The Pros and Cons of Homework

The Pros and Cons of Homework

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“Did you know that homework is one of the greatest causes of student dropouts and failing” (Kralovek 39)? Since the beginning of the twentieth century, homework has been a major debate in America. “At first, the brain was seen as a muscle that could be trained by learning from homework and people enjoyed learning at home. This enthusiastic spirit did not last long since during the 1940’s, Professor Otto explained that, ‘Compulsory homework does not result in sufficiently improved academic accomplishment.’ When Sputnik was launched in the 1950’s, the United States feared that Russia would dominate the world in technology if homework continued to be unnecessary. This incident has partially shaped our country to compete more with other nations. Yet again, during the 1960’s, researchers and educators feared that needless pressure on students was a symptom of overdoing homework. Educator P. R. Wildman wrote in the late sixties that homework does not meet its expectations when it blocks out social experiences, creative activities, outdoor recreation, and deprives students of their recommended daily sleep” (Cooper 34, 38). Today, homework continues to grow in need for students entering high schools and higher education; nonetheless, concern has grown over its benefits for all, especially elementary children. There are many necessary life skills that homework can provide for everyone, which must be used appropriately and in moderation. According to researchers, such as Harris Cooper, homework should be limited, even though research approves of its increased effectiveness as students grow older. Overall, America has witnessed major problems with homework overdoses because many of America’s families have become disrupted, the urge to improve test scores does not always come from doing homework, different ages deal better with specific types of homework, and problems with student behavior and attention in and out of school may arise.
Incorporating homework into the average student’s life can significantly improve academic achievement, the understanding of lifelong study skills, and school appreciation. In order for students to solidify their understanding of certain topics, homework is required since it enables students to retrieve what they have learned outside of school and learning skills can be improved. “For example, Cooper summarizes many of the positive outcomes homework has on students’ lives. Cooper categorizes these outcomes into four sections: immediate achievement and learning, long-term academic benefits, non-academic benefits, and greater parental appreciation of and involvement in school. Under the first section, Cooper explains that one’s learning can progress rapidly since there will be increased understanding, better critical thinking, retention of factual knowledge, greater concept formation, information processing, and curriculum enrichment for a student in the learning process.

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In terms of long-term academic benefits, homework allows students to learn anything they want in their leisure time, an improved attitude toward school is observed, and new study habits are formed to finish homework and classwork in more efficient timing. Cooper’s third category shows how others, who do not pursue academics, can also benefit from homework. For example, according to Cooper discovered that self-direction, self-discipline, time organization, inquisitiveness, and independent problem solving are all improved with homework” (Cooper 36). “Several specific studies conducted by Cooper suggest these qualities were proven to help students. In these studies, several groups of students were compared with and without homework. The average student demonstrated an overall increase in 23 percentile points. Moreover, homework may be utilized as a standalone activity, which benefits students willing to continue the learning process out of school” (Marzano 76). “Some people are unaware that homework is an enriching and economical method to teach students when it contains appropriate content” (Barber 55). Therefore, society should be aware of previous studies that support the significance of homework. Nevertheless, that does not mean that homework is faultless.
“Educators must not force homework on children in elementary school because a ‘bridge’ must first be built that retains information already learned, starting with the most fundamental behavioral skills” (Robinson 1). “In this case, according to Cooper, homework should foster positive attitudes, habits, and character traits in the first couple grades of school” (Marzano 77). “According to Jacqueline Robinson, a mother of seven children, she was concerned how much homework her daughter received each night because she continuously stayed up late to finish her work. As an angry parent having to help and worry about her daughter, Robinson states she has researched many facts about having too much homework. Some include which grade levels improve the most from homework, how homework impacts test scores, and her rule of thumb for the amount of homework that should be given daily” (Robinson 1). It is important to point out which grades are impacted positively by homework. “According to Robinson’s experience with her children, she has noted that younger students have harder times concentrating because technology, such as the Nintendo products her children have played with, seem to distract them during the time they should spend completing homework” (Robinson 1). “Cooper suggests students from kindergarten to third grade should receive less homework than students in fourth grade and beyond. Furthermore, Cooper stresses homework may significantly improve academic achievement, standardized test scores, and grades in upper level grades” (Marzano 77). “This is because high school students view homework and school lecture as routine and can relate to it more directly to the school curriculum, especially when they are challenged to think outside the box and solve complex problems in groups” (Begley 50). “Although Cooper believes experienced students should receive more homework, it should be limited since excessive work may lower academic achievement” (Cooper 34).
When homework is brought home, educators believe it may benefit the entire family when new learning styles and study skills are introduced. “During the primary grades, Cooper suggests parents actively participate in the learning process so that basic classroom skills can be reinforced. For example, when parents ask questions and work with their children to complete homework assignments, they become ideal role models, children develop positive attitudes toward accomplishment, and the family members develop closer bonds” (Marzano 77). “Consequently, it enables students to reach their full potential” (Sellgren 1). However, several potential negative outcomes must be alleviated before this can occur. “Specifically, educators must discuss the roles parents must adopt when helping their children. Also, according to Epstein, parents should help their children in cases when asked clarifying questions to help their children recall, clarify, and summarize what they have learned, give feedback about personal experiences or opinions related to topics studied elsewhere, and ask to explain written work or projects completed at school” (Marzano 78). “Parents must be encouraged to create an optimal environment for the child to complete homework. Jeremy Todd reports, ‘Parents [must] create space for children to work without the television or radio [interfering] and follow up on work [turned] in, asking if [there are any questions or concerns]’” (Sellgren 1). As a whole, homework seems to have a substantially positive impact, but obvious controversial issues in this topic of concern still remain.
Unlike some families that enjoy doing homework, some others struggle. “Cooper states most families with lower incomes compared to more fortunate families tend to dread homework. He has summarized many of the negative effects of homework into four categories: satiation, cheating, parental interference, and differences between students in low-income and wealthy homes” (Cooper 35-6). Cooper’s final argument is mind-blowing since, according to Etta Kralovek and John Buell, nearly “20 percent of children in the United States live in poverty, which force families to further struggle in academics. Caring parents cannot overcome their lack of resources, such as the time needed to make sure their children completed their assignments. Overall, this ruins family life, prevents parents from teaching their children what they want, and punishes poor students in poverty” (Kralovek 39-40). “In addition, the quality and quantity of homework students should complete must fit their developmental level and their support at home” (Cooper 37). “Studies suggest almost one in every two parents have experienced a serious quarrel with their children in regards to homework; nearly a third reported homework as a source of stress and struggle” (Kralovek 40). “According to Professor Hallam, a homework intensity researcher, many parents are employed and prefer not to supervise homework following a challenging day at work. Hallam says, ‘[parents] want time with their children to be quality time.’ Professor Hallam also argues that, ‘children [were only] sent home with a spelling list of ten words and [had] to learn their times tables… [Nowadays,] children are given written work and that’s where the problem starts – … teaching methods have changed and that can confuse [children].’” (Sellgren 1). Consequently, it seems that parents are getting another “shift” of work that may even confuse their kids’ learning process, since a different learning style may be used that the child is not used to in class. “Cheating, in the form of copying another student’s work and receiving help that extends beyond tutoring, is another major issue that hurts learning if too much homework is given” (Cooper 36). “When homework is overdone, it makes the child and parents feel pressured, anxious, and depressed. More importantly, the joy of learning is gone and the student cannot spend fun time with the family. Therefore, homework must be given in moderation” (The Purpose of Homework 1).
“Sara Bennett, the coauthor of The Case Against Homework, changed the homework policy at her daughter’s school. In an interview with Bennett, her anti-homework campaign began when her son started first grade. ‘His first assignment was a reading log. He didn’t know how to read or write, so [her] husband and [she] filled in his log for him.’ Bennett also describes how many of the other classmates in her son’s class did not ‘seem as intellectually curious as their parents were… [Her] daughter never had time to read… [Neither did her daughter’s peers] like to read at all… Students today do not know how to think; they don’t think outside the box” (Crawford 1-2). Interestingly, Bennett’s experience with her daughter and son in first grade are only part of the story. “In third grade, Bennett’s son, Julian, constructed a doll with clothespin. When Sara rode her bike after Julian finished his doll, she told one of the parents of Julian’s classmates that Julian finished his doll. However, the parent told her that all the other parents in Julian’s class made their children’s dolls. After hearing this, Sara Bennett went to Julian’s teacher and stated, ‘Julian’s the only one who made his doll. I don’t need to [make one for him]’” (Crawford 1). This point of view seems interesting for a parent to encounter since it shows how Bennett expresses deep interest for her son’s achievement, learning, and imagination. However, she disappointed with the school because it is allowing other parents to make their children’s dolls. “In this case, Sara Bennett later that both her children are artists and was aware that neither parent interfered with their children’s homework” (Crawford 1). Consequently, it may be beneficial for parents, like Sara Bennett and her husband, to abstain from helping their children in certain situations involving homework.
Although homework has an effect on learning and academic achievement to some extent, it does not necessarily help to improve test scores significantly. “In a meta-analysis study conducted by Cooper in 1989 with elementary school students, the average percentile increase among students in three grade level ranges.

This bar graph illustrates three grade ranges that are compared in terms of how beneficial homework was for the students’ final grades. The y-axis measures how useful it was by determining the increase in a student’s percentile ranking” (Marzano 77). Based on the graph, one could say a student’s percentile rank increases exponentially as a student ages. Additionally, test scores represent a similar pattern, based on which age groups use and are aided with homework assignments. “Of 50 state and national studies, 43 indicated that students completing more homework demonstrated higher achievement scores. Nonetheless, in grades three through five, students showed minimum improvement in test scores; students in grades six through nine improved by seven percent; high school students improved by 25 percent” (Robinson 1). Interestingly, both studies are similar because their outcomes are seen in real life studies, namely mathematics. “For example, math homework has been proven to have a huge effect on math test scores… A seventh grader [assigned] 15 minutes of math homework [daily] until 11th grade ends up one [letter] grade ahead compared [to students with] no math homework” (Begley 50). Finally, elementary school students may benefit more positively if they are doing more classwork. “A study that compared students given homework with students assigned a similar type of in-class work indicates that no significant difference was found in favor of homework. In fact, since a teacher supervised the classwork children, the in-class work tended to be more productive and effective for elementary children. High school students, on the contrary, benefited more from homework and middle school only slightly” (Robinson 1). Perhaps, homework is more essential for middle and high schoolers than elementary school students. Could this study suggest that middle school students do not require longer breaks than they are already given?
Instead of relying on homework to teach students outside the classroom and take up their free time, other activities, such as sports and clubs, should be implemented. “In reference to Cooper’s knowledge of satiation, he explains students may experience less interest in academic material, physical and emotional fatigue, and less leisure time devoted to community activities if homework is excessively given. Therefore, homework can only feel rewarding after a certain period of time. Cooper also argues whenever homework disrupts social experience and deprives students of their sleep, it does not support students psychologically and socially” (Cooper 34-6). Based on research, physical exercise is proven to help with improving health, relieving stress, and completing homework. “This is especially seen with students, who sit all day in class and elsewhere in the evening to finish homework because they face potential health problems” (Kralovek 41-2). In this case, children must have extra time in their childhood so that they can balance homework and what they want to do, such as what Sara Bennett suggests: free reading. “According to Nancy Kalish, the coauthor with Sara Bennett of The Case Against Homework, ‘homework is [not] inherently evil; it has [become] out of balance… Night after night, year after year, homework is swallowing the things that are part of a healthy childhood, [such as] exercising, hanging out with friends [and parents], getting bored, and [even] creative" (Mohler 1). “Unfortunately, educators do not notice the importance of this and, strangely, still rely on an outdated view of learning called behaviorism, which is against having students receive physical activity and an adequate social experience. Based on behaviorism, when teachers want to ‘reinforce’ what students are taught, they are more concerned about producing behaviors than they are about enhancing understanding. Alfie Kohn, the author of ‘The Homework Myth,’ asserts that kids are represented with a cynical view, causing them to receive more homework, because some educators and parents may expect them to fool around more if they have more free time’” (Whyte 13). “Perhaps, instead of thinking about students in this manner, educators can allow students to interact more with each other each day, to think, reflect, and pursue serious inquiry into problems that are important to them” (Barber 55). “Following these guidelines, an example of good homework includes work chosen by students to finish because it gives students the chance to play a role in a democratic classroom community of deciding what should be worked on over to the after-school hours” (Whyte 14). “As another method of teaching material, the rush to fund and build afterschool programs may solve some of the homework problems faced today” (Kralovek 41). Maybe if society can try to experiment with different learning styles, students could learn more content in shorter time spans.
The United States should adopt other means of using homework and other class activities that benefit a student’s true understanding in different concepts. More up-to-date technologies and freedoms are required for students to perform better research and to improve homework efficiency within and outside of the classroom. “As a starting point for research, students need the opportunity to conduct study in school before any attempt is made to send work home “ (Barber 55). “By doing this and using libraries, students can learn and use practical research skills to devise questionnaires and interviews. According to Kieran Larkin, ‘this will be useful because students will not accept the first Google [result] as a universal truth’” (Sellgren 1). “Based on the observations of Goodlad, it is necessary for our country to change its current teaching methods. Goodlad notes that, ‘the common absence of modern technological devices for learning in classrooms… seem to convey the implicit, erroneous message that [they] have nothing to do with the education[al] process’” (Barber 56). “Educators must foster learning environments that encourage different forms of study and allow students to advance through school at their own rate” (Barber 55). Some acceptable models that already exist include the Japanese educational system and other schools, which do not grade students based on assessments and homework. “The Japanese school system includes instructors teaching half the time they attend school, an extended school calendar, longer school days, lunches, and recess periods. Ironically, the 1995 Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) found 8th grade students in Japan and Germany were assigned less homework and outperformed United States students on tests” (Kralovek 41). “In terms of high schools that do not grade work, universities in Canada and the United States accept students who attend them because they have a richer sense of the applicant through interviews, essays, and an annotated transcript. The transcript for these students is mainly annotated because the students are assessed in careful ways of what they have learned and what they are able to do which what they have learned” (Whyte 15). “Currently, the United States is the leading country that has teachers assign homework to its students.

In this bar graph, four countries are compared to one another in terms of homework grading. The y-axis represents the percent of schools in each country that counted homework as part of their students’ grades” (Vatterott 60). “As long as we keep ignoring the realities of what it is that needs to be changed and keep tinkering around with such meaningless things as ‘more homework,’ the United States will continue to be a ‘nation at risk’” (Barber 56).
Researchers are currently finding better ways to improve our country’s performance with teaching students compared to the rest of the world. “In 2006, a study conducted by Cooper, Robinson, and Patall reported that seven to twelve hours of homework each week resulted in the greatest output of learning for 12th graders” (Marzano 77). This suggests that there could be an optimum amount of homework for each grade. “Over continuous debate, most educators believe homework is most effective for children in grades K-2 when it does not exceed 10-20 minutes each day; older children, in grades 3-6, can handle 30-60 minutes a day” (Cooper 37). “In addition, educators believe no more than 30 to 60 minutes per subject for high school students should be given each day. Based on these approximations, Cooper devised a rule called the Ten Minute rule, which explains how students should receive a total of ten minutes multiplied by their grade level of homework per night. “Reading is the only exception where the Ten Minute rule can be extended to 15 minutes per grade level” (Marzano 77). To some, the Ten Minute rule is not enough to benefit students’ overwhelming homework issues. “The authors of ‘The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning’ encourages people to plead for an extended school day each week in exchange for homework” (Marzano 75). “If these issues are not addressed and if young students fail to acquire the basic foundation of learning, thanks to dumb homework or staggering amounts of it, tutors can look forward to more paying customers” (Begley 50).


Works Cited

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Cooper, Harris. "Homework for All--in Moderation." Middle Search Plus. EBSCO, 2003. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
Crawford, Leslie. "The Case against Homework." GreatSchools. Great Schools Inc., 6 Jan. 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2013. .
Kralovec, Etta, and John Buell. "End Homework Now." Middle Search Plus. EBSCO, 2003. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
Marzano, Robert J., and Debra J. Pickering. "The Case For and Against Homework." Middle Search Plus. EBSCO, Mar. 2007. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
Mohler, Mary. "So Much Homework, So Little Time." FamilyCircle.com. Family Circle, 2007. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. .
Robinson, Jacqueline. "Student Homework: More or Less?" EduGuide, 2013. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. .
Sellgren, Katherine. "New Term, New Battle over Homework." BBC News. BBC, 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 04 Dec. 2013. .
The Purpose of Homework. Dir. Rabbi Shmuley and Oprah Winfrey. Harpo Productions, Inc., 2008. Transcript. .
Vatterott, Cathy. "Making Homework Central to Learning." Middle Search Plus. EBSCO, Nov. 2011. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
Whyte, Kenneth. "Alfie Kohn, Author of the Homework Myth, Talks to Kenneth Whyte About How All That Homework is Hurting Kids. (cover Story)." Middle Search Plus. EBSCO, 11 Sept. 2006. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.
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