NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education
Found In: teaching strategies
Some researchers are urging schools to take a fresh look at homework and its potential for engaging students and improving student performance. The key, they say, is to take into account grade-specific and developmental factors when determining the amount and kind of homework.
So, what's appropriate? What benefits can be expected? What makes for good homework policies? Research doesn't have all the answers, but a review of some existing data yields some helpful observations and guidance.
How Much Homework Do Students Do?
Survey data and anecdotal evidence show that some students spend hours nightly doing homework. Homework overload is the exception rather than the norm; however, according to research from the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation (see the Brown Center 2003 below). Their researchers analyzed data from a variety of sources and concluded that the majority of U.S. students spend less than an hour a day on homework, regardless of grade level, and this has held true for most of the past 50 years. In the last 20 years, homework has increased only in the lower grade levels, and this increase is associated with neutral (and sometimes negative) effects on student achievement.
How Much Is Appropriate?
The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter (e.g., 20 minutes for second grade, 120 minutes for twelfth). High school students may sometimes do more, depending on what classes they take (see Review of Educational Research, 2006).
What are the benefits?
Homework usually falls into one of three categories: practice, preparation, or extension. The purpose usually varies by grade. Individualized assignments that tap into students' existing skills or interests can be motivating. At the elementary school level, homework can help students develop study skills and habits and can keep families informed about their child's learning. At the secondary school level, student homework is associated with greater academic achievement. (Review of Educational Research, 2006)
What’s good policy?
Experts advise schools or districts to include teachers, parents, and students in any effort to set homework policies. Policies should address the purposes of homework; amount and frequency; school and teacher responsibilities; student responsibilities; and, the role of parents or others who assist students with homework.
- A Nation At Rest: The American Way of Homework ( PDF, 439 KB, 19 pgs.)
Summary and comments from authors) - Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 25(3) (2003, Fall). Gill, B. P., & Schlossman, S. L.
- Helping Your Child with Homework ( PDF, 378 KB, 25 pgs.)
U.S. Department of Education. (2002). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Research Spotlight on Best Practices in Education
A list of NEA Spotlights on best practices.
- NEA Reports & Statistics
Research reports reviewing data on educational issues and policy papers concerning NEA members, educators, and the public school community.
"Homework has been a popular topic among education critics and would-be school reformers in recent years. Comparisons of American schooling practices with those of Europe or Japan frequently conclude that American students do not do enough homework, and calls for more homework commonly appear in the literature of the back-to-basics movement and the school improvement movement, as well as in the school reform guidelines issued by various commissions and governmental agencies. Seldom do the writers of these documents cite any research in support of their policy recommendations, let alone review the research base in detail. In effect, they take it for granted that the purposes of homework are clear, that its effectiveness is well established, and that teachers will know what homework to assign and how to ensure that the work is appropriately checked and followed up. The reality is much different. As Harris Cooper shows in this comprehensive review, only a modest body of scholarly work on the topic of homework has been completed to date, and the knowledge base that it has produced, although useful, does not support the unqualified enthusiasm for homework that typifies current policy advocacy. Cooper's comprehensive analysis and synthesis of the scholarly literature on homework in this volume have several features worth noting. First, this study is methodologically sophisticated. Second, the material is interesting and informative. Readers who were under the impression that the currently popular thinking about homework has always been the conventional wisdom will be surprised to find that views about the purposes and value of homework have been sharply different in different historical eras, and have even included the view that homework is counterproductive and should be avoided. Finally, although the review shows that the database on homework is limited and that more research is needed (in particular, on what kinds of homework to assign and how to manage checking and follow-up procedures), it also indicates that the existing research base does support a variety of conclusions about how much and what kinds of homework assignments should be made, for what purposes, and to what kinds of students"--Foreword.