How Much Homework Is Too Much?

homework

Homework: What a giant issue that has been such a hot topic and such often a heated debate. I decided I wanted to try to tackle this MONSTAH, (Boston version). Why did I choose to write about a contentious issue? Because people need to look at the data before they pass judgment, and this data should be used to benefit student learning. I have enjoyed discussing this topic with several colleagues over my twenty something years in education and have changed my viewpoints as a result of looking at relevant data and the proverbial “Big Picture.”

So the most frequent questions I have heard are; Why is homework needed, does homework improve learning, what does quality/relevant homework look like, and how much homework is too much? The positive aspects of homework are it can help students learn responsibility, practice skills learned in class to help maximize learning, students learn to use more resources like reference materials, the internet, and libraries. Homework can also help students become more independent when they work on assignments on their own. Parents can become more involved in their child’s education by helping them with homework assignments and also seeing what they are learning in school. These are some of the positive aspects of homework.

There have been several studies on the efficacy of homework and most state that at younger ages, homework does not show a definite correlation between the homework and improved test scores or improved academic achievement. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/02/high-school-homework-are-_n_1071973.html Homework used in middle and high school has proven to have some positive impacts on learning as long as it was meaningful and relevant. http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/research.htm What does relevant homework look like? From my experience and what I have read, it should be based on skill development and not just memorizing content. Marzano has some great examples of relevant work in his instructional strategies document  http://www.palmbeachschools.org/qa/documents/Handout5-MarzanoHighYieldStrategies.pdf The NEA (National Education Association) created some recommendations for assigning homework. It basically stated that a student should receive no more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level a night. An example is, an eighth grader would have no more than 80 minutes assigned in a night. This is tough to measure and police in a school, but it helps establish some kind of a norm for homework. This might also help educators understand how much homework is too much.

What is the negative impact of too much homework? I believe students need to go outside and play, be active, and socialize with their friends and family. Excessive homework can stunt a student’s growth in these areas. We want students to develop in many different areas not just in rote memorization. Also, is the homework equitable? What if several students don’t have the support at home to help with their homework while others do? Will this homework be graded? A family of well-educated parents certainly have an edge over those without, but all students are held accountable for the same graded homework. Something to think about! Should the majority of homework assignments even be graded or is it more about the effort in the process of completing it? If a student doesn’t understand the homework, won’t they just be performing the same imperfect tasks over and over which can be detrimental? Wouldn’t it be beneficial for the homework assignment to be based on areas that need work from class that a teacher noticed during some kind of formative assessment? What if the teacher also provided a link on their web page to help them work through the problems, material, or skills? Just a thought!

Does excessive homework prevent students from enjoying school because they feel overwhelmed, and is any of this adding to the excessive mental health issues we are seeing in our schools today? I would say it might play a role. Students definitely have a lot on their plate which is fine as long as we all know how to take some off when they are getting full. Did you know the US gives more homework than almost any other country in the world, but our test scores are not as high as say Japan and Finland? More doesn’t always mean better.

So, to wrap this up, I have learned that balance is the key to success in education, and we want to help students learn by using many educational sources and strategies. I feel homework has its place and can be beneficial if it improves skills that will translate to real-life learning.  I suggest using more technology and project based learning where students take the skills they learned into application. We want students to enjoy education and have fun in the process while also understanding that they must work hard and show responsibility. That balance word again!

4 thoughts on “How Much Homework Is Too Much?

  1. Excellent highlight of both sides of the discussion with good links to articles for further reading!
    We do assign way too much homework in my school, but never use it as part of a grade. It is a problem stemming from not enough school time to really practice the new skills. I always tell parents not to ” help ” their child to the point that mom or dad has actually done the homework for them, but many do any way.
    Regards,
    Kelsie Abduljawad
    Head of Primary and Early Years
    Al Arqam Academy
    Doha, Qatar

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  2. Your article was very informative and addressed the homework issue quite effectively. I am looking forward to following this conversation.

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  3. I believe you have managed to raise many important aspects to the topic. It is something that there is great diversity of opinion on and often high levels of emotion. Balance indeed! I recognise the importance of time for activities, family and socialisation. However, I think at times people get too bogged down with what is done in ‘homework time’ and lose sight of the benefits associated with self discipline, independence and time management. These are important concepts in an age where children have constant bombardment with changing stimuli through technology. What length of time is required to redress time spent on electronic games and media? At what age should homework be introduced?

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