Introduction

The debate of whether or not schools assign too much homework has been around for about as long as schools have. Over the years, experts have changed their opinions about whether schools should lower or raise the number of assignments they give, leaving teachers often confused. Recently many schools have banned homework altogether, but many other schools stand firmly against this practice. Those against excess allotment assert that it could lead to unhealthy stress levels and sleep deprivation, especially for older students. However, older students are the ones that reap the most benefits from the practice. Homework does ultimately create extra work for teachers to grade and for parents to help, but are the student-learning benefits strong enough to outweigh all else?

Resources

Nearly every school in the world has assigned some form of homework to its students. As a result, plenty of articles, studies, and activities exist to provide educators with the best strategies.

Lesson Plan

  1. Why Do Homework: McGill University provides this packet of ten lesson plans, teaching students the importance of completing homework. The first lesson introduces the benefits of completing assignments, and includes a contract and journal. Each lesson plan references a set of worksheets that teachers can use to keep track of their lessons, and to distribute to their students. With these lessons, kids can better understand the purposes of their work and further motivate themselves at home.
  2. Improving Assignments: Education World provides this short lesson plan intended for grades 5-12. This plan allows teachers to take student input into account by opening up discussions on the effectiveness of homework assignments. Teachers can use this lesson halfway through or towards the end of the school year to gain adequate feedback from their students. Allowing students to feel partially in control of their assignments through lesson plans like this one can motivate them in the future.
  3. Learning to Be Your Own Coach: This plan from the New York Times’ Learning Network offers a plan for teaching students self-sufficiency in completing assignments. The page includes a warm-up, activity, and blurb entailing strategies for going further. It also provides links to resources including worksheets and case studies that teachers can use in addition to the activity. 

Articles

  1. The Cult of Homework: The Atlantic published this article addressing the debate of homework allotment. Many researchers suggest a strong correlation between homework and better performances on tests among older students. This finding fits with the commonly cited “10-minute rule,” which suggests that educators should assign about 10 minutes of homework per night, per grade level, giving a first grader 10 minutes per night, 20 minutes for a second grader, and so on. The article also examines the other side of the argument, citing countries such as Japan and Denmark, which it says perform better academically than the United States and assign less work.
  2. How Homework Can Boost Learning: Forbes provides this incredibly insightful article about distributing homework in grade schools. The article tackles different perspectives about the issue, taking into account the different ways that teachers can assign and the effects on different groups of students. The author acknowledges low-income and less-educated families, citing research that finds a positive correlation between such assignments and student performance. With such families, homework allows parents opportunities to become more involved in their children’s schoolwork. Researchers find that homework as a whole improves performance among middle and high schools, but not elementary schools. However, similar studies have found that math practice proves more effective in helping elementary schoolers than any other age group. In turn, teachers should consider carefully how the types of tasks they are appointing are affecting each of their students.
  3. Is Banning Homework a Good Idea? In this article, McRel International’s Howard Pitler responds to a recent policy at a Quebec elementary school, banning homework. The author goes on to discuss whether or not schools should be banning such assignments. He references four pieces of advice for teachers when assigning, and with these strategies, acknowledges the influence of parental pressure for teachers to give out more chores. Many parents view assignments as a way to show rigor. As a result, teachers can feel tempted to assign students “busy work.” Pitler provides yet another list of strategies for teachers to deal with this kind of pressure and make the best of the students’ homework time.

Informational Sites

  1. Research Spotlight on Homework: National Education Association’s (NEA’s) page blueprints the best homework practices in education. This page assesses the different studies conducted, suggesting that educators “take into account grade-specific and developmental factors when determining the amount and kind of homework.” The article weighs both sides of the debate, citing several studies throughout, and includes helpful references and related links surrounding the issue. This source does a good job of presenting the homework debate from a very neutral point of view. Educators can use this resource to gain a better understanding of the issue before picking a stance.
  2. Effective Practices: Reading Rockets writers Kathy Ruhl and Charles Hughes comprised this article based on research on teaching practices with students with learning disabilities. In the article, Ruhl and Hughes outline the most and least effective practices when assigning homework. The article addresses homework’s four innate purposes: practice, preparation, studying, and elaboration. This article provides insight for teachers on how, what, and when to assign.
  3. Designing Meaningful Assignments: The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development details the difficulty of finding a balance when addressing different student needs when assigning homework. Teachers should avoid issuing dull, or busywork, but such a feat proves harder than expected. This article provides tips and insight for teachers in assigning more meaningful work that can most improve a student’s learning. These strategies encourage teachers to empower their students’ with creativity and freedom, further motivating the students to take charge of their own education.

Conclusion

Homework’s purpose is to reinforce classroom topics, but oftentimes shortened classes can interrupt such protocol. Many claim that introducing topics for homework can put pressure on parents and marginalize less educated families. But these tasks can also teach students lessons in responsibility and self-sufficiency. Overall, teachers should find a healthy balance of work and cater it towards their students’ ages. After all, many of them are still kids.

Additional Resources

  1. Developing Good Habits: Mali Anderson from Parents.com offers six strategies for laying a foundation for children’s good study habits. Parents and educators need to find a balance of control by sitting students down to do their homework, but leaving them to complete it on their own. This resource is intended for parents and educators of younger students. Educators can share this resource with parents in order to improve students’ habits and performances on assignments. 
  2. Should Students Have Homework?: Suzanne Tingley from Western Governors University criticizes homework practices in America. With the type of assignments that most teachers allot, she cites, assignments do not necessarily develop students’ mastery in a topic, but rather train them for tackling standardized tests. The article suggests that schools do not necessarily need to assign nightly, but feel pressured to because it is “what [schools] have always done. She encourages teachers to think carefully about their policies, praising the quality of lessons over the quantity.
  3. The School That Banned Homework: The Washington Post covered this story, checking in on a Vermont elementary school that banned homework six months earlier. The school reported positive results and even found that kids are reading more on their own now than they did when teachers assigned them readings. Educators can look to this school’s approach when considering whether or not to lessen the influx of assignments on their students. With the trend of lowering homework levels gaining in popularity in recent years, it is important that educators learn about the schools whose policies succeeded.