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How Useful is Homework?

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Parents, children, and teachers have always argued about homework! Common questions include: Should teachers give homework to students? If so, how much and what type of homework should be assigned? How much time should students spend on homework? What roles should parents play in their child’s homework?

Quite a bit of research has been done over the decades on homework, but researchers still hold divergent views on the subject.

The best current evidence is that homework seems to have a small positive influence on student achievement, though it may be that students with better grades just tend to do more homework. For high school students, the benefits of homework increased as the time spent on homework increased, up to about two hours of homework a day, but any time spent beyond that showed decreased benefits. The evidence for a positive impact of homework on student achievement in the primary grades is weak, although some evidence suggests that homework may help students develop good study habits and foster positive attitudes toward school and learning.

The amount of homework assigned is less important than the quality and value of the work being done. Assigning homework only has value if the work contributes to students’ learning and engagement. Studies show a wide variation in the kind and quality of homework assigned and in its perceived importance or value by students and parents.

Parents can also play an important role by supporting their children’s learning at home, encouraging learning outside of school, and monitoring their children’s progress regularly. It is important to be positive and encouraging when working with your children on homework; if homework leads to bad feelings between parents and children it can have negative effects on both school and home relationships.


CEA and the Ontario Institute in Studies in Education (OISE) have teamed up to provide you with relevant and timely information based on current empirical educational research. The primary goal of this project is to get relevant and needed research into the hands of parents and other interested people. Five blurbs will be posted to our website throughout the 2009-2010 academic year. They will be written in plain language on topics of interest to parents, such as homework and class size.

Additional Resources

  • The Homework Spot:  This website offers advice for K-12 education organized by subject and grade level.  There is also links for both parents and teachers.  The link for parents has a number of resources and publications.  [The Homework Spot]
  • Literacy and Numeracy Tip Sheets for Parents:  Peel district school board in Ontario has created 35 tips sheets for parents to help students with literacy and numeracy skills.  [Available for Download]
  • Free Monthly E-Mail Package of Parent-Child Activities:  A free monthly list of learning activities for pre-school children and elementary, middle school and secondary students [Subscribe]
  • 106 Ways Parents Can Help Students Achieve by Kristen J. Amundson:   This booklet (from the American Association of School Administrators) offers a number of tips organized by the following categories – learning begins at home; using the newspaper for better learning; make family time = learning time; starting school ready to learn; building self-esteem; improving academic achievement; working with the school; promoting your family’s values; peer pressure; preparing for the world of work; good health = good learning; sources of help; learning is everyone’s concern [Available for $12 from Amazon]
  • List of Websites to Help Parents Help their Children:  This website contains links for parents on many topics like reading, math, general school work, summer learning and more [Internet4Classrooms]

Research References Informing this Topic

Bennett, S. and N. Kalish (2006). The case against homework:  How homework is hurting our children and what we can do about it. New York, Crown.

Cameron, L. and L. Bartel (2008). Homework Realities:  A Canadian Study of Parental Opinions and Attitudes, University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Bartel, Cameron & Associates Inc.

Cooper, H. (1989). “Synthesis of research on homework.” Educational Leadership 47(3): 85-91.

  • For junior high school students, the benefits of homework increased as the time spent on homework increased, up to 1 to 2 hours of homework a night, and then decreased.
  • On the other hand, homework has smaller effects at lower grade levels; however, Cooper still recommended homework to ‘help students develop good study habits, foster positive attitudes toward school, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as at school’.

Cooper, H. (2007). The battle over homework. Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Press.

  • Homework should have different purposes at different grade levels.  In earlier grades (primary), homework should help encourage positive attitudes, habits and character traits. In upper elementary grades (junior), homework should play a more direct role to improve student achievement. In 6th grade and beyond (intermediate/senior), homework should play a role in improving standardized test scores and grades.
  • Research findings supported the ’10-minute rule’ where all daily homework assignments combined should take about 10 minutes multiplied by the student’s grade level, but the rule might be increased to 15 minutes if reading is included as a type of homework.

Cooper, H., J. C. Robinson, et al. (2006). “Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement?  A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003.” Review of Educational Research 76(1): 1-62.

  • Review of research from 1987 to 2003 in the United States suggests there is evidence to support positive influence of homework on achievement.
  • Research reported that 7 to 12 hours of homework per week produced the largest benefits, in academic achievement, for grade 12 students.
  • Cooper, Robinson and Patall cautioned about too much homework, as its effectiveness diminishes or can become counterproductive.

Kohn, A. (2006). Homework Myth:  Why our kids get too much of a bad thing, Cambridge, MA,  Da Capo Life Long.

Marzano, R. J. and D. J. Pickering (2007). “Special Topic/The Case For and Against Homework.” Educational Leadership 64(6): 74-79.

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Ontario Institute for Studies in Education