How much homework is too much? How much homework is too little?
At this time in each academic year, cries ring out about homework. How much homework is too much? Or, how little homework is too little? There are few topics in the field of education that can generate more passionate debate than homework. Centered in a large, competitive city such as Atlanta, the topic of homework can, to some families, become a badge of honor for or a bane of a student's post-school life. What's the right answer?
At The Howard School, we purposefully assign our students a moderate amount of homework that will help reinforce concepts, build work ethic, and provide an opportunity to practice planning, organizing, and time management skills. This philosophy is based on research literature, and, if you're doing your homework on the topic (pun intended), there's plenty of it.
Research clearly distills the topic down to this: more is not better for homework. There is a no correlation between the amount of homework that is completed and school achievement. Moreover, there is a negative correlation between the amount of homework elementary teachers assign and student attitudes about homework, which may in turn be related to completion rate at upper grades.
At The Howard School, homework philosophy is based on the research literature. Our students are already challenging themselves to learn, grow and interact with peers and adults and this takes a great deal of effort. Philosophically, The Howard School team approaches each student uniquely and wants to provide the right amount of work following a student's already complete day.
In a seminal meta-analysis from 2006, Dr. Harris Cooper from Duke University reported that the correlation between the amount of homework and academic achievement was:
- nearly zero for elementary school students
- close to zero for middle school, and
- only moderately high for high school students
There is a point of diminishing returns for how much time students spend on homework. By design, students at The Howard School do not receive as much homework as students at many other schools might. In addition to our purposeful application of the homework research literature, our team wants our students to have time for play and non-academic affinities, family time, and sufficient sleep, all of which research suggests contribute to student academic success....possibly more than homework does! (Edwards & Pratt, 2016; Gillen-O'Neel, Huynh, & Fuligni, 2013; Ginsberg, 2007)
Finally, an interesting note to add is that the evidence suggests that parental attitude regarding homework has direct, positive effects on children's attitudes towards homework. In middle and high school, positive parental attitude about homework may predict classroom achievement as well (Cooper et al., 1999). At The Howard School, we will continue to review, assess and analyze the balance between homework and too much homework, and work hard to make this balance right for your child.
I invite you to come in and discuss any questions you have regarding The Howard School's approach to homework for its students. If you want to read up on this topic, please see the list of research shared below:
** References **
Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A
synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76, 1-62.
Cooper, H. (2001). Homework for all -- in moderation. Educational Leadership, 58, 34-38.
Cooper, H., Valentine, J. C., Nye, B., & Lindsay, J. J. (1999). Relationships between five after-school
activities and academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 369-378.
Cooper, H., Lindsay, J. J., Nye, B., & Greathouse, S. (1998). Relationships among attitudes about
homework, amount of homework assigned and completed, and student achievement. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 90, 70-83.
Edwards, O & Pratt, H. (2016). Family meal participation as a corollary of positive youth development:
Opportunities for counseling services. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 38(2), 89-96.
Fan, H., Xu, J., Cai, Z., He, J., & Fan, X. (2017) Homework and students' achievement in math and
science: A 30-year meta-analysis 1986-2015. Educational Research Review, 20, 35-54.
Gillen-O'Neel, C, Huynh, VW, & Fuligni, AJ (2013). To study or to sleep? The academic costs of extra
studying at the expense of sleep. Child Development 84(1), 133-142.
Ginsberg, K. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining
strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics,119, 182-191.
Snead, D., & Burris, K. (2016). Middle school teachers' perceptions regarding the motivation and
effectiveness of homework. Journal of Inquiry & Action in Education, 7(2), 62-80.