knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation; however, these terms have changed slightly over time. 22 Learning does not necessarily follow a linear process, and certainly, all levels of cognitive demand are important. Yet these categories require individuals to demonstrate a different level of working knowledge of a topic. With the advent of standards-based reform, the role of cognitive skill—particularly in the area of assessment—has become a much more explicit component of curriculum materials.

Over the past two decades, cognitive science has shown that individuals of any age retain information longer when they demonstrate deeper learning and make their own meaning with the content—using skills such as the abilities to conjecture, generalize, prove, and more—as opposed to only committing ideas to memory or performing rote procedures, using skills such as the ability to memorize or recall.

In essence, Common Core created rigorous expectations to guide the instruction of students in all states that chose to adopt its standards. These standards aimed to increase college preparedness and make students more competitive in the workforce. Policymakers, advocates, and practitioners hoped that Common Core would create greater consistency in academic rigor across states. In addition, with the classroom and homework aligned to these standards, many anticipated that students would graduate from high school prepared for college or career. As of 2017, 41 states and the District of Columbia have adopted and are working to implement the standards, although many of these states have modified them slightly. 23

In this study, the authors evaluated homework to determine if it was aligned to Common Core standards in two ways: First, does it reflect grade-level content standards; second, does it require students to use skills similar to those required to demonstrate proficiency in a content area. This multitiered approach is critical to evaluating alignment between standards and instruction—in this case homework. Instruction must teach content and help students develop necessary levels of cognitive skill. Curricula for each grade should include instructional materials that are sequenced and rigorous, thus enabling students to develop an understanding of all content standards.

In spring 2018, the Center for American Progress used Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to administer a survey. MTurk is a crowdsourcing marketplace managed by Amazon; it allows organizations to virtually administer surveys for a diverse sample. 24 The CAP survey asked parents to submit a sample of their child’s most recent math or language arts homework assignment and complete a few questions to gauge if the assignment was challenging, as well as how long it took for the student to complete the assignment. A total of 372 parents responded to the survey, and CAP analyzed 187 homework assignments.

Of the 372 parents who participated in the survey, 202, or about 54 percent of respondents, submitted samples of their child’s homework assignment. The researchers dropped a total of 15 homework submissions from analysis either because the subject matter was not math or language arts—but rather, science, music, or social studies—or because the authors could not examine the specific content, for example, in cases where parents only provided a copy of the cover of a textbook. Of the remaining homework samples submitted, 72 percent (134 samples) focused on mathematics content, while the remaining 28 percent (53 samples) represented language arts content.

what is homework in education

Of the 372 responding parents, 234—or 63 percent—were female, and 126—or 37 percent—were male. Forty-eight percent of parents responding to the survey were under the age of 34, while almost 90 percent of respondents were under the age of 45. There was an unequal distribution of parents representing elementary and secondary grade levels. Seventy-one percent of the total sample were parents with students in primary (K-2) and elementary (3-5) grades. (See Methodology section below)

Based on the analysis, the authors’ drew the following conclusions:

Homework is largely aligned to Common Core standards, especially the topics in the standards

The authors found that the submitted homework, for the most part, was aligned to Common Core standards content or within the so-called “good” range based on content expert evaluations. As described in the Methodology, the authors used an alignment index that does not require a homework assignment to exactly mirror the content standards—both topic and skill level—for evaluators to note that it is within a good range. For context, the study’s alignment index has a range of 0.00 to 1.00, where 0.00 indicates no content in common whatsoever between the two descriptions—perfect misalignment—and 1.00 indicates complete agreement between the two descriptions—perfect alignment. Generally speaking, what one might call “good” alignment for instruction tends to range on the alignment index between 0.4 and 0.6, with a measure of 0.5 serving as a median indicator of good alignment.

The analysis is a snapshot of homework and, therefore, does not allow the authors to determine if homework over the course of a year covered all required standards. In other words, it is difficult to say how many of the standards for a given grade are covered across a full school year, simply because of the limited sample of assignments.

The alignment index evaluates both topic and skill, but there was particular alignment in topic areas. For instance, there was a strong emphasis in the topic areas of number sense and operations for primary math homework. When combined with the third-most emphasized topic, measurement, these three areas accounted for more than 90 percent of primary mathematics homework content. The actual math content standards for the primary grades also placed heavy emphasis on the topic areas of number sense, operations, and measurement—though they accounted for only about 80 percent of primary math content.

what is homework in education

In general, across all age groups, math homework was more closely aligned to content standards—both topic and skill level—than language arts. The alignment results for middle school math were particularly strong, at 0.56, based on 27 homework samples. The stronger alignment among math homework samples may be in part due to the fact that there were more math assignments in the sample than language arts assignments. Larger samples offer more opportunities to show alignment. As a result, smaller samples may underestimate alignment.

The table below presents the alignment indices, which were calculated using the homework samples collected for each grade band.

Homework is often focused on low-level skills in the standards, particularly in younger grades

While the authors’ analysis shows that there was significant alignment in the topic of standards and homework assignments, most of the homework did not require students to demonstrate the full depth of knowledge required of content standards. The analysis uncovered an emphasis on procedural knowledge, with an even stronger emphasis on memorization and recall in language arts. Content standards, on the other hand, require students to demonstrate deeper-knowledge skills, such as the ability to analyze, conceptualize, or generate.

what is homework in education

Of five performance expectation categories across math and language arts that the authors used to measure alignment between standards and homework, there was a disproportionate emphasis on skills that require a lower level of knowledge or understanding. In grades K-2, for instance, the content standards emphasize the performance expectations of “procedures,” or computation, and “demonstrate,” or understanding, but the homework samples submitted primarily emphasized the procedures level of performance expectation. Similarly, homework for grades three through five focused almost entirely on the performance expectation of procedures, rather than standards that emphasized both procedures and demonstrate. 25

As seen with the middle school grades, high school math standards—despite a continued emphasis on procedures—show increased emphasis on the more challenging performance expectations of “demonstrate understanding” and “conjecture, generalize, prove.” Interestingly, this shift toward more challenging performance expectations is most visible for the topic areas of geometric concepts and functions, in both the standards and the homework samples submitted by parents of high school students.

Parents report that homework frequently does not challenge students

Nearly half of parents that participated in the survey reported that homework does not challenge their child. In particular, parents of primary-grade children were most likely to agree or strongly agree that the homework assignment they submitted was too easy for their child—58 percent for language arts and 55 percent for math.

what is homework in education

Parents’ opinions about homework difficulty varied between mathematics and language arts assignments. Forty-eight percent of parents who submitted a mathematics assignment and 44 percent of parents who submitted a language arts assignment reported that it was too easy for their child. There was some variance across grade spans as well. As noted above, parents of primary-grade children were most likely to find the homework assignments too easy for their child. Meanwhile, parents that submitted high school math homework were also more likely to agree or strongly agree that the assignments were too easy, with 50 percent agreeing or strongly agreeing and only 33 percent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the statement. While there were clear trends in parent opinions, it is important to acknowledge that the sample size for each subset was small.

The comments of surveyed parents echoed this finding. One parent noted that “most homework that they are assigned seems like nothing more than busy work.” Another parent said: “The homework is not strong enough to build conceptual knowledge. It assumes that the child already has that knowledge.” Meanwhile, another parent commented: “Homework is way oversimplified and they don’t seem to spend much time on it. It’s a bit sad that English and math don’t seem to require what they used to. I remember much longer and harder worksheets to complete when I was a child.” 26

Weak homework samples

Within the sample of homework assignments, there were some that fell short of rigorous. For instance, one assignment listed 24 pairs of numbers—three and nine, 24 and 21, and so on—and asked the student to circle the smaller number in order to build numbers sense. While homework can be critical when establishing foundational knowledge, repetitive activities such as this often fail to engage students and, instead, overemphasize rote learning. Asking a student to list or name a number of a lesser value, for instance, would make this assignment more interactive.

A second example from kindergarten asked a student to create an uppercase and lowercase letter “f” by filling in dots with paint. The parent who submitted it highlighted the limited utility of the assignment, emphasizing that it does not hold students to high expectations. What’s more, the homework only gave the student two opportunities to practice writing the letter, both in a nonauthentic way. Indeed, the assignment focused more on filling in circles than it did constructing letters. While this task might help build a kindergartener’s hand-eye coordination, it does little to support language arts.

Exemplary homework samples

While many of the assignments submitted focused on procedures and, for math, computation, it is worth acknowledging some of the more exemplary types of homework included in the samples. These offer examples of how homework can challenge students, engage rigorous cognitive processes, and demonstrate that content standards at all levels—not just middle and high school—can support challenging homework that pushes students to think critically.

For example, one math homework assignment asked a student to identify which individuals possessed each of four groups of shapes based on the following description:

Ally, Bob, Carl, and Dana each have a set of shapes.

  • Bob has no triangles.
  • The number of rectangles that Dana has is the same as the number of triangles that Carl has.

This example is interesting on two counts. First, the assignment goes beyond procedure, requiring the student to analyze the various sets of shapes in order to determine which set belongs to which individual. It is also interesting insofar as it demonstrates a common real-world situation: There is usually more than one way to solve a problem, and sometimes, there is more than one correct answer.

Similarly, another example asked a student to determine actions that would help students beautify the school. The header of the assignment read, “Make a Decision: Keep Our School Beautiful!” The assignment had various boxes, each with a question above, such as, “Should we recycle?” or “Should we make art?” The assignment asked the student to “(1) think about each choice, (2) consider how each choice would affect them and others in the school community, (3) write their ideas in boxes below.” In doing so, it required primary students to analyze and generate ideas—both of which are skills that promote deeper learning.

Recommendations

Homework offers a valuable window into the curricula, assessment practices, and instructional preferences of teachers. It provides insight into classroom learning as well as the types of knowledge and skills the teacher believes will reinforce that instruction at home.

This analysis shows that the content and value of homework varies. While most homework within the sample was aligned to content standards, there is still a significant need to increase the rigor of homework and create opportunities for students to use higher-order skills.

Overall, schools and districts should pay more attention to homework as a reform lever. A growing body of research shows that homework is connected to learning outcomes, and as a result, schools and districts should ensure that policies help teachers provide meaningful assignments. 27 Based on this survey and the existing research on homework quality, the authors identified recommendations that can help increase the quality of homework:

Schools and districts should develop homework policies that emphasize strategic, rigorous homework

In many cases, the current debate over homework is short-sighted. Many arguments focus on whether or not students should have homework. There are entire school districts that have simply banned homework altogether. However, the debate should move beyond the merit of homework. Research shows that homework is linked to better performance on standardized assessments, especially in higher grades. 28 Many homework scholars also believe that a reasonable homework load can help develop important work habits. 29 Therefore, instead of eliminating homework outright, schools, districts, and advocates should focus on improving its rigor and effectiveness. As discussed throughout, homework should be an extension of instruction during the school day. Accordingly, policymakers and schools must make changes to homework that are in concert with curriculum reform.

Like all instruction, homework should be aligned to states’ rigorous content standards and should engage students in order to promote deeper learning and retention. To do this, homework should ask students to use higher-order skills, such as the ability to analyze or evaluate.

However, schools and districts, rather than simply assigning longer, more complicated assignments to make homework seem more challenging, should make strategic shifts. Homework assignments should be thought-provoking. But there is a such thing as too much homework. Districts and schools should ensure that teachers follow the research-supported 10-minute rule. 30 Also, teachers, schools, and districts should consider resources to set all students up for success when faced with more rigorous home assignments; homework should never be a burden or source of stress for families and parents.

Districts and schools should audit homework to make sure it is challenging and aligned to standards

Rather than implementing homework bans, district policymakers and schools should regularly review homework samples to ensure that they are aligned to grade-level standards, are engaging, require students to demonstrate higher-order skills, and adhere to the 10-minute rule. The audit should review multiple homework assignments from each classroom and consider how much time children are receiving from all subject areas, when appropriate. The district or school should ask for ongoing feedback from students, parents, and guardians in order to collect a comprehensive representation of the learning experience at home.

In instances where the district or school principal finds that homework assignments are not aligned to grade-level standards or take too much or too little time to complete, they should help the school or teachers improve them by recommending instructional materials that may make it easier for teachers to identify appropriate, grade-level homework assignments. In addition, if parents or students identify challenges to complete assignments at home, the district or school should identify solutions to ensure that all students have access to the resources and support they need to complete homework.

Schools and districts should provide access to technology and other supports that make it easier for students to complete homework

Technology can go a long way to improve homework and provide additional support or scaffolding at home. For instance, programs such as the Khan Academy—which provides short lessons through YouTube videos and practice exercises—can give students rigorous homework that is aligned to the Common Core standards. Unfortunately, many households across the nation still do not have adequate access to devices or internet at home. A 2017 ACT survey found that 14 percent of students only have access to one technology device at home. 31 Moreover, federal data from 2013 found that about 40 percent of households with school-age children do not have access to broadband. 32 It is likely that the percentage has decreased with time, but internet access remains a significant problem.

Schools and districts should adopt programs to ensure that all students can benefit from technology and broadband. For instance, Salton City, California, installed a Wi-Fi router in a school bus. Every night, the bus parks near a neighborhood with low internet connectivity, serving as a hot spot for students. 33

Moreover, greater access to technology can help more students benefit from new innovative resources. While most of these technologies are not yet research-based, and the use of devices may not be appropriate for younger children, incorporating new tools into homework may be a low-cost option to improve the quality of student learning. For instance, ASSISTments is a free web-based tool that provides immediate feedback as students complete homework or classwork. It has been proven to raise student outcomes. 34 Other online resources can complement classroom learning as well. There are various organizations that offer students free lessons in the form of YouTube videos, while also providing supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators. LearnZillion, for example, provides its users with high-quality lessons that are aligned to the Common Core standards. 35

Curriculum reform and instruction design should focus on homework

There are many states and districts that are engaging in curriculum reform. Many of these recent reform efforts show promise. In an analysis of the curricula and instructional materials used by the nation’s 30 largest school districts, the Center for American Progress found that approximately one-third of materials adopted or recommended by these districts were highly rated and met expectations for alignment. 36

Homework should be a focus of curriculum reform, and states and districts should consider how textbooks or other instructional materials can provide resources or examples to help teachers assign meaningful homework that will complement regular classroom instruction.

Personalized learning—which tailors instruction and learning environments to meet each student’s individual interests and needs—is also gaining traction as a way to increase declining engagement in schools and increase student motivation. 37 These ideas are also relevant to homework quality. A 2010 study found that when students were offered a choice of homework assignment, they were more motivated to do the work, reported greater competence in the assignments, and performed better on unit tests, compared with peers that did not have choice in homework. 38 The study also suggested that offering students a choice improved the rate of completion of assignments. 39 Districts and schools should help implement more student-centered approaches to all instruction—in the classroom and at home.

When it comes to change management, experts often advise to look for low-hanging fruit—the simplest and easiest fixes. 40 In education, homework reform is low-hanging fruit. Research shows that quality homework and increasing student achievement are positively correlated; and yet, the authors’ analysis shows that some schools may not be taking advantage of a valuable opportunity to support student achievement. Instead of mirroring the cognitive demand in rigorous content standards, homework assigned to students is often weak or rote. But it does not have to be this way. More rigorous, insightful homework is out there. Policymakers and schools need to move beyond the debate of whether or not to assign work outside of school hours and do their own due diligence—or, put another way, their own homework—before assigning homework to students in this nation’s schools.

Methodology

As mentioned above, the authors used the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) online survey tool to collect from parents their child’s actual homework assignments. Specifically, as part of the survey, the authors asked parents to submit a sample of their child’s most recent math or language arts homework assignment and have the child complete questions to gauge if the assignment was challenging, as well as how long it took to complete the assignment. In all, 372 parents responded to the survey, with CAP analyzing 187 homework assignments. The submissions of samples were analyzed by a group of analysts under the supervision of John L. Smithson, researcher emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Measuring alignment

The homework samples were reviewed by two teams of content analysts—one for mathematics and one for language arts—who were asked to describe the academic content represented by the submitted homework, as well as the performance expectation. Each team consisted of three analysts who possessed the relevant content expertise and experience in methodology used to gather the descriptive data.

The teams used a taxonomy-based methodology that was developed by education researchers Andrew Porter and John Smithson during Porter’s tenure as director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 41 Researchers both nationally and internationally have subsequently used this approach to content description for decades in order to examine issues of alignment as well as to support program evaluation and inform school improvement efforts.

The U.S. Department of Education also recognizes the validity of this approach. Specifically, the Education Department completes a peer review of states’ annual assessment program’s alignment to state academic content standards. 42 The Porter/Smithson approach is one of a handful of alignment methodologies that has been determined to meet these federal requirements. 43

The Porter/Smithson approach is unique because it defines instructional content as a two-dimensional construct consisting of topic and cognitive demand, or skill. This approach to describing cognitive skill is similar to Bloom’s, which the authors have described above. It has five categories: recall, process, analyze, integrate, and conceptual understanding. The Porter/Smithson approach is the most stringent of alignment indicators, as it looks at both topic and cognitive demand; it is also possibly the most challenging to interpret because the final alignment score considers two dimensions.

what is homework in education

The alignment index has a range of 0.00 to 1.00, where 0.00 indicates no content in common whatsoever between the two descriptions—perfect misalignment—and 1.00 indicates complete agreement between the two descriptions—perfect alignment. A measure of 1.00 is exceedingly unlikely, requiring perfect agreement across every cell that makes up the content description. In practice, this is only seen when comparing a document to itself. For instance, very high alignment measures—more than 0.70—have been noted when comparing different test forms used for a particular grade-level state assessment; but those are instances where high alignment is desired. In terms of instructional alignment—in other words, how well instruction is aligned to the standards—a measure of 1.00 is not the goal. For this reason, the authors did not expect any analysis of homework alignment, no matter how well designed, to have a measure of or close to 1.00.

Generally speaking, what one might call “good” alignment for instruction tends to range between 0.4 and 0.6 on the alignment index, with a measure of 0.5 serving as a median indicator of good alignment. The description of the content standards represents the goal of instructional practice—the destination, not the journey. As such, it does not indicate the best path for achieving those goals. The 0.5 indicator measure represents a middle road where teachers are balancing the expectations of the content standards with the immediate learning needs of their students.

Limitations

The authors acknowledge that the analysis has shortcomings. The sample was relatively small and does not directly mirror the national population of parents of elementary and secondary school students. As such, the sample does not necessarily reflect the views or homework experiences of the larger U.S. population.

Limited sample size

The current study analyzes a snapshot of homework across many classrooms, rather than homework from a single classroom or school. The assumption is that looking at individual homework assignments across many classrooms will help to construct a composite picture of mathematics and language arts homework that will be somewhat reflective of the picture one would get from following many classrooms for many days. If the sample is large enough with a wide enough geographical spread, that assumption serves researchers well enough.

For the current study, however, the number of homework samples available for each grade band were, in some cases, quite small—as low as five assignments each for middle and high school language arts. The largest sample sizes were for primary and elementary math, with 47 and 41 homework assignments collected, respectively. However, even 47 is a fairly small sample size for drawing inferences about a full year of homework.

Selection bias

The respondents that participated in this study were a reasonably diverse group in terms of age, gender, and ethnicity, but there are notable differences between the makeup of the parents represented in the study and the makeup of parents of school-age children more generally. Respondents were predominantly female, with women making up almost two-thirds—63 percent—of the sample. They also tended to be parents of younger school-age children, with 71 percent of the respondents reporting on children from the bottom half of the K-12 system—grades K-5. Finally, in terms of race and ethnicity, the sample overrepresented Asian American families and underrepresented African American families. These groups comprised 14 percent and 8 percent of respondents, respectively, compared with national averages of 6 percent and 12 percent.

Because the sample does not well reflect the population of parents of elementary and secondary students, the authors considered possible selection biases that may help to explain the differences in sample and overall population and that may have affected certain members of the population more than others.

For instance, the authors administered the survey using MTurk, which may have skewed the sample. In general, the population on the site is younger and whiter than the U.S. population as a whole. However, research has shown that MTurk yields high-quality, nationally representative results, with data that are at least as reliable as those obtained via traditional methods. 44 The researchers also targeted California and Texas in order to increase the diversity of the sample.

In addition, accessibility could have led to selection bias. Despite broad internet access in 2018, there remain families in low-income locales where internet access is not readily available for parents. It is also possible that older parents are less likely to be as active on the internet as younger parents, further contributing to selection bias.

About the authors

Ulrich Boser is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He is also the founder and CEO of The Learning Agency.

Meg Benner is a senior consultant at the Center.

John Smithson is the researcher emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Sarah Shapiro, a former research assistant at the Center for American Progress, for her support developing the survey. They also appreciate the valuable feedback of Catherine Brown, senior fellow for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress; Tom Loveless, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Lisette Partelow, director of K-12 Special Initiatives at the Center; and Scott Sargrad, vice president of K-12 Education Policy at the Center.

Conflicts of interest

The author, Ulrich Boser, has a financial relationship with the creators of the online homework tool ASSISTments.

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The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here . American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Ulrich Boser

Former Senior Fellow

Senior Consultant

John Smithson

The Surprising History of Homework Reform

Really, kids, there was a time when lots of grownups thought homework was bad for you.

Boy sitting at desk with book

Homework causes a lot of fights. Between parents and kids, sure. But also, as education scholar Brian Gill and historian Steven Schlossman write, among U.S. educators. For more than a century, they’ve been debating how, and whether, kids should do schoolwork at home .

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At the dawn of the twentieth century, homework meant memorizing lists of facts which could then be recited to the teacher the next day. The rising progressive education movement despised that approach. These educators advocated classrooms free from recitation. Instead, they wanted students to learn by doing. To most, homework had no place in this sort of system.

Through the middle of the century, Gill and Schlossman write, this seemed like common sense to most progressives. And they got their way in many schools—at least at the elementary level. Many districts abolished homework for K–6 classes, and almost all of them eliminated it for students below fourth grade.

By the 1950s, many educators roundly condemned drills, like practicing spelling words and arithmetic problems. In 1963, Helen Heffernan, chief of California’s Bureau of Elementary Education, definitively stated that “No teacher aware of recent theories could advocate such meaningless homework assignments as pages of repetitive computation in arithmetic. Such an assignment not only kills time but kills the child’s creative urge to intellectual activity.”

But, the authors note, not all reformers wanted to eliminate homework entirely. Some educators reconfigured the concept, suggesting supplemental reading or having students do projects based in their own interests. One teacher proposed “homework” consisting of after-school “field trips to the woods, factories, museums, libraries, art galleries.” In 1937, Carleton Washburne, an influential educator who was the superintendent of the Winnetka, Illinois, schools, proposed a homework regimen of “cooking and sewing…meal planning…budgeting, home repairs, interior decorating, and family relationships.”

Another reformer explained that “at first homework had as its purpose one thing—to prepare the next day’s lessons. Its purpose now is to prepare the children for fuller living through a new type of creative and recreational homework.”

That idea didn’t necessarily appeal to all educators. But moderation in the use of traditional homework became the norm.

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“Virtually all commentators on homework in the postwar years would have agreed with the sentiment expressed in the NEA Journal in 1952 that ‘it would be absurd to demand homework in the first grade or to denounce it as useless in the eighth grade and in high school,’” Gill and Schlossman write.

That remained more or less true until 1983, when publication of the landmark government report A Nation at Risk helped jump-start a conservative “back to basics” agenda, including an emphasis on drill-style homework. In the decades since, continuing “reforms” like high-stakes testing, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Common Core standards have kept pressure on schools. Which is why twenty-first-century first graders get spelling words and pages of arithmetic.

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Education Next

  • The Journal
  • Vol. 19, No. 1

The Case for (Quality) Homework

what is homework in education

Janine Bempechat

what is homework in education

Any parent who has battled with a child over homework night after night has to wonder: Do those math worksheets and book reports really make a difference to a student’s long-term success? Or is homework just a headache—another distraction from family time and downtime, already diminished by the likes of music and dance lessons, sports practices, and part-time jobs?

Allison, a mother of two middle-school girls from an affluent Boston suburb, describes a frenetic afterschool scenario: “My girls do gymnastics a few days a week, so homework happens for my 6th grader after gymnastics, at 6:30 p.m. She doesn’t get to bed until 9. My 8th grader does her homework immediately after school, up until gymnastics. She eats dinner at 9:15 and then goes to bed, unless there is more homework to do, in which case she’ll get to bed around 10.” The girls miss out on sleep, and weeknight family dinners are tough to swing.

Parental concerns about their children’s homework loads are nothing new. Debates over the merits of homework—tasks that teachers ask students to complete during non-instructional time—have ebbed and flowed since the late 19th century, and today its value is again being scrutinized and weighed against possible negative impacts on family life and children’s well-being.

Are American students overburdened with homework? In some middle-class and affluent communities, where pressure on students to achieve can be fierce, yes. But in families of limited means, it’s often another story. Many low-income parents value homework as an important connection to the school and the curriculum—even as their children report receiving little homework. Overall, high-school students relate that they spend less than one hour per day on homework, on average, and only 42 percent say they do it five days per week. In one recent survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a minimal 13 percent of 17-year-olds said they had devoted more than two hours to homework the previous evening (see Figure 1).

what is homework in education

Recent years have seen an increase in the amount of homework assigned to students in grades K–2, and critics point to research findings that, at the elementary-school level, homework does not appear to enhance children’s learning. Why, then, should we burden young children and their families with homework if there is no academic benefit to doing it? Indeed, perhaps it would be best, as some propose, to eliminate homework altogether, particularly in these early grades.

On the contrary, developmentally appropriate homework plays a critical role in the formation of positive learning beliefs and behaviors, including a belief in one’s academic ability, a deliberative and effortful approach to mastery, and higher expectations and aspirations for one’s future. It can prepare children to confront ever-more-complex tasks, develop resilience in the face of difficulty, and learn to embrace rather than shy away from challenge. In short, homework is a key vehicle through which we can help shape children into mature learners.

The Homework-Achievement Connection

A narrow focus on whether or not homework boosts grades and test scores in the short run thus ignores a broader purpose in education, the development of lifelong, confident learners. Still, the question looms: does homework enhance academic success? As the educational psychologist Lyn Corno wrote more than two decades ago, “homework is a complicated thing.” Most research on the homework-achievement connection is correlational, which precludes a definitive judgment on its academic benefits. Researchers rely on correlational research in this area of study given the difficulties of randomly assigning students to homework/no-homework conditions. While correlation does not imply causality, extensive research has established that at the middle- and high-school levels, homework completion is strongly and positively associated with high achievement. Very few studies have reported a negative correlation.

As noted above, findings on the homework-achievement connection at the elementary level are mixed. A small number of experimental studies have demonstrated that elementary-school students who receive homework achieve at higher levels than those who do not. These findings suggest a causal relationship, but they are limited in scope. Within the body of correlational research, some studies report a positive homework-achievement connection, some a negative relationship, and yet others show no relationship at all. Why the mixed findings? Researchers point to a number of possible factors, such as developmental issues related to how young children learn, different goals that teachers have for younger as compared to older students, and how researchers define homework.

Certainly, young children are still developing skills that enable them to focus on the material at hand and study efficiently. Teachers’ goals for their students are also quite different in elementary school as compared to secondary school. While teachers at both levels note the value of homework for reinforcing classroom content, those in the earlier grades are more likely to assign homework mainly to foster skills such as responsibility, perseverance, and the ability to manage distractions.

Most research examines homework generally. Might a focus on homework in a specific subject shed more light on the homework-achievement connection? A recent meta-analysis did just this by examining the relationship between math/science homework and achievement. Contrary to previous findings, researchers reported a stronger relationship between homework and achievement in the elementary grades than in middle school. As the study authors note, one explanation for this finding could be that in elementary school, teachers tend to assign more homework in math than in other subjects, while at the same time assigning shorter math tasks more frequently. In addition, the authors point out that parents tend to be more involved in younger children’s math homework and more skilled in elementary-level than middle-school math.

In sum, the relationship between homework and academic achievement in the elementary-school years is not yet established, but eliminating homework at this level would do children and their families a huge disservice: we know that children’s learning beliefs have a powerful impact on their academic outcomes, and that through homework, parents and teachers can have a profound influence on the development of positive beliefs.

How Much Is Appropriate?

Harris M. Cooper of Duke University, the leading researcher on homework, has examined decades of study on what we know about the relationship between homework and scholastic achievement. He has proposed the “10-minute rule,” suggesting that daily homework be limited to 10 minutes per grade level. Thus, a 1st grader would do 10 minutes each day and a 4th grader, 40 minutes. The National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association both endorse this guideline, but it is not clear whether the recommended allotments include time for reading, which most teachers want children to do daily.

For middle-school students, Cooper and colleagues report that 90 minutes per day of homework is optimal for enhancing academic achievement, and for high schoolers, the ideal range is 90 minutes to two and a half hours per day. Beyond this threshold, more homework does not contribute to learning. For students enrolled in demanding Advanced Placement or honors courses, however, homework is likely to require significantly more time, leading to concerns over students’ health and well-being.

Notwithstanding media reports of parents revolting against the practice of homework, the vast majority of parents say they are highly satisfied with their children’s homework loads. The National Household Education Surveys Program recently found that between 70 and 83 percent of parents believed that the amount of homework their children had was “about right,” a result that held true regardless of social class, race/ethnicity, community size, level of education, and whether English was spoken at home.

Learning Beliefs Are Consequential

As noted above, developmentally appropriate homework can help children cultivate positive beliefs about learning. Decades of research have established that these beliefs predict the types of tasks students choose to pursue, their persistence in the face of challenge, and their academic achievement. Broadly, learning beliefs fall under the banner of achievement motivation, which is a constellation of cognitive, behavioral, and affective factors, including: the way a person perceives his or her abilities, goal-setting skills, expectation of success, the value the individual places on learning, and self-regulating behavior such as time-management skills. Positive or adaptive beliefs about learning serve as emotional and psychological protective factors for children, especially when they encounter difficulties or failure.

Motivation researcher Carol Dweck of Stanford University posits that children with a “growth mindset”—those who believe that ability is malleable—approach learning very differently than those with a “fixed mindset”—kids who believe ability cannot change. Those with a growth mindset view effort as the key to mastery. They see mistakes as helpful, persist even in the face of failure, prefer challenging over easy tasks, and do better in school than their peers who have a fixed mindset. In contrast, children with a fixed mindset view effort and mistakes as implicit condemnations of their abilities. Such children succumb easily to learned helplessness in the face of difficulty, and they gravitate toward tasks they know they can handle rather than more challenging ones.

Of course, learning beliefs do not develop in a vacuum. Studies have demonstrated that parents and teachers play a significant role in the development of positive beliefs and behaviors, and that homework is a key tool they can use to foster motivation and academic achievement.

Parents’ Beliefs and Actions Matter

It is well established that parental involvement in their children’s education promotes achievement motivation and success in school. Parents are their children’s first teachers, and their achievement-related beliefs have a profound influence on children’s developing perceptions of their own abilities, as well as their views on the value of learning and education.

Parents affect their children’s learning through the messages they send about education, whether by expressing interest in school activities and experiences, attending school events, helping with homework when they can, or exposing children to intellectually enriching experiences. Most parents view such engagement as part and parcel of their role. They also believe that doing homework fosters responsibility and organizational skills, and that doing well on homework tasks contributes to learning, even if children experience frustration from time to time.

Many parents provide support by establishing homework routines, eliminating distractions, communicating expectations, helping children manage their time, providing reassuring messages, and encouraging kids to be aware of the conditions under which they do their best work. These supports help foster the development of self-regulation, which is critical to school success.

Self-regulation involves a number of skills, such as the ability to monitor one’s performance and adjust strategies as a result of feedback; to evaluate one’s interests and realistically perceive one’s aptitude; and to work on a task autonomously. It also means learning how to structure one’s environment so that it’s conducive to learning, by, for example, minimizing distractions. As children move into higher grades, these skills and strategies help them organize, plan, and learn independently. This is precisely where parents make a demonstrable difference in students’ attitudes and approaches to homework.

Especially in the early grades, homework gives parents the opportunity to cultivate beliefs and behaviors that foster efficient study skills and academic resilience. Indeed, across age groups, there is a strong and positive relationship between homework completion and a variety of self-regulatory processes. However, the quality of parental help matters. Sometimes, well-intentioned parents can unwittingly undermine the development of children’s positive learning beliefs and their achievement. Parents who maintain a positive outlook on homework and allow their children room to learn and struggle on their own, stepping in judiciously with informational feedback and hints, do their children a much better service than those who seek to control the learning process.

A recent study of 5th and 6th graders’ perceptions of their parents’ involvement with homework distinguished between supportive and intrusive help. The former included the belief that parents encouraged the children to try to find the right answer on their own before providing them with assistance, and when the child struggled, attempted to understand the source of the confusion. In contrast, the latter included the perception that parents provided unsolicited help, interfered when the children did their homework, and told them how to complete their assignments. Supportive help predicted higher achievement, while intrusive help was associated with lower achievement.

Parents’ attitudes and emotions during homework time can support the development of positive attitudes and approaches in their children, which in turn are predictive of higher achievement. Children are more likely to focus on self-improvement during homework time and do better in school when their parents are oriented toward mastery. In contrast, if parents focus on how well children are doing relative to peers, kids tend to adopt learning goals that allow them to avoid challenge.

what is homework in education

Homework and Social Class

Social class is another important element in the homework dynamic. What is the homework experience like for families with limited time and resources? And what of affluent families, where resources are plenty but the pressures to succeed are great?

Etta Kralovec and John Buell, authors of The End of Homework, maintain that homework “punishes the poor,” because lower-income parents may not be as well educated as their affluent counterparts and thus not as well equipped to help with homework. Poorer families also have fewer financial resources to devote to home computers, tutoring, and academic enrichment. The stresses of poverty—and work schedules—may impinge, and immigrant parents may face language barriers and an unfamiliarity with the school system and teachers’ expectations.

Yet research shows that low-income parents who are unable to assist with homework are far from passive in their children’s learning, and they do help foster scholastic performance. In fact, parental help with homework is not a necessary component for school success.

Brown University’s Jin Li queried low-income Chinese American 9th graders’ perceptions of their parents’ engagement with their education. Students said their immigrant parents rarely engaged in activities that are known to foster academic achievement, such as monitoring homework, checking it for accuracy, or attending school meetings or events. Instead, parents of higher achievers built three social networks to support their children’s learning. They designated “anchor” helpers both inside and outside the family who provided assistance; identified peer models for their children to emulate; and enlisted the assistance of extended kin to guide their children’s educational socialization. In a related vein, a recent analysis of survey data showed that Asian and Latino 5th graders, relative to native-born peers, were more likely to turn to siblings than parents for homework help.

Further, research demonstrates that low-income parents, recognizing that they lack the time to be in the classroom or participate in school governance, view homework as a critical connection to their children’s experiences in school. One study found that mothers enjoyed the routine and predictability of homework and used it as a way to demonstrate to children how to plan their time. Mothers organized homework as a family activity, with siblings doing homework together and older children reading to younger ones. In this way, homework was perceived as a collective practice wherein siblings could model effective habits and learn from one another.

In another recent study, researchers examined mathematics achievement in low-income 8th-grade Asian and Latino students. Help with homework was an advantage their mothers could not provide. They could, however, furnish structure (for example, by setting aside quiet time for homework completion), and it was this structure that most predicted high achievement. As the authors note, “It is . . . important to help [low-income] parents realize that they can still help their children get good grades in mathematics and succeed in school even if they do not know how to provide direct assistance with their child’s mathematics homework.”

The homework narrative at the other end of the socioeconomic continuum is altogether different. Media reports abound with examples of students, mostly in high school, carrying three or more hours of homework per night, a burden that can impair learning, motivation, and well-being. In affluent communities, students often experience intense pressure to cultivate a high-achieving profile that will be attractive to elite colleges. Heavy homework loads have been linked to unhealthy symptoms such as heightened stress, anxiety, physical complaints, and sleep disturbances. Like Allison’s 6th grader mentioned earlier, many students can only tackle their homework after they do extracurricular activities, which are also seen as essential for the college résumé. Not surprisingly, many students in these communities are not deeply engaged in learning; rather, they speak of “doing school,” as Stanford researcher Denise Pope has described, going through the motions necessary to excel, and undermining their physical and mental health in the process.

Fortunately, some national intervention initiatives, such as Challenge Success (co-founded by Pope), are heightening awareness of these problems. Interventions aimed at restoring balance in students’ lives (in part, by reducing homework demands) have resulted in students reporting an increased sense of well-being, decreased stress and anxiety, and perceptions of greater support from teachers, with no decrease in achievement outcomes.

What is good for this small segment of students, however, is not necessarily good for the majority. As Jessica Lahey wrote in Motherlode, a New York Times parenting blog, “homework is a red herring” in the national conversation on education. “Some otherwise privileged children may have too much, but the real issue lies in places where there is too little. . . . We shouldn’t forget that.”

My colleagues and I analyzed interviews conducted with lower-income 9th graders (African American, Mexican American, and European American) from two Northern California high schools that at the time were among the lowest-achieving schools in the state. We found that these students consistently described receiving minimal homework—perhaps one or two worksheets or textbook pages, the occasional project, and 30 minutes of reading per night. Math was the only class in which they reported having homework each night. These students noted few consequences for not completing their homework.

Indeed, greatly reducing or eliminating homework would likely increase, not diminish, the achievement gap. As Harris M. Cooper has commented, those choosing to opt their children out of homework are operating from a place of advantage. Children in higher-income families benefit from many privileges, including exposure to a larger range of language at home that may align with the language of school, access to learning and cultural experiences, and many other forms of enrichment, such as tutoring and academic summer camps, all of which may be cost-prohibitive for lower-income families. But for the 21 percent of the school-age population who live in poverty—nearly 11 million students ages 5–17—homework is one tool that can help narrow the achievement gap.

Community and School Support

Often, community organizations and afterschool programs can step up to provide structure and services that students’ need to succeed at homework. For example, Boys and Girls and 4-H clubs offer volunteer tutors as well as access to computer technology that students may not have at home. Many schools provide homework clubs or integrate homework into the afterschool program.

Home-school partnerships have succeeded in engaging parents with homework and significantly improving their children’s academic achievement. For example, Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University has developed the TIPS model (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork), which embraces homework as an integral part of family time. TIPS is a teacher-designed interactive program in which children and a parent or family member each have a specific role in the homework scenario. For example, children might show the parent how to do a mathematics task on fractions, explaining their reasoning along the way and reviewing their thinking aloud if they are unsure.

Evaluations show that elementary and middle-school students in classrooms that have adopted TIPS complete more of their homework than do students in other classrooms. Both students and parent participants show more positive beliefs about learning mathematics, and TIPS students show significant gains in writing skills and report-card science grades, as well as higher mathematics scores on standardized tests.

Another study found that asking teachers to send text messages to parents about their children’s missing homework resulted in increased parental monitoring of homework, consequences for missed assignments, and greater participation in parent-child conferences. Teachers reported fewer missed assignments and greater student effort in coursework, and math grades and GPA significantly improved.

Homework Quality Matters

Teachers favor homework for a number of reasons. They believe it fosters a sense of responsibility and promotes academic achievement. They note that homework provides valuable review and practice for students while giving teachers feedback on areas where students may need more support. Finally, teachers value homework as a way to keep parents connected to the school and their children’s educational experiences.

While students, to say the least, may not always relish the idea of doing homework, by high school most come to believe there is a positive relationship between doing homework and doing well in school. Both higher and lower achievers lament “busywork” that doesn’t promote learning. They crave high-quality, challenging assignments—and it is this kind of homework that has been associated with higher achievement.

What constitutes high-quality homework? Assignments that are developmentally appropriate and meaningful and that promote self-efficacy and self-regulation. Meaningful homework is authentic, allowing students to engage in solving problems with real-world relevance. More specifically, homework tasks should make efficient use of student time and have a clear purpose connected to what they are learning. An artistic rendition of a period in history that would take hours to complete can become instead a diary entry in the voice of an individual from that era. By allowing a measure of choice and autonomy in homework, teachers foster in their students a sense of ownership, which bolsters their investment in the work.

High-quality homework also fosters students’ perceptions of their own competence by 1) focusing them on tasks they can accomplish without help; 2) differentiating tasks so as to allow struggling students to experience success; 3) providing suggested time frames rather than a fixed period of time in which a task should be completed; 4) delivering clearly and carefully explained directions; and 5) carefully modeling methods for attacking lengthy or complex tasks. Students whose teachers have trained them to adopt strategies such as goal setting, self-monitoring, and planning develop a number of personal assets—improved time management, increased self-efficacy, greater effort and interest, a desire for mastery, and a decrease in helplessness.

what is homework in education

Excellence with Equity

Currently, the United States has the second-highest disparity between time spent on homework by students of low socioeconomic status and time spent by their more-affluent peers out of the 34 OECD-member nations participating in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) (see Figure 2). Noting that PISA studies have consistently found that spending more time on math homework strongly correlates with higher academic achievement, the report’s authors suggest that the homework disparity may reflect lower teacher expectations for low-income students. If so, this is truly unfortunate. In and of itself, low socioeconomic status is not an impediment to academic achievement when appropriate parental, school, and community supports are deployed. As research makes clear, low-income parents support their children’s learning in varied ways, not all of which involve direct assistance with schoolwork. Teachers can orient students and parents toward beliefs that foster positive attitudes toward learning. Indeed, where homework is concerned, a commitment to excellence with equity is both worthwhile and attainable.

In affluent communities, parents, teachers, and school districts might consider reexamining the meaning of academic excellence and placing more emphasis on leading a balanced and well-rounded life. The homework debate in the United States has been dominated by concerns over the health and well-being of such advantaged students. As legitimate as these worries are, it’s important to avoid generalizing these children’s experiences to those with fewer family resources. Reducing or eliminating homework, though it may be desirable in some advantaged communities, would deprive poorer children of a crucial and empowering learning experience. It would also eradicate a fertile opportunity to help close the achievement gap.

Janine Bempechat is clinical professor of human development at the Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.

An unabridged version of this article is available here .

For more, please see “ The Top 20 Education Next Articles of 2023 .”

This article appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Education Next . Suggested citation format:

Bempechat, J. (2019). The Case for (Quality) Homework: Why it improves learning, and how parents can help . Education Next, 19 (1), 36-43.

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Is Homework Necessary? Education Inequity and Its Impact on Students

what is homework in education

The Problem with Homework: It Highlights Inequalities

How much homework is too much homework, when does homework actually help, negative effects of homework for students, how teachers can help.

Schools are getting rid of homework from Essex, Mass., to Los Angeles, Calif. Although the no-homework trend may sound alarming, especially to parents dreaming of their child’s acceptance to Harvard, Stanford or Yale, there is mounting evidence that eliminating homework in grade school may actually have great benefits , especially with regard to educational equity.

In fact, while the push to eliminate homework may come as a surprise to many adults, the debate is not new . Parents and educators have been talking about this subject for the last century, so that the educational pendulum continues to swing back and forth between the need for homework and the need to eliminate homework.

One of the most pressing talking points around homework is how it disproportionately affects students from less affluent families. The American Psychological Association (APA) explained:

“Kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at afterschool jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs.”

[RELATED] How to Advance Your Career: A Guide for Educators >> 

While students growing up in more affluent areas are likely playing sports, participating in other recreational activities after school, or receiving additional tutoring, children in disadvantaged areas are more likely headed to work after school, taking care of siblings while their parents work or dealing with an unstable home life. Adding homework into the mix is one more thing to deal with — and if the student is struggling, the task of completing homework can be too much to consider at the end of an already long school day.

While all students may groan at the mention of homework, it may be more than just a nuisance for poor and disadvantaged children, instead becoming another burden to carry and contend with.

Beyond the logistical issues, homework can negatively impact physical health and stress — and once again this may be a more significant problem among economically disadvantaged youth who typically already have a higher stress level than peers from more financially stable families .

Yet, today, it is not just the disadvantaged who suffer from the stressors that homework inflicts. A 2014 CNN article, “Is Homework Making Your Child Sick?” , covered the issue of extreme pressure placed on children of the affluent. The article looked at the results of a study surveying more than 4,300 students from 10 high-performing public and private high schools in upper-middle-class California communities.

“Their findings were troubling: Research showed that excessive homework is associated with high stress levels, physical health problems and lack of balance in children’s lives; 56% of the students in the study cited homework as a primary stressor in their lives,” according to the CNN story. “That children growing up in poverty are at-risk for a number of ailments is both intuitive and well-supported by research. More difficult to believe is the growing consensus that children on the other end of the spectrum, children raised in affluence, may also be at risk.”

When it comes to health and stress it is clear that excessive homework, for children at both ends of the spectrum, can be damaging. Which begs the question, how much homework is too much?

The National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association recommend that students spend 10 minutes per grade level per night on homework . That means that first graders should spend 10 minutes on homework, second graders 20 minutes and so on. But a study published by The American Journal of Family Therapy found that students are getting much more than that.

While 10 minutes per day doesn’t sound like much, that quickly adds up to an hour per night by sixth grade. The National Center for Education Statistics found that high school students get an average of 6.8 hours of homework per week, a figure that is much too high according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is also to be noted that this figure does not take into consideration the needs of underprivileged student populations.

In a study conducted by the OECD it was found that “after around four hours of homework per week, the additional time invested in homework has a negligible impact on performance .” That means that by asking our children to put in an hour or more per day of dedicated homework time, we are not only not helping them, but — according to the aforementioned studies — we are hurting them, both physically and emotionally.

What’s more is that homework is, as the name implies, to be completed at home, after a full day of learning that is typically six to seven hours long with breaks and lunch included. However, a study by the APA on how people develop expertise found that elite musicians, scientists and athletes do their most productive work for about only four hours per day. Similarly, companies like Tower Paddle Boards are experimenting with a five-hour workday, under the assumption that people are not able to be truly productive for much longer than that. CEO Stephan Aarstol told CNBC that he believes most Americans only get about two to three hours of work done in an eight-hour day.

In the scope of world history, homework is a fairly new construct in the U.S. Students of all ages have been receiving work to complete at home for centuries, but it was educational reformer Horace Mann who first brought the concept to America from Prussia. 

Since then, homework’s popularity has ebbed and flowed in the court of public opinion. In the 1930s, it was considered child labor (as, ironically, it compromised children’s ability to do chores at home). Then, in the 1950s, implementing mandatory homework was hailed as a way to ensure America’s youth were always one step ahead of Soviet children during the Cold War. Homework was formally mandated as a tool for boosting educational quality in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Education, and has remained in common practice ever since.  

School work assigned and completed outside of school hours is not without its benefits. Numerous studies have shown that regular homework has a hand in improving student performance and connecting students to their learning. When reviewing these studies, take them with a grain of salt; there are strong arguments for both sides, and only you will know which solution is best for your students or school. 

Homework improves student achievement.

  • Source: The High School Journal, “ When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math ,” 2012. 
  • Source: IZA.org, “ Does High School Homework Increase Academic Achievement? ,” 2014. **Note: Study sample comprised only high school boys. 

Homework helps reinforce classroom learning.

  • Source: “ Debunk This: People Remember 10 Percent of What They Read ,” 2015.

Homework helps students develop good study habits and life skills.

  • Sources: The Repository @ St. Cloud State, “ Types of Homework and Their Effect on Student Achievement ,” 2017; Journal of Advanced Academics, “ Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework ,” 2011.
  • Source: Journal of Advanced Academics, “ Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework ,” 2011.

Homework allows parents to be involved with their children’s learning.

  • Parents can see what their children are learning and working on in school every day. 
  • Parents can participate in their children’s learning by guiding them through homework assignments and reinforcing positive study and research habits.
  • Homework observation and participation can help parents understand their children’s academic strengths and weaknesses, and even identify possible learning difficulties.
  • Source: Phys.org, “ Sociologist Upends Notions about Parental Help with Homework ,” 2018.

While some amount of homework may help students connect to their learning and enhance their in-class performance, too much homework can have damaging effects. 

Students with too much homework have elevated stress levels. 

  • Source: USA Today, “ Is It Time to Get Rid of Homework? Mental Health Experts Weigh In ,” 2021.
  • Source: Stanford University, “ Stanford Research Shows Pitfalls of Homework ,” 2014.

Students with too much homework may be tempted to cheat. 

  • Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education, “ High-Tech Cheating Abounds, and Professors Bear Some Blame ,” 2010.
  • Source: The American Journal of Family Therapy, “ Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background ,” 2015.

Homework highlights digital inequity. 

  • Sources: NEAToday.org, “ The Homework Gap: The ‘Cruelest Part of the Digital Divide’ ,” 2016; CNET.com, “ The Digital Divide Has Left Millions of School Kids Behind ,” 2021.
  • Source: Investopedia, “ Digital Divide ,” 2022; International Journal of Education and Social Science, “ Getting the Homework Done: Social Class and Parents’ Relationship to Homework ,” 2015.
  • Source: World Economic Forum, “ COVID-19 exposed the digital divide. Here’s how we can close it ,” 2021.

Homework does not help younger students.

  • Source: Review of Educational Research, “ Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Researcher, 1987-2003 ,” 2006.

To help students find the right balance and succeed, teachers and educators must start the homework conversation, both internally at their school and with parents. But in order to successfully advocate on behalf of students, teachers must be well educated on the subject, fully understanding the research and the outcomes that can be achieved by eliminating or reducing the homework burden. There is a plethora of research and writing on the subject for those interested in self-study.

For teachers looking for a more in-depth approach or for educators with a keen interest in educational equity, formal education may be the best route. If this latter option sounds appealing, there are now many reputable schools offering online master of education degree programs to help educators balance the demands of work and family life while furthering their education in the quest to help others.

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Homework: a word that can cause despair not just in children, but also in parents and even teachers. And for primary school children at least, it may be that schools setting homework is more trouble than it’s worth.

There is evidence that homework can be useful at secondary school . It can be used to consolidate material learnt in class or to prepare for exams.

However, it is less clear that homework is useful for children at primary school (ages 5 to 11) or in early years education (ages 3 to 5).

What is homework for?

There are no current guidelines on how much homework primary school children in England should be set. In 2018 then education secretary Damien Hinds stated that “We trust individual school head teachers to decide what their policy on homework will be, and what happens if pupils don’t do what’s set”.

While there is not much data available on how much homework primary school pupils do, a 2018 survey of around 1,000 parents found that primary pupils were spending an average of 2.2 hours per week on homework.

The homework done by primary school children can include reading, practising spellings, or revising for tests. Charity the Education Endowment Foundation suggests that the uses for homework at primary school include reinforcing the skills that pupils learn in school, helping them get ready for tests and preparing them for future school lessons.

Homework can also act as a point of communication between home and school, helping parents feel part of their child’s schooling.

However, the 2018 Ofsted Parents’ Panel – which surveyed the views of around 1,000 parents in England on educational issues – found that 36% of parents thought that homework was not helpful at all to their primary school children. The panel report found that, for many parents, homework was a significant source of stress and negatively affected family life.

Little academic benefit

Not much academic research has been carried out on the impact of homework for children in primary school. The available meta-studies – research that combines and analyses the findings of a number of studies – suggest that homework has little or no positive benefit for the academic achievement of children of primary school age . A central reason for this seems to be the inability of children to complete this homework without the support provided by teachers and the school.

Some research has suggested that primary pupils lack the independent study skills to do homework, and that they are not able to stay focused on the work.

What’s more, homework may actually have a negative effect if parents set unrealistic expectations, apply pressure or use methods that go counter to those used at school.

Homework may also increase inequalities between pupils. High achievers from economically privileged backgrounds may have greater parental support for homework, including more educated assistance, higher expectations and better settings and resources.

However, it is possible that setting homework for primary school children has benefits that cannot be easily measured, such as developing responsibility and independent problem-solving skills. It could also help children develop habits that will be useful in later school life.

Mother and child reading together

A common task set for homework in primary schools is for children to read with their parents. There is some evidence that this has a positive impact as well as providing enjoyment, but the quality of interaction may be more important than the quantity.

If the purpose of homework is to develop the relationship between home and school and give parents more stake in the schooling of their children then this may well be a positive thing. If this is its purpose, though, it should not be used as a means to improve test scores or school performance metrics. For the youngest children, anything that takes time away from developmental play is a bad thing.

Rather, any homework should develop confidence and engagement in the process of schooling for both children and parents.

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The History of Homework: Why Was it Invented and Who Was Behind It?

  • By Emily Summers
  • February 14, 2020

Homework is long-standing education staple, one that many students hate with a fiery passion. We can’t really blame them, especially if it’s a primary source of stress that can result in headaches, exhaustion, and lack of sleep.

It’s not uncommon for students, parents, and even some teachers to complain about bringing assignments home. Yet, for millions of children around the world, homework is still a huge part of their daily lives as students — even if it continues to be one of their biggest causes of stress and unrest.

It makes one wonder, who in their right mind would invent such a thing as homework?

Who Invented Homework?

Pliny the younger: when in ancient rome, horace mann: the father of modern homework, the history of homework in america, 1900s: anti-homework sentiment & homework bans, 1930: homework as child labor, early-to-mid 20th century: homework and the progressive era, the cold war: homework starts heating up, 1980s: homework in a nation at risk, early 21 st century, state of homework today: why is it being questioned, should students get homework pros of cons of bringing school work home.

Guy stressed with homework

Online, there are many articles that point to Roberto Nevilis as the first educator to give his students homework. He created it as a way to punish his lazy students and ensure that they fully learned their lessons. However, these pieces of information mostly come from obscure educational blogs or forum websites with questionable claims. No credible news source or website has ever mentioned the name Roberto Nevilis as the person who invented homework . In fact, it’s possible that Nevilis never even existed.

As we’re not entirely sure who to credit for creating the bane of students’ existence and the reasons why homework was invented, we can use a few historical trivia to help narrow down our search.

Mentions of the term “homework” date back to as early as ancient Rome. In I century AD, Pliny the Younger , an oratory teacher, supposedly invented homework by asking his followers to practice public speaking at home. It was to help them become more confident and fluent in their speeches. But some would argue that the assignment wasn’t exactly the type of written work that students have to do at home nowadays. Only introverted individuals with a fear of public speaking would find it difficult and stressful.

It’s also safe to argue that since homework is an integral part of education, it’s probable that it has existed since the dawn of learning, like a beacon of light to all those helpless and lost (or to cast darkness on those who despise it). This means that Romans, Enlightenment philosophers, and Middle Age monks all read, memorized, and sang pieces well before homework was given any definition. It’s harder to play the blame game this way unless you want to point your finger at Horace Mann.

In the 19 th century, Horace Mann , a politician and educational reformer had a strong interest in the compulsory public education system of Germany as a newly unified nation-state. Pupils attending the Volksschulen or “People’s Schools” were given mandatory assignments that they needed to complete at home during their own time. This requirement emphasized the state’s power over individuals at a time when nationalists such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte were rallying support for a unified German state. Basically, the state used homework as an element of power play.

Despite its political origins, the system of bringing school assignments home spread across Europe and eventually found their way to Horace Mann, who was in Prussia at that time. He brought the system home with him to America where homework became a daily activity in the lives of students.

Despite homework being a near-universal part of the American educational experience today, it hasn’t always been universally accepted. Take a look at its turbulent history in America.

In 1901, just a few decades after Horace Mann introduced the concept to Americans, homework was banned in the Pacific state of California . The ban affected students younger than 15 years old and stayed in effect until 1917.

Around the same time, prominent publications such as The New York Times and Ladies’ Home Journal published statements from medical professionals and parents who stated that homework was detrimental to children’s health.

In 1930, the American Child Health Association declared homework as a type of child labor . Since laws against child labor had been passed recently during that time, the proclamation painted homework as unacceptable educational practice, making everyone wonder why homework was invented in the first place.

However, it’s keen to note that one of the reasons why homework was so frowned upon was because children were needed to help out with household chores (a.k.a. a less intensive and more socially acceptable form of child labor).

During the progressive education reforms of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, educators started looking for ways to make homework assignments more personal and relevant to the interests of individual students. Maybe this was how immortal essay topics such as “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” and “What I Did During My Summer Vacation” were born.

After World War II, the Cold War heated up rivalries between the U.S. and Russia. Sputnik 1’s launch in 1957 intensified the competition between Americans and Russians – including their youth.

Education authorities in the U.S. decided that implementing rigorous homework to American students of all ages was the best way to ensure that they were always one step ahead of their Russian counterparts, especially in the competitive fields of Math and Science.

In 1986, the U.S. Department of Education’s pamphlet, “What Works,” included homework as one of the effective strategies to boost the quality of education. This came three years after the National Commission on Excellence in Education published “ Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform .” The landmark report lambasted the state of America’s schools, calling for reforms to right the alarming direction that public education was headed.

Today, many educators, students, parents, and other concerned citizens have once again started questioning why homework was invented and if it’s still valuable.

Homework now is facing major backlash around the world. With more than 60% of high school and college students seeking counselling for conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety, all of which are brought about by school, it’s safe to say that American students are more stressed out than they should be.

After sitting through hours at school, they leave only to start on a mountain pile of homework. Not only does it take up a large chunk of time that they can otherwise spend on their hobbies and interests, it also stops them from getting enough sleep. This can lead to students experiencing physical health problems, a lack of balance in their lives, and alienation from their peers and society in general.

Is homework important and necessary ? Or is it doing more harm than good? Here some key advantages and disadvantages to consider.

  • It encourages the discipline of practice

Using the same formula or memorizing the same information over and over can be difficult and boring, but it reinforces the practice of discipline. To master a skill, repetition is often needed. By completing homework every night, specifically with difficult subjects, the concepts become easier to understand, helping students polish their skills and achieve their life goals.

  • It teaches students to manage their time

Homework goes beyond just completing tasks. It encourages children to develop their skills in time management as schedules need to be organized to ensure that all tasks can be completed within the day.

  • It provides more time for students to complete their learning process

The time allotted for each subject in school is often limited to 1 hour or less per day. That’s not enough time for students to grasp the material and core concepts of each subject. By creating specific homework assignments, it becomes possible for students to make up for the deficiencies in time.

  • It discourages creative endeavors

If a student spends 3-5 hours a day on homework, those are 3-5 hours that they can’t use to pursue creative passions. Students might like to read leisurely or take up new hobbies but homework takes away their time from painting, learning an instrument, or developing new skills.

  • Homework is typically geared toward benchmarks

Teachers often assign homework to improve students’ test scores. Although this can result in positive outcomes such as better study habits, the fact is that when students feel tired, they won’t likely absorb as much information. Their stress levels will go up and they’ll feel the curriculum burnout.

  • No evidence that homework creates improvements

Research shows that homework doesn’t improve academic performance ; it can even make it worse. Homework creates a negative attitude towards schooling and education, making students dread going to their classes. If they don’t like attending their lessons, they will be unmotivated to listen to the discussions.

With all of the struggles that students face each day due to homework, it’s puzzling to understand why it was even invented. However, whether you think it’s helpful or not, just because the concept has survived for centuries doesn’t mean that it has to stay within the educational system.

Not all students care about the history of homework, but they all do care about the future of their educational pursuits. Maybe one day, homework will be fully removed from the curriculum of schools all over the world but until that day comes, students will have to burn the midnight oil to pass their requirements on time and hopefully achieve their own versions of success.

About the Author

Emily summers.

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What’s the Purpose of Homework?

Finding the right balance between school and home..

Posted November 4, 2014 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader

Steven S./Flickr Commons

Remember the days of sitting in class waiting eagerly for the bell to ring before the teacher said that dreaded word, “homework”? Sighs, rolling eyes, and grunts quickly filled the quiet classroom at the mention of that word. Well, not much has changed today except for the fact that many teachers post assignments electronically. I have yet to see a student jump for joy when the word homework is mentioned, nor have I seen students eager to get home to do their homework (maybe finish it, but not to do it). This brings up the question, “What’s the purpose of homework?”

Research shows mixed results when it comes to homework. Some research has shown that students aren’t doing any more homework than their parents did at their age. In a study, school-aged children and parents completed surveys about how much homework youth have. The results showed that the typical elementary student has 30-45 minutes of homework each night. The average high-school student has about 60 minutes per night. Interestingly, these numbers have remained consistent since 1984!

As an educator, I would like to see a replication of this study. Today's teens are taking college-level courses as early as the ninth and tenth grade. With the push of programs such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Dual Enrollment, it is amazing that teens are not completely burnt out. No wonder 8% of teen's age 13-18 years meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. Too many teens are spending a lot of time on schoolwork outside of the classroom. Ask today's teen what has him/her so stressed and you'll find that about 80% of them will say school.

Maarten/Flickr Commons

There are those who argue that homework does serve a purpose . For example, it helps to prepare students for national and statewide exams and tests. It helps to reinforce what’s being taught in the classroom. It enables parents to actively engage in their child’s education . Plus, it helps teach fundamental skills such as time management , organization, task completion, as well as responsibility. What’s more important is students get to demonstrate mastery of material without the assistance of a teacher.

How much homework should your child do each night? Organizations such as the National Parent Teacher Association support giving students about 10 minutes of homework each night, per grade level, starting in first grade. So a middle school student would have a full day in school and then an additional 60 minutes of homework after school. Is that too much? Are these guidelines being followed? I would recommend speaking with high-achieving teens and let them share how much of their time is consumed with homework. Many will tell you that they spend hours upon hours each night studying for tests, and preparing for papers and projects, etc.

According to Stanford University , more than a couple of hours of homework a night may be counterproductive. Researchers looked at students in high achieving communities, defined as a median household income exceeding $90,000, and 93% of the students attended post-secondary institutions. Students in these areas spent an average of three-plus hours on homework every night. So imagine a teen spending an entire day at school, going to work or extracurricular activities, then going home to do three or more hours of homework each night; only to get up the next day to do it all again.

Researchers have found that students who spend too much time on homework experience more levels of stress and physical health problems. Too much homework has also been shown to have a negative impact on students’ social lives. This is no surprise to the parents who rarely see their child because he/she is too busy working on homework, or to the parent who gets up at 12:30 A.M. to check to see if their child has made it to bed yet. Overall, high school students shouldn’t be spending over two hours on homework each night.

Judit Klein/Flickr Commons

According to the Stanford study , too much homework leads to:

•Stress: 56% of the students surveyed considered homework a primary source of stress. Less than 1% of the students said homework was not a stressor.

•Poor health: Many students reported sleep deprivation, headaches, stomach problems, weight loss, and exhaustion.

•Less time for a social life : Students reported that spending too much time on homework led to pulling out of enjoyable activities, quitting extracurricular activities, and not spending much time with family and friends.

OK, I know not all students spend a lot of time doing homework. According to a survey by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics , the majority of youth spend an average of seven hours of homework outside of school each week. So while that doesn't seem like an unreasonable amount, what about the student who spends three-plus hours per night? Where is the happy medium?

what is homework in education

There are definitely pros and cons to doing homework. I think the bigger question that educators need to address is “what’s the purpose of the assignment?” Is it merely a way to show parents and administration what's going on in the class? Is it a means to help keep the grades up? Is the homework being graded for accuracy or completion? If so, then what if the assignment is wrong? Have the necessary skills been taught so the student can master the material on his or her own? I read an article once that stated teachers underestimate the amount of homework they assign by 50%. If that's accurate then there is definitely cause for concern.

In summary, there seems to be no clear answer on the homework debate. I started the blog with a question “What’s the purpose of homework?” I’ll end with the same question. If a teacher who is assigning the homework can’t provide a clear rationale behind this question, then maybe the homework shouldn’t be assigned.

I welcome you to weigh in with your thoughts. Do you think students have too much homework? If you are a teen reading this, how much homework do you have on an average night?

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D.

Raychelle Cassada Lohman n , M.S., LPC, is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens .

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what is homework in education

Why is homework important?

what is homework in education

Why Is Homework Important: Beyond Class and Embracing Learning

Homework is important for several reasons, as it plays a crucial role in enhancing students' learning and educational experience. Here are some key reasons why homework is valuable:

  • Reinforces Learning : Homework helps reinforce what was taught in class, allowing students to practice and apply knowledge, ensuring a deeper understanding and retention of the material.
  • Promotes Discipline and Time Management : Regular homework assignments teach students to manage their time effectively, develop self-discipline, and prioritize tasks, which are valuable skills beyond the classroom.
  • Encourages Independence and Responsibility : Completing homework independently fosters self-reliance and personal responsibility for one's learning, preparing students for the self-directed learning required in higher education and the workplace.
  • Provides Feedback : Homework offers teachers a way to assess students' understanding and progress, allowing them to identify areas where students may need extra help and adjust their teaching strategies accordingly.
  • Enhances Critical Thinking and Problem Solving : Homework often involves tasks that require critical thinking and problem-solving, skills that are crucial for academic and life success.
  • Engages Parents in Their Child's Education : Homework gives parents insight into what their children are learning in school and the opportunity to engage in their child's education, supporting learning at home.
  • Prepares for Upcoming Classes : Homework can be used to introduce new material, preparing students for future lessons and enabling more effective use of classroom time.

Overall, homework is a critical tool in the educational process, supporting learning and personal development in numerous ways.

Ever wondered why teachers seem to love piling on homework? The real reasons why assignments have such an amazing impact on your future might surprise you.

In this article, we’re discovering how homework isn’t just busywork — it’s an essential player when it comes to skyrocketing your comprehension of class material, refining your ability to tackle problems, and establishing a sturdy foundation for academic success. 

By the time we’re done, you’re going to be seeing homework in a different light. So, let's find out why homework is important.

Benefits of Homework

Homework facilitates problem-solving skills, provides students with an additional chance to revisit classroom content, enables parents to understand school teachings, and instills a sense of responsibility in students regarding their education.

If you're asking yourself, "Why is homework good for me?" There are numerous reasons why it can be very beneficial in the long run. Challenging work allows us to grow, after all. Let's look at all its benefits.

Completing Homework Encourages Students To Keep Learning

For some students, learning is not just an obligation but can be enjoyed as well. The acceptance of life-long learning can be fostered by homework, and if the teacher manages to engage their students, they’ve set the stage for the students. Let’s take a look at why homework is important:  

  • Improves memory and retention: It increases the potential for students to remember class material since they have to revisit it.
  • Increases the potential for practical use of knowledge: By understanding the lesson’s materials in more depth, students might apply what they know with more ease.

Helps Develop Skills and Good Habits

Doing your homework can help you develop the necessary skills and habits needed to do challenging work and to keep progressing and ultimately growing as a person. This is why the importance of homework can't be overlooked. 

  • Helps you learn time management: Since homework is usually done outside of school, students will learn how to manage their time and studying time, which will seep into their ability to manage their time in general.
  • Helps students become more organized: Organizing what you’ve learned to produce well-thought responses that can also be applied practically will become crucial in your day-to-day life.
  • Helps foster discipline and responsibility: If students want to become successful, not just in the eyes of society but for their personal achievements as well, they must be disciplined and have to take on responsibilities.

Connects School and Home

“Why is homework necessary?” you ask. For starters, it bridges school and home life. Parents are the vital link between schools and students becoming college and career-ready. 

And parent engagement is more powerful than any other form of involvement or support at school. It strengthens the vital educational triangle uniting parents, home, and school. 

Prepares High School Students for The Future

You can become more resilient and adaptable to challenges in your life. You’ll most likely feel more prepared when these challenges come. What’s more, you can become a better problem-solver and can improve your analytical and critical thinking skills in the long run. This is why homework is beneficial.

Helps Develop A Growth Mindset and Time Management Skills

If you're still wondering, "Why is homework important?" Then, you should know that it can help you foster a growth mentality. What does this mean? Instead of feeling victimized by challenges, failures, and other difficulties, you'll develop a mindset where you view these things as opportunities to grow. At the end of the day, these difficulties can be your best teachers.

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Homework: Tips and Tricks

Now that we've taken a look at all the reasons why homework is beneficial to your growth and life let's take a look at some tips you can apply to your homework sessions. If you're still having issues, you can always send a " do my homework " request on Studyfy to get expert help. ‍

To effectively tackle homework, consider these strategies: take regular breaks to refresh, collaborate with friends for support, create a conducive homework area, actively engage in homework discussions, minimize distractions, adhere to a homework timetable, form a study group, organize a dedicated study space, prepare all necessary materials in advance, listen to instrumental music to maintain focus, reward yourself for completing tasks, practice efficient time management, and leverage available resources for assistance.

1. Create A Study Space : Moving on from finding out why homework is good, the first tip to make homework sessions easier is to create a dedicated study space. By doing this, you can potentially trick your mind into focusing better in that said space.

2. Establish A Routine : Create a homework schedule and stick to it. By doing this, you're freeing up your time by prioritizing your responsibilities first. It might be hard at first, but it's work sticking by. Moreover, if you're curious, you can take a look at who invented homework and why , and you might get some inspiration from knowing this.

3. Prioritize The Difficult Tasks in Homework Assignments : Continuing why should students have homework and homework tips, another great tip is to tackle difficult homework first. This gives you enough time to complete them, ensuring you meet your deadlines. It also frees up your time and speeds up the process.

4. Make Use of Apps : Apps like Quizlet and Evernote can help streamline your sessions. You can note down reasons on, "How is homework beneficial?" to help you get motivated or simply note down important notes from class and more.

5. Break Tasks Up : For lengthier and more complex tasks, you can simply break them up into smaller and more doable portions. Need more reasons on why is homework good for students so you can learn how to motivate yourself to do homework even more? Keep reading, and you’ll know all there is to know about homework and how to finish it easier.

6. Get Help : How does homework help students when a task is too difficult? Difficulty motivates us to try harder. However, if you feel like you're stuck, don't be afraid to seek out help. You can ask teachers, friends, and your parents for extra guidance.

7. Employ Study Methods : Use study methods like summarizing, memory flashcards, and quizzing yourself. "Why is homework beneficial?" It helps you apply problem-solving skills effectively, just like these 3 methods.

8. Free Yourself From Distractions : One of the reasons why homework is good is it teaches you to focus and to cut off distractions. A habit that applies to anything in life. Free up your study space from all potential distractions, like phones, tablets, and TV.

9. Prioritize Health and Sleep : "Why is homework helpful?" For starters, if you prioritize your work, you are obligated to also take care of your health and get enough sleep. By doing so, you can focus and work better. Good habits produce more good habits.

10. Find Your Purpose : The last tip, but not the least important, is finding out your "Why." Find out why you want to work hard. Instead of summing it up to, "I want to get into a good school" or "I want to make a lot of money as an adult," find a deeper purpose as to why you should be diligent.

Maybe you're doing it for self-improvement, or maybe you want to change the world for the better. You can potentially get to know yourself better, and you realize this is why we should have homework.

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What are the reasons why students should have homework?

As we've already seen, homework helps foster better cognitive abilities, train discipline, and prepare students for what's coming.

If you're still struggling with your homework, you can get physics homework help and help for other subjects, too, on Studyfy. It's alright to have difficulties, if you try to improve, results will surely show up.     

How can parents help with homework?

Homework is important, therefore you should ask your parents for help and further motivation if needed. They can offer help when necessary and let you solve problems on your own to foster independence. They can create a space where learning is easy and there are no disturbances.

Can too much homework be counterproductive?

While the benefits of homework are plenty, too much homework can be counterproductive. If this is the case, you can directly talk to your teachers and negotiate with them. If you have tests you need to study for, it can help to have less homework.

Too much homework creates unnecessary stress, no matter how good your time management skills are. Yes, homework improve academic achievement, but excessive homework, especially for younger students, doesn't reinforce learning.

Do the study tips this article has mentioned help?

Yes, they do. It's become apparent that to memorize large amounts of information, it is better to break them down into parts. As for the rest of the advice, it will improve most students' learning efficiency. You should still try to find out which methods work best for you.                                                                          

If you need more guidance, you can get math homework help and help for other subjects as well on Studyfy. Gain insights and advice from an expert today.

The Walrus

Is Homework Good for Kids?

W hen my son started school in the fall of 2015, I knew there would be a few challenges to overcome. Because he was attending a francophone program, the catchment zone was quite large, and he would have to start each day with a forty-five-minute bus ride across downtown Toronto. My husband and I both worked full time, so my son would have to be in after-school care until one of us could get him, which would usually be around 6 p.m. Taking transit home took around forty-five minutes, which meant that we didn’t arrive at our apartment until close to 7 p.m. Add dinner and a bath into the mix, and that made for a long day. Still, I wasn’t too worried. I thought it would all be fine—and, honestly, it was fine right up until the homework started.

The worksheets began trickling home during grade one, and by the next year, my son was getting thick weekly packets of them. The board policy was that children in his grade were supposed to receive around twenty minutes’ worth of work per night, but in our house, the agony was never that brief. One week in grade two, my son came home with seventeen pages of homework, printed front and back—thirty-four worksheets filled with math problems and language exercises. He worked on them every night, but by Sunday, he was only about three quarters of the way through. He cried as he struggled to finish the homework. I cried as I emailed his teacher to tell her he hadn’t been able to finish it. We both felt like we’d failed.

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We were told that the work wasn’t mandatory, but that put me in a difficult position. I felt like, as a parent, I should be supporting what his teachers wanted from him, not acting against it. Besides, I believed that homework was necessary to set my son up for success. But it turns out that homework might not be as useful as we think.

“Homework is seen to benefit time management, self-discipline, [and] organizational skills, but there have been no studies that really have shown that homework actually either develops those skills or reinforces them,” says Etta Kralovec, professor emerita at the University of Arizona and author of The End of Homework and Schools That Do Too Much . She’s not the only homework researcher who is questioning how and why homework is done. Linda Cameron and Lee Bartel from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education have critiqued homework practices in Canada, noting, in 2010, that homework “may well be the ‘tipping point’ for the next educational reform movement” because the issue is “now uppermost in many parents’ and teachers’ minds.” Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, has found that, for many students, homework is the greatest source of stress in their lives. Homework stress can lead to burnout and negative impacts on academic achievement.

Kralovec tells me that there is no benefit to homework for elementary school students at all. A meta-analysis published in 2006 by Harris M. Cooper, distinguished professor emeritus at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, looked at all of the homework research that had been done in the United States between 1987 and 2003 and found that homework had “no association with achievement gain” in students from kindergarten through grade five. And while there is a link between homework and academic success in middle and high school students, Kralovec says that might be more correlation than causation. One example she gives is that students taking advanced placement classes in high school typically do more homework than their peers in other classes: Are they having more academic success because they do more homework, or are they doing more homework because those advanced classes tend to assign more of it?

Kralovec says that not only are the benefits of homework questionable but the practice also has clear detriments. It takes time away from more meaningful things that families can do together, like reading or playing. It can create tension between parent and child by placing them in the role of teacher and student—especially if the child already finds that a nerve-wracking role to play at school. It might also limit the extracurricular activities the child can participate in, especially if they’re expected to do homework every night.

Part of the issue is that children, like adults, perform better when they have adequate outlets for stress—like exercise or leisure. In a groundbreaking educational program in Vanves, France, that started in 1950, students showed improved academic achievement when classroom time was shortened and physical education was extended. Follow-up studies, including some done in Canadian cities like Victoria, BC, and Trois-Rivières, Quebec, have produced similar results. Another facet to consider is that academic competency is not the only capability children need to develop: a study by Mollie Galloway, Jerusha Conner, and Denise Pope found that students overloaded with homework were “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills.”

And not all students have a quiet, well-lit space in their homes where they can work. Many parents aren’t home in the afternoons and evenings—due to shift work or because they attend evening classes—and students in those households are often expected to care for younger siblings and cook dinner after school. Students may not have access to computers at home, meaning that they can’t complete work assigned online. Since work assigned to be done at home may make up a portion of a student’s overall grade, those whose home lives aren’t conducive to homework may struggle to maintain a high grade point average. Kralovec says this creates “a system of homework which further advances kids who are privileged.”

But Kralovec thinks change is on the horizon. COVID-19 disrupted how school work was done, an experience that caused many of us to re-evaluate our attitudes toward education. In 2021, the National Education Association published an article, “ Will the Pandemic Change Homework Forever? ,” that explored how COVID-19 lockdowns, which collapsed the boundaries between school and home, caused educators to re-examine what works and what doesn’t. Last year, Jessica McCrory Calarco, Ilana S. Horn, and Grace A. Chen published a paper, “‘ You Need to Be More Responsible’: The Myth of Meritocracy and Teachers’ Accounts of Homework Inequalities ,” that showed that teachers often interpret struggles with homework as lack of responsibility or motivation on students’ part and then react punitively instead of supporting students’ needs—which only serves to exacerbate social inequalities in the classroom. More recently, the president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, suggested that homework should be banned, saying that schoolwork should stay at school and students “should be able to use their time for other creative things” (though the president’s role is largely ceremonial and does not involve making policy).

Homework used to send my son into a nightly spiral. To him, the work seemed endless, and he felt like he was constantly coming up short—something that made him dread going to school. But when we relocated to Kingston, Ontario, he was delighted to learn that the teachers at his new school prefer not to assign homework. He’s expected to finish any incomplete classwork at home and sometimes has projects he has to do outside of school, but most of his nights are free. We’ve been enjoying the time together: reading, watching TV, and, in his words, “just vibing.”

I used to think that he couldn’t succeed without filling out some set amount of worksheets. Now I feel like I’ve completely changed my opinion on homework. Without the extra work, I’ve been able to see how much more enthusiastic my son actually is when it comes to learning.

A parent and child angrily looking at a large stack of paper.

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VIDEO

  1. Types of Children In Homework

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COMMENTS

  1. Does Homework Really Help Students Learn?

    Yes, and the stories we hear of kids being stressed out from too much homework—four or five hours of homework a night—are real. That's problematic for physical and mental health and overall well-being. But the research shows that higher-income students get a lot more homework than lower-income kids.

  2. Should Kids Get Homework?

    Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary. "Every child should be doing homework, but the ...

  3. Homework

    Homework is a set of tasks assigned to students by their teachers to be completed at home. 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.

  4. Key Lessons: What Research Says About the Value of Homework

    Homework has been in the headlines again recently and continues to be a topic of controversy, with claims that students and families are suffering under the burden of huge amounts of homework. School board members, educators, and parents may wish to turn to the research for answers to their questions about the benefits and drawbacks of homework.

  5. Homework

    When implementing homework, the evidence suggests a wide variation in impact. Therefore, schools should consider the ' active' ingredients to the approach, which may include: Considering the quality of homework over the quantity. Using well-designed tasks that are linked to classroom learning. Clearly setting out the aims of homework to pupils.

  6. How to Use Homework to Support Student Success

    Use homework as a vehicle to foster family-school communication. Families can use homework as an opportunity to open conversations about specific assignments or classes, peer relationships, or even sleep quality that may be impacting student success. For younger students, using a daily or weekly home-school notebook or planner can be one way to ...

  7. What's the Right Amount of Homework?

    The National PTA and the National Education Association support the " 10-minute homework guideline "—a nightly 10 minutes of homework per grade level. But many teachers and parents are quick to point out that what matters is the quality of the homework assigned and how well it meets students' needs, not the amount of time spent on it.

  8. What's the Purpose of Homework?

    The goal of your instruction should be to design homework that results in meaningful learning. Assign homework to help students deepen their understanding of content, practice skills in order to become faster or more proficient, or learn new content on a surface level. Check that students are able to perform required skills and tasks ...

  9. Homework in America

    Responses indicating no homework on the "usual" question in 2004 were: 2% for age 9-year-olds, 5% for 13 year olds, and 12% for 17-year-olds. These figures are much less than the ones reported ...

  10. Does Homework Work?

    Given that homework's benefits are so narrowly defined (and even then, contested), it's a bit surprising that assigning so much of it is often a classroom default, and that more isn't done ...

  11. Why homework matters

    Homework is the perennial bogeyman of K-12 education. In any given year, you'll find people arguing that students, especially in elementary school, should have far less homework—or none at all. Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academy charter schools, has the opposite opinion. She's been running schools for sixteen years, and she's only become more convinced that ...

  12. NAIS

    The readings about both the historical role of homework in American education and more recent research make it clear that at the national level, there is limited evidence to support the claim that homework bolsters student achievement or the development of work habits—especially during the elementary years.

  13. Homework

    Homework is a hot-button topic in education. Some view homework as a needless waste of time and effort, and source of tremendous stress for students; while, others view it as an excellent study and review tool. As a middle school teacher, I see it as a way for my students to hone the information they learned in class and also continually spiral ...

  14. Homework and Higher Standards

    Homework skeptic Alfie Kohn has questioned the benefit of homework, arguing that its positive effects are mythical, and in fact, it can disrupt the family dynamic. 4 He questions why teachers ...

  15. The Surprising History of Homework Reform

    One teacher proposed "homework" consisting of after-school "field trips to the woods, factories, museums, libraries, art galleries.". In 1937, Carleton Washburne, an influential educator who was the superintendent of the Winnetka, Illinois, schools, proposed a homework regimen of "cooking and sewing…meal planning…budgeting, home ...

  16. The Case for (Quality) Homework

    In short, homework is a key vehicle through which we can help shape children into mature learners. The Homework-Achievement Connection. A narrow focus on whether or not homework boosts grades and test scores in the short run thus ignores a broader purpose in education, the development of lifelong, confident learners.

  17. Why is Homework Important?

    Homework is an opportunity to learn and retain information in an environment where they feel most comfortable, which can help accelerate their development. 5. Using Learning Materials. Throughout a child's education, understanding how to use resources such as libraries and the internet is important. Homework teaches children to actively ...

  18. Is Homework Necessary? Education Inequity and Its Impact on Students

    The National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association recommend that students spend 10 minutes per grade level per night on homework. That means that first graders should spend 10 minutes on homework, second graders 20 minutes and so on. But a study published by The American Journal of Family Therapy found that students ...

  19. Primary school children get little academic benefit from homework

    Homework: a word that can cause despair not just in children, but also in parents and even teachers. And for primary school children at least, it may be that schools setting homework is more ...

  20. PDF Homework

    Homework may serve to tie the school more closely to the home. It is a demonstration of teacher expectations to both pupil and parent. By definition, homework is a task initiated and/or motivated in the classroom related to the objective of the course studied which is normally completed during out-of-class time.

  21. Who Invented Homework and Why Was It Invented?

    Homework is long-standing education staple, one that many students hate with a fiery passion. We can't really blame them, especially if it's a primary source of stress that can result in headaches, exhaustion, and lack of sleep.. It's not uncommon for students, parents, and even some teachers to complain about bringing assignments home.

  22. What is Homework?

    Homework is any task or assignment set by teachers to be completed outside of school hours. Homework usually relates to topics that students have been studying in lessons. It can take many formats, such as reading and writing assessments and research tasks. Benefits of homework. Homework encourages parents to take an interest in a child's ...

  23. What's the Purpose of Homework?

    Source: Maarten/Flickr Commons. There are those who argue that homework does serve a purpose. For example, it helps to prepare students for national and statewide exams and tests. It helps to ...

  24. Why Is Homework Important

    Engages Parents in Their Child's Education: Homework gives parents insight into what their children are learning in school and the opportunity to engage in their child's education, supporting learning at home. Prepares for Upcoming Classes: Homework can be used to introduce new material, ...

  25. Is Homework Good for Kids?

    Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, has found that, for many students, homework is the greatest source of stress in their lives.

  26. Stakeholders waiting for Pennsylvania Governor's higher education blueprint

    However, stakeholders across the state have homework: learn exactly what Shapiro's plan is. Shapiro recently touted his fix at Reading Community College saying this blueprint for higher ...