Why Homework Doesn’t Boost Learning and How It Could

Some schools and teachers have started to eliminate homework from the schoolwork burden, citing research that shows that doing homework doesn’t boost academic achievement. But maybe teachers just need to try a different approach to assigning homework?

A second-grade Texas school teacher in 2016 announced to her students and their parents that she was going to put an end to homework since she had not seen any proof that it helps with learning.

The following year, homework was eliminated for elementary students in a Florida school district with 42,000 students and was replaced instead with twenty minutes of nightly reading.

Other elementary schools have also taken the same stance and critics of this school of thought have objected expressly. According to them, homework may not boost academic achievements but it comes with other benefits like providing parents with the opportunity to get involved in their child’s schoolwork.

But why does homework not boost educational achievement?

Psychologists have identified a retrieval practice strategy, which is trying to recall already learned information. The best time to practice the exercise is not immediately after new information is acquired, but after a while- like after school. This practice is far more potent than merely reviewing a given text.

Very few teachers know about the research on retrieval practice and how to teach it, so some teachers do not know how to assign useful homework to students.

Even if useful homework is assigned, it might not show up on standardized test scores- which is a measure of achievement used by researchers, as the design of the test does not capture how much a student has learned in each class. A specific study about math homework revealed that it boosted academic achievement more in elementary school than in middle school.

There has been conflicting research on the need for homework. One study shows that parental involvement does not improve kids’ academic achievement of kids, but rather impart it negatively. Another research shows that parental help with homework in economically disadvantaged children improves their academic performance significantly.

Students with less-educated parents also benefit immensely from homework. They might not have access to academic knowledge and vocabulary at home and help parents get more involved in their child’s schoolwork.

What needs to be changed in the approach to homework?

Rather than totally abandoning homework, schools should support parents in attending to their children’s tasks in a way that doesn’t depend totally on their knowledge. The absence of homework can negatively affect disadvantaged students’ school work if and when they get to college, resulting in flawed study and research skills.

Besides homework, support should be provided to disadvantaged students, such as a quiet workspace, to enforce a good study habit and build student knowledge. The argument that young children just need to relax after a long day at school can also be improved with the ten-minute rule, which entails giving first-graders work that will not take them more than ten minutes to complete so they can have plenty of time for fun.

Teachers also need to be educated on harnessing potential homework power and designing assignments, particularly for disadvantaged students.