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Problem With Homework

For other uses, see Homework (disambiguation).

Homework, or a homework assignment, is a set of tasks assigned to students by their teachers to be completed outside the class. Common homework assignments may include a quantity or period of reading to be performed, writing or typing to be completed, math problems to be solved, material to be reviewed before a test, or other skills to be practiced.

The effect of homework is debated. Generally speaking, homework does not improve academic performance among children and may improve academic skills among older students. It also creates stress for students and their parents and reduces the amount of time that students could spend outdoors, exercising, playing sports, working, sleeping or in other activities.

Purposes

The basic objectives of assigning homework to students are the same as schooling in general: to increase the knowledge and improve the abilities and skills of the students,[1] to prepare them for upcoming (or complex or difficult) lessons, to extend what they know by having them apply it to new situations, or to integrate their abilities by applying different skills to a single task. Homework also provides an opportunity for parents to participate in their children's education. Homework is designed to reinforce what students have already learned.[2]

Teachers have many purposes for assigning homework including:[3]

  • practice,
  • preparation,
  • participation
  • personal development,
  • parent–child relations,
  • parent–teacher communications,
  • peer interactions,
  • policy,
  • public relations, and
  • punishment.

Effect

Academic performance

Homework research dates back to the early 1900s. However, no consensus exists on the general effectiveness on homework. Results of homework studies vary based on multiple factors, such as the age group of those studied and the measure of academic performance.

Among teenagers, students who spend somewhat more time on homework generally have higher grades, and somewhat higher test scores than students who spend less time on homework. Very high amounts of homework cause students' academic performance to worsen, even among older students. Students who are assigned homework in middle and high school score somewhat better on standardized tests, but the students who have 60 to 90 minutes of homework a day in middle school or more than 2 hours in high school score worse.[7]

However, younger students who spend more time on homework generally have slightly worse, or the same academic performance than those who spend less time on homework. Homework does not improve academic achievements for grade school students.

Low-achieving students receive more benefit from doing homework than high-achieving students.[8] However, schoolteachers commonly assign less homework to the students who need it most, and more homework to the students who are performing well.[8]

Non-academic

The amount of homework given does not necessarily affect students' attitudes towards homework and various other aspects of school.

Epstein (1988) found a near-zero correlation between the amount of homework and parents' reports on how well their elementary school students behaved. Vazsonyi & Pickering (2003) studied 809 adolescents in American high schools, and found that, using the Normative Deviance Scale as a model for deviance, the correlation was r = .28 for Caucasian students, and r = .24 for African-American students. For all three of the correlations, higher values represent a higher correlation between time spent on homework and poor conduct.

Bempechat (2004) says that homework develops students' motivation and study skills. In a single study, parents and teachers of middle school students believed that homework improved students' study skills and personal responsibility skills. Their students were more likely to have negative perceptions about homework and were less likely to ascribe the development of such skills to homework.Leone & Richards (1989) found that students generally had negative emotions when completing homework and reduced engagement compared to other activities.

Health and daily life

Homework has been identified in numerous studies and articles as a dominant or significant source of stress and anxiety for students.[11] Studies on the relation between homework and health are few compared to studies on academic performance.

Cheung & Leung-Ngai (1992) surveyed 1,983 students in Hong Kong, and found that homework led not only to added stress and anxiety, but also physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches. Students in the survey who were ridiculed or punished by parents and peers had a higher incidence of depression symptoms, with 2.2% of students reporting that they "always" had suicidal thoughts, and anxiety was exacerbated by punishments and criticism of students by teachers for both problems with homework as well as forgetting to hand in homework.

A 2007 study of American students by MetLife found that 89% of students felt stressed from homework, with 34% reporting that they "often" or "very often" felt stressed from homework. Stress was especially evident among high school students. Students that reported stress from homework were more likely to be deprived of sleep.

Homework can cause tension and conflict in the home as well as at school, and can reduce students' family and leisure time. In the Cheung & Leung-Ngai (1992) survey, failure to complete homework and low grades where homework was a contributing factor was correlated with greater conflict; some students have reported teachers and parents frequently criticizing their work. In the MetLife study, high school students reported spending more time completing homework than performing home tasks.Kohn (2006) argued that homework can create family conflict and reduce students' quality of life. The authors of Sallee & Rigler (2008), both high school English teachers, reported that their homework disrupted their students' extracurricular activities and responsibilities. However, Kiewra et al. (2009) found that parents were less likely to report homework as a distraction from their children's activities and responsibilities. Galloway, Conner & Pope (2013) recommended further empirical study relating to this aspect due to the difference between student and parent observations.

Time use

Galloway, Conner & Pope (2013) surveyed 4,317 high school students from ten high-performing schools, and found that students reported spending more than 3 hours on homework daily. 72% of the students reported stress from homework, and 82% reported physical symptoms. The students slept an average of 6 hours 48 minutes, lower than the recommendations prescribed by various health agencies.

A study done at the University of Michigan in 2007 concluded that the amount of homework given is increasing. In a sample taken of students between the ages of 6 and 9 years, it was shown that students spend more than 2 hours a week on homework, as opposed to 44 minutes in 1981.[16]

Benefits

Some educators argue that homework is beneficial to students, as it enhances learning, develops the skills taught in class, and lets educators verify that students comprehend their lessons.[17] Proponents also argue that homework makes it more likely that students will develop and maintain proper study habits that they can use throughout their educational career.[17]

History

United States

Historically, homework was frowned upon in American culture. With few students interested in higher education, and due to the necessity to complete daily chores, homework was discouraged not only by parents, but also by school districts. In 1901, the California legislature passed an act that effectively abolished homework for those who attended kindergarten through the eighth grade. But, in the 1950s, with increasing pressure on the United States to stay ahead in the Cold War, homework made a resurgence, and children were encouraged to keep up with their Russian counterparts. By the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the consensus in American education was overwhelmingly in favor of issuing homework to students of all grade levels.[18]

United Kingdom

British students get more homework than many other countries in Europe. The weekly average for the subject is 5 hours. The main distinction for UK homework is the social gap, with middle-class teenagers getting a disproportionate amount of homework compared to Asia and Europe.[19]

Spain

In 2012, a report by the OECD showed that Spanish children spend 6.4 hours a week on homework. This prompted the CEAPA, representing 12,000 parent associations to call for a homework strike.[20]

Notes and references

Citations

Works

Effectiveness of homework

  • Cooper, Harris; Robinson, Jorgianne C.; Patall, Erika A. (2006). "Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003". Review of Educational Research. 76 (1): 1–62. doi:10.3102/00346543076001001. 
  • Epstein, Joyce L. (1988), "Homework practices, achievements, and behaviors of elementary school students", Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools 
  • Trautwein, Ulrich; Köller, Olaf (2003). "The Relationship Between Homework and Achievement—Still Much of a Mystery". Educational Psychology Review. 15 (2): 115–145. doi:10.1023/A:1023460414243. 
  • Vazsonyi, Alexander T.; Pickering, Lloyd E. (2003). "The Importance of Family and School Domains in Adolescent Deviance: African American and Caucasian Youth". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 32 (2): 115–128. doi:10.1023/A:1021857801554. 

Homework and non-academic effects

  • Bauwens, Jeanne; Hourcade, Jack J. (1992). "School-Based Sources of Stress Among Elementary and Secondary At-Risk Students". The School Counselor. 40 (2): 97–102. 
  • Bempechat, Janine (2004). "The Motivational Benefits of Homework: A Social-Cognitive Perspective". Theory In Practice. 43 (3): 189–196. doi:10.1353/tip.2004.0029. 
  • Cheung, S. K.; Leung-Ngai, J. M. Y. (1992). "Impact of homework stress on children's physical and psychological well-being"(PDF). Journal of the Hong Kong Medical Association. 44 (3): 146–150. 
  • Conner, Jerusha; Pope, Denise; Galloway, Mollie (2009). "Success with Less Stress". Health and Learning. 67 (4): 54–58. 
  • Cooper, Robinsin & Patall (2006, pp. 46–48)
  • Galloway, Mollie; Conner, Jerusha; Pope, Denise (2013). "Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools". The Journal of Experimental Education. 81 (4): 490–510. doi:10.1080/00220973.2012.745469. 
  • Hardy, Lawrence (2003). "Overburdened, Overwhelmed". American School Board Journal. 190: 18–23. 
  • Kiewra, Kenneth A; Kaufman, Douglas F.; Hart, Katie; Scoular, Jacqui; Brown, Marissa; Keller, Gwendolyn; Tyler, Becci (2009). "What Parents, Researchers, and the Popular Press Have to Say About Homework". scholarlypartnershipsedu. 4 (1): 93–109. 
  • Kouzma, Nadya M.; Kennedy, Gerard A. (2002). "Homework, stress, and mood disturbance in senior high school students"(PDF). Psychological Reports. 91 (1): 193–198. doi:10.2466/pr0.2002.91.1.193. PMID 12353781. 
  • Leone, Carla M.; Richards, H. (1989). "Classwork and homework in early adolescence: The ecology of achievement". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 18 (6): 531–548. doi:10.1007/BF02139072. PMID 24272124. 
  • Markow, Dana; Kim, Amie; Liebman, Margot (2007), The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: The homework experience(PDF), Metropolitan Life Insurance Foundation 
  • Sallee, Buffy; Rigler, Neil (2008). "Doing Our Homework on Homework: How Does Homework Help?". The English Journal. 98 (2): 46–51. 
  • West, Charles K.; Wood, Edward S. (1970). "Academic Pressures on Public School Students". Educational Leadership. 3 (4): 585–589. 
  • Xu, Jianzhong; Yuan, Ruiping (2003). "Doing homework: Listening to students', parents', and teachers' voices in one urban middle school community". School Community Journal. 13 (2): 25–44. 
  • Ystgaard, M. (1997). "Life stress, social support and psychological distress in late adolescence". Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 32 (5): 277–283. doi:10.1007/BF00789040. PMID 9257518. 

Other

Further reading

  • Duke Study: Homework Helps Students Succeed in School, As Long as There Isn't Too Much
  • The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It by Sarah Bennett & Nancy Kalish (2006) Discusses in detail assessments of studies on homework and the authors' own research and assessment of the homework situation in the United States. Has specific recommendations and sample letters to be used in negotiating a reduced homework load for your child.
  • Closing the Book on Homework: Enhancing Public Education and Freeing Family Time by John Buell (2004)
  • The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents by Harris Cooper (2007)
  • The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn (2006)
  • The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Etta Kralovec and John Buell (2000)

External links

Look up homework in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Homework.
Some mathematics homework
  1. ^Synthesis of research on homework. H Cooper - Educational leadership, 1989 - addison.pausd.org
  2. ^Needlmen, Robert. "Homework: The Rules of the Game". 
  3. ^Epstein, Joyce L.; Voorhis, Frances L. Van (2001-09-01). "More Than Minutes: Teachers' Roles in Designing Homework". Educational Psychologist. 36 (3): 181–193. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3603_4. ISSN 0046-1520. 
  4. ^Wallis, Claudia (August 29, 2006). "The Myth About Homework". Time Online. 
  5. ^ abCoughlan, Sean (2016-09-28). "Is homework worth the hassle?". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-21. 
  6. ^Bauwens & Hourcade (1992), Conner & Denise (2009), Hardy (2003), Kouzma & Kennedy (2002), West & Wood (1970), Ystgaard (1997).
  7. ^Seligman, Katherine (1999-12-19). "Parents: Too much homework". Hearst Communications Inc. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  8. ^ abGrohnke, Kennedy, and Jake Merritt. "Do Kids Need Homework?" ScholasticNews/ Weekly Reader Edition 5/6, vol. 85, no. 3, 2016, pp. 7.
  9. ^"History of Homework". The San Francisco Chronicle. 1999-12-20. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  10. ^Coughlan, Sean (11 December 2014). "UK families' 'long homework hours'". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2 November 2017. 
  11. ^Marsh, Sarah (2 November 2016). "Parents in the UK and abroad: do your children get set too much homework?". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2 November 2017. 

America, We Do Not Have a ‘Too Much Homework’ Problem

Caroline Bermudez is chief storyteller at the Charter School Growth Fund and former senior writer at Education Post. Full profile →

If this op-ed from The New York Times is to be believed, American education suffers from placing overambitious expectations onto children, subjecting them to grueling schedules of AP classes combined with hours and hours of homework and extracurriculars.

Vicki Abeles, a filmmaker who helmed the documentary “Road to Nowhere,” writes that such punishing environments are driving children to anxiety and depression because they are buckling under the weight of all the pressure to succeed, to win acceptance into the right college, to land good jobs.

Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at UCLA, wrote a review in The New York Times praising Abeles’ book on the crippling stress students face, writing, “She points out that homework has been around for centuries, but since when did it become normal for children as young as 6 and 7 to be burdened with hours of it each night?”

Except available data doesn’t bear out this assertion—and it is just that, an assertion, with no evidence supporting Noguera’s claim—of children buried under piles of assignments, crippled by the weighty expectations thrust upon them by their schools.

What ails American education isn’t a surfeit of demands, but a lack of them.

It’s worth asking what sorts of schools create these intense environments for students. The school Abeles cites in her op-ed, Irvington High School, in Fremont, California, is a highly rated magnet school that does not receive Title I funding since only 18 percent of its student body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch. We are not exactly talking about the typical American school here.

The phenomenon Abeles and Noguera depict couldn’t be farther from the truth of what goes on at most schools, especially those serving students of color and the poor. These kids aren’t getting crushed with homework and AP/IB classes to get them ready for Stanford; they’re probably being told they’re lucky to snag a low-paying retail job after graduation. The expectations set for them are so low, these children are discouraged from even thinking college, let alone Stanford, is a viable option.

Jay Mathews, a longtime education reporter for The Washington Post, took on the homework myth, a fiction that persists thanks to the attention-grabbing headlines periodically popping up in newspapers and magazines when they deign to cover education in any meaningful way. (Note that Silicon Valley schools such as Irvington, paragons of affluence with kids by the dozen vying for spots at the Ivies or Stanford, tend to be part of these stories.)

According to Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, the national conversation about homework has been hijacked by a small group of people—about 15 percent—determined to reduce after-school assignments even though most of us think the homework load is fine or should be heavier.

During the past three decades, the homework load “has remained remarkably stable,” Loveless said, except for 9-year-olds “primarily because many students who once did not have any now have some.” He said, “NAEP data do not support the idea that a large and growing number of students have an onerous amount of homework.”

The Brookings report further elaborates on the misleading, and rather unpopular, narratives perpetuated by the anti-homework contingent:

Homework typically takes an hour per night. The homework burden of students rarely exceeds two hours a night. The upper limit of students with two or more hours per night is about 15 percent nationally—and that is for juniors or seniors in high school. For younger children, the upper boundary is about 10 percent who have such a heavy load. Polls show that parents who want less homework range from 10-20 percent, and that they are outnumbered—in every national poll on the homework question—by parents who want more homework, not less. The majority of parents describe their children’s homework burden as about right.

Another study, from the American Journal of Family Therapy, says that while younger children are assigned too much homework (30 minutes is onerous?), most high school students get less than an hour a night. Do we really believe this is anything close to adequate preparation for college?

We suffer from a belief gap in this country. Our own poll actually found that half of all parents believe that all children have access to the same quality of education in our public school system regardless of background, race or income—which means we have a lot of work to do around persuading parents from all backgrounds that school inequity is a problem nationwide.

Our schools reinforce the belief gap. For example, a 2012 report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that “many schools are not challenging students and large percentages of students report that their school work is ‘too easy.’” Also, “many students are not engaged in rigorous learning activities.”

The learning environments described by CAP’s report seem less like the pressure cookers asserted by Abeles in her op-ed and more akin to slow—verrrrry slow—cookers.

Thirty-nine percent of 12th-grade students, for example, say that they hardly ever or only once or twice a month write about what they read in class. Nearly one-third said they write long answers on reading tests two times a year or less. Moreover, almost one-third of 12th-grade reading students say they rarely identify main themes of a passage when reading, and almost 20 percent said they never or hardly ever summarize a passage.

These sobering numbers are piled on top of what has also long been true—minority students still lag well behind their peers in taking AP classes. These kids are steered away from coursework that could challenge them.

Far from enforcing a culture of unhealthy ambition and workloads, the vast majority of American schools do the opposite: They tell children to barely try.

Too much homework seems like a luxury problem of the sliver of the population whose schools actually expect a lot from their students. If more schools actually pushed kids, we’d see the progress we’ve all been clamoring for.

Let’s not manufacture crises. Let’s deal with the underreported one we have.

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