Ask an eleven-year-old whether homework is a bad thing, and you'll likely be greeted with vigorous nodding and not a hint of ambiguity. But do grown-up experts agree?
As with so many things, the answer is mixed.
"Very simply, too much of anything can be harmful," says Gerald LeTendre, head of Penn State's Education Policy Studies department. "What Harris Cooper has advised—and he's one of the leading researchers who has some very good, accessible books on the subject—is it's best to have no homework for kindergarten through second grade, and then maybe 10 minutes per day, increasing by 10 minutes as you go up each grade, so that you're up to an hour or hour and a half of homework by middle school."
More than that and there can be negative effects, studies suggest. Overburdened by homework, children may become disillusioned with school and lose motivation. And excessive homework can interfere with time otherwise spent connecting as a family by playing games, taking walks, or just talking about the day. This was a complaint LeTendre heard frequently as he conducted studies of homework amount and frequency.
Among other things, these studies found that the popular opinion that America does less homework than other nations is simply not true. "There are myths about the "lazy Americans," LeTendre notes, "but our findings about amount of homework were that the U.S. tends to be in the middle, not too far to one end or the other."
"Lyn Corno at Columbia University had an article that said 'homework is a complicated thing,' says LeTendre. "We think of homework as something very simple, almost like an afterthought. It's not. It can be a very effective tool, but it is complicated."
One of the complicating factors is age. "Most small children and early adolescents have not yet developed the kind of self-reflective or self-monitoring skills to get the benefit out of either homework or self study," Le Tendre explains. "But as you move into high school, individuals are increasingly self-aware and can better self-monitor."
But age alone will not predict the usefulness of homework. "If the homework isn't addressing the child's actual academic problem, the child is going to continue to fall further behind and get hopelessly lost," LeTendre cautions.
The problem, he adds, is that most teachers use "the shotgun approach," photocopying worksheets and giving each student the same assignment. And many neglect to go over the homework after it's completed, opting instead to merely check off whether or not it was done at all.
"That's not very effective," says LeTendre. "Let's say you assigned a worksheet on addition of two-digit numbers. If that's what the child's been having difficulty with, then maybe the child, by doing it over and over, can figure it out and make some improvements. But maybe not. Maybe the child still doesn't get it and you need to talk about carrying the one. Or maybe the child knows how to do it and is bored to tears. If there's no feedback and no monitoring, the homework is probably not effective."
What is effective, believes LeTendre, is identifying the specific area where the child needs skill-building work, assigning that homework at an individual level, and then going over it with the child at regular periods to be certain that they're making progress.
"That kind of homework is exemplary," notes LeTendre, "and you don't see it very much."
The more teachers individualize homework, in terms of its focus and monitoring, the better, LeTendre says, and the same goes for parental monitoring. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and the level of parental involvement that suits your ten year-old may not suit your teenager. Recent studies have found that parental involvement may be positive for elementary and high school students, but negative for middle school kids. "In other words," laughs LeTendre, "don't nag your pubescent children about homework. Kind of common sense."
What's important at all ages is communication. Figuring out what the best homework is takes some time and a little bit of research on the part of both parents and of teachers. According to LeTendre, it is crucial for parents and teachers to be on the same page.
"Read Harris Cooper's books, such as The Battle Over Homework. That would be my first recommendation for parents," he says. "The other would be to go talk to the teacher. Ask the teacher to clarify the goals for this homework. Ask what the expectations are for the parents, and then be up-front with the teacher about what effect this has on the family. Try to negotiate something that works for everyone."
Unfortunately—at least from the perspective of your eleven-year-old—there will still likely be some amount of homework involved.
Gerald LeTendre, Ph.D., is a professor of Education and International Affairs, and Chair of the Education Policy Studies department at Penn State's College of Education. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Throughout the school year, student’s live by a strict schedule that consists of school, extracurricular activities and homework. The amount of homework has intensified, students are getting less sleep during school nights, and the level of stress is at its highest peak. American teenagers are given too much homework during the school year, thus leading to unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. I have experienced in the past 2 years the stress, tiredness and isolation from family events due to being in high school. The load of homework I have received is ridiculous I have to miss family dinners and supporting my sister at her soccer and basketball games. I get about half the amount of sleep I used to get and my acne has gotten worse from all the stress. I feel that I’m not fully living my life and that I’m restricted by homework.
First of all, American teenagers are getting too much homework leading to unfavorable impacts mentally and physically such as spending less time with the people who are most important to you in life. A survey by the University of Phoenix in 2013 states “high school students had an average of 17.5 hours of homework every week and 3.5 hours from each teacher per week”. Considering if we go to school all day and have extracurricular activities then it leaves us very little time to spend with family and friends, causing us to miss the most important high school memories. The smallest moments when either you’re little sister or brother started talking or maybe your sister or brother shot the winning basket. Still you are stuck at home doing work, missing those priceless moments. The American College Health Association found, “the suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among students, these young people are often away from home”. School makes it very hard to spend any time with family because we either have presentations or essays to write. While these students are at school and are away from their family for too long they start to show signs of depression. Students with depression often turn to suicide to make everything go away and not have to deal with the stress anymore. At the same time that I believe having homework is good practice to learn the material. I believe that when every teacher gives out homework for practice it starts to piles up for the students. Moments in life should be cherished except for students who have too much homework they don’t get to cherish them, so many unfavorable impact mentally and physically cause students make them not enjoy life fully.
Secondly, American teenagers have too much homework that cause unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. Unfavorable impacts include the loss a lot of sleep for many students. I argue that students are losing sleep due to having a lot of homework. Supported by new research showing that “with lack of sleep students have a limited ability to learn, to listen, to concentrate and to solve problems”. Those are the basic principles of school this means it’s harder for us to do what is expected. The expectations are that we do all our homework no matter how much it must be done. Thus leading us to staying up late trying to finish the homework in order to succeed in the course. The school's new way of teaching is to get us to think about problems and solve without a guide. However with lack of sleep it isn’t easy to comprehend the task at hand if I’m so exhausted all the time. Data shows that “38% of teens have trouble falling asleep at night”. Moreover your mind doesn’t stop thinking right after you finish homework. Your mind is not relaxed which makes it hard to go to bed. Sleep is essential for the human body and with all of this homework students are getting it's hard for them to get the full 8 ½ hours they need to function. A lot of homework is a leading cause in having unfavorable impact mentally such as loss of sleep for students.
Furthermore, too much homework is given to American teenagers that causes unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. For instance the stress level has escalated in the past few years. The results of a survey by psychologist Norman Anderson showed,“the stress level between students a 5.8 out of 10 and adults with a 5.1 out of 10, that a 0.6 difference”. This shows just how stressed out we are today. We should be able to live life without being tied down because we are trying to finish homework late at night and causing a lot of stress. We also have pressure and expectations to finish our homework and turn it in when it’s due. “Factors that cause stress include academics, social pressure, post-secondary plans, family issues and finance”. Notice how the first two causes are school related such as finishing homework and the pressure of looking presentable. The social pressure that is put on girls to always look decent causes stress and then leads to acne. Stress causes acne for girls especially. This because we are supposed to have good skin otherwise we are not pretty and we stress out about our faces on top of everything else. This shows the unnecessary stress that we have on ourselves as students. Parents think that our lives aren’t as stressful compared to their lives such as dealing with bills and housework but recently experts suggest that school for us has increasingly become much more stressful. With all the expectations that students have today we put too much pressure on ourselves and cause us to be stressed out. Unfavorable impacts include stress and pressure about their academics and finishing homework on students isn’t good for their mental health.
To conclude, although teachers give too much homework may seem trivial, it is in fact crucial in terms of today’s concern over teen’s physiological and physical health. Some impacts include spending less time with family and friends while missing the important memories. Losing a lot of sleep making it harder to focus and learn. The level of stress has increased rapidly through the years. American teenagers are given too much homework during the school year has many unfavorable impacts mentally and physically.
Bidwell, Allie. "Students Spend More Time on Homework." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Burden, Tanya. "Homework Anxiety: Survey Reveals How Much Homework K-12 Students Are Assigned and Why Teachers Deem It Beneficial." Homework Anxiety: Survey Reveals How Much Homework K-12 Students Are Assigned and Why Teachers Deem It Beneficial. University of Phoenix, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Burrell, Jackie. "College and Teen Suicide Statistics: What You Should Know." About.com Parenting. About, Inc, 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Jayson, Sharon. "Teens Feeling Stressed, and Many Not Managing It Well." USA Today. Gannett, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
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