The Great Homework Debate

The right amount of homework assigned to young students is a debate that has been raging for decades, refreshed regularly by a new set of parents that discover an urgent relevance in the homework load given to their children. Like many of the political and social issues of our time, the positions people hold are quite polarized, falling into the “too much” camp or the “not enough” camp.

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    The Great Homework Debate

    The Great Homework Debate

    The right amount of homework assigned to young students is a debate that has been raging for decades, refreshed regularly by a new set of parents that discover an urgent relevance in the homework load given to their children.

    Like many of the political and social issues of our time, the positions people hold are quite polarized, falling into the “too much” camp or the “not enough” camp. Let’s begin with reviewing the relative pros and cons of each position and see if there exists a viable middle ground between them.

    Is Homework Beneficial?

    Pros

    • It can improve a student’s education by reinforcing topics discussed in class and expanding the amount of time to explore subject matter more widely and deeply.
    • It helps develop good study and time management habits that will help students as they grow older and into adulthood.
    • It is one of the chief ways parents can track what their children are learning in school and how well they are grasping the subject matter.
    • It is one way teachers can gauge students’ absorption of class instruction, which may save time in reviewing concepts and allow students to move forward more quickly.

    Cons

    • Too much can cause students stress and keep them from activities, such as free play, music lessons or sports, which are crucial to well-rounded development.
    • It can widen the gap between the socio-economically advantaged groups and disadvantaged groups. For instance, lack of access to the Internet or a computer can make completing homework difficult for many students.
    • It is of no benefit to elementary school students, and too much may actually be harmful, according to one researcher.1
    • If it is being done incorrectly, they may be practicing a skill the wrong way, which can be detrimental to the student.
    • Parents aren’t always able to help their children with their assignments.

    Finding a Middle Ground

    Despite our attempts to draw bright lines, many things in life require nuance and follow no universal rule.

    While the research into the value of homework can be wanting and inconsistent, there are some generalized lessons about the value of homework, including:2

    • The benefits of homework are found most clearly in certain groups, including older students and high-income students.
    • The non-academic benefits are real, especially for younger students.
    • The amount of homework completed by a student is more closely connected to achievement than the amount of homework assigned by the teacher.
    • After-school homework assistance programs may improve student behavior, motivation and work habits, but it has less impact on student achievement.

    None of this will resolve this Great Homework Divide, but parents may take some solace in knowing that their parents worried about these same issues, and they turned out fine.

    Sources:

    1. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/elementary-school-homework-probably-isn-202924871.html
    2. https://www.readingrockets.org/article/key-lessons-what-research-says-about-value-homework

     

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