Is Homework a Waste of Time?

Harris Cooper, the leading researcher in the effectiveness and quality of homework, has defined homework as “…any task assigned by schoolteachers intended for students to carry out during nonschool hours” (Cooper). The most frequent function of homework is for students to practice concepts demonstrated and acquired in class (Denisco) because this contributes to the whole reason why children attend school, which is to learn and become educated to make a difference. Even though the amount of time students spend on homework has risen by 51% since 1951, the students of the United States have ranked 17th on the Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Education Attainment and placed in the middle of the international academic rankings with 17th in reading and 23rd in math (Murphy Paul).

Yet, Finland, a nation with no homework assignments, ranks first on the Global Index. This suggests the inefficiency of homework as as increasing amounts have failed to elevate the United States’ position in international rankings. Although homework can enhance student’s academic performance and promote learning, if it is not effectively designed and appropriately assigned, other methods of review and practice can be more constructive and beneficial for student achievement. Despite the decline in the academic achievement of American students with increasing amount of homework, proponents of homework have argued that it can provide positive and beneficial effects on students’ school performance, along with promoting and ingraining other favorable attributes in the students and among the community. Advocates of homework argue for the implementation of homework as a necessity because it can further students’ learning, and there has been countless research that proves its positive impacts on academic performance.

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In 35 studies, “…about 77 percent also found the link between homework and achievement is positive” (Denisco), reinforcing the idea that homework improves academic performance in school. Not only does homework enhance school achievement, but it also proves to be better alternative than not assigning homework as “[t]he average high school student doing homework outperformed 69% of the students in a class with no homework” (Crawford).

This demonstrates that it is better to implement homework because it promotes a higher performance rate than those who do not receive it. Meta-analysis studies have also determined that compared to students who completed homework to those who did not have a statistical difference of d = .39 and d = .97 on standardized test (Ramdass and Zimmerman), which additionally articulates of the positive correlation between homework and academic success in school, as well as convey that it is much more beneficial to assign homework for students’ success in school. Homework can extend the time student can learn as it can reinforce skills taught in class and provide practice.

Because “[i]f typical American students add four hours of homework per week to 30 nominal hours of school work…, they have added 13 percent to their nominal learning in school” (Walberg, Paschal, and Weinstein 78). Thus, the designation of homework lengthens the period in which the students can learn and foster their growing intelligence. Proponents of homework believe that positive attributes can be ingrained in students through the implementation of homework because completing assignments promotes self-regulation, which then nurtures other characteristics (Corno and Xu 227).

Self-regulation can be defined as a “proactive process whereby individuals consistently organize and manage their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and environment in order to attain academic goals” (Ramdass and Zimmerman), which in this case, is the completion of homework. For instance, in Lyn Corno’s and Jianzhong Xu’s case studies, it can be seen that children as young as those in elementary school demonstrate self-discipline and self-management as they were willing to delay the gratification of watching television or playing with friends to complete homework. They also removed themselves from distractions (i.e. loud noises) and planned for long-term projects by working on it little by little everyday (Corno and Xu 228-229). The importance of assigning homework as an approach to promote favorable attributes is further emphasized in an interview with Harris Walberg as he notes that it not only extends the “school day,” but it also help students to develop independence and responsibility as they learn to do assignments unaided, without the supervision of a teacher (Walberg).

Researchers have also equated the completion of homework to that of a job to show that homework helps students to develop an aptitude for employment because homework is associated with characteristics essential in the workplace, such as planning ahead, breaking down assignments in a range of days, and the responsibility and self-discipline to complete the assignment on one’s own time (Corno and Xu 228). Homework assignments allow and encourage communication among peers, which not only encourage students to ask for help from classmates on assignments but also foster interaction outside of school. This then encourages students to become more affiliated with one another and to develop and expand cooperative communities and social groups Social interaction among peers also benefits students’ academic performance as “[r]esearch suggest that when adolescents support one another on homework, students have higher math and English report card grades” (Epstein and Van Vooris 183). This reinforces the positive influences since substantial scientific evidence proves that communication and support between classmates fostered by completion of homework improves achievement in school. The implementation of homework also helps parents to be involved in their child’s academic life and have an understanding of their child’s academic standing.

This can be done in variety of ways, such as tutoring them in a concept, checking their answers, or teachers requiring that parents sign on students’ planner to understand what their children are learning in school (Cooper, Robinson, and Patall) . Parental involvement may even reinforce the desired behavior of completing homework when children receive extrinsic rewards, such as praises (Hoover-Dempsey et al. 202-203). Although homework seems to impact students positively in academics, a students’ work ethic, and social interaction, excessive amounts become detrimental to all these aspects that homework proponents argue that homework possesses, which indicate a necessity to establish guidelines that foster students’ intellectual and traits. In order to produce and administer effective and productive homework, it must be assigned in consideration of the needs of the students to promote optimal learning. It is significant to first acknowledge that “.

..more homework does not correlate with higher test scores” (Wilde) because this demonstrates that quantity does not justify for the quality of it. Hence, it is important that teachers are assigning the right amount of homework, not an overwhelming amount. Teachers should adhere to homework guidelines set by Harris Cooper to prevent adverse impacts that homework may have when it becomes overwhelming and excessive. For instance, there is no correlation between homework and academic achievement for elementary students (Crawford), so it is suggested that teachers assign a meager amount of homework to develop self-discipline and responsibility in students to prepare them for the future.

Junior high school students should not receive homework that exceeds 90 minutes per night as any homework done after this period reaches the point of diminishing returns, which means that the effectiveness of homework diminishes. With high school students, homework is most beneficial to students when it takes 90 minutes to two and a half hours to complete it (Denisco). Therefore, teachers should concede that the quality of the homework that will help students learn is not dependent on the hours it takes the students to complete but on a reasonable and rational time consumption that will reinforce the concepts. Improvement in homework can also be achieved in the development of assignments. Studies have shown that “.

..homework benefits achievement and attitudes, especially if it is commented upon or graded,” which can increase learning from the 50th to the 70th percentile (Walberg, Paschal, and Weinstein 76), so teachers can improve the motivation and effort students will exert into completing their assignments by providing commentary and evalutions. Effective homework can be developed when its main goal is to review material already taught and discussed in class rather than assigning homework meant to teach a new concept. However, instructors should leave some spacing in the homework given between the time that it was learned for students to grasp the concepts better. Also, it is extremely pertinent that homework is not meant to be “busy work,” but homework that is meant to advance student learning and challenge students to motivate them (Protheroe 44) because if students recognize that there is no purpose behind the assigment, they may lose motivation to complete it and undermine the value of all homework.

Most importantly, teachers need to emphasize and further communication between their students and the parents of the students and receive feedback to have an understanding on whether the homework is truly effective in its goal (“Assigning Effective Homework” 4). Teachers can improve students’ motivation and increase homework completion if they give choices in the homework assignments. When instructors allow students to have autonomy and choice among homework assignments, it has been shown that students feel more motivated to complete homework and perform better on test compared to those who had none (Patall, Cooper, and Wynn). Reiterating what was said before, homework is most effective when it reviews not what was learn on the day of but rather material and concepts learned previously. Therefore, spaced repetition, a method of assigning homework that reviews information taught before but for a briefer period, can be productive for students to relearn and reinforce material (Murphy Paul).

Motivation can also be increased by assigning homework that challenges students (Valerott) as students will be forced and encouraged to exert more effort and drive to solve complex problems. Interleaved assignment can both challenge the student and help them to have a full grasp of the material taught in class because problems are given in a miscellaneous order instead of grouping them by type, which requires students to ponder more carefully on the problems and fully understand the material (Murphy Paul). Despite the potential positive academic benefits homework can provide, other researchers refute these claims and bring to attention the adverse effects it can cause upon students. In refutation of what proponents have claimed, assigning homework does not guarantee or cause a student’s success in school and provide the positive influences it is believed to be associated. Although researchers have find a positive correlation between homework and student performance in school, correlation does not mean a causation between these relationships – that homework causes greater achievement in school. Even “[h]omework supporter Harris Cooper acknowledges that ‘the conclusions of past reviewers of homework research show extraordinary variability.

..the reviews often directly contradict one another'” (Kravolec and Buell). This shows that homework research does not yield dependable and reliable results. Even though homework may promote parent involvement in their child’s academic life, it may result in negative repercussions rather than those beneficial to the child.

Parents may also put too much pressure for their children to complete homework and cause confusion if they are teaching their child a different method of approaching the problem or unfamiliar with the topic (Cooper, Robinson, and Patall). Furthermore, homework may not help to develop self-regulation in children but rather promote frustration and cause them to avoid completing assignments to avoid the stress and frustration associated with homework (Corno 531).This then discourages students from completing assignments in the future and promotes a negative attitude to ward both school and homework. Despite improvements that teacher amend to their assignments, it does not conclusively guarantee the beneficial attributes homework is said to have and prevent parental involvement that may cause adverse effects on the students. Differences in socio-economic status is an important and pertinent factor to consider with homework as students may not have the available resources that is necessary to complete homework due to financial circumstances. Homework is argued to widen the differences between high and low achieving students in schools because those having academic success often have the resources, such as computers, that are sometimes necessary to do homework and have greater parental support coming from a well-provided family compared to those who are financially struggling (Cooper, Robinson, and Patall).

Also, completing online assignments can be a struggling task for students who do not have the best resources (i.e. fast internet connection) or do not even have them available to them (Kravolec). This is demonstrated through the Coleman Report of 1996, as it “..

.revealed large gaps between advantages and disadvantaged youngsters on tests of academic and achievement” (Loveless 17), particularly in Harvard-based inequality studies. This evidently conveys a legitimate dilemma for those who may not have the finances to compete with others academically. There may also be occasion in which homework fails to achieve the objective of its creation because it is not supervised as the child is completing the assignment, or it is neglected to be checked by teachers.

If homework is left unchecked or unsupervised by a parent, students may continue to be practicing the same mistakes without even knowing it because there is no one to point out their mistakes (Kravolec and Buell). It is also possible that homework “…might promote cheating or excessive reliance on other for help with assignments” (Cooper, Robinson, and Patall), which therefore defeats the whole reason for the homework – to help students learn and reinforce concepts already learned. Hence, homework appears to lack any of the benefits that proponents claimed, and the distribution of the assignment defeats the whole purpose of it if there is no guidance or oversight during the completion of homework.

Furthermore, homework cannot meet the needs of every student because teachers may not take notice of students who are falling behind in class or those who already mastered the concept, which then means homework may not be as helpful as the teacher may desire. For instance, repetitive homework that is often administered to help students develop skills of a concept may be ineffective if the students have already a clear grasp on the subject (Kravolec and Buell).Although there are flaws in the development and assignment of homework, teachers can employ other options to teach students. There are other available resources that can be implemented to improve student performance, and possible reforms in the education system can be made from observing other nations. Schools could establish a new system of education, in which students learn via online videos at home and practice learned concepts in class. This education program can be more beneficial to students than the traditional classroom-teacher method because students will have the time and opportunity to ask questions if they still did not understand a concept, and this will permit students to have the lesson available, which will be especially helpful to those that have a difficult time paying attention (Walberg).

However, students who do not have access to such resources may be able to receive a computer from their school. The implementation of this program has shown great academic success in students and among schools. In Clintondale High School, the Flipped Learning Network was put into practice, in which student receive lessons via video and complete problems in class. The school has seen that homework completion risen 30%, failure rate dropped from 35% to 10%, attendance went up 4%, and graduation rate increased from 80% to 90% (Denisco). Stanford University School of Medicine has also implemented the Flipped Learning Network with the cooperation of Khan Academy, an acclaimed website that offers videos on subjects ranging from math and science to economics.

The development and the utilization of this new program improved attendance rate to the lesson as “ttendance to lectures went from 20% to about over 90% in the optional interactive session,” and four in five students prefer this format of teaching (Straumsheim). This demonstrates the effectiveness of these new programs not only limited to academic but improvements in school attitude, motivation, and attendance. After-school programs can provide academic assistance to struggling students. These programs can offer tutoring that some students may need. Whether the tutoring may be from a professor or another student, this can give students who are confused the help they need in a one-on-one session (Topping). After-school programs are also beneficial for students who may be financially struggling as it can provide a safe place for them to interact with teachers and other students.

Also, instructors can acquire a better sense of those who are struggling in class. Staff of after-school programs can both provide assistance and model desired behavior to students who may be having a difficult time in school. Students can also observe and learn from the behaviors conducted by the staff, so it is suggested that staff demonstrate positive behavior (Johnson and McComb 24). To further increase teaching and instruction efficiency, possible reforms can be developed based on education systems in other nations, such as Finland that is currently ranked number one on the Global Index Skill for education. For example, one of the reasons for its academic success may be due to that fact that it requires its teachers to have a master’s degree and be ranked in the top 10% of their class if they intend to teach graduate programs (Hancock).

Having teachers that are intelligent and at the top of their class are more likely to be knowledgeable on the subject they intend to teach and may do so better because of their higher education. Finland schools have a 1:12 teacher-student ratio, which is half to what the United States has , which is (1:24) (Lepi). Having a smaller classroom allows teachers to pinpoint students that may be struggling and give them special help if needed. Although homework may not improve education and learning, even with effective development and distribution, action by both the teacher and student must take place to amend the design of homework. Instead of assigning work meant to keep students busy, teachers should design and assign homework by considering the needs of the students, especially minding the time that is necessary to complete an assignment to promote optimal learning. Not only that, but if teachers offer students more autonomy in the choice among homework assignments, that flexibility can immensely improve both motivation and completion.

However, for teachers to clearly develop the homework that is necessary to enhance and reinforce student learning, communication in both sides of the classroom must be considered with the goal should be to increase academic achievement and not to overwhelm and stress students. Works Cited American Federation of Teachers. “Assigning Effective Homework.” N.d.

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