Research regarding the value of homework has yielded positive and negative results, some of which contradict each other or create further questions about homework’s worth. There are a variety of types of homework that all have varying effects, and these can be academic or nonacademic. In a study conducted by the Center for Public Education (CPE), several benefits were discovered that are not directly related to academic achievement. Homework was seen to improve communication between students and parents, encourage students to work and socialize with peers, improve task- and time-management skills, establish routines and study habits, and increase determination to follow through on a task.
These benefits are often a product of homework that is designed with a view of enhancing nonacademic achievement rather than being directly related to what students are learning in school. According to the study, homework that enhances what you might call “life skills” rather than academic learning goals is most beneficial for younger students in elementary and middle school. These students’ basic habits and skills are being shaped by their assignments, and their ability to ignore irrelevant information, focus on tasks, and avoid distractions is much lower than that of older students. A Washington Post article addresses studies that show no benefits to assigning course-related homework to elementary students, and even middle school students should have little academic homework.
In the CPE study, the effects of homework that is related to or expands upon what students learn in school were also evaluated. These assignments often include practicing a task learned in class, preparing for upcoming course work, applying class material to new contexts and situations, or combining skills learned in class with other skills. These types of assignments are more beneficial for high school students, but it is unclear to what extent or in what situations. According to the Washington Post article, studies have been done that show a correlation between increased homework and standardized test scores, but the correlation is not very strong, and there is no evidence to say that homework actually causes better test scores. Several studies also concluded that math homework has a better effect than most other types, especially reading and writing.
In terms of class grades, there does not seem to be any evidence to suggest that students who complete homework earn higher grades than those who do not if homework completion is not factored into class grades. Students who prepare less outside of class are actually shown to receive higher grades, according to the CPE study.
Studies conducted point to several negative effects of course-related homework, and in the CPE study, it was shown that homework can negatively affect students’ attitudes toward school, increase boredom, exhaustion and frustration, limit the amount of leisure time students can enjoy outside of their 6.5-7 hour school days, lead to family conflicts, and create a lack of interest in learning. The Washington Post article states: “Six hours a day of academics are enough, and kids should have the chance after school to explore other interests and develop in other ways — or be able simply to relax in the same way that most adults like to relax after work, and… the decision about what kids do during family time should be made by families, not schools.”
While research on the benefits and drawbacks of homework is not conclusive, there are a few overarching viewpoints that have come out of these studies. According to the CPE study, older students benefit more from completing homework on a regular basis, especially when the homework relates to upcoming course work or review of material that has not been covered recently rather than assignments that repeat what was learned earlier in the day. However, the optimum amount of time to spend on homework was found to be between 1.5 and 2.5 hours for high school students and 1 hour or less for middle school students, which is much lower than the amount of time that many students need to work on homework each night to complete all of their assignments. It also appears that homework assignments that require parent or peer participation are more likely to be completed, and an article on theatlantic.com shows that students who have a choice in the type and content of homework given have a greater interest in assignments.
These studies mainly address the subject matter, amount, and nature of homework, but there are also home or community factors related to parent involvement, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status that affect academic success that have not been studied closely enough to determine their impacts on the effects of homework. There are no definitive results, and these studies are by no means the be-all, end-all, but they’re beginning to paint a picture of what the future of homework might be like based on its current and past effectiveness.
What are your views on the value of homework? What are the pros and cons that you have observed?