The Value of Homework
Are teachers assigning too much homework?
Posted September 5, 2016 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
- Studies show that the benefits of homework peak at about one hour to 90 minutes, and then after that, test scores begin to decline.
- Research has found that high school teachers (grades 9-12) report assigning an average of 3.5 hours’ worth of homework a week.
- While homework is necessary, there needs to be balance as well as communication between teachers about the amount of homework being assigned.
The value of homework has been the subject of debate over the years. In regards to research, the jury is still out as to whether homework positively impacts a student's academic achievement.
In the past, I have written a couple of posts on homework and whether or not it is being used or abused by educators. I am always amazed at what some of my young readers share about sleepless nights, not participating in extracurricular events, and high levels of stress—all of which are attributed to large and daunting amounts of homework.
There have been studies that show that doing homework in moderation improves test performance. So we can’t rule out the value of homework if it’s conducive to learning. However, studies have also shown that the benefits of homework peak at about one hour to 90 minutes, and then after that, test scores begin to decline.
Now, while looking at data, it’s important to review the standard, endorsed by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association, known as the "10-minute rule" — 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night. That would mean there would only be 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, and end with 120 minutes for senior year of high school (double what research shows beneficial). This leads to an important question: On average, how much homework do teachers assign?
Typical homework amounts
A Harris Poll from the University of Phoenix surveyed teachers about the hours of homework required of students and why they assign it. Pollsters received responses from approximately 1,000 teachers in public, private, and parochial schools across the United States.
High school teachers (grades 9-12) reported assigning an average of 3.5 hours’ worth of homework a week. Middle school teachers (grades 6-8) reported assigning almost the same amount as high school teachers, 3.2 hours of homework a week. Lastly, K-5 teachers said they assigned an average of 2.9 hours of homework each week. This data shows a spike in homework beginning in middle school.
Why homework is assigned
When teachers were asked why they assign homework, they gave the top three reasons:
- to see how well students understand lessons
- to help students develop essential problem-solving skills
- to show parents what's being learned in school
Approximately, 30 percent of teachers reported they assigned homework to cover more content areas. What’s interesting about this poll was the longer an educator had been in the field the less homework they assigned. Take a look at the breakdown below:
- 3.6 hours (teachers with less than 10 years in the classroom)
- 3.1 hours (teachers with 10 to 19 years in the classroom)
- 2.8 hours (teachers with more than 20 years in the classroom)
The need for balance
While many agree that homework does have a time and place, there needs to be a balance between life and school. There also needs to be communication with other teachers in the school about assignments. Oftentimes, educators get so involved in their subject area, they communicate departmentally, not school-wide. As a result, it’s not uncommon for teens to have a project and a couple of tests all on the same day. This dump of work can lead to an overwhelming amount of stress.
Questions for educators
Educators, how can you maximize the benefit of homework? Use the questions below to guide you in whether or not to assign work outside of the classroom. Ask yourself:
- Do I need to assign homework or can this be done in class?
- Does this assignment contribute and supplement the lesson reviewed in class?
- Do students have all of the information they need to do this assignment? In others words, are they prepared to do the homework?
- What are you wanting your students to achieve from this assignment? Do you have a specific objective and intended outcome in mind?
- How much time will the assignment take to complete? Have you given your students a sufficient amount of time?
- Have you taken into account other coursework that your students have due?
- How can you incorporate student choice and feedback into your classroom?
- How can you monitor whether or not you are overloading your students?
What kids think of homework
Educators: As a conclusion, I have provided a few of the many comments, that I have received below. I think it’s important to look at the age/grade level and messages these teens have shared. Take time to read their words and reflect on ways you can incorporate their perspective into course objectives and content. I believe the solution to the homework dilemma can be found in assigning work in moderation and finding a balance between school, home, and life.
“I am a 7th grader in a small school in Michigan. I think one of the main problems about what teachers think about homework is that they do not think about what other classes are assigned for homework. Throughout the day, I get at least two full pages of homework to complete by the next day. During the school year, I am hesitant to sign up for sports because I am staying up after a game or practice to finish my homework.”
“I'm 17 and I'm in my last year of high school. I can honestly tell you that from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. (sometimes 1 or 2 a.m.) I am doing homework. I've been trying to balance my homework with my work schedule, work around my house, and my social life with no success. So if someone were to ask me if I think kids have too much homework, I would say yes they do. My comment is based solely on my personal experience in high school.”
“I am 13 and I have a problem: homework. I can’t get my homework done at home because it is all on my school MacBook. I don’t own my own personal computer, only an Amazon Fire tablet. What’s the problem with my tablet? There are no middle or high school apps for it. You are might be wondering, “Why not bring the MacBook home?” Well, I am not allowed to, so what is the punishment? Four late assignments, and 1 late argument essay. And 90% of the homework I get is on my MacBook. This is a mega stresser!"