is homework beneficial
Does homework really boost learning or does it promote burnout? Source: Shutterstock

The K12 education landscape is transforming before our eyes, though some schools and countries have been slower to catch on.

Traditional educational practices are slowly being replaced with teaching 21st century skills like creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.

Classroom designs are becoming more flexible and there is a shift towards self-directed and student-centered learning.

In this new era of education, is homework beneficial for students or has it become an outdated education requirement?

According to an article by Youki Terada, Research and Standards Editor for Edutopia, homework is beneficial but only to a certain degree, depending on the age group.

For younger students, assigning too much homework has a minimal impact on learning overall. Terada wrote, “As young children begin school, the focus should be on cultivating a love of learning, and assigning too much homework can undermine that goal. And young students often don’t have the study skills to benefit fully from homework, so it may be a poor use of time.”

Second-grade teacher Fiorentino experimented with dropping homework after she found that the minimal benefits of homework didn’t outweigh the potential drawback of putting young children off school from an early age.

She wrote, “Something surprising happened: They started doing more work at home. This inspiring group of 8-year-olds used their newfound free time to explore subjects and topics of interest to them.”

Fiorentino found it was better to encourage her students to read more at home, offering optional homework instead to help them review material learnt in the classroom.

Homework is most beneficial for older students

But what about middle school students? According to Terada, “As students mature and develop the study skills necessary to delve deeply into a topic—and to retain what they learn—they also benefit more from homework.

“Nightly assignments can help prepare them for scholarly work, and research shows that homework can have moderate benefits for middle school students.

“Recent research also shows that online math homework, which can be designed to adapt to students’ levels of understanding, can significantly boost test scores.”

However, there is a limit to how much homework should be assigned. Too much can cause middle school students to lose motivation and focus, as researchers found in a 2015 study.

The researchers advised teachers to assign homework that presents a certain level of challenge or difficulty, instead of homework that is so challenging it demotivates students.

Homework should be assigned ““with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-directed learning.” In other words, its quality over quantity when it comes to homework.

For high school students, homework is indeed beneficial for a learning boost but it should also not be too challenging or take up too much of their free time.

Terada wrote, “When students spend too much time on homework—more than two hours each night—it takes up valuable time to rest and spend time with family and friends. A 2013 study found that high school students can experience serious mental and physical health problems, from higher stress levels to sleep deprivation, when assigned too much homework.

“Homework in high school should always relate to the lesson and be doable without any assistance, and feedback should be clear and explicit.”

All things considered, homework is still beneficial for older students, as long as they’re not drowning in it, which can lead to burnout, stress and demotivation.

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