This week I’m tackling homework for my independent learning project. We all hate homework, namely busywork. Students hate doing it and teachers hate grading it, so why are we still assigned an insane amount of it? Tradition. Teachers are under the delusion that more homework means more achievement, but studies show the exact opposite is occurring. A study done in 1989 by researchers at Duke University found that assigning excessive homework is actually harmful to learning. While short and sweet homework assignments that are actually engaging and relevant to what is being taught does have its benefits, overwhelming students with worksheets and busy work is counterproductive and pointless.
To me, worksheets, especially packets of worksheets, doing more than ten problems out of a textbook (depending on the subject), and anything that takes more than about twenty minutes outside of class falls under the category of excessive. These assignments are not beneficial or imperative for success in a class. If you are in a math class, it doesn’t matter if you are assigned five or fifty problems. If you understand the concept, then you understand it. If you don’t understand it, doing fifty problems wrong is going to make matters worse. Also, something I’ve noticed is that when classes are assigned this much homework, teachers don’t want to grade every single student’s paper. Instead, they take the first half of each class period reading the answers out loud and students grade their own papers before turning them in. This doesn’t give students any feedback other than they didn’t get the right answer. Instead, only a few problems should be assigned. This way, teachers can take some of the class to go over the assignment and show the class what should have happened. This would allow students to see what they did or didn’t do right.
Excess homework also takes away time that students should be spending with family or actually sleeping. My mom, who is a teacher, has brought up some concerns with this. She uses Hapara to track her students online. She noticed quite a few of her students were routinely up at all hours of the night working on homework. She asked those students about it, and they told her they simply don’t have time to do everything. If a student goes to school from 8:00 to 3:30, then either plays a sport or works a part time job, they might not be getting home until 6:00 or 7:00 at night. They’re lucky if they get a chance to eat a hot meal before they start in on homework. By the time they start on homework, it is already 8:00 at night or later. According to most teachers, there should be around half an hour to forty-five minutes of homework per class each night. If a student has eight classes, and they have homework for every class, they are looking at at least four hours of homework. Going by this timeline, the earliest students are getting to bed is midnight. Then they get to get up at 6:30 in the morning and repeat the process. Tell me, when are students supposed to get their eight hours of sleep? When are they supposed to spend time with family? Friends?
The amount of homework teachers expect students to do is unrealistic and absurd, and I think it is yet another one of those bad teaching habits that needs to be broken. I have seen students on the edge of a mental breakdown because of too much homework. Same goes for teachers having too much to grade. Homework is not the only way to ensure learning is happening. Excess homework and busywork is not the answer.
Photo CC Pamala Wilson