Learn About: Evaluating Performance | Common Core
Home > Instruction > Homework > Homework--What is it good for?: Archived chat
| print Print


Homework--What is it good for?: Archived chat

Homework has gone in and out of fashion since the 19th century. Does homework help or hinder student learning--and which students, under what conditions, does it help or hinder? Do students get too little or too much homework--and how can parents tell? Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education, lead a discussion on these and related topics on March 1, 2007. For more insights, see the Center's "What research says about the value of homework: At a glance", prepared by Edvantia, an education research and development not-for-profit corporation.

Patte Barth writes:

Welcome to our discussion about homework. This topic has really hit a nerve. We have questions already from school board members, principals, and parents from all over the country. We will get to as many as we can over the next hour.


A school board member from St. Croix Virgin Islands asks:

Is there a direct correlation between student achievement and homework?

Patte Barth writes:

This is the fundamental question, isn't it? Unfortunately, research is conflicting, sparse or contradictory. There seems to generally be a positive relationship, but in specific situations. For example. homework seems to benefit older students more so than younger ones.

 

A school board member from Petersburg, Virginia asks:

What is your suggestion on the amount homework to be given to elementary, middle and high school student? Some nights it take my 5th grader 1-2 hours to completed homework and my 8th grader receives 30 mins.- 1 hour of homework.

Patte Barth writes:

Our research review indicates that at the high school level, about 1 1/2 to 2/1/2 hours is optimal; less than one hour is best at middle school; and there doesn't appear to be an effect on student learning at elementary school. …

Patte Barth writes:

There is also research suggesting that too much can produce diminishing returns. However, there may be other benefits that aren't so easy to measure. At the elementary level, for example, a small amount of homework can help children develop good work habits.


A parent from Conway, Arkansas asks:

How does a parent know if their child is getting the "right" homework or enough when other classes within the same grade are doing things completely different? And how do they know without approaching the teacher, which has already been done? Or the principal?

Patte Barth writes:

The best thing to do as a parent is to communicate with your child's teacher. If you think your child is doing too much homework, the teacher may be unaware that it is taking so long. It could be a sign that your child needs help in a particular concept or skill. Or it could be that the assignments are more cumbersome than the teacher intended.

Patte Barth writes:

School leaders, including principals and school board members, should encourage their teachers to look at their assignments .. or even do their assignments first ... to make sure they are aligned with the instructional objectives. 


A school board member from St. Croix Virgin Islands asks:

Have experts formed an opinion regarding what subjects are more suited or suitable for homework?

Patte Barth writes:

There is some research that suggests homework is more beneficial in math. There is another study that showed a positive relationship with interactive science homework at the middle school level. 


A school board member from Buckingham, VA asks:

Has any correlation between schools that have met AYP and the amount of homework their students do, been done? If so, is the data broken down by socio-economic factors of the school's locality? If it's been done, what are the results. thanks

Patte Barth writes:

Not that we have seen. Any researchers out there? This seems to be a good question to look into. Researchers have looked into the effects of homework on different groups of students. They suggest that low-income students may not benefit as much as their higher income peers, possibly because there are fewer resources or assistance at home for low-income children. Homework, therefore, is probably not an effective gap-closing strategy. 


A parent from Exeter, PA asks:

Is the problem of over scheduling our children affecting how we view homework? For instance, if a child has an activity each night even a reasonable amount of meaningful work becomes onerous.

Patte Barth writes:

I think you have hit on an important point. On average, American students actually do less than one hour of homework nightly. But remember that an average can conceal wide variation. There are many anecdotes about students doing 4 or more hours of homework each night. Such hard-working kids are often extended in other ways, too ...

Patte Barth writes:

This is probably why there is so much backlash over homework. It extends into family life, the relationship between parent and child (many homework arguments, as most of us know!) and the chance to just be kids. While the research may be conflicting, the answers can be found locally if you monitor your school practices, survey your teachers, parents, and students to develop policies that work for your community. 


A principal from humble, TX asks:

An analysis of homework at our school is proving to be the cause of many failing grades. It's time we view homework as an aspect of assessment literacy, pay attention to the research, and do some research on our campuses. I have formed a homework task force that will engage in activities that I hope will bring forth recommendations for our school that will help us use homework to deepen student learning and thinking vs. bury students with work for the sake of doing work.

Patte Barth writes:

Thank you for your comment! This is a good example of how you can take charge of the issue locally and find out if it's helping or not. 


A reporter from St. Augustine, Florida asks:

Is performance on, or completion of, homework a good gauge of a student’s preparation for the next grade level? Should it carry as much weight as standardized testing?

Patte Barth writes:

AS to the first part of your question ... research has found that the amount of assignments doesn't relate to achievement as much as completing it. ...

Patte Barth writes:

There are many different policies for how much standardized tests count toward student grades. In some states not at all. But many districts and teachers count homework as part of the students' grade. Again, the research is conflicting. A US study showed that this practice has a positive relationship to achievement. Yet , internationally, it is far less definitive. High-scoring countries like Finland and Japan, for example, outscore the US but the students do less homework. 


A school district administrator from East Brunswick, NJ asks:

The idea that homework for little kids encourages "work habits" is intuitive--and wholly false. I'd ask anyone with grade-school children to reflect on the first thing asked when they come home: "Do you have any homework?" HW becomes something to "get through" before they can go to the real business of being a kid. Granted, I'm not sure how to eliminate HW in a HS English class---the kids still have to read the books. But silent reading at home -- reading that will be discussed in a class with other readers -- is different from HW assigned for some noble yet unachieved purpose like "good work habits," etc.

Patte Barth writes:

We're getting a LOT of questions about the kind of homework that is assigned. Basically, research has found that the most effective homework either prepares students for an upcoming lesson -- for example, reading the textbook before the science lab -- or practice of concepts or skills learned earlier or review....

Patte Barth writes:

I want to be clear that this research refers to general day-to-day homework assignments and not to special or major projects that are assigned occasionally and generally take much longer. 


A school board member from Barrington, NJ asks:

I am also a sixth and seventh grade English teacher and I use homework to reinforce the concepts that were taught in class that day so that I can quickly assess whether the students understood or not. I think sometimes the students would tell you they understand but then they get home and realize that they had trouble.

Patte Barth writes:

You seem to have a reasonable view of what to expect from homework. A good principle is moderation and continuous monitoring to make sure homework is in fact achieving the objectives you as a teacher (and board member, too I see) have for your students. 


A parent from San Francisco CA asks:

If there is no value to homework for K-5 as the research shows why not have an opt out policy?  

Patte Barth writes:

I don't know that an opt out policy would be practical, but your comment once again points to the importance of communication between teacher and parents, schools and the community, about the homework students are getting and whether or not it is productive and achieving its objectives. ...

Patte Barth writes:

Also to clarify ... the research on K-5 shows no relationship between homework and student achievement. However, there may be some other benefits to a small -- and I will emphasize small -- amount to help children develop good study habits. 


A school board member from Lowell, Massachusetts asks:

We have established policies regarding appropriate amounts of time students should spend on homework depending on grade level. My issue is lack of consistency across our district regarding implementation of this policy, and how school committee members can impact consistent, high-quality use of homework as a tool.

Patte Barth writes:

You might want to conduct an audit of how your homework policy is being implemented. A survey of your teachers and administrators would reveal how much they know abut the policy and also tell you how consistently homework is being assigned and used in your classrooms in your district. Include parents and students, too.


A reporter from San Francisco CA asks:

There is research that shows that value of play K-5 is great. Why not replace the "valueless" homework with play and family time?

Patte Barth writes:

We certainly want children to have time to be children. That's why it's important to make sure homework is purposeful and helps kids do better in school without overburdening them or family time.


An individual from Boston, MA asks:

How can after school programs work with the schools and the parents as a liaison? What phone number can I use to call in for participation?

Patte Barth writes:

I hope you have figured out we are low-tech here. No phone link, just my typed words! Research on after school programs is very mixed. Some that are specifically designed to help kids with homework have no effect at all, while others do help. You should look at the data when considering existing models, or at the very least, monitor the effect closely...

Patte Barth writes:

It also helps if the program leaders coordinate with the school and teachers to make sure their efforts are mutually supportive.


A school district administrator from Villa Park, IL asks:

How do you feel about a district implementing a no homework policy for students?

Patte Barth writes:

Even though research shows a positive effect on older students, we have heard of at least one district with a no homework policy. All I can say is, if it is monitored closely and it is benefiting all students in the district, who am I to argue?

Patte Barth writes:

Thank you all for participating. We had many more questions than we could answer. We will archive this discussion after we close. We hope the discussion was useful and easy for you to join. We're planning some improvement to this chat tool and appreciate y our feedback: Is it easy to use? Do you find anything confusing or annoying? All comments are welcome. Email us at centerforpubliced@nsba.org


Posted: March 2, 2007

©2007 Center for Public Education

Add Your Comments





Display name as (required):  

Comments (max 2000 characters):




Comments:



Home > Instruction > Homework > Homework--What is it good for?: Archived chat