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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Is homework beneficial or detrimental to student wellbeing?

Homework are sets of tasks assigned to students to be completed outside of class time. The fundamental objectives of assigning homework to students are the same as schooling in general – to increase the knowledge and improve the abilities and skills of the students. The purposes for assigning homework differ in extent to include practice, preparation, participation, personal development, and punishment to a lesser extent. Homework as a concept has existed for a long time. Lisa Morguess, a bloger, chronicles her experience with her children’s homework. Morguess is of the belief that “The concept of homework is so ingrained in our culture that people can’t and won’t think about what it might be like if we just stopped making our kids do homework”, which has made the debate on homework hotly contested. It is worth noting that there is no current consensus on the effectiveness of homework, although many studies have been completed in assessing the effectiveness of homework.

The argument for the benefits of homework stems from a traditional mindset that it builds discipline, and helps in storing the Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement. The correlation was stronger for older students, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance. His report noted that homework is also thought to improve study habits, attitudes toward school, self-discipline, inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills. Revising the key skills learned in the classroom during homework also increases the likelihood of a student remembering and being able to use those skills in a variety of situations, as well as the added benefit of passing examinations. Bempechat noted that homework develops ‘ motivation and study skills. In a single study, parents and teachers of middle school students believed that homework improved students’ study and personal responsibility skills. It can also be argued that homework teaches the child to learn independently by giving them space away from a mentor.

The Guardian noted that ‘Education researcher Professor John Hattie, who has ranked various influences on student learning and achievement, found that homework in primary schools has a negligible effect (most homework set has little to no impact on a student’s overall learning). However, it makes a bigger difference in secondary schools.’. This may hold more true for adults, who may complete homework as part of instructor led training such as Certified Scrum Master training

““The worst thing you can do with homework is give kids projects; the best thing you can do is reinforce something you’ve already learned,” – John Hattie

On the other hand, it can be argued that homework can cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time. A survey of high-performing high schools by the Stanford Graduate School of Education, for example, found that 56% of students considered homework a primary source of stress. This results in sleep deprivation and health problems, as well as less time for extracirricular activities, and friends and family. Heather Shumaker, author of ‘It’s OK to Go Up the Slide’, noted that ‘homework only really helps in high school’, and that ‘in elementary school, there is no evidence that it has academic benefit’. A reduction in homework also has benefits for the teachers, who have the task of marking the papers handed in.

The Guardian’s Helen Silvester teaches both primary and secondary school. Silvester points out that when students learn in the classroom, they are using their ‘short term or working memory. This information is continually updated during the class. On leaving the classroom, the information in the working memory is replaced by the topic in the next class.’

Until a causative conclusion is formed, it is safe to sit on the fence in this argument. Homework can be effective when it’s the right type of homework. The National PTA’s research-based recommendation is ten to twenty minutes of homework a night in first grade and an additional ten minutes per grade level thereafter. The disadvantages of homework are mitigated by a balance in workload and difficulty. If homework is challenging enough to be thought provoking as opposed to work to keep the child busy, this should aid in completing assessments successfully in the future, as well as develop skills later in life. CNN interviewed Rhonda Lochiatto, a 16-year teaching veteran who currently teaches fourth grade in Volusia County, Florida, who was of the opinion that homework is not required. In her class, she sees homework as an ‘opportunity to provide guidance to parents and offer ways for them to help their children at home’.

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