Homework: How to Make It All Worthwhile

By | First Published: | Last Updated: 22 November, 2019

Homework is the bane of many people’s lives.

  • Teachers hate setting it, let alone marking it
  • Students hate doing it
  • Parents hate ensuring it done (and trying to work out what it is that the teacher really wants)

So why do we bother? Let’s have a look.

 


Homework or No Homework

Most schools require teachers to set HW. But is it a good idea?

The Case Against

Students have worked all day and often want to other things after school. Their families would also like to spend time with them. But instead, they are frequently called to play the role of enforcer – ensuring that their children’s homework is done.

The Case For

Practicing and reviewing past work is a powerful way to enhance learning. And, reviews of research show that it has a positive effect on students’ learning. However, the impact is moderate. And the impact is smaller for younger students.

homework impact diagram
Research on the Impact (Effect Size) of HW on Student Learning


Types of Homework: They Are Not All Equal

Homework includes any tasks that you give your students that they must do beyond normal school hours. Some common types of homework:

  • Reading to their parent
  • Finishing work not done in class
  • Commercial homework sheets
  • Reviewing content and practising skills covered earlier
  • Doing some advance preparation for tomorrow’s lessons
  • School projects and assignments

However, not all of these tasks are equal.

  • The research offers no support for commercial HW sheets often used by primary school teachers.
  • There was no added benefit from individualizing HW (e.g. for struggling or gifted students), but such efforts created extra work for teachers.

Rather:

  • HW is more effective when it involves students revising content or practising skills they have previously learned in the classroom – including content and skills covered earlier than that day. Once familiar with them, students can use high-impact learning strategies to do this.
  • Research also revealed that HW can be effective when it involves students in preparing themselves for a lesson the next day.
  • Homework had the same positive impact on students with learning difficulties.

 

It is helpful to think about HW the same way you think about prescribed medication or a dietary supplement. Take too little of it and it won’t have any effect at all. Take too much and it can kill you.
Professor Harris Cooper (a leading researcher on HW)

 


The HW Infographic

homework infographic

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How to Make It All Worthwhile

Homework helps kids do better at school. The impact increases steadily as students get older, but it exists for all students. Therefore homework:

  • Only play a minor role in primary schools, growing in importance from one year level to the next
  • Play a more prominent role in secondary schools
  • Be short but frequent, using Harris Cooper’s 10 minutes per grade level as a guide
  • Involve students in revising previously covered content and practising previously learned skills
  • Be the same for all students in the class
  • Be checked for completion, with the option of token reinforcement when completion is an issue
  • Keep parental involvement to a minimum (e.g. listening to reading, establishing set timess for homework, providing a quiet space for homework)
  • Be marked in an efficient manner
  • NOT include commercial homework sheets

 


HW FAQs

[sc_fs_multi_faq headline-0=”h3″ question-0=”Does homework affect academic achievement?” answer-0=”Homework is likely to have a positive impact on students’ academic achievement. It has a positive effect on students of all ages. But the result is small for younger students and moderate for older students.” image-0=”” headline-1=”h3″ question-1=”How much homework should I set?” answer-1=”The impact of homework increases as students get older, and the amount of homework should increase the same way. Homework for F-1 students should take no more than 10 minutes. Then, from Year 2 onwards, it should be the students year level multiplied by 10 minutes. For example, you would set Year 5 students no more than 50 minutes homework.” image-1=”” count=”2″ html=”true” css_class=””]

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SHAUN KILLIAN
(MEd., MLead.)

Shaun Killian (me) is an experienced and passionate teacher, as well as a past school principal. After a heart transplant and having both my legs amputated, I am not yet capable of returning to work. Yet, my passion for helping students succeed has led me to use my time to research teaching and associated practices. I then share what I find in practical ways through this website. The greatest compliment I have ever received from a past student was I never left any student behind. That is mission of most teachers and I hope you find the information on this site useful.

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