Does Homework Help Improve Grades?
29 November 2022
8 minutes to read
- 01. The Homework Study Abstract
- 02. What's the Point of Homework?
- 03. Homework Through the Ages
- 04. Is There Any Benefit to Doing Homework?
It's axiomatic. Kids go to school and then, go home and do homework. They turn their homework in the next day. If it's a longer assignment, they hand it in by the due date. Is anybody really happy about that?
Students aren't. They've already ' done their time' in the classroom for the day; why should they continue classroom activity outside of school? Teachers aren't. They teach when school's in session so the only time left to grade homework is on their own time. Put that way, it seems that the practice conflicts with labour laws. Perhaps parents are the only party happy with homework. After all, they too have been led to believe that much work is the only path to success. Meet the scientists proving them wrong:
- Adam Maltese, Assistant Professor of Science Education at Indiana University
- Robert H. Tai, Associate Professor of Science Education at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education
- Fan Xitao, Dean of Education at the University of Macau
Their groundbreaking work has provoked a shift in attitude about homework. Their findings have prompted the French government to proclaim a homework ban ! Spoiler: it's not yet come to pass but other countries are striding in that direction.
Here at Superprof, we’ve been keeping a close eye on doing homework. We're tuned in to the ongoing debate surrounding the topic of homework and how beneficial the practice really is to learning outcomes . Read on to discover what we've found so far.
The Homework Study Abstract
Did you know that not a single academic study has ever been able to prove a positive correlation between academic success and homework? Me neither. All the way back in 2012, the Huffington Post reported on a then-new study. This work added more weight to the growing body of evidence about homework benefits. It concluded that homework has little or no effect on academic success.
The researchers listed in this article's introduction conducted that study. It surveyed more than 18,000 high-school maths and science students. The objective was to investigate the relationship between homework and academic performance. Specifically, whether more time spent on homework shows a net-positive effect on overall learning and grades.
They asked thousands of students one question: How much time do you spend on homework?’. The study found a very modest correlation between the amount of homework students said they did and their scores on standardised tests . It further disclosed that there was no relationship whatsoever between time spent on homework and course grades. Most shockingly, the study revealed "no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not.”
One of the paper's co-authors, Robert Tai said: “In today’s current educational environment, with all the activities taking up children’s time both in school and out of school, the purpose of each homework assignment must be clear and targeted. With homework, more is not better.”
So if homework is increasingly proven to be a waste of time, perhaps government bodies are right to consider ditching the practice. Incorporating homework back into the classroom where learning outcomes are best demonstrated could work to improve grades. After all, parents who homeschool their learners generally don't assign additional work after the formal learning time ends.
But perhaps only time will tell. If the responses to the study question are to be believed, it would mean class time could stretch to include 100 to 180 extra 50-minute class periods per year. Granted, it's more time in school. But then, it leaves our kids more time to explore other interests and develop in other ways after school.
What's the Point of Homework?
Let's apply a bit of critical thinking to the homework question. The point of school is to learn. Learning is measured through academic performance. Formal performance assessments - exams, are graded. Those grades reflect only marginal improvement for students who (state they) regularly complete their home assignments. That can hardly even be called a correlation.
Passionate educators insist that homework builds a bridge between school and home. But does it, really? And is parental involvement beneficial? Here again, evidence is stacking up. Studies show that parental involvement actually reduces learners' academic success. That's only in part because parents do the work. Another reason points to parents not fully understanding modern educational initiatives.
And then, there's busy work . Let's say that a primary school group just studied a significant historical epoch or science fact. They're assigned project work; maybe building or drawing a model of that event or writing their thoughts about what they just learned in science. These activities are related to the topic but don't necessarily reinforce learned knowledge.
This takes us to another point. Those who advocate for homework believe those exercises repeat concepts introduced in class. Repetition leads to consolidation (of knowledge), as the theory goes. We all know that's true for physical activity; everyone knows about muscle memory. But is it the same for intellectual work?
We'd argue not. For homework to be true repetition, it would have to be done in the same conditions as the original work. In other words, in the classroom. Students, particularly the younger ones may not be aware that they code-switch between school and home. That means they let go of their learner persona and adopt their child persona. It's a completely different psychological state.
Learners in a Montessori setting have less of an issue switching between the school and home environments. Traditional schools have a completely different setup than Montessori schools. They are far more structured and competitive than the more relaxed Montessori setting. And traditional schools mainly follow a teacher-led instruction model. By contrast, Montessori education revolves around the student-led model.
Homework Through the Ages
It's safe to say that, for as long as there have been schools, there has been homework. These extracurricular assignments' origins are hard to pin down. However, we can say, with a measure of authority, that all the internet pages claiming an evil teacher created the concept are (most likely) wrong. Roberto Nevelis (probably) wasn't angry at lazy students. He didn't intend to punish them by giving them extra work.
On the other hand, it would be easy to imagine Plato or Confucius assigning their disciples a few moral dilemmas to ponder on their own. But the first recorded instance of homework assignment doesn't reach back that far. Pliny the Younger asked his students to practise speaking at home. As he taught oration, it makes sense that his assignments would be verbal rather than written. And his point was clear. The more students practised speaking, the more fluent they would become.
Strangely enough, the type of homework we know today originated from a political manoeuvre. Horace Mann , a German politician, insisted that students must continue working to learn at home. It was a power move meant to prove that the state had absolute authority over every citizen, regardless of their age.
This power play didn't make students any more talented or gifted in learning . However, it did make other nations jealous and, maybe, a bit fearful. Soon, homework spread across Europe. As for Horace Mann, he imported the concept to US schools.
At first, American educators were ecstatic about homework. It didn't take long for that tide to turn, though. A couple of decades after assigning homework became a thing, the practice suffered massive backlash. It was banned in some states. Women's magazines and prominent newspapers published letters from the medical community describing how detrimental homework was to children.
How much of that might have been because, in those days, children were expected to earn their keep? Whether working around the homestead or out hawking newspapers, families counted on little ones' earnings. If they were doing homework, they could hardly report for duty. We'll never know for sure but the next big homework battle invoked child labour laws. That gives us a rather substantial clue to the sentiments of the time.
In 1930, a now-defunct group called the American Child Health Association insisted that homework is a form of child labour. Thus, those assignments were against the law and should be discontinued. Note that the Great Depression was unravelling American life at that time. Buying school supplies was likely out of the question.
The US has flip-flopped on homework ever since Mr Mann brought it over. From the Depression Era to the mid-50s, homework was supposed to be a personal exploration. When US lawmakers learned that Soviet students were in class practically, homework was back on the table. In the 80s, academics realised American students were falling far behind global educational standards. The practice intensified until the early aughts, when it again fell out of favour.
Is There Any Benefit to Doing Homework?
A growing body of work proves that homework does not substantially contribute to better grades. It does not necessarily reinforce what was learned in the classroom and does not exactly constitute a model for repetition as consolidation . It stresses students out and may cause turmoil at home. And both teachers and students have to labour beyond regular 'working' hours to deal with homework.
Even homework's origins appear odious! They're so bad, in fact, that in 1930, the US declared that homework, after a full school day, extends study hours beyond the amount of time child labour laws allowed kids to work! Even China, a country notorious for its educational push, is now pushing back against kids spending their childhoods in learning modes. Can homework be redeemed?
Not fully, but these assignments have their good points. For one, it helps learners understand time management . All the fables ever written can't teach kids about the evils of procrastinating quite like having to cram for an exam does. Learning how to manage their schedules prepares them for the adult world, where just about every second of their time will be regimented.
Speaking of time... We all know how taking work home lets people finish it without the boss breathing down their necks. They might have a nice beverage and a snack while they go over some reports or analyses. Students with homework are offered the same deal. They can take their time reviewing what they learned in class. They might search the internet for more information on the topic. They might even go beyond their assignment to read up on materials to be covered in the next lesson.
Homework potentially sets students on the path to discovery. Outside of the classroom, they're free to roam any intellectual field that piques their interest. It's not uncommon for a homework assignment to serve as a springboard into such explorations. In fact, studying numeral systems prompted my mate to ask his dad, a software engineer, about coding .
And, finally, homework teaches discipline. If you want to get good at something, you have to do it over and over again. More importantly, you have to commit to that repetition . Granted, students may not be wild about mastering academics but the process of doing homework itself, even under mandate, instils discipline.
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what is the point of homework
I don’t understand why your article says “Did you know that not a single academic study has ever been able to prove a positive correlation between academic success and homework?” There have been plenty of studies that prove homework helps academic success. Here’s the one right here https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliewexler/2019/01/03/why-homework-doesnt-seem-to-boost-learning-and-how-it-could/?sh=47a6a0c968ab And another by Duke University https://today.duke.edu/2006/09/homework_oped.html If you’re going to say things as if they’re factual you need to back it up by where you’re getting your facts.
Agreed, another study here… “The evidence shows that the impact of homework, on average, is five months’ additional progress.” MacBeath and Turner (1990)
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Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement?
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Educators should be thrilled by these numbers. Pleasing a majority of parents regarding homework and having equal numbers of dissenters shouting "too much!" and "too little!" is about as good as they can hope for.
But opinions cannot tell us whether homework works; only research can, which is why my colleagues and I have conducted a combined analysis of dozens of homework studies to examine whether homework is beneficial and what amount of homework is appropriate for our children.
The homework question is best answered by comparing students who are assigned homework with students assigned no homework but who are similar in other ways. The results of such studies suggest that homework can improve students' scores on the class tests that come at the end of a topic. Students assigned homework in 2nd grade did better on math, 3rd and 4th graders did better on English skills and vocabulary, 5th graders on social studies, 9th through 12th graders on American history, and 12th graders on Shakespeare.
Less authoritative are 12 studies that link the amount of homework to achievement, but control for lots of other factors that might influence this connection. These types of studies, often based on national samples of students, also find a positive link between time on homework and achievement.
Yet other studies simply correlate homework and achievement with no attempt to control for student differences. In 35 such studies, about 77 percent find the link between homework and achievement is positive. Most interesting, though, is these results suggest little or no relationship between homework and achievement for elementary school students.
Why might that be? Younger children have less developed study habits and are less able to tune out distractions at home. Studies also suggest that young students who are struggling in school take more time to complete homework assignments simply because these assignments are more difficult for them.
These recommendations are consistent with the conclusions reached by our analysis. Practice assignments do improve scores on class tests at all grade levels. A little amount of homework may help elementary school students build study habits. Homework for junior high students appears to reach the point of diminishing returns after about 90 minutes a night. For high school students, the positive line continues to climb until between 90 minutes and 2½ hours of homework a night, after which returns diminish.
Beyond achievement, proponents of homework argue that it can have many other beneficial effects. They claim it can help students develop good study habits so they are ready to grow as their cognitive capacities mature. It can help students recognize that learning can occur at home as well as at school. Homework can foster independent learning and responsible character traits. And it can give parents an opportunity to see what's going on at school and let them express positive attitudes toward achievement.
Opponents of homework counter that it can also have negative effects. They argue it can lead to boredom with schoolwork, since all activities remain interesting only for so long. Homework can deny students access to leisure activities that also teach important life skills. Parents can get too involved in homework -- pressuring their child and confusing him by using different instructional techniques than the teacher.
My feeling is that homework policies should prescribe amounts of homework consistent with the research evidence, but which also give individual schools and teachers some flexibility to take into account the unique needs and circumstances of their students and families. In general, teachers should avoid either extreme.
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Study: Homework Doesn’t Mean Better Grades, But Maybe Better Standardized Test Scores
Robert H. Tai, associate professor of science education at UVA's Curry School of Education
The time students spend on math and science homework doesn’t necessarily mean better grades, but it could lead to better performance on standardized tests, a new study finds.
“When Is Homework Worth The Time?” was recently published by lead investigator Adam Maltese, assistant professor of science education at Indiana University, and co-authors Robert H. Tai, associate professor of science education at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education , and Xitao Fan, dean of education at the University of Macau. Maltese is a Curry alumnus, and Fan is a former Curry faculty member.
The authors examined survey and transcript data of more than 18,000 10th-grade students to uncover explanations for academic performance. The data focused on individual classes, examining student outcomes through the transcripts from two nationwide samples collected in 1990 and 2002 by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Contrary to much published research, a regression analysis of time spent on homework and the final class grade found no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not. But the analysis found a positive association between student performance on standardized tests and the time they spent on homework.
“Our results hint that maybe homework is not being used as well as it could be,” Maltese said.
Tai said that homework assignments cannot replace good teaching.
“I believe that this finding is the end result of a chain of unfortunate educational decisions, beginning with the content coverage requirements that push too much information into too little time to learn it in the classroom,” Tai said. “The overflow typically results in more homework assignments. However, students spending more time on something that is not easy to understand or needs to be explained by a teacher does not help these students learn and, in fact, may confuse them.
“The results from this study imply that homework should be purposeful,” he added, “and that the purpose must be understood by both the teacher and the students.”
The authors suggest that factors such as class participation and attendance may mitigate the association of homework to stronger grade performance. They also indicate the types of homework assignments typically given may work better toward standardized test preparation than for retaining knowledge of class material.
Maltese said the genesis for the study was a concern about whether a traditional and ubiquitous educational practice, such as homework, is associated with students achieving at a higher level in math and science. Many media reports about education compare U.S. students unfavorably to high-achieving math and science students from across the world. The 2007 documentary film “Two Million Minutes” compared two Indiana students to students in India and China, taking particular note of how much more time the Indian and Chinese students spent on studying or completing homework.
“We’re not trying to say that all homework is bad,” Maltese said. “It’s expected that students are going to do homework. This is more of an argument that it should be quality over quantity. So in math, rather than doing the same types of problems over and over again, maybe it should involve having students analyze new types of problems or data. In science, maybe the students should write concept summaries instead of just reading a chapter and answering the questions at the end.”
This issue is particularly relevant given that the time spent on homework reported by most students translates into the equivalent of 100 to 180 50-minute class periods of extra learning time each year.
The authors conclude that given current policy initiatives to improve science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education, more evaluation is needed about how to use homework time more effectively. They suggest more research be done on the form and function of homework assignments.
“In today’s current educational environment, with all the activities taking up children’s time both in school and out of school, the purpose of each homework assignment must be clear and targeted,” Tai said. “With homework, more is not better.”
Rebecca P. Arrington
Office of University Communications
[email protected] (434) 924-7189
November 20, 2012
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Homework, Academic Achievement, and How Much is Too Much?
What is the Right Amount of Homework to Make it a Positive, Rather than a Negative Experience?
I've written here and elsewhere about the negative impact of excessive, meaningless, or otherwise poorly thought-out homework, so I welcomed this guest post with a balanced look at the up-side of this fundamental educational construct. – KW
There has always been a debate among the teachers and parents about homework. The most common reason could be the amount of homework kids areÂ were given. So what is the right amount of homework?
Homework is basically a set of tasks given to students by their teachers which should be done outside the classroom. Homework can be a great way to enhance learning and play an important role in achieving better academic results.
Homework usually falls into one of the 3 categories: preparation, practice and extension. It usually depends on the level of the grade.
A student should be given homework according to the requirement of the next class or lesson. Homework done by the student everyday can help them follow their studies more efficiently and will bring stability to academics. Parents should be aware of the students study-life balance as other activities are also important.
According to some educational research, homework is often associated with greater academic achievement.
1. It improves the student's memory and thinking skills.
When a student gets homework from his or her teacher, the student tries to get it done in a most effective way to get good grades. This initiative can help students improve memory when they put efforts to get it done. This effort also benefits thinking skills because the student is forced to think on his own without much external help. In 35 studies , 77% of results shows that there is a positive linkage between homework and achievement.
2. Doing homework helps the students to learn how to manage time.
As most of homework should be done in a day or two deadline, a student usually is time bounded which lets requires him/her to manage time in such a way where activities other than homework should be done as well. Homework lets the student learn how to set his priorities according to the importance of work. For example: cleaning up their rooms, spending time with family, etc.
3. It helps the students to take more responsibility.
When a student is assigned some homework, he or she is expected to do the work on his own which creates a responsibility for the student to complete it without much external help. Such responsibility will let the student not only help tackle academic issues in future but also other external issues arising later. According to Harris Cooper 2006-meta analysis , homework improves study habits, attitude towards school and self-discipline. But a student should not be burdened rather he should be given some homework help if needed. Sometimes help brings more learning than doing it alone.
4. Homework helps the students to seek extra knowledge about the subject.
When a student is assigned some work related to the subject for example; an assignment or a paper to write on, the student tries to do his best to get good grades. In his journey of completing the assignment, he does extensive research over which helps him learn a lot more than he does in a classroom.
5. Homework leads a student towards independency over studying.
Homework is one of the best ways to teach a student independence. The teacher expects the student to do the work alone but some homework help is allowed. In this course of action, the student learns to be independent for doing his work. This effect is also stated in Harris cooper research that homework leads to inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills by the students.
The Right Amount of Homework?
As we learnt the good things about doing the homework, it is also important to know the appropriate homework amount is good for a student. So what can actually define the amount of homework and for how much duration should a student spend everyday to keep up with the studies?
A poll conducted found that about 58% of parents think that the homework given is the right amount to the children. 23% of parents thought it was too little and about 19% of parents thought it was too much.
There has always been a debate for the answer to how much homework should be given. Various survey data and evidences show that a lot of students spend hours at night to complete their homework. Such burden is an exception rather than a norm. However, according to a research done by the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation this may not be the case as from past 50 years majority of the U.S. students spend less than an hour in a whole day to do their homework regardless of the grade level. Also, the research shows that from past 20 years the homework has increased only in the lower grades which also showed a neutral effect in the academic achievements of the student.
According to the researcher Harris cooper, the general guidelines which fall in line with of National PTA recommendations:
- 10-20 minutes per night for the first graders.
- Additional 10 minutes for every grade thereafter i.e. 20 minutes for second grade, 30 minutes for third grade.
- Timings can change according the homework given by the teacher.
Too much of everything is bad. This quote relates to a student's homework as well. Too much homework can cause harm to student in various ways. According to Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford University's School of Education and the director of Challenge Success, any student doing more than 3 ½ hours homework every night is exposed to risk for greater levels of stress. Also, exposed to poor mental and physical health.
After various studies done by many researchers and institutions, it is concluded that homework is beneficial for achievement of academic success. Yet over-burdening students with homework should be avoided. When required, homework help can be leveraged student for better results. Homework has positive and even negative effects on the student. It can bring out the best in a student, or the worst. Homework has a positive influence on a student's academics when constructed with the right norms.
Thanks for pointing that out Thia. There were quire a few unusual translations of punctuation happening in this post, which is rather bizarre, as I am confident they were not there to start with. May have been the result of some sort of underlying font change when I changed themes a few years back. I think I have caught and corrected them all now.
I’m concerned with the typo what the hell is a studentâ€™s
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School of education study: homework doesn’t improve course grades but could boost standardized test scores.
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Does homework really work?
by: Leslie Crawford | Updated: January 23, 2023
You know the drill. It’s 10:15 p.m., and the cardboard-and-toothpick Golden Gate Bridge is collapsing. The pages of polynomials have been abandoned. The paper on the Battle of Waterloo seems to have frozen in time with Napoleon lingering eternally over his breakfast at Le Caillou. Then come the tears and tantrums — while we parents wonder, Does the gain merit all this pain? Is this just too much homework?
However the drama unfolds night after night, year after year, most parents hold on to the hope that homework (after soccer games, dinner, flute practice, and, oh yes, that childhood pastime of yore known as playing) advances their children academically.
But what does homework really do for kids? Is the forest’s worth of book reports and math and spelling sheets the average American student completes in her 12 years of primary schooling making a difference? Or is it just busywork?
Whether or not homework helps, or even hurts, depends on who you ask. If you ask my 12-year-old son, Sam, he’ll say, “Homework doesn’t help anything. It makes kids stressed-out and tired and makes them hate school more.”
Nothing more than common kid bellyaching?
Maybe, but in the fractious field of homework studies, it’s worth noting that Sam’s sentiments nicely synopsize one side of the ivory tower debate. Books like The End of Homework , The Homework Myth , and The Case Against Homework and the film Race to Nowhere make the case that homework, by taking away precious family time and putting kids under unneeded pressure, is an ineffective way to help children become better learners and thinkers.
One Canadian couple recently took their homework apostasy all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. After arguing that there was no evidence that it improved academic performance, they won a ruling that exempted their two children from all homework.
So what’s the real relationship between homework and academic achievement?
From the homework laboratories
The good news: In an effort to answer this question, researchers have been doing their homework on homework, conducting hundreds of studies over the past several decades. The bad news? Despite scores of studies, definitive conclusions remain a matter of some debate.
“A few studies can always be found to buttress whatever position is desired, while the counter-evidence is ignored,” writes the nation’s top homework scholar, Harris Cooper , in his 2006 homework meta-study at Duke University’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
How much is too much?
If you’re not ready to make a national case out of your child’s nightly worksheets, it’s worth knowing that she may be complaining for good reason. For better or worse, homework is on the rise in the United States. A survey done through the University of Michigan found that by the 2002-’03 school year, students ages 6 to 17 were doing twice as much homework as in 1981-’82. The homework ante has been upped as school administrators respond to increasing pressure for their students to perform better on state-mandated tests.
So how can you know if your child is doing the right amount? Who came up with that 10-minutes-per-grade rule that’s become the accepted norm? (And if that is the magic number, why is my neighbor’s 8-year-old daughter doing two-plus hours a night?)
The oft-bandied rule on homework quantity — 10 minutes a night per grade (starting from between 10 to 20 minutes in first grade) — is ubiquitous. Indeed, go to the National Education Association’s website or the national Parent Teacher Association’s website , and 10 minutes per grade is the recommended amount for first through 12th grade.
But where did it come from? “The source [of that figure] was a teacher who walked up to me after a workshop I did about 25 years ago,” says Cooper. “I’d put up a chart showing middle school kids who reported doing an hour to an hour and a half were doing just as well as high schoolers doing two hours a night. The teacher said, ‘That sounds like the 10-minute rule.’” He adds with a laugh, “I stole the idea.”
If you think your child is doing excessive homework, Cooper recommends talking with her teacher. “Often there is a miscommunication about the goals of homework assignments,” he says. “What appears to be problematic for kids, why they are doing an assignment, can be cleared up with a conversation.” Also, Cooper suggests taking a careful look at how your child is doing her assignments. It may seem like they’re taking two hours, but maybe she’s wandering off frequently to get a snack or listening to her iPod.
Less is often more
If your child is dutifully doing her work but still burning the midnight oil, it’s worth intervening to make sure she gets enough sleep. Recent studies suggest that proper sleep may be far more essential to brain and body development.
In fact, for elementary school-age children, there is no measurable academic advantage to homework. For middle-schoolers, there is a direct correlation between homework and achievement if assignments last between one to two hours per night. After two hours, however, achievement doesn’t improve. For high schoolers, two hours appears optimal. As with middle-schoolers, give teens more than two hours a night, and academic success flatlines.
Not all homework is created equal
Just as revealing, it appears that grade level has a direct impact on homework’s effectiveness.
In a previous meta-study conducted in 1989, Cooper’s team at Duke University found that grade level heavily influences how much homework helps with academic advancement (as measured by standardized and class test scores.) It appears middle- and high schoolers have much to gain academically by doing their homework. The average high school student doing homework outperformed 69% of the students in a class with no homework. Homework in middle school was half as effective. In elementary school, there is no measurable correlation between homework and achievement.
Despite all the research, homework remains something of a mystery. Until Cooper and other researchers discover the best homework practices at every stage of a student’s development, parents will need to use their own best judgment.
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Dealing with teacher bias
The most important school data families of color need to consider
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