Does Homework Increase Student Achievement?
Homework is a very complex topic and a source of great discussion. Support for homework has ebbed and flowed over the last century. Some have argued that the burden of homework causes significant family stress–including parent-child conflict, reduced family leisure time, and overly tired children. (Kralovec & Buell, 2000). Others have argued that homework is a necessary part of the American educational experience. After the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, Americans were worried about keeping up educationally with other nations and began to demand more homework for the children (Gill & Schlossman, 2000).
Due to these changing views on homework, research is more important than ever to determine (if possible) the effects of homework on student achievement. Definitions
Homework can be defined as any task assigned by schoolteachers intended for students to carry out during non-school hours (Cooper, 1989). The scope of the word homework can include many different types of things. Variations in homework can be classified according to its (a) amount, (b) skill area, (c) purpose, (d) degree of choice for the student, (e) completion deadline, (f) degree of individualization, and (g) social context.
Variations in the amount of homework can appear as differences in both the frequency and length of individual assignments. Assignments can range over all the skill areas taught in school. (p. 1, Cooper, Robinson, and Patall, 2006). Primary Purposes/Benefits of Homework Assignments
Homework can be assigned to fulfill many purposes. Those purposes are either instructional or non-instructional. (Epstein, 1988; Epstein and Van Voohis, 2001). Practicing or reviewing material from class is the most common instructional purpose.
Other purposes include the introduction of new material and the application of learned skills to new situations. Examples of non-instructional purposes are to fulfill district homework policies, open and grown parent-teacher lines of communication, as well as improved parent-child communication regarding school. (Cooper et al., 2006) Students, teachers and parents experience these benefits of the homework assignments. Additional Benefits of Homework
While the primary reason for assigning homework is to aid and reinforce instruction, there is growing evidence that the practice of homework can have additional benefits including managing distraction, self-efficacy, and perceived responsibility for learning (Bembenutty, 2009). While these self-regulation tasks, such as time management, setting goals, effort and persistence in completing difficult tasks, and self-monitoring one’s performance, are important to academic success, they are also vitally important life skills, especially for successful professional writers, athletes, artists, and scientists. (Ramdass and Zimmerman, 2011). Other benefits include long-term academic benefits such as better study skills, as well as nonacademic benefits such as greater self -direction and more independent problem-solving. In addition, parents tend to have a great appreciation of and involvement in schooling (Protheroe, 2009). Relationship between Homework and Achievement
There are varied findings in the research for the relationship between homework and achievement. Some research finds a positive relationship between homework and achievement.
Zhu and Leung (2012) studied this relationship by introducing quality of homework as a factor. They focused on three aspects: frequency and amount of homework; types of homework; and usage modes of homework. Overall, Zhu & Leung found that the three aspects of homework studied did have a positive influence on assessment results.
Tanis and Sullivan-Bustein (1998) studied homework completion and its effect on weekly quiz performance. This research did show improved test performance as homework completion increased. This study was somewhat flawed, however, because the participants were not chosen randomly. The students were chosen due to their history of achievement (or lack thereof) and homework issues. Nonetheless, this research did positively affect the students studied.
Omlin-Ruback (1998) conducted a study focusing on increasing homework completion of middle school students through the use of interventions. This study found that the students who were participating in the homework interventions on a daily basis had better grades than those who did not. Thus, students who were completing more homework had improved achievement.
While these three studies did find a positive relationship, other research finds no relationship. Trautwein, Schnyder, Niggli, Neumann, and Ludkte (2009) reviewed a great deal of prior research on the relationship between homework and achievement and decided that a more complex research design was required to study this relationship. The results of their study depended on the variables under focus. The homework-achievement association was positive, negative or not statistically significant depending on which variables were being studied.
Opponents point out that homework can also have negative effects on achievement and school in general. It can lead to boredom with schoolwork, since all activities remain interesting only for finite periods of time. Homework can deny children access to leisure activities that also teach important life skills. Parents can get too involved in homework. They can pressure children and can confuse them by using instructional techniques that are different from those used by the teacher (p.1, Cooper, 2008).
Factors other than Homework that Affect Achievement
The relationship between homework and student achievement is complex. One significant factor other than homework affecting achievement includes home life. Some students do not have the tools or support at home to complete homework. (Protheroe, 2009). In addition, test anxiety and stress levels can negatively affect student achievement even if homework completion is complete and thorough. (Talib and Sansgiry, 2011). Thus, studying a single relationship between homework and student achievement cannot explain the effects, or lack thereof, of homework. Conclusions
There are varied finding in the research concerning the relationship between homework and student achievement. While there is a great deal of research on the topic of the value of homework in student achievement, it turns out that this relationship is very complex. There are many factors involved, many of which are out of the control of the school or teacher. In addition, there are gaps in the research regarding the different types of homework and the quality of homework. This complex relationship needs to be further defined and refined. Further research needs to be done using new statistical techniques that can successfully handle the number of variables in this relationship.
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