More Homework Doesn't Necessarily Mean Smarter Students

from the giving-up dept

After years of questioning many facets of the education system, such as tests and homework that measure memorization and regurgitation, a growing number of teachers are trying something different. They’re eschewing homework, arguing that it doesn’t work, and that out-of-school time should be spent doing other things, while in-school time could be made more productive. Though this makes some parents uncomfortable, the teachers claim excellent results. What’s interesting is that the no homework approach isn’t new at all; at several times in history people have suggested that piling on students with extra work after school isn’t very affective. But homework has always come back in vogue during periods when the American public feared the US was falling behind the world academically. Somehow the Russia being the first to launch a satellite into space meant that elementary school kids needed to spend more hours filling out worksheets. The data on homework isn’t totally conclusive. It’s true that at the moment, the top-performing countries, academically, don’t give out much homework, but other studies do point to its benefits. Apart from the academic considerations, doing homework can’t be any healthier for kids than watching TV or playing videogames, but we haven’t heard many people citing it as a leading cause of obesity.

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Comments on “More Homework Doesn't Necessarily Mean Smarter Students”

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dorpus says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It does a little of everything. Good schools purposefully overwhelm students, so the best effort the students ever made in their lives just isn’t good enough. Good students don’t give up, and keep fighting anyway.

Of course, that level of stress isn’t for everybody. One can also get a good education at community colleges in less stressful settings. When I decided to change careers, I was out of college for 10 years, so I took some community college courses first, did well, then took harder courses through the “concurrent enrollment” program at Berkeley, and worked my way into grad school.

dorpus says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

There is that grey area between “challenging” and “overwhelming”. By taxing you to the limits of your abilities and beyond, you go where other people don’t go. Yes, some students burn out, others thrive on the pressure. It reflects the realities of the real world, where the most successful people are those who thrive on pressure, do things other people don’t want to do, and ask the questions that others never even thought of asking.

Student who dislikes homework says:

Re: open book

I go withthe anonymous coward!!! I am a student and now one of our teachers has been letting us have open book for the rest of the year and it is great!!! But i dont like the fact that our teachers where i am at is giving us so much homework i have had back problems since!! And i am only an 8th grader!!!

Dan Callahan says:


As a teacher, while I find it hard to believe that some things can’t be better done as homework, I do greatly limit the amount of homework that I do give. Part of the problem with homework is that it’s something that should be able to be completed independently. When you have students with widely varying levels, it’s hard to find work that’s appropriate for some while not patronizing to others. Also, some kids just have more support at home. I don’t want 2 kids to get stuck, with the deciding factor in who succeeds being whose mommy didn’t have to work 12 hours to support her family.

John Schutzman says:

Re: Homework

This is a tricky subject.. some students are visual, some are auditory, some need to do it 20 times before it makes sense. — Education is a really tricky thing when you are applying it to a broad population. It’s easier when you are focussing on smaller groups… 1 being the ideal size..hehehehe.

Each topic is different. Math, I can see needing the most homework, becuase you really need to get the ‘process’ down. Biology and Earth science less. History, not so much. English, you need them to write and in-class time might not be enough. Foreign Language, I’m not sure.. maybe yes, maybe no.

Proch says:


While I believe that having some amount of homework is necessary to reinforce what is taught in the classroom, I’ve realized that the US is really a culture of overachievers – where it doesn’t really matter how smart you are as long as your assert yourself. Unfortunately, most overachievers just aren’t smart – but end up in leadership positions anyway. In the end, you just can’t compete with cultures that value true innovation and smarts.

dorpus says:

Re: Homework

That is true in some fields like business or law school, but is not true in more scientific fields. You cannot “assert” your way out of a hard math problem. People who don’t have PhD’s, and therefore passed all the academic hoops, will not be considered for leadership positions in scientific circles.

morrisok says:

Foget Homework, what about State Tests?

Because my state (and I’m sure others) has mandatory testing several times throughout the year at varoous grades, I find the teachers are forced to teach the kids to take the tests – not what they need to learn.

Too much homework is a problem (it’s completely turned my kids off school) – but there are a host of other problems that need to be addressed also.

Mike C. says:

As a parent...

Speaking as a parent of two children (Kindergarten and 4th grade), I have to first state that I am an involved parent. While it seems to be rare these days, my wife and I will check ALL homework before it goes back to school. While we do point out errors, we do so in a way that makes the children think (“There are 4 errors on this page that has 20 problems – go find them.”). I think this not only helps us understand what they’re doing in school, but helps us see where their strengths, and more importantly, where their weaknesses are. The elementary schools in our area try to limit homework to 10 minutes per grade level. Thus, my 4th grader has an average of 40 minutes of work to do Mon – Thu and none on Friday except for projects a couple times a year. The Kindergartener gets to color some pictures.

All in all, a little homework is necessary for those of us that are involved parents. Too little and we won’t know what’s going on. Too much and we’ll start to dread being involved because of the amount of review work. Fortunately, we’ve had good teachers so far and the levels have been just about right.

u no says:


Danno is right. I am not in grad school though. I am an undergratuate at at small 4-year university. Some homework is good. I rather like it when the professor lists problems to do and will answer questions about those problems, but does not take them up for a grade. It gives me the opportunity to see if i know what is going on, but i am not stuck doing hours of homework over stuff i already know. One teacher in high school (my calculus teacher) gave out homework, but just averaged your homework score with your quiz score. That way if you did really horribly on a quiz, but did the homework, your grade would still be decent.

mgambrell says:

Suggestion to teachers

Take the test, change around all the numbers, remove a few strategic questions. Give it out as optional homework. Offer to grade that optional homework as a study aid. Now, a student that cannot do the homework without help won’t be able to do the test anyway, until they actually learn the material, so the problem is no worse than it would be if they can’t just pass the test. And those who get their parents to do it for them will not be able to pass the test.

Of course, maybe your school will hassle you if you dont give homework.

The Solution says:

Re: Suggestion to teachers

I totally and utterly agree with you! Thats what I think we should push for! The reason that teachers, hand out more homework, is because they say to themselves,”Oh, are students are getting 70s on their quizzes, lets give them more homework!” That’s my theory, that we live in a society that puts such a big emphesis on larger portions, that is why students get alot of homework.

Giftie says:


Not to brag, but I went through several years of the “Gifted” program in Canada. When it came to homework, there were usually only reading assignments or a longer-term “project”. Rarely did any of it require more than an hour to complete on any given night. In contrast, the American system averaged 3+ hours almost every night.

The gifted classes challenged your mind and promoted creative, non-linear thinking – tests were commonly graded with that in mind. The courses that are commonly only memorization and regurgitation (ie History) were re-targeted to look at the deeper underlying issues in the subject matter. My later experience in the American school system was heavy on the homework and light on the insight.

Repitition (including Homework) was generally avoided as most of us “gifties” would simply lose interest. The American school system would have probably just had the whole lot of us on Ritalin to make us “normal” and easier to control. I will be pissed if they ever even suggest my kids go on such a treatment program.

shawn mccollum (user link) says:

I think that all homework should be given time in class to start and hopefully finish. Which i guess doesn’t make it home work any longer. No one wants homework but if you have a math worksheet that you didn’t get done at school you should take it home to finish it. By given time at school to work on it some kids will get it done and those that don’t can finish it at home. This also helps those kids with less parental involement to get help from the teacher at school that will hopefully give them the knowledge to easily finish the work at home.

u no says:

Depending on who you talk to, I am either gifted or the poster child for underachieving. I describe myself as both depending on the way the wind blows. I dislike doing homework, but understand it is necessary for soome classes. in my life that means English. I know that in my education, Junior high (grade 6-8) had the most homework to “prepare” students for the high school homework load. High school had some homework to “prepare” students for the college homework load. Now in college, I have very little homework at all. This is still conusing to me.

Chris says:

MY homework

I have no real problem with homework, as long as I have enough time left over to be a kid. The problem is that that is rearely the case. I find myself with 2 or more hours of homework a night and it get unbareable at times. I doubt that homework does any good because most of the kids I know don’t do it and it then brings their overall grade in the class down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Everyone wants to have easy answer to everything. Teaching childern and easy answers don’t mesh. Each chiild may learn better in different ways. Some kids need homework some don’t…. Just spit balling here but it might be best to have the teachers taught how to recongize different learning methods in childern (Which I think they do already) and let the teacher decide if a child needs to do homework or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

from #30, sure the phd’s come up with technology, however the “b/c” students actually use it. i have a BSEE (bach. sci. elec. eng) and had a b- avg in school. i’m taking devices invented by the phd people (presumably) and incorportaing them into new control systems. this hasn’t been done before, but i can use the tech that’s given to come up with something new. also, i have friends at intel, ibm, boeing…they don’t have phds, but yet they make huge contributions to the company’s product line.

John Schutzman says:

Tests - more then 1 kind

Favorite professor had 4 types of tests…
1) standard, no notes, no books, no help

2) Open book – you still need to know the material to find it, so if you didn’t read the chapters, you won’t have enough time to look everything up.

3) Open Class – class can talk to each other and answer questions – do you trust your classmates know the answer?

4) “Gambler’s Special” – MY favorite..Closed book and you get 10% bonus on your grade, OR Open book and you just get your regular score. YOUR choice. If you know the material well, do it closed book and get bonus points.

I like that approach, cause each type of test had a pro and con to it.. It also acknowledged that sometimes College students don’t have time to read all the material, the professor knew this.. and had a test which would accomodate it, so at least 1 test per semester, you got a good grade.

Not a PhD says:


Right and when those industries want to suceed and actually sell something they don’t put their PhD’s in front of the customer. Instead they put smart people with great social skills and a broad enough background to be effective in with many customers. I would bet people who become PhD’s don’t complain about homework load, but if the homework was 10 hours of social skills they would. The fact is that we need both types of people.

matt (user link) says:

hey, want an eigth graders opinion?

i like what that anonymous guy said, i really beleive that the teachers should learn to recognize different learning styles in students, but, even though i hate homework, i dont think that some students should be excluded from homework because thats specialized treatment and its not fair for the kids who do have to do homework. thats why there is something called an IIP = individualized instructional plan. this tells the teachers and counselors what the kids need to suceed, what environment they learn best in, and what ways of teaching, like visual, hands on, etc, help the student learn best, which in my opinion is a really great tool to provide optimal circumstances for learning. the only problem with this is, the schools dont use them, even though they have them. this year, my counties schools, the high school, middle school, and elementary school, are letting the students write their own IIPs, which i think is great, because the only true way to tell what the child needs is too hear it directly, and let them say it themselves, becouase we-the students-are the ones who know best what we need to have for optimal performance.
so, back to the subject, with the fact that some students learn best with homework, and some students flunk best with homework, they cant really, take homework completely out of the school systems. another thing, open book tests, those are a really big no-no, mostly because the teachers feel that they have the assurance that the book will give them the answers, as long as they analyze it thoroughly, and so they accidentaly end up giving questions that have nothing to do with the information they are studying. what should be done, is the kids take the test, it gets graded, they can take it home, study the questions they got wrong, then take the test again after they have studied. that would really raise the test scores too.
but then again, this all comes back to the fact that every student learns better in a different way than others. so, schools cant develope any kind of standardized learning plan for all students, and they cant have a specialized treatment because its unfair, and this takes you right back down to the drawing board.

foofdawg says:


Dan Callahan, where were you when I was in school?

When I went to school, i was part of the gifted classes, and later, gifted and/or honors classes in high school. I have to agree with someone else’s point that the group dynamic hinders a lot of kids; both those that need extra attention or time on a subject to fully comprehend it, and those that excel with the work but are often lulled to sleep with the constant reiteration of the same things. I can remember numerous times the teacher went over something in detail, and then someone would ask the same question again about the basics. (i.e. we are learning fractions, and they don’t know how to multiply to begin with)

I’m not sure how they do it now, but I know when I was in 2nd grade we took some type of IQ test, and those that were above a certain line started going to gifted classes; from personal experience, I can tell you that IQ apparently has nothing to do with overall intellect. Some people are book smart, some people are street smart, very few are lucky enough to truly be both.

Commoner says:

well…homework is just pointless. I seriously dont see why they even count homework as part of the marks…in fact i get ovr 90 on almost all of my math tests and i nvr do my homework, but apparently because i dunt do my homework my mark is only a low 80. Homework should b more of a selective things for students – hand the work to students, if they/their parents feel they need to do it, they’re gona do it. As for tests…eh well they have to know how much you know somehow…

student who dislikes homework says:

You want my opinion or not well here you go

I have to say our teachers but one doesnt get what us students are going through these days.. Yes they had some things or problems like we do now but Teachers are really missing the point of lowering the homework overload on us!!!

Its not fair at all.. We have where im from 7 classes!!! 7 classes.. you know how many books we take home if we have homework!!! Alot!!! One time i had to take home 5 books and my neck still hurts from having a backpack on my neck!!! At least lower the homework overload thats all us students are really asking!!!

Take a look at us kids now adays.. Thats why we are sometimes moody … We have so much homework and not enough time to do that homework!! We still wanna hang out with our friends and take a break but with all that homework we have we will never get to do the things we used to do!!!

But then some people won’t even listen to us and say we have to much homework. They think we are just complaining.. But the fact is the homework is taking a toll on us now.And also well if anyone has the same view point as me the keep on a truckin!!!! I would like to fight this for all the others out their who are stuggling with homework!!! So lets fight this!!! I am willing!!! If i want to i will take it far!!!

nourhan mostafa khalifeh says:

high school students in lebanon

i’m nourhan from lebanon.i study in beirut buptist school; and i’m in 8th grade. i just wanted to say that me and my classmates are holding homework and studying pressure. our principles and teachers prefer that because they think that if they did all this, their students will finish the program early; and sit in their houses afraid of happening something new to our lovely country. i wanted to say that we’re not just holding studying pressure…we’re holding with it hateness for studying; and by this we’re bored of doing homeworks and paying attension in class.even if something happened to our lovely country,its students will hold pressures and suffer for death to learn more and succeed more.God bless lebanon and all other countries!!

And says:


Homework is the worst thing that happened to education!
The homework demands time after school which could be used for exercise and some students like myself have sport clubs, music lessons and chores that we attend and have to devote ourselves to it. Even though you might enjoy homework it might cause family conflict and it is a TERRIBLE scene to watch or be in! I would like to give thanks to Dorpus and Anonymus coward.
Finally I would like to say…


kate says:

Massive overload

I am a high school junior, so I knew that when i started school this year I would be overloaded. However, I was not anywhere near expecting the amout of work I would get.

I am a very smart student, and in all of my classes except the required you-must-take-this-class-because-of-the-grade-level-you-are-in classes, I’m in with all seniors. Heck I get better grades than most of my senior friends.

But the point of this is that I get seven hours of homework most nights, usually more. True, I take lots of Advanced Placement classes, and so I’m probably in for it. But I’m also an athlete, and I don’t get home from practice most days until 5:30. I stay up very late every night, and wake up at five thirty every morning.

I get so little sleep its not even funny. I work all of my weekends, and worked most of my Christmas Break. Its gotten to the point where I work as much as I can, as late as I can, and just give up on finishing. I don’t know if the point is just to test me, but its really hard. I’m stressed all the time, very grumpy, I snap at the slightest things, I never see my friends that arent’ athletes too, and I’m really really depressed. I cried myself to sleep on Christmas Eve.

Sure I learn things from my homework, but at some point it gets to be too much. And this is my “easy” semester.

jennifer King says:

Re: i agree

i so agree even though im a student and everyone thinks were trying to get out of it were not saying to stop it because it is good but just cut it down espicaily when were doing assignments, but even my sisters say that now we are getting more homework then they were when they were my age its just crazy and im doing a assignment on getting to much homework is causeing kids to be fatter now and tired for school, cause they spent all night doing thier assignment. and ive must say ive put on more weight coming into highschool. so were saying cut back on homework!!!!!!

The Solution says:

I have a solution to the homework problem

What I would suggest, that instead of home work being mandatory the student is giventhe choice whether or not to do it for practice. The logic behind it is simple; if a student did not get the material that was learned in class that day, the student would have the oppertunity to study the material via a practice sheet given out by teachers. Why would it work? Because, many stuents study for exams and get good grades on them. But, the teachers do not say they have to study. So, why do they study? Self motevation, the student does not want to get a bad grade and studies for the exam. Trust me it will work!

Tessa says:


I a mother of a fourth grader (and a former teacher), I have been on both sides. My 4th grader is coming home with over an hour of homework most night. Much of it is busy work (like writing the entire alphabet in polygram forms). It is making my child who had also loved school to no longer feel that way. There is much to be learned from childhood play. Lemonaide stands (yes we’ve had them), the fort that my 4th grader and some friend are building (I use this term loosely) in the woods behind our house. We forget that they are just kids. Although I realize that there are many jobs that require more than 8 hours a day. School shouldn’t be one of them. When we make our kids do over time, it is a sad, sad, state.

katarina says:

i agreeeee

i STRONGLY AGREE that homework is not at all beneficial. i am a year nine student in victoria, and although my opinion may seem biased, i assure you that homework is not good. i do believe in revising for a test, or finishing work you didnt get finished during class, but i do not like the idea of giving kids a whole stack of extra exercises and questions to do every single night. all this does is create completely unavoidable and unecassary strtess for students, and has absolutely no benefits. a lot of the kids in my class go to bed at approximately 11.00 every night, and get up at around 6am. i think these hours are ridiculous and, let’s face it, being tired does not exactly help your concentration during class, so in my opinion, homework does more harm than good. what happened to leisure hours after school?

Jordan says:

Katrina, I would argue that homework “has absolutely no benefits.” I would say that excessive homework is pointless, but additional exercises to be completed outside of class help students experience and understand more situations that a concept is used in. There isn’t always enough time in class to fully explore enough situations in order to help students adequately understand the material.

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