How much of an impact does homework really have? Is more always better? Is it better to do it alone or with the help of a parent? And does it have the same impact for primary school students as it does for secondary ones?
The Benefits of Homework
Researchers have examined the homework habits of nearly 8,000 students. They found that:
- Students who get set regular homework by their teacher performed significantly better than those who only set it occasionally.
- Students who spent 90 minutes a day doing homework got the highest school grades.
- However, the researchers actually found that although 90 minutes was the most effective, it was not the most efficient, as the extra time spent after 1 hour led to such minimal gains that it did not justify the extra time.
- Students who did their homework by themselves ended up doing around 10% better in their exams compared to those who did their homework with their parents helping them.
Is it Quantity, Quality, or Both?
A large scale review on homework found that 35% of homework experiences were negative. Why might that be the case? It may be the amount that gets set, with 1 in 10 children throughout a world-wide study stating that they have multiple hours of homework per night. Students in China seem to be set the most, with the average student being set 14 hours per week (in the UK, the average amount is about 5).
Evidence is also emerging that suggests that homework is much more helpful for secondary students than primary students. The Education Endowment Foundation suggest that it is only worth an additional 2 months progress (which is obviously not be sniffed at, but is considerably less than the 5 months it adds for secondary school students). They conclude that for primary school students, it is more about the quality of the task rather than the quantity of it.
Putting the 'Home' in 'Homework'
It is importance to emphasise the ‘home’ aspect of ‘homework’. Evidence suggest that parents having clear homework rules for their children is one of the most powerful things they can do to assist their child’s academic development.. Explaining why these rules are in place can help pupils eventually make better decisions regarding their independent study time later in their school career.
The debate about how much homework should be set will continue to rage for many years. Unfortunately, this argument is often framed around time. What is undeniable is that as students’ progress through education, homework becomes more important. As well as setting the right amount (probably between an hour and 90 minutes a night), teachers should be encouraged to set homework that is both a) regular and b) high in quality. Parents can help by setting clear homework rules and encouraging students to do it themselves, so as to enhance their understanding, learning and resilience.