Homework sucks?

Note: this post was originally published here in March 2016. I’m in the process of migrating from Blogger to WordPress.

Following significant research, Harris Cooper, of Duke University, confidently points out that:

There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.”

The article explains that:

For elementary-aged children, research suggests that studying in class gets superior learning results, while extra schoolwork at home is just . . . extra work. Even in middle school, the relationship between homework and academic success is minimal at best.

Not only that, but even though at secondary (high) school the research shows that homework has some benefit, that only applies if the kids are not slogging through work for more than two hours, because after two hours the benefits decline.

The worry is, according to the report, that not only does homework for primary (elementary) kids not have any benefit, it is actually harmful.

“…homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning.

Often homework is set just because the parents have bought a workbook and therefore it has to be used. Furthermore, many parents expect or even demand homework and complain if the teachers aren’t setting it, under the assumption that it is useful and necessary for their children. So the teachers just set a few exercises from the workbook and then get annoyed by having to spend 15 minutes of the next lesson going through the answers. And round and round we go. This is a frequent occurrence in many classrooms, I’m sure. I remember it well.

Furthermore, as we continue looking at blended courses and the flipped classroom approach, it’s very important to carefully consider the pedagogical value of the homework being set. Just because the internet allows us to deliver more content to students outside the classroom, doesn’t mean we should. But interaction in a digital space has the potential to make homework a much more varied and interesting part of a course.
All in all, it’s something to start thinking about more deeply, to explore the use of homework in one’s own particular teaching context. Speaking of which…

…I came across someone who has. This blog post by Maria Theologidou is worth a read. Here’s an extract:

To me, homework should include different sets of activities that provide our students with the opportunity to do 3 things – review, practise and explore. It should provide them with the chance to review previously taught material so that they can ask questions on it. It should include activities that help them build their critical thinking skills and practise their problem solving abilities. But above all it should offer them points of connection to the real world – the chance to explore the language individually and expand on the knowledge they already have.

Having said that, here’s your homework: what do YOU think about setting homework?! Do your students do homework on an LMS, or using social media or similar?



  1. Thanks so much for finding my post interesting, Richard! I wish more and more people started reflecting on the actual meaning of homework and saw it as an opportunity for enabling students to build stronger skills!


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