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How Important Is Homework?



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U.S. Department of Education


Contents

What Is Homework?

Why Is Homework Important?

How Can Parents Get Involved?

How Much Time Should My Child Spend on Homework?

Why Should Parents Be Concerned About a School Homework Policy?

Where Can Parents Find Out More About Homework Guidelines?

Sources


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Helping Your Child With Homework

Helping Your Child Succeed in School



Assigning homework serves various educational needs. It serves as an intellectual discipline, establishes study habits, eases time constraints on the amount of curricular material that can be covered in class, and supplements and reinforces work done in school. In addition, it fosters student initiative, independence, and responsibility and brings home and school closer together.

What Is Homework?

Homework is defined as out-of-class tasks assigned to students as an extension or elaboration of classroom work. There are three types of homework: practice, preparation, and extension.

Practice assignments reinforce newly acquired skills. For example, students who have just learned a new method of solving a mathematical problem should be given sample problems to complete on their own. Preparation assignments help students get ready for activities that will occur in the classroom. Students may, for example, be required to do background research on a topic to be discussed later in class. Extension assignments are frequently long-term continuing projects that parallel classwork. Students must apply previous learning to complete these assignments, which include science fair projects and term papers.

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Why Is Homework Important?

Research in the last decade has begun to focus on the relationship between homework and student achievement and has greatly strengthened the case for homework. Although there are mixed findings about whether homework actually increases students' academic achievement, many teachers and parents agree that homework develops students' initiative and responsibility and fulfills the expectations of students, parents, and the public. Studies generally have found homework assignments to be most helpful if they are carefully planned by the teachers and have direct meaning to students.

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How Can Parents Get Involved?

  • Share any concerns you may have regarding the amount or type homework assigned with your child's teacher or principal.

  • Encourage your child to take notes concerning homework assignments in case questions arise later at home.

  • Provide a suitable study area and the necessary tools (for example, paper and books) to complete the homework assignments.

  • Limit after-school activities to allow time for both homework and family activities.

  • Monitor television viewing and establish a specific homework time.

  • Plan a homework schedule with your child. Allow for free time when assignments are completed.

  • Praise your child's efforts. If questions arise about the assignments, and your child asks for help, ask him or her questions or work through an example rather than simply providing the answer.

  • Younger children need more parental assistance with homework than older children. Go over homework assignments with your child. Do several problems or questions together, then observe your child doing the next one or two.

  • If your child is in elementary school, check completed assignments. At all levels, ask to look at homework once it has been marked and returned.

  • Ask your child's teachers about their homework policy and specific assignments.

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How Much Time Should My Child Spend on Homework?

According to some researchers, two ways to increase students' opportunities to learn are to increase the amount of time that students have to learn and to expand the amount of content they receive. Homework assignments may foster both these goals. Reforms in education have called for increased homework, and as a result, reports show that students are completing considerably more homework than they did a decade ago.

According to statements by the National PTA and the National Education Association (NEA), the following amounts of homework are recommended:

  • From kindergarten to third grade, no more than 20 minutes per day.

  • From fourth to sixth grade, 20 to 40 minutes per day.

  • From seventh to twelfth grade, the recommended amount of time varies according to the type and number of subjects a student is taking. In general, college-bound students receive lengthier and more involved homework than students preparing to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.

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Why Should Parents Be Concerned About a School Homework Policy?

  • Lack of an established homework policy may place either insufficient or unrealistic demands on your child. Students may not be expected to work to capacity; alternatively, they may receive too many assignments from different teachers on the same evening.

  • Schools with homework policies tend to set guidelines for teachers to correct, grade, and return homework systematically to their students, thus reinforcing learning.

  • Schools with homework policies generally provide specific guidelines regarding what is expected from parents.

  • Schools with homework policies tend to carefully design and provide homework assignments appropriate to each grade level.

Students may not always view homework as a pleasant experience, but if the assignment serves a good purpose and parents reinforce the completion of the tasks, students will benefit by gaining higher grades, better study habits, and a more positive attitude toward school and learning.

Homework assignments give parents insight into the school curriculum and offer a greater opportunity for student learning to occur.

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Where Can Parents Find Out More About Homework Guidelines?

  • ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    805 West Pennsylvania Avenue Urbana, IL 61801-4897
    (217) 333-1386.
  • National Education Association
    1201 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036
    (202) 822-7214.
  • The National PTA
    700 North Rush Street
    Chicago, IL 60611-2571
    (312) 787-0977.

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Sources

Most of the following references-those identified with an ED or EJ number-have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. The journal articles should be available at most research libraries. For a list of ERIC collections in your area, contact ACCESS ERIC at 1-800-LET-ERIC.

  • Doyle, M. and B. Barber (1990). Homework As a Learning Experience. What Research Says to the Teacher, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: National Education Association. ED 319 492.
  • Easton, J. and A. Bennett (1990). "Achievement Effects of Homework in Sixth Grade Classrooms." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. ED 320 675.
  • Murphy, J. and K. Decker (May-June 1989). "Teachers' Use of Homework in High Schools." Journal of Educational Research, 82 (5), 261-269. EJ 398 447.
  • Murphy, J. and K. Decker (February 1990). "Homework Use at the High School Level: Implications for Principals." NASSP Bulletin, 74 (523), 40-43. EJ 403 786.
  • Paaletin, 72 (507), 14-17. EJ 370 262.
  • Rutherford, W. (1989). "Secondary School Homework Practices: Uses and Misuses." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. ED 311 051.

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Credits

This publication was prepared by ACCESS ERIC with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract No. RI890120. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Department of Education.

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