For other uses, see Homework (disambiguation).

Homework may include mathematical exercises

Homework, or a homework assignment, is a set of tasks assigned to students by their teachers to be completed outside the class. Common homework assignments may include a quantity or period of reading to be performed, writing or typing to be completed, math problems to be solved, a school project to be built (such as a diorama or display), or other skills to be practiced.

Main objectives and reasons

The basic objectives of assigning homework to students are the same as schooling in general: to increase the knowledge and improve the abilities and skills of the students,[1] to prepare them for upcoming (or complex or difficult) lessons, to extend what they know by having them apply it to new situations, or to integrate their abilities by applying different skills to a single task. Homework also provides an opportunity for parents to participate in their children's education. Homework also may be designed to reinforce what students have already learned.[2] Opponents of homework cite the practice as rote, or grind work, designed to take up children's time, without offering tangible benefit.[3]


Academic performance

Methods to assess the correlation between homework and academic performance vary.[4] Homework research dates back to the early-1900s. However, no consensus exists on the general effectiveness on homework.[5] Results of homework studies varied based on multiple factors, such as the age group of those studied and the measure of academic performance.[4]

Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006) studied the literature on homework from 1987 to 2003, yielding varied results from different studies. The studies compared the time spent on homework with grades and test scores as measures of academic achievement. Studies involving older students reported a positive and significant correlation, but studies involving younger students reported a slightly negative correlation when both parent and student reports of the time spent on homework were included, but the correlation slightly increased when only student reports were included.[lower-alpha 1] The authors recommended that researchers commence further studies using different methodology, warning that the correlation may not be caused by age.[8] For older students, very high amounts of homework caused students' academic performance to worsen.

To measure the time spent on homework, the studies analyzed in Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006) used the reports of either the students or the parents. When students provided the report, the correlation was positive and significant, but when parents provided the report, the correlation became significantly weaker.[lower-alpha 2]

Methodologies used to study the effectiveness of homework have been disputed. To measure student achievement, most studies used either grades, test scores, or both. Trautwein & Köller (2003) argued that grades may be an unsound measure of achievement, as individual grades may depend on the overall performance of the class: a student may receive a higher grade for the same work in one class than another. In Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), the correlation between time spent on homework and measures of academic achievement became slightly weaker using standardized test scores rather than grades.[lower-alpha 3]


Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006) analyzed five studies on the correlation between time spent on homework and attitudes towards homework and various other aspects of school, and two studies on school conduct. The analysis of attitudes differed between assumptions, and were positive, but ranged from insignificant and significant from a correlation of zero.[lower-alpha 4]

For conduct, the analysis pointed towards Epstein (1988) and Vazsonyi & Pickering (2003). Epstein (1988) studied parent reports of the conduct of elementary school students and found a near-zero correlation of r = .01. Vazsonyi & Pickering (2003) studied 809 adolescents in American high schools, and found that, using the Normative Deviance Scale as a model for deviance, the correlation was r = .28 for Caucasian students, and r = .24 for African-American students. For all three of the correlations, higher values represent a higher correlation between time spent on homework and poor conduct.[10]

Bempechat (2004) suggested that homework develops students' motivation and study skills. Xu & Yuan (2003) notes that parents and teachers generally deem homework as a builder of students' study skills and personal responsibility skills. Students are more likely to have negative perceptions about homework, being less likely to ascribe the development of such skills to homework.[11] Leone & Richards (1989) found that students generally had negative emotions when completing homework and reduced engagement compared to other activities.

Health and daily life

Homework has been identified in numerous studies and articles as a dominant or significant source of stress and anxiety for students.[12] Studies on the relation between homework and health are few compared to studies on academic performance.[13][14]

Cheung & Leung-Ngai (1992) surveyed 1,983 students in Hong Kong, and found that homework led not only to added stress and anxiety, but also physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches. Students in the survey who were ridiculed or punished by parents and peers had a higher incidence of depression symptoms, with 2.2% of students reporting that they "always" had suicidal thoughts, and anxiety was exacerbated by punishments and criticism of students by teachers for both problems with homework as well as forgetting to hand in homework.

A 2007 study of American students by MetLife found that 89% of students felt stressed from homework, with 34% reporting that they "often" or "very often" felt stressed from homework. Stress was especially evident among high school students. Students that reported stress from homework were more likely to be deprived of sleep.[15]

Homework can cause tension and conflict in the home as well as at school, and can reduce students' family and leisure time. In the Cheung & Leung-Ngai (1992) survey, failure to complete homework and low grades where homework was a contributing factor was correlated with greater conflict; some students have reported teachers and parents frequently criticizing their work. In the MetLife study, high school students reported spending more time completing homework than performing home tasks.[16] Kohn (2006) argued that homework can create family conflict and reduce students' quality of life. The authors of Sallee & Rigler (2008), both high school English teachers, reported that their homework disrupted their students' extracurricular activities and responsibilities. However, Kiewra et al. (2009) found that parents were less likely to report homework as a distraction from their children's activities and responsibilities. Galloway, Conner & Pope (2013) recommended further empirical study relating to this aspect due to the difference between student and parent observations.

Galloway, Conner & Pope (2013) surveyed 4,317 high school students from ten high-performing schools, and found that students reported spending more than 3 hours on homework daily. 72% of the students reported stress from homework, and 82% reported physical symptoms. The students slept an average of 6 hours 48 minutes, lower than the recommendations prescribed by various health agencies.


Hearing the Homework; Yrjö Ollila

The earliest known teacher to administer homework was Roberto Nevilis in Venice in 1095, but there might have been instructors that have administered homework before him despite the lack of evidence.[17]

United States

Historically, homework was frowned upon in American culture. With few students interested in higher education, and due to the necessity to complete daily chores, homework was discouraged not only by parents, but also by school districts. In 1901, the California legislature passed an act that effectively abolished homework for those who attended kindergarten through the eighth grade. But, in the 1950s, with increasing pressure on the United States to stay ahead in the Cold War, homework made a resurgence, and children were encouraged to keep up with their Russian counterparts. By the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the consensus in American education was overwhelmingly in favor of issuing homework to students of all grade levels.[18]

A study done at the University of Michigan in 2007 concluded that the amount of homework given is increasing. In a sample taken of students between the ages of 6 and 9 years, it was shown that students spend more than 2 hours a week on homework, as opposed to 44 minutes in 1981.[19] After a comprehensive review, academics scholar Harris Cooper concluded that homework does not improve academic achievements for grade school students. Cooper analyzed dozens of students and found that those who are assigned homework in middle and high school score "somewhat" better on standardized tests, but that students who have 60 to 90 minutes of homework a day in middle school or more than 2 hours in high school score worse.[20]

Notes and references


  1. The analysis differentiated between "fixed" and "random" error assumptions. Fixed error assumptions state that sampling error occurs only because of differences between participants in the study, but random error assumptions state that sampling error is due to other influences. The analysis found, under fixed error assumptions, that the correlation between time spent on homework for kindergarten to grade 6 students was r = −.04 (CI: −.06−.02), where CI is the 95% confidence interval. When the scope of studies was only limited to student reports, the correlation for the same group increased to r = .06 (CI: .00.11). For students in grade 7 to grade 12, which only included student reports the correlation was r = .25 (CI: .25.25).[6] For student reports under random error assumptions, the correlations for student reports only became, for kindergarten to grade 6 and grade 7 to grade 12 respectively, r = .22 (CI: .00.42) and r = .19 (CI: .17.22)[7]
  2. The analysis found that the correlation between time spent on homework by students' reports were r = .25 (CI: .25.25) and r = .19 (CI: .16.21) by fixed and random error assumptions respectively, where CI is the 95% confidence interval. When parents reported, the correlations became r = −.03 (CI: −.05−.01) and r = −.02 (CI: −.10.07).[9]
  3. Specifically, the correlation was r = .27 (CI: .26.27) using grades, but r = .24 (CI: .24.25), where CI means the 95% confidence interval.[6]
  4. Specifically, the correlation was r = .12 unweighted, but r = .13 (CI: .11.14) weighted using fixed error assumptions, where CI is the 95% confidence interval. Using random error assumptions r = .13 (CI: −.01.26). The authors noted that the fixed error correlation was significant, but the random error correlation was insignificant.[10]


  1. Synthesis of research on homework. H Cooper - Educational leadership, 1989 - addison.pausd.org
  2. Needlmen, Robert. "Homework: The Rules of the Game".
  3. Haddock, Vicki (2006-10-09). "After years of teachers piling it on, there's a new movement to ... Abolish homework". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-12-09. Vigorous scrutiny of the research, they argue, fails to demonstrate tangible benefits of homework, particularly for elementary students. What it does instead, they contend, is rob children of childhood, play havoc with family life and asphyxiate their natural curiosity. Learning becomes a mind-numbing grind rather than an engaging adventure.
  4. 1 2 Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), p. 1.
  5. Trautwein & Köller (2003).
  6. 1 2 Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), p. 42.
  7. Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), p. 45.
  8. Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), pp. 50–51.
  9. Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), p. 44.
  10. 1 2 Cooper, Robinson & Patall (2006), p. 47.
  11. Xu & Yuan (2003).
  12. Bauwens & Hourcade (1992), Conner & Denise (2009), Hardy (2003), Kouzma & Kennedy (2002), West & Wood (1970), Ystgaard (1997).
  13. Cheung & Leung-Ngai (1992), p. 146.
  14. Galloway & Conner (2013), p. 493.
  15. Markow, Amie & Margot (2007), p. 137.
  16. Markow, Amie & Margot (2007).
  17. "Strange Facts: Who Invented Homework?". Flokka.
  18. "History of Homework". The San Francisco Chronicle. 1999-12-20. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  19. Seligman, Katherine (1999-12-19). "Parents: Too much homework". Hearst Communications Inc. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  20. Wallis, Claudia (August 29, 2006). "The Myth About Homework". Time Online.


Effectiveness of homework

  • Cooper, Harris; Robinson, Jorgianne C.; Patall, Erika A. (2006). "Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003". Review of Educational Research. 71 (6): 1–62. 
  • Epstein, Joyce L. (1988), "Homework practices, achievements, and behaviors of elementary school students", Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools 
  • Trautwein, Ulrich; Köller, Olaf (2003). "The Relationship Between Homework and Achievement—Still Much of a Mystery". Educational Psychology Review. 15 (2): 115–145. doi:10.1023/A:1023460414243. 
  • Vazsonyi, Alexander T.; Pickering, Lloyd E. (2003). "The Importance of Family and School Domains in Adolescent Deviance: African American and Caucasian Youth". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 32 (2): 115–128. doi:10.1023/A:1021857801554. 

Homework and non-academic effects


  • Cooper, Harris (2007). The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. ISBN 9781412937139. 
  • Kohn, Alfie (2006). The Homework Myth. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-7382-1085-4.  Chapter 2 is free to read.

Further reading

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