In what is probably one of THE longest running discussions in the history of US public education, comes yet another study on the outcomes for student doing homework.
From Stanford University News (Stanford is where the study was conducted):
A Stanford researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect
kids, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends
and activities matter.
"Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good," wrote Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education.
What is fascinating is who the researchers studied. It was about 4,000 students from 10 high-performing high schools in well-off California cities. There was a survey and open-ended questions about the students' own thoughts on homework.
Students in these schools average about 3.1 hours of homework each night.
Pope and her colleagues found that too much homework can diminish its
effectiveness and even be counterproductive. They cite prior research
indicating that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night,
and that 90 minutes to two and a half hours is optimal for high school.
The study found that too much homework is associated with stress (less than 1% said homework was not a stress factor in their lives), reductions in health (headaches, stomachaches, sleep loss, etc.) and less time for family, friends and after-school activities.
And, there was that age-old question that all highschoolers ask: what is the point to this homework?
Also, there was no relationship between the time spent on homework and
how much the student enjoyed it. The research quoted students as saying
they often do homework they see as "pointless" or "mindless" in order to
keep their grades up.
She said the research calls into question the value of assigning
large amounts of homework in high-performing schools. Homework should
not be simply assigned as a routine practice, she said.
"Rather, any homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and
it should be designed to cultivate learning and development," wrote
A few thoughts:
1) I am sad to say but I felt that at least one-third of homework my sons received was not useful at all. It did seem like busy work. I remember my younger son in 8th grade studying Romeo and Juliet. (As an aside, why just this one in middle school? It went on for at least 4 weeks.) My son comes home and tells me the assignment is to make a mask. I asked him if he was supposed to research what a medieval mask would look like and then create the mask. He looked at the sheet and then said, "Nope, just make a mask." I couldn't believe it and yet there it was. That's a 4th grade assignment, not an 8th grade assignment.
2) I wonder what the stats and comments would have been like for middle income and lower-income groups of students. I suspect the study's stat of 56% of kids "consider homework a primary source of stress" might be even higher.
3) Bill Gates used to call the 3 R's - rigor, relevance and relationships. (I actually thought this was a good one but he seems to have dropped it.) I think relevance is key to keeping kids engaged. What is the outcome of this homework? What lesson does it reinforce or what skill does it sharpen?
To note, both the NEA and the PTA agree that the guidelines for homework by researcher Harris Cooper are about right:
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,