The Homework Debate: The Case Against HomeworkBy Monica Fuglei • November 14, 2013
This post has been updated for accuracy and relevance as of December 2017.
It’s not uncommon to hear students, parents, and even some teachers always complaining about homework. Why, then, is homework an inescapable part of the student experience? Worksheets, busy work, and reading assignments continue to be a mainstay of students’ evenings.
Whether from habit or comparison with out-of-class work time in other nations, our students are getting homework and, according to some of them, a LOT of it. Educators and policy makers must ask themselves—does assigning homework pay off?
Is there evidence that homework benefits students younger than high school?
The Scholastic article Is Homework Bad? references Alfie Kohn’s book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing, in which he says, “There is no evidence to demonstrate that homework benefits students below high school age.”
The article goes on to note that those who oppose homework focus on the drawbacks of significant time spent on homework, identifying one major negative as homework’s intrusion into family time. They also point out that opponents believe schools have decided homework is necessary and thus assign it simply to assign some kind of homework, not because doing the work meets specifically-identified student needs.
“Busy work” does not help students learn
Students and parents appear to carry similar critiques of homework, specifically regarding assignments identified as busy work—long sheets of repetitive math problems, word searches, or reading logs seemingly designed to make children dislike books.
When asked how homework can negatively affect children, Nancy Kalish, author of The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It, says that many homework assignments are “simply busy work” that makes learning “a chore rather than a positive, constructive experience.”
Commenters on the piece, both parents and students, tended to agree. One student shared that on occasion they spent more time on homework than at school, while another commenter pointed out that, “We don’t give slow-working children a longer school day, but we consistently give them a longer homework day.”
Without feedback, homework is ineffective
The efficacy of the homework identified by Kalish has been studied by policy researchers as well. Gerald LeTendre, of Penn State’s Education Policy Studies department points out that the shotgun approach to homework, when students all receive the same photocopied assignment which is then checked as complete rather than discussed individually with the student, is “not very effective.” He goes on to say that, “If there’s no feedback and no monitoring, the homework is probably not effective.”
Researchers from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia had similar findings in their study, “When Is Homework Worth The Time?” According to UVAToday, these researchers reported no “substantive difference” in the grades of students related to homework completion.
As researcher Adam Maltese noted, “Our results hint that maybe homework is not being used as well as it could be.” The report further suggested that while not all homework is bad, the type and quality of assignments and their differentiation to specific learners appears to be an important point of future research.
If homework is assigned, it should heighten understanding of the subject
The Curry School of Education report did find a positive association between standardized test performance and time spent on homework, but standardized test performance shouldn’t be the end goal of assignments—a heightened understanding and capability with the content material should.
As such, it is important that if/when teachers assign homework assignments, it is done thoughtfully and carefully—and respectful of the maximum times suggested by the National Education Association, about 10 minutes per night starting in the first grade, with an additional 10 minutes per year after.
Continue reading — The Homework Debate: How Homework Benefits Students
Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.Learn More: Click to view related resources. Tags: Leadership and Administration, Pros and Cons, Teacher-Parent Relationships
When you get home after school, how much homework will you do? Will it keep you up late at night? Will it cause stress in your family? Or do you have homework under control?
Do your teachers assign too much homework?
In “As Students Return to School, Debate About the Amount of Homework Rages,” Christine Hauser writes:
How much homework is enough?
My daughter, Maya, who is entering second grade, was asked to complete homework six days a week during the summer. For a while, we tried gamely to keep up. But one day she turned to me and said, “I hate reading.”
I put the assignment aside.
That was my abrupt introduction to the debate over homework that is bubbling up as students across the United States head back to school.
This month, Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Godley, Tex., let parents know on “Meet the Teacher” night that she had no plans to load up her students’ backpacks.
“There will be no formally assigned homework this year,” Ms. Young wrote in a note that was widely shared on Facebook. “Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.”
Other conversations about homework are humming in town halls and online. Some school districts, including one near Phoenix, have taken steps to shorten the summer break, out of concern that too much is forgotten over the summer. But discussions on blogs like GreatSchools.org or StopHomework.com reveal a belief that the workload assigned to students may be too heavy.
When we asked students this same question in 2014, most commenters — but not all — voiced their opinion that homework was stressing them out. Dinah wrote:
In theory, homework seems like a good idea, just a little bit of looking over what was learned in class and answering a few questions to feel more comfortable with the material. In practice, it’s entirely different. Now I’m up till 11:30 p.m. some nights desperately trying to finish three colossal essays.
I’m an eighth grade student at an American school and my teachers pile on homework, so much where I am staying up until nearly three in the morning. I LOVE school and I truly do have a passion for learning, it’s just these extra worksheets are not teaching me anything.
And Doug B. wrote:
I’m becoming deranged from the excess of homework given to me. I have no time for any interests I have, companions and sleep.
Students: Read the entire article, then tell us:
— Do your teachers assign too much homework? Or do you have just the right amount?
— Does homework cause stress and tension in your family? Or does it create opportunities to work together with your parents or siblings?
— Does it get in the way of sleep or extracurricular activities? Or are you able to manage the right balance?
— How do you usually get your homework done? At home or at school? In a quiet room, or with family or friends around? Do you tend to work alone, or do your parents or friends help?
— Is homework, including projects and writing assignments you do at home, an important part of your learning experience? Or is it not a good use of time, in your opinion? Explain.Continue reading the main story