Homework is thought is to promote academic learning as students spend increased amounts of time studying. It assists in developing intellectual skills and fosters good habits and discipline. The student has a sense of responsibility as he has to take time out of his hobbies and extracurricular activities to sit down and finish his assigned work. It trains him to plan and organize time.
Homework in the form of projects provides opportunities for individualized work. For example if a child was given a science project he could personalize it with drawings and colors according to his preference. This not only brings out their creative side but also fosters an initiative in them to do the work enthusiastically.
According to a Meta analysis by Marzano and Pickering 2007: “A number of studies have been conducted on homework spanning a broad range of methodologies. Some are quite general and mix the results from experimental studies with correlational studies. Two meta-analyses by Cooper and colleagues (Cooper, 1989a; Cooper. Robinson, & Patall, 2006) are the most comprehensive and rigorous.
The 1989 meta-analysis reviewed research dating as far back as the 1930s; the 2006 study reviewed research from 1987 to 2003, Commenting on studies that attempted to examine the causal relationship between homework and student achievement by comparing experimental (homework) and control (no homework) groups.
Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) noted, “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant.” Coopers correlation was stronger for older students—in seventh through 12th grade—than for those in younger grades, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance.
Cooper’s analysis focused on how homework impacts academic achievement—test scores, for example. His report noted that homework is also thought to improve study habits, attitudes toward school, self-discipline, inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills.
Additionally, homework allows children to develop skills in using libraries and other learning resources. It also allows them to use resources outside of school and gain knowledge from them. Children end up researching on their own as compared to only discussing in class, which can lead to them, gaining more adverse knowledge. (NY Times, 2006.
Also, it is thought to encourage involvement of parents and the family. “In a synthesis of research on the effects of parent involvement in homework, a meta-analysis of 14 studies that manipulated parent training for homework involvement reveals that training parents to be involved in their child’s homework results in (a) higher rates of homework completion, (b) fewer homework problems, and (c) possibly, improved academic performance among elementary school children.” (Patall et all 2008)
Parents can sit with the child, especially young children and help them out and encourage them. Projects about family trees or writing about a specific member of the family can help increase interaction and even maybe get to know more about the person. Positive reinforcement by parents can even invigorate the child and help him do better.
Homework reassures the parent that the child is learning and is able to do the work assigned to him for his level. Is keeps them in touch with their child’s progress and can even make them feel closer as he knows what is going on the child’s life.
The following table is extracted from Cooper (1989), showing the suggested positive effects of homework:
Immediate achievement and learning
- Better retention of factual knowledge
- Increased understanding
- Better critical thinking, concept formation, information processing
- Curriculum enrichment
Long-term academic effects
- Willingness to learn during leisure time
- Improved attitude toward school
- Better study habits and skills
- Greater self-direction
- Greater self-discipline
- Better time organization
- More inquisitiveness
- More independent problem solving
An apparent disadvantage would be that a child would rarely ever willingly or enthusiastically do their homework! Also, we cannot expect those children to stay up all night with coffee as their aid. Then, why should children get unacceptable loads of homework? Research suggests that homework associates with better grades in school, which is pretty insignificant in younger ages, with low significance in middle schoolers and moderate significance in high schoolers.
Children also have a negative attitude towards their work because it’s simply too much! They’ll tend to make excuses not to do their homework. According to the table above, homework also tends to cause anxiety, reduces a child’s motivation to learn, creates boredom and reduces time for leisure activities. The most probable reason why is that once a child either realizes what he is doing is too easy or too hard to do he might leave it out of boredom or just give up.
Parents unintentionally can put pressure on the child, and cause friction in the family. Furthermore, parents may have different ways of solving the same problem, which may create confusion, or sometimes they might even end up doing the homework for the child, which would defeat the purpose of the task.
Many proponents of homework argue that life is filled with things we don’t like to do, and that homework teaches self-discipline, time management and other nonacademic life skills. If kids have no choice in the matter of homework, they’re not really exercising judgment, and are instead losing their sense of autonomy.
Although, research suggests homework is beneficial, the popular opinion is against it. The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Kralovec and Buel! (2000), claims that, homework encourages corporate style; competitive culture while decreases personal and familial well-being.
The authors’ main focus was on those children who are disadvantaged due to home environment, which doesn’t allow them to complete their homework, and how they are unintentionally penalized. A similar call for action came from Bennett and Kalish (2006) in The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About it, in which authors talked about the overburden of homework due to quantity and quality.
Cooper (1989) argues that a small amount of homework is beneficial for students. The correlation he got in his results was very weak. Some studies he examined showed that homework could cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time for children. At the end of his analysis, Cooper recommended further study of such potential effects of homework.
However, homework was formed to prepare children for the next lecture, according to Hallam (2004): Although homework has sometimes been referred to as ‘prep’, very few of the tasks we observed were preparatory to a lesson. Instead, the majority of homework in all subjects were related to and built on the work of the preceding lesson.
Hallam also claimed that homework done at home was most likely done in their bedrooms, which doesn’t allow parents to monitor them and keep track on their work, if done in the family room there are distractions like the television. Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs, thinks there should be more emphasis on improving the quality of homework tasks, and she supports efforts to eliminate homework for younger kids.
The following table is extracted from Cooper (1989), showing the suggested negative effects of homework:
- Loss of interest in academic material
- Physical and emotional fatigue
- Pressure to complete assignments and perform well
- Confusion of instructional techniques
- Copying from other students
- Help beyond tutoring
Increased differences between high and low achievers
Taking all of this into account, it should be considered that undertaking research on effects of homework has many methodological problems. Firstly, it is difficult to isolate the effects of homework from the many other factors, which affect learning outcomes, for instance, teaching quality, school ideology, and prior obtainment of pupils.
Secondly, assessing the amount of time spent doing homework is problematic because estimates vary depending on whether they are made by pupils, parents or teachers (Cooper et al., 1998). Thirdly, the quality or type of homework is rarely taken into account. Fourthly, studies adopt different measures of effectiveness, over different time scales, and rarely consider both academic achievement and the affective outcomes of learning, e.g. motivation or attitudes towards school (Hallam 2007).
Below is a table from Hallam which states the Model of homework:
The model illustrates that although students, schools, and home are the main contingents in the process of homework and interchangeably have an effect on each other, all three are widely affected by the society and cultural norms they thrive in.
As true as it is that the nature of homework and its presentation is largely decided by teachers and the school themselves, this ruling party could take into consideration the characteristics of students and the influencing factors at home to ensure that an ideal, productive assignment is created.
The qualities of the task at hand determines the process of doing the homework, incorporating the type of support they receive, whether it be from family, colleagues or mentors; and the strategy adapted by the students in order to complete the assignment.
A wide array of outcomes can be achieved from homework, ranging from not only the academic progression but also the acquirement of certain skills, effects on relationships, affective outcomes, and so on. Although these outcomes are directly related to the process of the homework undertaken, student factors, such as prior knowledge and expertise, can play a hand in altering the course of the outcomes expected.
In the end, the outcomes will after all enter a feedback loop, tracing back to the original stakeholders of the process. A positive or negative outcome will respectively affect the attitudes, self-esteem and motivation inculcated into the student, and it will create a different dynamic on familial relationship and involvement.
Last, but not least, the outcome will most obviously steer the direction of how the school responds, whether it be a favorable response to successful students, or conversely low morale and pressure amongst teachers and the school administration.
Effective Homework Practices
Homework can be a powerful instrument to facilitate academic progression and fortify learning, provided it is thoroughly planned and executed properly. Not only is the number of special ed students incorporated into the common classroom growing, but the variability in ability levels amongst students in general, poses an ever-increasing need for effective homework practices in order to maximize academic achievement for each and every learner. (Carr, 2013)
Evidence suggests that parents, teachers and students all see homework as a useful tool in learning, with teachers finding it the most useful (Davidovitch, 2017). While research doesn’t show a significant relation to homework and achievement, most researchers claim that a small amount of homework is necessary. The National PTA and the National Education society support the “10-minute homework guideline” – a nightly 10 minutes of homework per grade level. However, the amount of homework isn’t as important as the quality of the homework.
Carr (2013) explored the various studies conducted to determine effective homework methods, and identified Vatterott’s (2010) five hallmarks of good homework, namely: purpose, efficiency, ownership, competence, and aesthetic appeal.
Purpose signifies the importance of students understanding the context of the assignment. It is vital that teachers assign tasks that are relevant to a learner’s academic endeavor, and not just ‘for the sake of assigning homework’ as a routine, or plainly, ‘busywork’. The assignment should reflect a student’s comprehension of that subject, in order that teachers may determine shortcomings and hence improvements or alternatives in their teaching strategies. Rote learning or assignments on lessons not yet taught are not productive to academic progression.
Next comes efficiency, which encompasses the need of appropriate amount of time dedicated to homework. Spending excessive time on homework is actually counterproductive. The ’10 minute homework guideline’, as mentioned before, makes a learner habitual to the task, and hones their expectation of increasing workload as they progress to higher grades.
Homework should stimulate critical thinking; assignments that are too easy incite boredom, while the opposite end of the spectrum of difficulty can trigger students to give up early out of frustration. A moderate difficulty level is adequate to test a student’s abilities as well as arouse their cognitive thinking skills.
Ownership is based on the idea that learners should feel the connection to the task at hand; that the assignment is relevant and built for them, that it belongs to them. Teachers should take into consideration the students’ interests, or give them some extent of a choice in the assignments allocated – in order that they may feel more in control of their education, and consequently, feel more proud of themselves when they achieve an academic goal.
Fourthly, competence. A student that feels incompetent in completing their homework, especially if they require help to complete it, ultimately discourages them, Vatterott claims. “Homework that students can’t do without help is not good homework.” Instead of standardizing an assignment for an entire class of diverse individuals, it is imperative that teachers understand each learner’s individuality and unique capabilities – and consequently tailor assignments to each of their needs.
Of course, this is difficult in the face of growing classrooms, but alternative methods can be executed to reach a close enough outcome. Carr (2013) suggested alternatives such as shorter assignments, or adding extra or more difficult features to assignments of high-ability students. It is also vital that teachers pay attention to the needs of special ed learners, so that they may not have to struggle more than they already have to.
The fifth and final hallmark of effective homework is aesthetic appeal. As trivial as it sounds, the visuals of an assignment actually can influence a student’s interest and motivation to complete it. A decluttered appearance, not too info-heavy, spacious for writing answers, or even the use of images or clip art, can actually perceive the task to be more ‘inviting and interesting, as stated by Vatterott.