Does homework help or hurt students?


Charles Dilliehunt

Students work on homework in Integrated Math 3 during fourth hour.

Nothing quite inspires fear in the mind of a student as much as the phrase, “Wait, we had homework?” Homework—while often dreaded by students and teachers alike—is an idea which has undoubtedly been powerfully integrated into the education system. One question is being asked over and over again—does homework really help students perform better in school? Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one.

A 2005 University of Michigan study proves that the negative reputation does hold some truth. The study found that the amount of time that students spend on homework has increased by almost fifty percent since 1981. But is homework really the answer?

“In my experience [when too much homework is assigned], homework doesn’t get done very well or at all, especially in core classes that have a more mainstream curriculum,” English teacher Ty Frederickson said.

With all the time that is already spent at school during the day, students simply don’t have time for large amounts of homework. When activities, clubs,  sports and other responsibilities outside of school are thrown into the mix, students can find themselves overwhelmed pretty quickly.

Fredrickson said he feels that an important part teachers play in solving this problem is to “question the relevancy of the homework assigned, and [only have] homework that extends or reinforces the learning objectives in the class.” According to Fredrickson,  in order to motivate more students to finish assignments and perform better on tests , teachers must first ensure that the work students are completing is worth their time.

Assigning “busy work” or work that only functions as something for students to do has proven to be extremely detrimental, especially considering many kids participate in sports and events outside of school and do not have time to do unhelpful or unnecessary work.

Senior Bailee Kober admits that she feels there are some problems with homework.

“[Sometimes homework] takes too long, and some [assignments] are just to keep you busy and aren’t really beneficial,” Kober said.

In a survey of 4,317 students from ten high performing schools in California, over half of the students reported homework as being a primary source of stress. Over ten percent more students found homework to be more stressful than tests, and over 20 percent of students felt that homework caused more stress than getting good grades. Only a shocking one percent said that homework did not cause them any stress at all.

Similar to the Californian students in the study, Junior Kayla LeDuc agrees that homework makes her feel stressed.

“[Homework often causes me to] lack sleep because of the amount of time I have to spend on it, [and in turn] lowers my grades.” LeDuc said.

Some teachers also feel that too much homework can affect the relationships that teachers make at school with students, and that extreme amounts of busy work, or even beneficial work, can affect a student’s feelings toward education as a whole.

“I think in some instances homework can be counterproductive to learning and to cultivating a love for learning,” Frederickson said. “[I feel] that part of my job [as a teacher] is to build a relationship with other students and teachers, and assigning work that isn’t relevant can be detrimental to this relationship.”

While this effect of homework can often be overlooked, the feelings that students have toward education, and even their own teacher, can have an incredible impact on a student’s grades and overall learning experience.

If homework has so many negative effects, why do so many schools still use it? While homework can be harmful to students in large amounts, homework is helpful up to a certain point. According to an article published in Pennsylvania State Live, students benefit the most when only given a half hour to an hour of homework each night, especially in math and science classes. It found that most students needed a small amount of repetition through homework in order to master certain materials.

According to English teacher Jessica Johnson, homework has more than one goal.

“In my classroom we’re working on assignments that are going to help students score higher on tests, but also that help develop writing skills and student vocabulary as a whole,” Johnson said.

Homework in small amounts can be essential to establishing a strong work ethic and working on writing and analytical skills.

So, does homework really help students perform better on tests? The answer is yes, but only up to a certain extent. When given too much homework, students become stressed, less healthy, develop a negative mind-set towards school and spend less time with family, friends and developing interests outside of school. Homework is not something which needs to be eliminated, but rather needs to be limited.