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Stanford research shows pitfalls of homework
A Stanford researcher found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance and even alienation from society. More than two hours of homework a night may be counterproductive, according to the study.
Education scholar Denise Pope has found that too much homework has negative effects on student well-being and behavioral engagement. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)
A Stanford researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect kids, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends and activities matter.
“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,” wrote Denise Pope , a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education .
The researchers used survey data to examine perceptions about homework, student well-being and behavioral engagement in a sample of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities. Along with the survey data, Pope and her colleagues used open-ended answers to explore the students’ views on homework.
Median household income exceeded $90,000 in these communities, and 93 percent of the students went on to college, either two-year or four-year.
Students in these schools average about 3.1 hours of homework each night.
“The findings address how current homework practices in privileged, high-performing schools sustain students’ advantage in competitive climates yet hinder learning, full engagement and well-being,” Pope wrote.
Pope and her colleagues found that too much homework can diminish its effectiveness and even be counterproductive. They cite prior research indicating that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night, and that 90 minutes to two and a half hours is optimal for high school.
Their study found that too much homework is associated with:
• Greater stress: 56 percent of the students considered homework a primary source of stress, according to the survey data. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent put the pressure to get good grades in that category. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.
• Reductions in health: In their open-ended answers, many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems. The researchers asked students whether they experienced health issues such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems.
• Less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits: Both the survey data and student responses indicate that spending too much time on homework meant that students were “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills,” according to the researchers. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy.
A balancing act
The results offer empirical evidence that many students struggle to find balance between homework, extracurricular activities and social time, the researchers said. Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.
Also, there was no relationship between the time spent on homework and how much the student enjoyed it. The research quoted students as saying they often do homework they see as “pointless” or “mindless” in order to keep their grades up.
“This kind of busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points,” Pope said.
She said the research calls into question the value of assigning large amounts of homework in high-performing schools. Homework should not be simply assigned as a routine practice, she said.
“Rather, any homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development,” wrote Pope.
In places where students attend high-performing schools, too much homework can reduce their time to foster skills in the area of personal responsibility, the researchers concluded. “Young people are spending more time alone,” they wrote, “which means less time for family and fewer opportunities to engage in their communities.”
The researchers say that while their open-ended or “self-reporting” methodology to gauge student concerns about homework may have limitations – some might regard it as an opportunity for “typical adolescent complaining” – it was important to learn firsthand what the students believe.
The paper was co-authored by Mollie Galloway from Lewis and Clark College and Jerusha Conner from Villanova University.
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Is Homework Necessary? Education Inequity and Its Impact on Students
Schools are getting rid of homework from Essex, Mass., to Los Angeles, Calif. Although the no-homework trend may sound alarming, especially to parents dreaming of their child’s acceptance to Harvard, Stanford or Yale, there is mounting evidence that eliminating homework in grade school may actually have great benefits , especially with regard to educational equity.
In fact, while the push to eliminate homework may come as a surprise to many adults, the debate is not new . Parents and educators have been talking about this subject for the last century, so that the educational pendulum continues to swing back and forth between the need for homework and the need to eliminate homework.
The Problem with Homework: It Highlights Inequalities
How much homework is too much homework, when does homework actually help, negative effects of homework for students, how teachers can help.
One of the most pressing talking points around homework is how it disproportionately affects students from less affluent families. The American Psychological Association (APA) explained:
“Kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at afterschool jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs.”
[RELATED] How to Advance Your Career: A Guide for Educators >>
While students growing up in more affluent areas are likely playing sports, participating in other recreational activities after school, or receiving additional tutoring, children in disadvantaged areas are more likely headed to work after school, taking care of siblings while their parents work or dealing with an unstable home life. Adding homework into the mix is one more thing to deal with — and if the student is struggling, the task of completing homework can be too much to consider at the end of an already long school day.
While all students may groan at the mention of homework, it may be more than just a nuisance for poor and disadvantaged children, instead becoming another burden to carry and contend with.
Beyond the logistical issues, homework can negatively impact physical health and stress — and once again this may be a more significant problem among economically disadvantaged youth who typically already have a higher stress level than peers from more financially stable families .
Yet, today, it is not just the disadvantaged who suffer from the stressors that homework inflicts. A 2014 CNN article, “Is Homework Making Your Child Sick?” , covered the issue of extreme pressure placed on children of the affluent. The article looked at the results of a study surveying more than 4,300 students from 10 high-performing public and private high schools in upper-middle-class California communities.
“Their findings were troubling: Research showed that excessive homework is associated with high stress levels, physical health problems and lack of balance in children’s lives; 56% of the students in the study cited homework as a primary stressor in their lives,” according to the CNN story. “That children growing up in poverty are at-risk for a number of ailments is both intuitive and well-supported by research. More difficult to believe is the growing consensus that children on the other end of the spectrum, children raised in affluence, may also be at risk.”
When it comes to health and stress it is clear that excessive homework, for children at both ends of the spectrum, can be damaging. Which begs the question, how much homework is too much?
The National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association recommend that students spend 10 minutes per grade level per night on homework . That means that first graders should spend 10 minutes on homework, second graders 20 minutes and so on. But a study published by The American Journal of Family Therapy found that students are getting much more than that.
While 10 minutes per day doesn’t sound like much, that quickly adds up to an hour per night by sixth grade. The National Center for Education Statistics found that high school students get an average of 6.8 hours of homework per week, a figure that is much too high according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is also to be noted that this figure does not take into consideration the needs of underprivileged student populations.
In a study conducted by the OECD it was found that “after around four hours of homework per week, the additional time invested in homework has a negligible impact on performance .” That means that by asking our children to put in an hour or more per day of dedicated homework time, we are not only not helping them, but — according to the aforementioned studies — we are hurting them, both physically and emotionally.
What’s more is that homework is, as the name implies, to be completed at home, after a full day of learning that is typically six to seven hours long with breaks and lunch included. However, a study by the APA on how people develop expertise found that elite musicians, scientists and athletes do their most productive work for about only four hours per day. Similarly, companies like Tower Paddle Boards are experimenting with a five-hour workday, under the assumption that people are not able to be truly productive for much longer than that. CEO Stephan Aarstol told CNBC that he believes most Americans only get about two to three hours of work done in an eight-hour day.
In the scope of world history, homework is a fairly new construct in the U.S. Students of all ages have been receiving work to complete at home for centuries, but it was educational reformer Horace Mann who first brought the concept to America from Prussia.
Since then, homework’s popularity has ebbed and flowed in the court of public opinion. In the 1930s, it was considered child labor (as, ironically, it compromised children’s ability to do chores at home). Then, in the 1950s, implementing mandatory homework was hailed as a way to ensure America’s youth were always one step ahead of Soviet children during the Cold War. Homework was formally mandated as a tool for boosting educational quality in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Education, and has remained in common practice ever since.
School work assigned and completed outside of school hours is not without its benefits. Numerous studies have shown that regular homework has a hand in improving student performance and connecting students to their learning. When reviewing these studies, take them with a grain of salt; there are strong arguments for both sides, and only you will know which solution is best for your students or school.
Homework improves student achievement.
- Source: The High School Journal, “ When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math ,” 2012.
- Source: IZA.org, “ Does High School Homework Increase Academic Achievement? ,” 2014. **Note: Study sample comprised only high school boys.
Homework helps reinforce classroom learning.
- Source: “ Debunk This: People Remember 10 Percent of What They Read ,” 2015.
Homework helps students develop good study habits and life skills.
- Sources: The Repository @ St. Cloud State, “ Types of Homework and Their Effect on Student Achievement ,” 2017; Journal of Advanced Academics, “ Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework ,” 2011.
- Source: Journal of Advanced Academics, “ Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework ,” 2011.
Homework allows parents to be involved with their children’s learning.
- Parents can see what their children are learning and working on in school every day.
- Parents can participate in their children’s learning by guiding them through homework assignments and reinforcing positive study and research habits.
- Homework observation and participation can help parents understand their children’s academic strengths and weaknesses, and even identify possible learning difficulties.
- Source: Phys.org, “ Sociologist Upends Notions about Parental Help with Homework ,” 2018.
While some amount of homework may help students connect to their learning and enhance their in-class performance, too much homework can have damaging effects.
Students with too much homework have elevated stress levels.
- Source: USA Today, “ Is It Time to Get Rid of Homework? Mental Health Experts Weigh In ,” 2021.
- Source: Stanford University, “ Stanford Research Shows Pitfalls of Homework ,” 2014.
Students with too much homework may be tempted to cheat.
- Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education, “ High-Tech Cheating Abounds, and Professors Bear Some Blame ,” 2010.
- Source: The American Journal of Family Therapy, “ Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background ,” 2015.
Homework highlights digital inequity.
- Sources: NEAToday.org, “ The Homework Gap: The ‘Cruelest Part of the Digital Divide’ ,” 2016; CNET.com, “ The Digital Divide Has Left Millions of School Kids Behind ,” 2021.
- Source: Investopedia, “ Digital Divide ,” 2022; International Journal of Education and Social Science, “ Getting the Homework Done: Social Class and Parents’ Relationship to Homework ,” 2015.
- Source: World Economic Forum, “ COVID-19 exposed the digital divide. Here’s how we can close it ,” 2021.
Homework does not help younger students.
- Source: Review of Educational Research, “ Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Researcher, 1987-2003 ,” 2006.
To help students find the right balance and succeed, teachers and educators must start the homework conversation, both internally at their school and with parents. But in order to successfully advocate on behalf of students, teachers must be well educated on the subject, fully understanding the research and the outcomes that can be achieved by eliminating or reducing the homework burden. There is a plethora of research and writing on the subject for those interested in self-study.
For teachers looking for a more in-depth approach or for educators with a keen interest in educational equity, formal education may be the best route. If this latter option sounds appealing, there are now many reputable schools offering online master of education degree programs to help educators balance the demands of work and family life while furthering their education in the quest to help others.
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Do our kids have too much homework?
by: Marian Wilde | Updated: November 27, 2023
Many students and their parents are frazzled by the amount of homework being piled on in the schools. Yet many researchers say that American students have just the right amount of homework.
“Kids today are overwhelmed!” a parent recently wrote in an email to GreatSchools.org “My first-grade son was required to research a significant person from history and write a paper of at least two pages about the person, with a bibliography. How can he be expected to do that by himself? He just started to learn to read and write a couple of months ago. Schools are pushing too hard and expecting too much from kids.”
Diane Garfield, a fifth grade teacher in San Francisco, concurs. “I believe that we’re stressing children out,” she says.
But hold on, it’s not just the kids who are stressed out . “Teachers nowadays assign these almost college-level projects with requirements that make my mouth fall open with disbelief,” says another frustrated parent. “It’s not just the kids who suffer!”
“How many people take home an average of two hours or more of work that must be completed for the next day?” asks Tonya Noonan Herring, a New Mexico mother of three, an attorney and a former high school English teacher. “Most of us, even attorneys, do not do this. Bottom line: students have too much homework and most of it is not productive or necessary.”
Research about homework
How do educational researchers weigh in on the issue? According to Brian Gill, a senior social scientist at the Rand Corporation, there is no evidence that kids are doing more homework than they did before.
“If you look at high school kids in the late ’90s, they’re not doing substantially more homework than kids did in the ’80s, ’70s, ’60s or the ’40s,” he says. “In fact, the trends through most of this time period are pretty flat. And most high school students in this country don’t do a lot of homework. The median appears to be about four hours a week.”
Education researchers like Gill base their conclusions, in part, on data gathered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.
“It doesn’t suggest that most kids are doing a tremendous amount,” says Gill. “That’s not to say there aren’t any kids with too much homework. There surely are some. There’s enormous variation across communities. But it’s not a crisis in that it’s a very small proportion of kids who are spending an enormous amount of time on homework.”
Etta Kralovec, author of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning , disagrees, saying NAEP data is not a reliable source of information. “Students take the NAEP test and one of the questions they have to fill out is, ‘How much homework did you do last night’ Anybody who knows schools knows that teachers by and large do not give homework the night before a national assessment. It just doesn’t happen. Teachers are very clear with kids that they need to get a good night’s sleep and they need to eat well to prepare for a test.
“So asking a kid how much homework they did the night before a national test and claiming that that data tells us anything about the general run of the mill experience of kids and homework over the school year is, I think, really dishonest.”
Further muddying the waters is an AP/AOL poll that suggests that most Americans feel that their children are getting the right amount of homework. It found that 57% of parents felt that their child was assigned about the right amount of homework, 23% thought there was too little and 19% thought there was too much.
One indisputable fact
One homework fact that educators do agree upon is that the young child today is doing more homework than ever before.
“Parents are correct in saying that they didn’t get homework in the early grades and that their kids do,” says Harris Cooper, professor of psychology and director of the education program at Duke University.
Gill quantifies the change this way: “There has been some increase in homework for the kids in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. But it’s been an increase from zero to 20 minutes a day. So that is something that’s fairly new in the last quarter century.”
The history of homework
In his research, Gill found that homework has always been controversial. “Around the turn of the 20th century, the Ladies’ Home Journal carried on a crusade against homework. They thought that kids were better off spending their time outside playing and looking at clouds. The most spectacular success this movement had was in the state of California, where in 1901 the legislature passed a law abolishing homework in grades K-8. That lasted about 15 years and then was quietly repealed. Then there was a lot of activism against homework again in the 1930s.”
The proponents of homework have remained consistent in their reasons for why homework is a beneficial practice, says Gill. “One, it extends the work in the classroom with additional time on task. Second, it develops habits of independent study. Third, it’s a form of communication between the school and the parents. It gives parents an idea of what their kids are doing in school.”
The anti-homework crowd has also been consistent in their reasons for wanting to abolish or reduce homework.
“The first one is children’s health,” says Gill. “A hundred years ago, you had medical doctors testifying that heavy loads of books were causing children’s spines to be bent.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems. There were also concerns about excessive amounts of stress .
“Although they didn’t use the term ‘stress,'” says Gill. “They worried about ‘nervous breakdowns.'”
“In the 1930s, there were lots of graduate students in education schools around the country who were doing experiments that claimed to show that homework had no academic value — that kids who got homework didn’t learn any more than kids who didn’t,” Gill continues. Also, a lot of the opposition to homework, in the first half of the 20th century, was motivated by a notion that it was a leftover from a 19th-century model of schooling, which was based on recitation, memorization and drill. Progressive educators were trying to replace that with something more creative, something more interesting to kids.”
The more-is-better movement
Garfield, the San Francisco fifth-grade teacher, says that when she started teaching 30 years ago, she didn’t give any homework. “Then parents started asking for it,” she says. “I got In junior high and high school there’s so much homework, they need to get prepared.” So I bought that one. I said, ‘OK, they need to be prepared.’ But they don’t need two hours.”
Cooper sees the trend toward more homework as symptomatic of high-achieving parents who want the best for their children. “Part of it, I think, is pressure from the parents with regard to their desire to have their kids be competitive for the best universities in the country. The communities in which homework is being piled on are generally affluent communities.”
The less-is-better campaign
Alfie Kohn, a widely-admired progressive writer on education and parenting, published a sharp rebuttal to the more-homework-is-better argument in his 2006 book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing . Kohn criticized the pro-homework studies that Cooper referenced as “inconclusive… they only show an association, not a causal relationship” and he titled his first chapter “Missing Out on Their Childhoods.”
Vera Goodman’s 2020 book, Simply Too Much Homework: What Can We Do? , repeats Kohn’s scrutiny and urges parents to appeal to school and government leaders to revise homework policies. Goodman believes today’s homework load stresses out teachers, parents, and students, deprives children of unstructured time for play, hobbies, and individual pursuits, and inhibits the joy of learning.
What’s a parent to do, you ask? Fortunately, there are some sanity-saving homework guidelines.
Cooper points to “The 10-Minute Rule” formulated by the National PTA and the National Education Association, which suggests that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so on.
Too much homework vs. the optimal amount
Cooper has found that the correlation between homework and achievement is generally supportive of these guidelines. “We found that for kids in elementary school there was hardly any relationship between how much homework young children did and how well they were doing in school, but in middle school the relationship is positive and increases until the kids were doing between an hour to two hours a night, which is right where the 10-minute rule says it’s going to be optimal.
“After that it didn’t go up anymore. Kids that reported doing more than two hours of homework a night in middle school weren’t doing any better in school than kids who were doing between an hour to two hours.”
Garfield has a very clear homework policy that she distributes to her parents at the beginning of each school year. “I give one subject a night. It’s what we were studying in class or preparation for the next day. It should be done within half an hour at most. I believe that children have many outside activities now and they also need to live fully as children. To have them work for six hours a day at school and then go home and work for hours at night does not seem right. It doesn’t allow them to have a childhood.”
How do American kids fare when compared to students in other countries? Professors Gerald LeTendre and David Baker of Pennsylvania State University conclude in their 2005 book, National Differences, Global Similarities: World Culture and the Future of Schooling, that American middle schoolers do more homework than their peers in Japan, Korea, or Taiwan, but less than their peers in Singapore and Hong Kong.
One of the surprising findings of their research was that more homework does not correlate with higher test scores. LeTendre notes: “That really flummoxes people because they say, ‘Doesn’t doing more homework mean getting better scores?’ The answer quite simply is no.”
Homework is a complicated thing
To be effective, homework must be used in a certain way, he says. “Let me give you an example. Most homework in the fourth grade in the U.S. is worksheets. Fill them out, turn them in, maybe the teacher will check them, maybe not. That is a very ineffective use of homework. An effective use of homework would be the teacher sitting down and thinking ‘Elizabeth has trouble with number placement, so I’m going to give her seven problems on number placement.’ Then the next day the teacher sits down with Elizabeth and she says, ‘Was this hard for you? Where did you have difficulty?’ Then she gives Elizabeth either more or less material. As you can imagine, that kind of homework rarely happens.”
“What typically happens is people give what we call ‘shotgun homework’: blanket drills, questions and problems from the book. On a national level that’s associated with less well-functioning school systems,” he says. “In a sense, you could sort of think of it as a sign of weaker teachers or less well-prepared teachers. Over time, we see that in elementary and middle schools more and more homework is being given, and that countries around the world are doing this in an attempt to increase their test scores, and that is basically a failing strategy.”
Quality not quantity?
“ The Case for (Quality) Homework: Why It Improves Learning, and How Parents Can Help ,” a 2019 paper written by Boston University psychologist Janine Bempechat, asks for homework that specifically helps children “confront ever-more-complex tasks” that enable them to gain resilience and embrace challenges.
Similar research from University of Ovideo in Spain titled “ Homework: Facts and Fiction 2021 ” says evidence shows that how homework is applied is more important than how much is required, and it asserts that a moderate amount of homework yields the most academic achievement. The most important aspect of quality homework assignment? The effort required and the emotions prompted by the task.
Robyn Jackson, author of How to Plan Rigorous Instruction and other media about rigor says the key to quality homework is not the time spent, but the rigor — or mental challenge — involved. ( Read more about how to evaluate your child’s homework for rigor here .)
Nightly reading as a homework replacement
Across the country, many elementary schools have replaced homework with a nightly reading requirement. There are many benefits to children reading every night , either out loud with a parent or independently: it increases their vocabulary, imagination, concentration, memory, empathy, academic ability, knowledge of different cultures and perspectives. Plus, it reduces stress, helps kids sleep, and bonds children to their cuddling parents or guardians. Twenty to 30 minutes of reading each day is generally recommended.
But, is this always possible, or even ideal?
No, it’s not.
Alfie Kohn criticizes this added assignment in his blog post, “ How To Create Nonreaders .” He cites an example from a parent (Julie King) who reports, “Our children are now expected to read 20 minutes a night, and record such on their homework sheet. What parents are discovering (surprise) is that those kids who used to sit down and read for pleasure — the kids who would get lost in a book and have to be told to put it down to eat/play/whatever — are now setting the timer… and stopping when the timer dings. … Reading has become a chore, like brushing your teeth.”
The take-away from Kohn? Don’t undermine reading for pleasure by turning it into another task burdening your child’s tired brain.
Books Simply Too Much Homework: What Can We do? by Vera Goodman, Trafford Publishing, 2020
The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, Crown Publishers, 2007
The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn, Hatchett Books, 2006 The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by Etta Kralovec and John Buell, Beacon Press, 2001.
The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents by Harris M. Cooper, Corwin Press, 2001.
Seven Steps to Homework Success: A Family Guide to Solving Common Homework Problems by Sydney Zentall and Sam Goldstein, Specialty Press, 1998.
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Homework in High School: How Much Is Too Much?
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It’s not hard to find a high school student who is stressed about homework. Many are stressed to the max–juggling extracurricular activities, jobs, and family responsibilities. It can be hard for many students, particularly low-income students, to find the time to dedicate to homework. So students in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program at YouthBeat in Oakland, California are asking what’s a fair amount of homework for high school students?
TEACHERS: Guide your students to practice civil discourse about current topics and get practice writing CER (claim, evidence, reasoning) responses. Explore lesson supports.
Is homework beneficial to students?
The homework debate has been going on for years. There’s a big body of research that shows that homework can have a positive impact on academic performance. It can also help students prepare for the academic rigors of college.
Does homework hurt students?
Some research suggests that homework is only beneficial up to a certain point. Too much homework can lead to compromised health and greater stress in students. Many students, particularly low-income students, can struggle to find the time to do homework, especially if they are working jobs after school or taking care of family members. Some students might not have access to technology, like computers or the internet, that are needed to complete assignments at home– which can make completing assignments even more challenging. Many argue that this contributes to inequity in education– particularly if completing homework is linked to better academic performance.
How much homework should students get?
Based on research, the National Education Association recommends the 10-minute rule stating students should receive 10 minutes of homework per grade per night. But opponents to homework point out that for seniors that’s still 2 hours of homework which can be a lot for students with conflicting obligations. And in reality, high school students say it can be tough for teachers to coordinate their homework assignments since students are taking a variety of different classes. Some people advocate for eliminating homework altogether.
Edweek: How Much Homework Is Enough? Depends Who You Ask
Business Insider: Here’s How Homework Differs Around the World
Review of Educational Research: Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003
Phys.org: Study suggests more than two hours of homework a night may be counterproductive
The Journal of Experimental Education: Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools
National Education Association: Research Spotlight on Homework NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education
The Atlantic: Who Does Homework Work For?
Center for Public Education: What research says about the value of homework: Research review
Time: Opinion: Why I think All Schools Should Abolish Homework
The Atlantic: A Teacher’s Defense of Homework
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Too Much Homework? Here’s What To Do
Whatever their age , most students complain that they have too much homework.
But is that really the case?
Over the last 20 years as a teacher, I’ve heard all sorts of excuses about why homework hasn’t been done.
In years gone by, a household pet was often blamed for eating it. Now it’s the ubiquitous ‘faulty printer’ that seems to prevent homework coming in on time. :)
Of course, there are also plenty of valid reasons for not getting it done.
Sometimes there genuinely is too much homework to do in the time allocated.
Many students struggle to do what’s asked of them for want of somewhere quiet to work, or because they have too many other commitments that can’t be avoided.
But it’s also true that virtually everyone could reduce the stress associated with homework by applying some simple time management skills.
What 'Too Much Homework' Really Means
Each time we get given work to do with a deadline, our ability to manage time is tested. This can take many forms, but the bottom line is simply that...
Work didn’t get done because other things took priority.
Something else was more important, more appealing or just plain easier to do. Homework gets left until, all of a sudden, there is too much to do in not enough time.
The good news is that time management skills can always be learnt and improved. There are plenty of tips and techniques for overcoming procrastination on this site, but the following ideas may also be helpful if you feel you have too much homework.
7 Tips For Coping With Too Much Homework
1. Accept it
The starting point for dealing with too much homework is to accept responsibility for getting it done. It’s yours to do, and yours alone.
Let’s be honest. For most people, homework is a chore. Until there’s a massive change in attitudes towards home learning, it’s here to stay.
With that in mind, the best thing is to adopt a positive ‘get it done’ attitude. If you accept that it has to be done (rather than the consequences of not doing it), you only have to decide when and how to do it.
2. Write it down
This may seem an obvious point, but writing down exactly what you have to do and when you have to do it for is an important step to take for getting organized with homework.
Use a simple planner and keep it open at the current page you’re using so that you can remind yourself what you need to do.
3. C reate a workspace
Not everyone has somewhere to work. If you do, how easy is it to use?
Whether it’s a kitchen table or a place in your own room, you’ll do more if you've got somewhere that you can use regularly. You’ll do even better if you tidy up a messy desk .
Make sure you’ve got everything that you need to hand so you can find it quickly when you want it. Get into the habit of putting things back after you’ve used them.
4. Do it the day after you get it
This is a great way to stay on top of your work. The temptation is to leave things until the last minute because that’s when doing it really matters.
Unfortunately, that’s also when it is most stressful, and there’s no margin for error.
Next time you get given a project, assignment or piece of work, start it on the day after you get it. You don’t have to finish it; just do as much as you feel like doing.
Whatever you don’t get done, you carry on with the next day.
This ‘little and often’ approach has three benefits:
- You have a day to ‘relax’ before you start it
- You do it without feeling overwhelmed because you can stop whenever you feel like it.
- More work will get done before the day it’s due to be handed in
5. Think 80-20 - don’t do it too well
The 80-20 rule states that, in life, we get 80% of our results from 20% of what we do.
This is really useful if you feel you have too much homework. Why? Well, it could be that you are doing some things too well.
Obviously some things are either done or they’re not. But often, it’s easy to spend too long on something just with very little to show for your efforts.
I’m not saying that you should produce poor quality work. But do be aware of perfectionism. Try to get better at knowing when your absolute best effort really is necessary, and when good enough is good enough.
6. Reduce your resistance to doing it
Sometimes, ‘too much homework’ means " I’ve left it too late, and now I’ve got too much to do ".
This can be avoided if you start it the day after you get it. And the best way to do that? Make it as easy as you need to.
Can’t face all of it? Time box half an hour. Or 10 minutes. Even 2 minutes if that’s all you can cope with.
How much you do is less important than the fact that you actually do something.
7. When you do it, give it 100% attention
Phones, friends and social media will stretch out the time you spend working. We all have to be aware of wasting time online , so the less you do it, the quicker you can complete your work.
The amount of homework you have varies from week to week, but the tips above may just be the answer. If so, you’ll have learned some valuable skills and turned too much homework into a manageable amount.
Having said that, it can get to the point at which you feel that there really is too much to do, and not just at the moment. If and when you reach the point at which, despite your best efforts, you consistently feel you have too much homework, tell someone.
They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and it’s true. Talking to someone will help. Talking to someone who is in a position to help you do something about it is even better.
In terms of getting things done, developing good study habits can make a massive difference, but sometimes there’s just too much to do. This can be a real problem unless you tell someone, so don’t keep it inside -- get some support.
- Good Study Habits
- Too Much Homework
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The Worsening Homework Problem
My son does an average of five or six hours of homework every night. Is this normal?
Editor’s Note: Every Tuesday, Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer take questions from readers about their kids’ education. Have one? Email them at [email protected].
Dear Abby and Brian,
My son, who is in ninth grade, is a really good student, but I’m worried he’s working far too much. He does an average of five or six hours of homework every weeknight, and that’s on top of spending most of the weekend writing essays or studying for tests. His school says that each of his five main classes (English, history, math, language, and science) can assign no more than 30 minutes a night and that electives can assign no more than one hour a week. That should look like something around three hours a night, which is a lot but at least more manageable.
On some nights, a math problem set can take him more than two hours, and then, after 8 p.m. and sometimes after 9, he turns to his English reading, science textbook, Spanish paragraph, or history outline. He’s working until after midnight and then up at 6 a.m. to get ready for school, beyond exhausted. Is this normal?
How much homework should students be assigned?
Homework—when assigned in appropriate amounts and with the right goals in mind—is an indispensable tool for educators. But students should never be put in the position of having to choose between their academic success and their overall well-being.
To understand what constitutes the right amount of homework, we should be clear on what it’s meant to accomplish. We believe it should perform four basic functions. First, homework should be assigned in order to make the most of class time. In an English class, for example, teachers need to ask students to read at home in order to do the important work of leading in-class discussions. Second, at-home assignments help students learn the material taught in class. Students require independent practice to internalize new concepts. Third, these assignments can provide valuable data for teachers about how well students understand the curriculum. Finally, homework helps students acquire the skills needed to plan, organize, and complete their work.
Unfortunately, many schools assign homework for its own sake, in amounts that are out of proportion to these basic functions—a problem that seems to have gotten worse over the past 20 years . This isn’t necessarily intentional. Some of your son’s teachers probably underestimate the time it takes their students to complete assignments. But your description makes clear that homework has taken over your son’s life. That’s why he should make sure to tell his teachers that he’s been working past the nightly limits prescribed by the school.
Additionally, he should use those limits for his own well-being: If he can’t get through a math worksheet in half an hour, he should stop, draw a line after the final problem he was able to complete, and talk with his teacher the following day. That way he will be able to spread his time more evenly among classes, and his teachers will get a better sense of how long their homework is taking. Sometimes teachers aren’t aware of how much other work our students have on their plate, not to mention their extracurricular responsibilities. Fill us in! Most teachers would prefer to recalibrate our students’ workload than find ourselves responsible for keeping them up so late.
But the goodwill of individual teachers may not be enough to solve the issue. Schools have any number of incentives to assign a lot of work, one of which is the pernicious assumption that “good” schools provide as much of it as their students can pack into a day. If your son’s workload doesn’t get lighter after he talks with his teachers, contact the administration and explain the situation. Hopefully this will prompt a larger conversation within the school about the reasons to assign homework in the first place—and the reasons not to.
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5 Tips for Dealing with “Too Much” Homework
In the case of unreasonable “commitments,” you’re procrastinating doing your homework, but of course, there are people who genuinely are overwhelmed by their homework. With that in mind, how do you manage your time to get it all done? The following are five tips for any student (current or prospective) who’s struggling with getting their workload completed on time.
1. Don’t be a perfectionist
There’s an old principle of Pareto’s that’s been adapted to business (specifically management) called the 80-20 rule. The idea is that 80% of your results, come from 20% of your efforts. Think about that. When you tackle an assignment for school, are you trying to make everything perfect? Remember that you’re a student, no one is expecting you to be perfect, you’re in school to get better; you’re supposed to be a work in progress.
As a result, what may feel like “too much” homework, might really be you tackling assignments “too well.” For instance, there’s a reason “speed reading” is a skill that’s encouraged. A textbook is not a work of literature where every sentence means something, it’s okay to skim or, in some cases, skip whole paragraphs – the last paragraph just recaps what you read anyway.
Moreover, many schools or classes curve their grades. So an 80% could be a 100% in your class.
2. Do your homework as soon as it’s assigned to you
Due to the nature of college schedules, students often have classes MWF and different classes on Tuesday and Thursday. As a result, they do their MWF homework on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in preparation for the following day. Rather than do that. Do your Monday homework, Monday; Tuesday homework, Tuesday; Wednesday homework, Wednesday and so on.
The reason for this is manifold. First of all, the class and the assignment are fresh in your mind – this is especially critical for anything math related to those who are less math-minded. So do the assignment after the class. Chances are, it’ll be much easier to complete.
The second reason is because if you have a question about Monday’s homework and you’re working on it on Monday night, then guess what? You can contact your professor (or a friend) Tuesday for help or clarification. Whereas if you’re completing Monday’s homework on a Tuesday night, you’re out of luck. This can assuage a lot of the stress that comes from too much homework.
This flows into the third reason which is that, rather than having a chunk of homework to do the day before its due, you’re doing a little at a time frequently. This is a basic time management tactic where, if you finish tasks as they’re assigned instead of letting them pile up, you avoid that mental blockade of feeling like there’s “too much” for you to do in the finite amount of time given.
3. Eliminate distractions
All too often, students sit down to do homework and then receive a text, and then another, and then hop on Facebook, and then comment on something, and then take a break. Before they’re aware of it, hours have passed.
The best way to overcome this is to create a workspace. Traditionally, many students go to the library, but there’s no reason you cannot create your own workspace elsewhere. Maybe head to a coffee shop, fold up the backseats of your car, or develop a space in your room for you to specifically to focus on your homework.
If you give your homework 100% of your attention, it’ll pass by more quickly. Regardless of whether you’re writing a paper or working on a math equation, it’s harder to complete any portion of it with interruptions. If you stop writing mid-sentence to answer a text, then you may wonder where you were taking that trail of thought; if you stop a math problem midway through, then you’ll end up going back over the equation, redoing your work, to figure it out.
Eliminating distractions can save you a great deal of time, so find your space.
4. Track your time
Really track it. There are plenty of free sites and apps that will monitor your time. If you can’t (or don’t) eliminate all your distractions, then start clocking where your time is going. Chances are, you’ll be able to cut something that’s draining your hours, out of your schedule.
This is the nature of the internet, social media sites, and games on your phone, usually you use them in micromoments; moments that too small or too insignificant to really be eating up your time, but they do. All too often, students find themselves wondering “where did the time go?” and have difficulty actually placing how much time was spent where or doing what. Time yourself and, more importantly, reserve time to do your homework or reading.
The other benefit of this is that once you start tracking your time, you’ll be able to quantify the problem and manage your time more appropriately. For instance, if a particular class averages 45 minutes of homework, then you know how much time is required to budget into your schedule. Meanwhile, if another class is regularly exceeding three hours, then you may want to consider a tutor or discussing the issue with your professor directly.
5. Accept homework
Homework is a responsibility; it’s a chore. And in the same way that many people don’t take out the trash until it needs to be taken out; many people don’t start homework until it needs to be finished. This is a problem of attitude towards homework more than anything else.
It’s what makes many students feel like there’s “too much” homework, when in actuality, they feel that way because they put off doing it until they absolutely need to do it. As a result, try to change your mode of thinking. Instead of thinking about the volume of reading and writing, accept that it needs to get done. This way, you’re less concerned with the consequences of not doing homework, and more willing to actually get it done.
Hopefully, these five tips will help you in your academic career. Time management is not an easy skill to learn, but once you’ve established it in your life, it will help immensely.
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How To Deal With A Lot Of Homework? 8 Tips
Deadlines can be an incredibly stress-inducing thing. With each passing day, the homework deadlines grow ever closer.
But your work output doesn’t seem to keep pace until finally, in a fit of frantic desperation, you complete the majority of the task in the last 3 hours before it’s due. You’re not alone.
We have no firm figures but based upon our own rather hasty research directly before writing this piece. The percentage of people in the world who habitually procrastinate to some degree equals approximately 99.9999999%.
We don’t know who that .0000001 is, but we’re reasonably sure we wouldn’t enjoy their company.
1. Examples Of Procrastinators
Some famous habitual procrastinators include the likes of French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. Or, American author Herman Melville, and British author Douglas Adams.
Of course, based on their creative output, one would assume that each of these people found ways of meeting their deadlines, and you’d be right.
Victor Hugo used the popular focusing technique of being stripped naked in his study by a servant, who was given strict orders not to return with the clothing until a pre-arranged hour. Melville had his wife chain him to his desk in order to finish Moby Dick.
Douglas Adams regularly required publishers to lock him in rooms and stand guard, glowering menacingly until he produced a manuscript. Alright, then.
Let’s explore a few less extreme ways to cope with an impending deadline.
2. Take Smaller Bites If You Have Too Much Homework
Anyone who’s ever attempted to shed a few unwanted pounds has probably heard or read the advice to take smaller bites, chew your food thoroughly, etc., etc.… This is excellent advice in both weight loss and in the avoidance of procrastination (albeit for very different reasons).
One of the biggest triggers of procrastination is making the crippling mistake of thinking of whatever project you’re working on as one gigantic, hulking menace glaring at you from a distance. He’s probably also holding a large club with spikes coming out of it (although that may just be us).
Divide the overall workload into smaller, more manageable bites. Say, for example, that you’re writing an article listing and detailing the top 20 universities in the UK.
The assignment is to write a total of 10,000 words. Returning briefly to our diet analogy, that initially seems roughly equivalent to being asked to consume an entire roasted goose in one sitting (but without the irresistible allure of the roasted goose).
Following the principle of the smaller bite, however, you’re able to say to yourself, “I don’t have to spill out 10,000 brilliant words onto the page all at once. I’ve got 20 universities to write about. That’s 500 words apiece. Let’s tackle that first one and then worry about the next.”
Taken even further, you realise that each university will have sub-sections of approximately 100 words each. “100 words is nothing!” you exclaim.
And so, you’re able to jump into your project with much less trepidation and despair.
3. Break The Task Up
Of course, breaking the task into smaller pieces is fine for getting you past that stumbling block of the blank page. But you should be aware of one possible pitfall: If you break things down too far, you might decide the project is so easy that you can wait a week or two to get started.
This is bad. A necessary addendum to the “Take Smaller Bites” technique is the “Make Smaller Deadlines” technique. With each sub-step you identify, you should also set a sub-deadline to keep you on track toward completing the entire project.
This is especially important when the overall deadline is further off into the hazy future. The farther out the deadline is, the easier it is to convince yourself to wait another day. Or two. Or twelve.
Smaller bites work well, but if you don’t pair them with smaller deadlines, you’ll likely end up facing the entire project in one go just as you feared you would from the beginning.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Fail
One of the biggest reasons for procrastination is not laziness but perfectionism . Thomas Edison is a famous American inventor and originator of the electric light bulb and other modern conveniences. He famously refused to accept that he had failed 10,000 times , opting instead to assert that he’d found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.
It’s a valid point. From inventors to scientists to actors in rehearsals, brilliant discoveries and stunning performances can’t just spring fully-formed out of nothingness. They’re invariably the result of working through countless failures on the way toward eventual success.
Suppose you’re putting off starting a project because it’s just not the perfect time or because it might not be good enough. Well, you’re right. There is no ideal time, and your first (and second, and third…) try probably won’t be good enough. But you have to allow yourself the freedom to make those initial failures if you ever aspire to succeed truly.
If you’re writing an essay , a poem, or a novel, get something on the page. Sit down now and scribble down an initial list of required tasks if you’re planning an event. That first page may well end up in the trash, and that initial list will no doubt be incomplete.
But that “failure” will lead you to the next try and the next until perched upon a tower of failures, you finally grasp the elusive fruit of success. It’s in the doing that you’ll find success, not in waiting for the perfect time to begin.
5. Eliminate Distractions
Easier said than done these days is the task of eliminating distractions during the time you’ve committed to working. From phone calls to emails to texts to Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat and on and on and on, it seems the world today is nothing but distractions (or that work is just a distraction from the far more interesting buzzing phone in our pocket).
When it comes to time management, procrastination can be the anti-hero that you really don’t want in a time like this. The trick is to find a way to remove yourself from those things.
The first step is to identify the worst offenders. Is it the TikTok notifications popping up simultaneously on your phone and computer screen? The email or texts making your phone chime every 30 seconds? Or, simply the outside world as viewed through the window in front of your desk? Most likely, it’s a combination of some of these and a few other things we haven’t mentioned.
Once you’ve identified the problem, the actions you take are entirely up to you. Is signing out of TikTok enough, or do you need the nuclear option of deactivating the account? Will turning off the phone suffice, or will you need to have a friend or family member keep it for you? Can you close the blind or move your desk? Or must you board up the window? Be honest with yourself. Only you know the extents to which you need to resort to finish your homework.
…To yourself. Only to yourself.
When dealing with a deadline of any sort, it’s usually an excellent idea to set a personal deadline in advance of the actual due date. In other words, lie to yourself about when it’s due. The benefits of this approach are apparent. If your project is due in 3 weeks, and you give yourself 2 weeks, that gives you an entire week to address any unexpected issues that may arise. For example, a part of the homework assignment might be more complex than you initially anticipated.
Of course, this only works if you’re particularly good at lying to yourself. Some can’t ignore the actual due date, so they end up skipping a day of work here and there because they know they’ve got an extra week to get it done. If you’re not gullible enough to believe your own lies, the only option is to add some urgency to your earlier deadline. Have a trusted friend or family member change your social media passwords and only reveal them once you’ve met the deadline.
Give your debit card to your mom and live off only a small daily allowance until the deadline is met. Be creative, but make it something that will motivate you. You’ll thank yourself when you’ve finished your project a week early, and you can relax while everyone else is still sweating it out.
7. Prioritise the most important or difficult tasks first
You may be asking yourself how you can do this – and the simple answer to that is to create an Eisenhower Matrix. It’s a time management skills tool that can help students prioritise difficult assignments by tackling them first.
The Eisenhower Matrix, or the Urgent-Important Matrix, can help prioritise tasks based on their urgency and importance. It may feel like a chore, but use these steps to give you a head start before you complete all your work:
- Write a list of your homework tasks.
- Divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants, labelling each one as “Urgent and Important,” “Important but Not Urgent,” “Urgent but Not Important,” and “Not Urgent or Important.”
- Place each homework task into the appropriate quadrant based on its level of urgency and importance.
- Start with the “Urgent and Important” tasks and work on them first. These are the homework projects that are due soon and are critical to your grades.
- Next, move on to the “Important but Not Urgent” tasks. These are assignments that are important to your long-term success but do not have a pressing deadline.
- Next, the “Urgent but Not Important” assignments. These are tasks that may be due soon but are not critical to your success.
- Finally, the bottom of the pile is “Not Urgent or Important” tasks. These tasks are neither critical nor time-sensitive.
Using this matrix will help you to prioritise your homework and ensure that you are focusing on the most important tasks first.
8. Manage Your Time To Avoid Burnout
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that involves breaking work into 25-minute intervals called “Pomodoros” followed by short breaks. During each interval, focus solely on completing a specific task , and then take a short break before starting another Pomodoro.
Repeat this cycle until you have completed all of your homework tasks. Ultimately, this technique helps to increase productivity and prevent burnout by giving your brain regular breaks even though you’re getting too much homework.
9. Seek help when needed, such as from a teacher or tutor.
Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of homework you have as a secondary school student? Fear not, my friend. One strategy to conquer this mountain of assignments is to seek help when needed. But how do you do that?
- Identify the problem: what specifically is causing you to have too much homework? Is it a lack of understanding of the material, difficulty with time management, or something else? Knowing the problem will help you to better communicate it to your teacher or tutor.
- Ask the teacher: your first point of contact should be your teacher. Explain your situation and ask for help. Your teacher may be able to provide you with additional resources or offer to provide extra help during class or after the school day.
- Seek a tutor: If you are still struggling after talking to your teacher, consider seeking help from a tutor. Tutors can provide one-on-one help, can work with you at your own pace and help you with exam preparation .
- Utilise school resources: Many schools have resources such as a homework club or study groups that can help you to manage your workload. Take advantage of these resources if they are available to you.
10. Run Away (haha!)
Sometimes all that’s needed to jumpstart your initiative and get you headed in the right direction is a simple change of venue. There are many resources on the internet to help you choose or arrange your workspace so as to maximise productivity.
One thing to keep in mind is that many productivity experts frown on combining your workspace with your sleeping space. The theory is that combining the two harms both your work and your sleep by confusing your brain as to exactly what the room is meant to be for.
Of course, as a student, your sleeping space may be the only workspace you’ve got. But if you do find your work or rest to be suffering, it might be worth it to move your work sessions to a friend’s room, the library, or another suitable space and save your room for relaxation.
It’s also good to remember that, just because your workspace of choice has been the most inspiring and focused place to get things done in the past, things can change. If your workspace no longer does the job, don’t waste too much time figuring out why. It may just be time for you to find someplace new.
What to do instead of homework?
Whether your homework is complete, or if you’re just managing your time and taking a break, then these 10 activities can keep you active without sitting in front of the TV:
- Exercise or go for a walk: it actually helps to boost your energy levels and improve your focus on your homework.
- Read a book: a great way to relax and unwind while also improving your vocabulary and concentration for future essay writing.
- Meditate or practice yoga: Mindfulness practices can help to reduce stress, and improve focus and other health benefits.
- Organise your space: Organising your workspace space can help to reduce stress and increase productivity.
- Take a nap: A short nap can help to refresh your mind and improve your focus, and who doesn’t love a quick nap?
- Use a study app for students to increase their productivity while keeping you on your phone
- Spend time with friends or family
- Learn a new skill or hobby
- Listen to music or an audiobook
- Write in a journal or diary about how your day is going
- Volunteer in your community
Can Too Much Homework Be Negative To A Student?
Yes, too much homework can be negative for students as it can lead to anxiety and stress due to them feeling overwhelmed. But it depends on the student, their level of understanding, and their individual needs. However, let’s say you’re spending more than 2 hours on homework every night, then that may be ‘too much’.
This can also contribute to sleep deprivation, problems with friends and family and a lack of motivation to learn more.
What is Homework Anxiety?
Homework anxiety is a type of anxiety that can occur in students when they are assigned homework. It is characterised by feelings of stress, worry, and pressure in relation to completing homework assignments. Symptoms of homework anxiety can include procrastination, difficulty concentrating, and physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches.
What Causes Homework Anxiety?
For some students, it may be due to a lack of understanding of the material or difficulty with time management. For others, it may be related to perfectionism or fear of failure. Additionally, students who experience homework anxiety may also have underlying anxiety disorders, such as generalised anxiety disorder or OCD.
Do You Feel More Confident To Do Your Homework?
Procrastination is a very common ailment. One that has afflicted most of us at one time or another, but there are ways to keep yourself on track. These six tips are just a few things to consider if you find yourself consistently clamouring to finish your work at the last minute. There are many other resources on the web if you find that these don’t work out for you.
Now, get to work (and good luck).
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