The January Faculty Blog
What’s with all of the Homework?
B.A., Austin College; M.S., Baylor University
Vanguard College Preparatory School
What’s with all of the Homework?
It’s the age-old question, what’s with all of the homework? Perhaps we should look at this a little more thoroughly and change the narrative to what is the purpose of this homework and is it effective in today’s society. No doubt the evolution of technology and social media has added to the distractions that modern teenagers are faced with, but that’s the culture we currently live in. Homework, whether it is math problems to help you strengthen the material learned in class that day or an English essay over what makes Gatsby “great” in The Great Gatsby, has been a foundation of the educational experience for as long as any of us can remember. Because it’s been this way for so long does it mean we should keep it the same, or should we adapt it to the students we are preparing to be successful and productive citizens? This ongoing debate has gained traction over the past two decades. A simple search on the Internet shows compelling arguments for both sides of the discussion. This paper aims at taking a peek down the rabbit hole and to give insight into where both sides are coming from.
Many teachers and advocates will contend that homework is a tool for reinforcing the concepts or a way to learn things beyond what is taught in the classroom. Additional goals of homework include an introduction to future lessons and application of the concepts. Underneath the surface, however, homework is intended to aid students in their development of study skills and to increase their academic achievement. At the person level, the greatest value of homework is that it develops time management skills. The ability to stay organized and get work done on time is something that will benefit them the rest of their life. Many professions, like teaching, require work outside of the 9-5 workday and homework in school is simply an introduction to this requirement. Over the course of my teaching tenure, I’ve seen students who have an amazing work ethic and always complete their homework on time without any stress, but I’ve also had students who seem to never get it done. Discussions with these students usually result in the same conclusion: they waited until the last minute to start on the assignment. If these students started earlier, do you think they would have the same complaints? According to a Duke University study, researchers reviewed more than 60 studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and determined that homework does have a positive effect on student achievement (Duke Today, 2006). The benefits of doing homework are critical in many ways to a student’s development and cannot simply be dismissed.
Opponents of homework, too, have a valid case when you look at the evidence. If the homework is simply busy work, students perceive that the material is not important and lose interest in the class altogether.
Usually, this type of homework is the kind that is a completion grade or not even graded at all. The biggest drawback to homework is that it is time-consuming, taking away from downtime, sleep, and social interactions. Teenagers are at the stage of life where each of these is critical in their development and considerations must be made. The stress of homework can put pressure on students, which affects their emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. When students are pushed to their limits, they can resort to other methods to complete their work such as cheating. Examples of this include copying another student’s work or getting help from adults in an attempt to finish their assignment. I know that when I look at my assignments they are all beneficial and should not take lots of time to complete over the course of a couple of weeks; however, I often forget that these students have homework in other classes and nowadays they have a plethora of extracurricular activities. When you stop and think about this, you certainly consider lowering the requirements for homework. With all of the negatives that can be found, it’s easy to see why there is such a passionate cry for less homework.
As you can see, this debate has many good points on both sides. I firmly believe that if progress is to be made that both sides need to work together and find common ground that we can use to make homework less burdensome on students and to maintain the benefits that it provides. Collaboration between the teachers in different disciplines is also imperative for any changes to occur. One suggestion that has been presented is to utilize the “10-minute rule.” Research by Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and director of Duke’s Program in Education, shows that if you multiply 10 minutes per grade level you get the maximum amount of homework a student should have per evening and that anything more than this is ineffective (Review of Education Research, 2006). More time is allowed for older students because they are less likely to be distracted and more likely to have better study skills. Whatever the outcome, we know that an open dialogue must be maintained so that we can continue to help our students be successful.
So, what’s up with all of the homework? A whole lot!
Gilmer, Kelly. “Duke Study: Homework Helps Students Succeed in School, As Long as There Isn’t Too Much.” Duke Today, 7 Mar. 2006, today.duke.edu/2006/03/homework.html.
Harris Cooper, Jorgianne Civey Robinson, and Erika A. Patall. “Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987-2003.” Review of Educational Research 2006, vol.76: 1-62.
The great homework debate: Too much, too little or busy work? By Kelly Wallace, CNN – http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/05/living/parents-too-much-homework/index.html
Is homework a necessary evil? By Kirsten Weir of the American Psychological Association – March 2016, Vol 47, No. 3
High School Homework: Are American Students Overworked?
By: Lauren Miller, Huffington Post https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/02/high-school-homework-are-_n_1071973.html