Does Homework Help or Hurt?

When the school year starts, it brings with it many things: the reunion of friends, the return of a stable routine, the excitement of new subjects, and, of course, homework. Nowadays, students in kindergarten are being sent home with packets to be completed while high school students are pulling all nighters to finish up assignments. Many parents and teachers have started raising the question “Is homework helping students learn?”

A 2006 Duke University study amalgamated information from over 60 published studies about homework and concluded that there is a positive correlation between homework and performance (read the article here: Homework helps students review and practice concepts they’ve learned in school, while giving them time to complete long-term projects. Sometimes, assignments and projects can even foster socialization, cooperation and teamwork, which are all valuable skills for university and the workplace. However, the benefits of homework are limited.

First and foremost, the positive correlation found in the studies is much stronger for grades 7 -12. Many studies have found little to no correlation for grades 6 and below. Not only is the effect of homework negligible on younger students, but it can sometimes have an adverse effect. Students can become too stressed at home; foregoing sleep and family time in order to finish up their homework. It can even lead to burnout for children and conflict for families (read about it here: Sadly, homework is not always used properly as a tool to support learning. After years of research and observation, the bottom line seems to be that homework can be effective, as long as it’s engaging and acts as a review of previous material covered in class.

A generally accepted rule regarding the amount of homework a student should have per night is 10 minutes per grade (for example, a grade 1 student should have 10 minutes a night, while a grade 9 student should have up to 90 minutes a night). One key ingredient to success for primary students is reading. Many studies have shown that reading to, or with, your child is an effective way to increase academic performance (read some comments about it here:

If your child seems overwhelmed or is demonstrating negative side-effects from having too much homework, make sure that he or she is managing his or her time correctly.  Encourage your child to  break up his or her work into more digestible chunks. Then, you may want to talk to a teacher at the school to find out about the homework policy.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog as we talk about the ideal homework situation for students at any age.


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