Homework – Is it worth the hassle?

“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,”

 Denise Pope, Senior Lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Education

The study by Denise Pope found

 Greater stress: 56 percent of the students considered homework a primary source of stress, according to the survey data. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent put the pressure to get good grades in that category. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.

Reductions in health: In their open-ended answers, many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems. The researchers asked students whether they experienced health issues such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems.

Less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits: Both the survey data and student responses indicate that spending too much time on homework meant that students were “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills,” according to the researchers. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy.

Stanford Graduate School of Education https://news.stanford.edu/2014/03/10/too-much-homework-031014/

So that’s it then homework is bad for your health and your happiness and should be banned? As a teacher I have spent hours marking the same work, correcting errors according to the fashionable marking policy of the time and then handing back to the student for their feedback to my feedback, ready for me to feedback on their feedback to my feedback… and so it continues, but does it have any value?

John Hattie, in his excellent book Visible Learning suggest a different approach. His research highlights that homework for secondary school children is much more effective than for primary school children. This could be that primary school children are less able to work independently and cannot filter irrelevant information as effectively, however as Helen Silvester from the npj science of learning community, in a recent Guardian interview argues that homework is only effective if a teacher:

Set work that’s relevant. This includes elaborating on information addressed in the class or opportunities for students to explore the key concept in areas of their own interest.

Make sure students can complete the homework. Pitch it to a student’s age and skills – anxiety will only limit their cognitive abilities in that topic. A high chance of success will increase the reward stimulation in the brain.

Get parents involved, without the homework being a point of conflict with students. Make it a sharing of information, rather than a battle.

Check the homework with the students afterwards. This offers a chance to review the key concepts and allow the working memory to become part of the long-term memory.


So is the setting of homework worth the hassle? The simple answer is yes, but only if it serves a purpose and is checked by both the teacher and the parent. A big report for the Department for Education, published in 2014, concluded that students in Year 9 who spent between two and three hours on homework on an average week night were almost 10 times more likely to achieve five good GCSEs (A*-C) than students who did no homework at all.

At Castle Tutoring we use a platform called ‘Loom’ which enables a flipped learning approach to homework, encouraging the student to learn the content before the session and allowing for a focus on skills in the lesson itself. Homework is an integral feature of school life and can be enriching, but there are definitely limitations and teachers should be aware of these.

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