Enough with the homework already!

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

Blog Source: The Tyranny of Homework: 20 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Assign Homework Over the Holidays

 

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17 thoughts on “Enough with the homework already!

  1. I am with you on many of your points on homework. I feel bad for the students, both college and high school, that have to work more than 25 hours a week and tackle being a full time student at the same time. I have a couple classes that are very homework extensive. I can say that if all five of my classes required the amount of work that one of my classes does, I would be buried. There is a fine line of how much homework students should be given. At the college level I can see homework being assigned more frequently, but more than one hour of homework per night at the high school level is ridiculous. Good post, it is very telling that you have passion about this subject.

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    1. Thanks! This has been a point of contention in my old high school for years, and it’s continued on through college. Honestly, no one takes the amount of time we’re supposed to outside of class and if we did, we wouldn’t have time for anything else.

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  2. I agree with you. I am an online student and I am also a working adult. I have a full time job and I go to school full time online. This is my fault and I understand that I will have homework. But I am doing home work in all of my free time and I can say that maybe 40 percent of it is actually relevant, quality work. Most of it just feels like i am doing it to fill time and requirements.

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  3. This is hot topic right now. It’s interesting because I’m a non-traditional student and a parent. I grew up and don’t remember having as much homework as my kids (ages 13 and 9) have. I also grew up in a time when kids weren’t so scheduled. It can be too much. This year we decided to quit it and have our kids do less extra stuff so we’re not running around all the time and can enjoy more time together as a family. This year we let them choose one extra thing to do and they also have church class Wednesday nights. The stress level has gone way down in our house. My kids have homework everyday and I usually check it over for them too – it takes a lot of time. My son’s homework feels a lot like busywork whereas my daughter’s feels more “real”. But since cutting out some of the extra stuff that they weren’t necessarily enjoying but instead doing, we’re enjoying our time way more and my kids are sleeping well – which for me is key to everything. I’m with you – less is more.

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    1. I have trouble understanding why teachers feel the need to give so much homework. My sister just started 6th grade and there has been a huge increase in what she’s assigned but most of it isn’t relevant.

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  4. I agree with you so much on this post. My little brother and I had a homework discussion over dinner the other night. He is in 6th grade and was telling me how “over worked” he was. I just chuckled and said get used to it. Wish there was another way!

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  5. Agreed, agreed, one hundred times agreed. I understand the need for critical thinking and demonstration of comprehension (which some homework does – it’s the minority of homework, I think, but some of it does), but literally killing young people with homework does nothing to sustain lifelong learners. I’m on track to graduate shortly, and the relief of knowing I’ll soon be done with pointless homework is a feeling I can’t fully express in words. I understand its function, but to echo your sentiments: the sheer amount that is dumped on any grade level is ridiculous.

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  6. This blog is GREAT! I am working 45 hours a week and have five classes online. Teachers sometimes do not realize that we have LIFE. If we have 5 classes and are expected to spend 8-10 hours per class that is literally all day every day 5 days a week. It get challenging to keep up and when it gets to that point I am not only having a mental break down, crying myself to sleep, but also not retaining the information that I need to because I am so worried about getting everything done.

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    1. Thanks! I’m not saying there shouldn’t be homework period, but teachers for some reason feel the need to load students up with busy work that doesn’t benefit them and creates more work for the teacher.

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  7. Here here! I agree 100%! I get really frustrated with homework at the K-12 level. I mean, school has my son for 8 hours every day. If you can’t get it done in 8 hours, there’s a problem. Kids need to have family time, leisure time, exercise time, relaxation time. So many studies show that homework serves no purpose whatsoever and isn’t correlated with improved learning, so we really do have to wonder why we keep assigning it. And I think you’re on to something here: it’s tradition. When I was a classroom teacher, I did not assign homework, and I got a lot of flak from other teachers and the principal about it.

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    1. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous how much homework is assigned. There were times where I fell way behind in high school because there was simply too much, and none of it was helping me.

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