Research Spotlight on Homework

Some researchers are urging schools to take a fresh look at homework and its potential for engaging students and improving student performance. The key, they say, is to take into account grade-specific and developmental factors when determining the amount and kind of homework. So, what’s appropriate? What benefits can be expected? What makes for good homework policies? Research doesn’t have all the answers, but a review of some existing data yields some helpful observations and guidance.

How Much Homework Do Students Do?

Survey data and anecdotal evidence show that some students spend hours nightly doing homework.

Homework overload is the exception rather than the norm; however, according to research from the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation (see the Brown Center 2003 below). Their researchers analyzed data from a variety of sources and concluded that the majority of U.S. students spend less than an hour a day on homework, regardless of grade level, and this has held true for most of the past 50 years.

In the last 20 years, homework has increased only in the lower grade levels, and this increase is associated with neutral (and sometimes negative) effects on student achievement.

How Much Is Appropriate?

The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter (e.g., 20 minutes for second grade, 120 minutes for twelfth). High school students may sometimes do more, depending on what classes they take (see Review of Educational Research, 2006).

What are the benefits?

Homework usually falls into one of three categories: practice, preparation, or extension. The purpose usually varies by grade. Individualized assignments that tap into students’ existing skills or interests can be motivating. At the elementary school level, homework can help students develop study skills and habits and can keep families informed about their child’s learning. At the secondary school level, student homework is associated with greater academic achievement. (Review of Educational Research, 2006)

What’s good policy?

Experts advise schools or districts to include teachers, parents, and students in any effort to set homework policies. Policies should address the purposes of homework; amount and frequency; school and teacher responsibilities; student responsibilities; and, the role of parents or others who assist students with homework. Reference: Cooper, H. (2003). A synthesis of research. Review of Educational Reseach, volume 76, Retrieved January 09, 2013, from http://www.nea.org/tools/16938.htm Reasons why students should not have homework

Homework is supposed to ensure that all students retain the material covered in the classroom, but for many children it is an unnecessary chore and actually hinders their learning. Children learn best when they are interested in the subject. Positive mental attitude makes learning even challenging things much easier. Negative mental attitude, however, makes retaining knowledge harder and creates stress in a learner. It also takes much longer periods of time to complete. As a result children hardly have any time to develop their talents through extracurricular activities, or to spend adequate time with family and friends. Instead of being burdened with much resented huge loads of homework, children should have the opportunity for more self-directed and interactive learning at school to generate their interest and build in them positive attitude towards learning.

Teachers should be more creative and use multimedia like computers and video presentations to make covered subjects more engaging involving children’s input more. Students should be allowed to suggest activities and projects they would like to do. In the present school system it is usually the teacher who decides what and how children should learn in class and at home. This promotes passivity and a sense that learning is a necessary evil rather than exiting opportunity to learn about the world we live in. This is very ineffective, making kids bored, stressed, and frustrated. Not to mention that it is often parents who do the reluctant kids’ homework therefore homework doesn’t help them to learn at all. They get their grades, but end up having learning gaps that will come out later on and hinder their success.

Children who are struggling themselves with loads of homework lack the time to develop other than academic passions and experience very unhealty stress that cen result even in a depression. The numbers of children who take antidepressants is rapidly growing. Students who are defiant about their homework often have very strained relationship with their parents. It is a source of contention in too many families and contributes to deep emotional problems in these children and also inevitably may cause depression and substance abuse.

The age of kids taking street drugs is getting lower and lower. Children as young as ten in some countries have a drinking problem and homework overload can be an indirect cause of that. That is why I think students should not have homework, but be able to have enjoyable learning experience at school and freedom to be encouraged by the teacher to expand their knowledge on their own terms at home, and to be rewarded for the extra effort instead of being forced to do homework they don’t like.

Reference:

Tehrani, E. (2009). Reasons why students should not have homework. Retrieved January 09, 2013, from http://www.helium.com/items/1309973-why-students-shoul-not-have-homework The Truth About Homework

In high school, some studies do find a correlation between homework and test scores (or grades), but it’s usually fairly small, and it has a tendency to disappear when more sophisticated statistical controls are applied. Moreover, there’s no evidence that higher achievement is due to the homework even when an association does appear. It isn’t hard to think of other explanations for why successful students might be in classrooms where more homework is assigned—or why they might spend more time on it than their peers do.

The results of national and international exams raise further doubts. One of many examples is an analysis of 1994 and 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, data from 50 countries. Researchers David P. Baker and Gerald K. LeTendre were scarcely able to conceal their surprise when they published their results last year: “Not only did we fail to find any positive relationships,” they wrote, but “the overall correlations between national average student achievement and national averages in [amount of homework assigned] are all negative.”

Consider the assumption that homework should be beneficial just because it gives students more time to master a topic or skill. (Plenty of pundits rely on this premise when they call for extending the school day or year. Indeed, homework can be seen as a way of prolonging the school day on the cheap.) Unfortunately, this reasoning turns out to be woefully simplistic. Back “when experimental psychologists mainly studied words and nonsense syllables, it was thought that learning inevitably depended upon time,” the reading researcher Richard C.

Anderson and his colleagues explain. But “subsequent research suggests that this belief is false.” The statement “People need time to learn things” is true, of course, but it doesn’t tell us much of practical value. On the other hand, the assertion “More time usually leads to better learning” is considerably more interesting. It’s also demonstrably untrue, however, because there are enough cases where more time doesn’t lead to better learning.

In fact, more hours are least likely to produce better outcomes when understanding or creativity is involved. Anderson and his associates found that when children are taught to read by focusing on the meaning of the text (rather than primarily on phonetic skills), their learning does “not depend on amount of instructional time.” In math, too, as another group of researchers discovered, time on task is directly correlated to achievement only if both the activity and the outcome measure are focused on rote recall as opposed to problem-solving.

Carole Ames of Michigan State University points out that it isn’t “quantitative changes in behavior”—such as requiring students to spend more hours in front of books or worksheets—that help children learn better. Rather, it’s “qualitative changes in the ways students view themselves in relation to the task, engage in the process of learning, and then respond to the learning activities and situation.” In turn, these attitudes and responses emerge from the way teachers think about learning and, as a result, how they organize their classrooms. Assigning homework is unlikely to have a positive effect on any of these variables. We might say that education is less about how much the teacher covers than about what students can be helped to discover—and more time won’t help to bring about that shift.

Regardless of one’s criteria, there is no reason to think that most students would be at any sort of disadvantage if homework were sharply reduced or even eliminated. But even if practice is sometimes useful, we’re not entitled to conclude that homework of this type works for most students. It isn’t of any use for those who don’t understand what they’re doing. Such homework makes them feel stupid; gets them accustomed to doing things the wrong way (because what’s really “reinforced” are mistaken assumptions); and teaches them to conceal what they don’t know. At the same time, other students in the same class already have the skill down cold, so further practice for them is a waste of time.

You’ve got some kids, then, who don’t need the practice, and others who can’t use it. Furthermore, even if practice were helpful for most students, that wouldn’t mean they needed to do it at home. In my research, I found a number of superb teachers (at different grade levels and with diverse instructional styles) who rarely, if ever, found it necessary to assign homework. Some not only didn’t feel a need to make students read, write, or do math at home; they preferred to have students do these things during class, where it was possible to observe, guide, and discuss. Finally, any theoretical benefit of practice homework must be weighed against the effect it has on students’ interest in learning.

If slogging through worksheets dampens one’s desire to read or think, surely that wouldn’t be worth an incremental improvement in skills. And when an activity feels like drudgery, the quality of learning tends to suffer, too. That so many children regard homework as something to finish as quickly as possible—or even as a significant source of stress—helps explain why it appears not to offer any academic advantage even for those who obediently sit down and complete the tasks they’ve been assigned. All that research showing little value to homework may not be so surprising after all.

Reference:

Kohn, A. (2006). The truth about homework. Retrieved January 09, 2013, from
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/09/06/02kohn.h26.html?tkn=RVRFTkNGGXy32nbQpdGsSFt01V8aHU5cZ3wG

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