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Does Homework Help or Hinder Learning?

By Chaya Benyamin
 Kai Schwoerer / Stringer
*Updated 2021
The debate on whether or not homework is beneficial is a fair deal older than one might expect. Inaugurated in 1900 by a Ladies’ Home Journal article which called homework a “national crime,” the nation’s favor for homework has ebbed and waned more than a century. Below, we’ll look at three arguments why homework is essential component of education and three arguments students would be better off without it.


Homework helps


Homework benefits teachers

The average American high-school classroom has an estimated 24 students. While teachers are trained to assess student learning on the spot, large class sizes can prevent teachers from checking each student’s progress in every session. When homework is treated as a formative assessment, an assignment given only as a starting point from which to deliver feedback, homework provides a crucial opportunity for teachers to fill in any gaps in their in-class assessments of student performance and identify where improvement is needed.


Homework helps students gain skills outside the scope of academic learning

Beyond reinforcing lessons gleaned in the classroom, homework is often the first task that encourages young people to develop self-discipline, an indispensable skill for further learning and for life. Homework helps students learn to meet deadlines, to work independently and create their own study methods, and yes, how to approach assignments they might not be particularly interested in.


Homework boosts learning

A Duke University review of 25 years’ worth of studies on homework found a positive statistical correlation between homework and higher achievement, especially at the secondary-school level. An Oxford University study similarly demonstrated the connection between time spent on homework and results achieved. Just as one excels at an instrument or a sport through practice, so too is academic excellence achieved through practice. Veteran teachers defend homework as a vital part of skill improvement and student buy-in. Even students acknowledge the necessary role homework plays in their education, and many students report feeling more engaged in class after completing homework assignments.

Homework hinders


Learning can be accomplished without homework

Finland routinely ranks at the top of the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, yet Finland’s students do the least homework of all OECD countries. Finland’s system encourages students to play as much as they work; they are not subject to rankings, grades, or standardized tests as is common practice in other countries. With its holistic approach to learning, Finland proves that insisting students focus solely on academics during school and after is not necessarily a recipe for academic success.


Homework does not benefit all students equally

Not all home environments are conducive to at-home learning. Level of education, time, and energy vary among parents, and parents at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum tend to have the least amount of each resource. Wealthier kids are more likely to benefit from homework simply because they have the necessary resources to complete it: adult assistance, home computers and internet access. However, students whose home situations may preclude them from completing homework (for example, older siblings who care for younger siblings or children who need to hold an after-school job) inevitably fall further behind. As such, homework can exacerbate achievement gaps between rich and poor students, rendering homework not only counterproductive, but a barrier to equality.


Homework is an unfair burden to parents

A Brown University study supported what most parents have probably already observed in their homes – that homework is a flashpoint for family stress, affecting children and parents equally. Parents have a number of valid reasons to dread homework as much as their kids do – it forces their children to keep sitting after a long, mostly sedentary school-day; it cuts into family bonding time and diminishes opportunities for kids to take on other household duties. This is to say nothing of the pressure of guiding a child on homework that a parent may or may not understand. If homework is not welcome  by parents or students, it can potentially damage the overall academic experience as well as a student’s home life as well.


The Bottom Line: With teacher-led zero-homework movements making their way across America, it’s clear that the homework versus no-homework pendulum is in full swing. What’s your stance? Is homework necessary for reinforcing and building academic skills, or does it put needless strain on parents and students alike?

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