Homework: To give and how much to give, that is the question

So, how much homework do you give per night? How do you determine what is the best amount? In addition to the impact that homework has on academic achievement, Christian teachers also are thinking about the impact of homework on the total well-being of students and their families. What about homework’s intrusion into precious family time? What about the student with slow processing who takes twice the time as other students to complete assignments? What about a parent’s choice to engage their child in other types of learning or work outside of the normal school day hours, essentially eliminating time to complete homework? These questions require the Christian teachers’ consideration because our role is to assist parents in the education of their children.  Biblically, the parents “make the call,” so to speak.

Research informs one area of decision-making regarding homework. That area is the connection between academic achievement and the amount of time a student spends doing homework. Harris Cooper reviewed more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and drew some conclusions which may be helpful.[1] Here is a brief summary of the meta-analysis of the research on homework:

  1. The amount of homework assigned to students should be different based on the grade of the student.
  • Elementary: homework does not increase academic performance, but can positively contribute to establishing work habits. Recommended: grade in school times 10 minutes = time spent on homework (a student in fifth grade would be 5 x 10=50 minutes a night)
  • Middle School: Recommended:  90-120 minutes average per night
  • High School:  every 30 minutes of additional homework per night yields a 5% increase in the student’s GPA up to a point. Recommended: 120-180 minutes per night
  1. Parental involvement in homework should be kept to a minimum. Parental involvement should be limited to facilitating the student’s work such as providing a structured time and place. Of course, the implication is that teachers should assign independent level homework.
  1. The purpose of the homework should be identified and articulated to the student.  Teachers should make the home work purposeful and communicate that to the students.
  1. Homework should be commented upon.  The benefit of homework is strongly correlated to the student receiving quick feedback about his/her homework.
Helen Vaughan, Ph.D.
Director of School Services

[1] Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987–2003. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), 1–62.

Photo Credit: Bindaas Madhavi via Compfight cc