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Is Homework Harmful or Helpful?

NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education

❶The case against homework: She commented, When reported in the popular media, medical research often appears as a blunt instrument, able to obliterate skeptics or opponents by the force of its evidence and arguments.

The Case Against Homework

The Case for Homework
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He added that when required reading is included as a type of homework, the minute rule might be increased to 15 minutes. Focusing on the amount of time students spend on homework, however, may miss the point. A significant proportion of the research on homework indicates that the positive effects of homework relate to the amount of homework that the student completes rather than the amount of time spent on homework or the amount of homework actually assigned. Thus, simply assigning homework may not produce the desired effect—in fact, ill-structured homework might even have a negative effect on student achievement.

Teachers must carefully plan and assign homework in a way that maximizes the potential for student success see Research-Based Homework Guidelines.

Another question regarding homework is the extent to which schools should involve parents. Some studies have reported minimal positive effects or even negative effects for parental involvement. They recommended interactive homework in which Parents receive clear guidelines spelling out their role. Teachers do not expect parents to act as experts regarding content or to attempt to teach the content. Parents ask questions that help students clarify and summarize what they have learned.

Good and Brophy provided the following recommendations regarding parent involvement: Although research has established the overall viability of homework as a tool to enhance student achievement, for the most part the research does not provide recommendations that are specific enough to help busy practitioners. This is the nature of research—it errs on the side of assuming that something does not work until substantial evidence establishes that it does.

The research community takes a long time to formulate firm conclusions on the basis of research. Homework is a perfect example: Figure 1 includes synthesis studies that go back as far as 60 years, yet all that research translates to a handful of recommendations articulated at a very general level. In addition, research in a specific area, such as homework, sometimes contradicts research in related areas.

For example, Cooper recommended on the basis of plus years of homework research that teachers should not comment on or grade every homework assignment.

Riehl pointed out the similarity between education research and medical research. She commented, When reported in the popular media, medical research often appears as a blunt instrument, able to obliterate skeptics or opponents by the force of its evidence and arguments. Yet repeated visits to the medical journals themselves can leave a much different impression. The serious medical journals convey the sense that medical research is an ongoing conversation and quest, punctuated occasionally by important findings that can and should alter practice, but more often characterized by continuing investigations.

These investigations, taken cumulatively, can inform the work of practitioners who are building their own local knowledge bases on medical care. If relying solely on research is problematic, what are busy practitioners to do? Instead, educators should combine research-based generalizations, research from related areas, and their own professional judgment based on firsthand experience to develop specific practices and make adjustments as necessary.

Educators can develop the most effective practices by observing changes in the achievement of the students with whom they work every day. Research-Based Homework Guidelines Research provides strong evidence that, when used appropriately, homework benefits student achievement.

To make sure that homework is appropriate, teachers should follow these guidelines: Design homework to maximize the chances that students will complete it. For example, ensure that homework is at the appropriate level of difficulty. Students should be able to complete homework assignments independently with relatively high success rates, but they should still find the assignments challenging enough to be interesting.

When mom and dad help: Student reflections on parent involvement with homework. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 31 3 , — The instructional effects of feedback in test-like events. Review of Educational Research, 61 2 , — The case against homework: How homework is hurting our children and what we can do about it. The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-toone tutoring. Educational Leadership, 41 8 , 4— Synthesis of research on homework.

Educational Leadership, 47 3 , 85— The battle over homework 3rd ed. Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, — Review of Educational Research, 76 1 , 1— Homework is a complicated thing. Educational Researcher, 25 8 , 27— School, family, and community partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools.

Elementary School Journal, 83 , — Synthesis of educational productivity research [Special issue]. International Journal of Educational Research, 11 2 , — The lost cause of homework reform.

American Journal of Education, , 27— Looking in classrooms 9th ed. School-based home instruction and learning: Journal of Educational Research, 76 , — Measuring the effects of schooling. Australian Journal of Education, 36 1 , 5— The Elementary School Journal, 95 5 , — Using meta-analyses to answer the question: What are the important influences on school learning? School Psychology Review, 17 4 , — Why our kids get too much of a bad thing. The study of homework and other examples.

The end of homework: How homework disrupts families, overburdens children, and limits learning. Errors and allegations about research on homework. Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. National Education Commission on Time and Learning The effects of homework on learning: Journal of Educational Research, 78 , 97— Parental involvement in homework: Is that really worth the frustration, exhaustion, family conflict, loss of time for other activities, and potential diminution of interest in learning?

But it was grades, not tests, that Maltese and his colleagues really cared about. And the result of this fine-tuned investigation? This result clearly caught the researchers off-guard. Frankly, it surprised me, too.

Even if homework were a complete waste of time, how could it not be positively related to course grades? Even in high school. The study zeroed in on specific course grades, which represents a methodological improvement, and the moral may be: The better the research, the less likely one is to find any benefits from homework.

Maltese and his colleagues did their best to reframe these results to minimize the stunning implications. Those open to evidence, however, have been presented this fall with yet another finding that fails to find any meaningful benefit even when the study is set up to give homework every benefit of the doubt.

They argue that a 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 b the decision about what kids do during family time should be made by families, not schools.

Cool and Timothy Z. Other research has found little or no correlation between how much homework students report doing and how much homework their parents say they do. To put it the other way around, studies finding the biggest effect are those that capture less of what goes on in the real world by virtue of being so brief. Even the title of their article reflects this: He had contributed earlier to another study whose results similarly ended up raising questions about the value of homework.

Students enrolled in college physics courses were surveyed to determine whether any features of their high school physics courses were now of use to them.


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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.

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Is homework harmful or helpful? Education experts and parents weigh in. Topics To Do Connect. Edit Module “Homework is important because it’s an opportunity for students to review materials that are covered in the classroom. Kohn points out that no research has ever found any advantage to assigning homework — of any kind or in any.

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Research suggests that while homework can be an effective learning tool, assigning too much can lower student performance and interfere with other important activities. Help Customer Service eliminating traditional homework assignments in favor of family time. The change was quickly met with outrage from some parents, though it earned support from other.

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It’s important to remember that some people object to homework for reasons that aren’t related to the dispute about whether research might show that homework provides academic benefits. Even when homework is helpful, there can be too much of a good thing. "There is a limit to how much kids can benefit from home study," Cooper says. He agrees with an oft-cited rule of thumb that students should do no more than 10 minutes a night per grade level — from about 10 minutes in first grade up to a maximum of about two hours in high.