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Curriculum and Instruction
Key Lessons: What Research Says About the Value of Homework
Whether homework helps students — and how much homework is appropriate — has been debated for many years. Homework has been in the headlines again recently and continues to be a topic of controversy, with claims that students and families are suffering under the burden of huge amounts of homework. School board members, educators, and parents may wish to turn to the research for answers to their questions about the benefits and drawbacks of homework. Unfortunately, the research has produced mixed results so far, and more research is needed. Nonetheless, there are some findings that can help to inform decisions about homework. What follows is a summary of the research to date:
There is no conclusive evidence that homework increases student achievement across the board. Some studies show positive effects of homework under certain conditions and for certain students, some show no effects, and some suggest negative effects (Kohn 2006; Trautwein and Koller 2003).
Some studies have shown that older students gain more academic benefits from homework than do younger students, perhaps because younger students have less-effective study habits and are more easily distracted (Cooper 1989; Hoover-Dempsey et al. 2001; Leone and Richards 1989; Muhlenbruck et al. 2000).
Some researchers believe that students from higher-income homes have more resources (such as computers) and receive more assistance with homework, while low-income students may have fewer resources and less assistance and are therefore less likely to complete the homework and reap any related benefits (McDermott, Goldmen and Varenne 1984; Scott-Jones 1984).
Students with learning disabilities can benefit from homework if appropriate supervision and monitoring are provided (Cooper and Nye 1994; Rosenberg 1989).
A national study of the influence of homework on student grades across five ethnic groups found that homework had a stronger impact on Asian American students than on students of other ethnicities (Keith and Benson, 1992).
Certain nonacademic benefits of homework have been shown, especially for younger students. Indeed, some primary-level teachers may assign homework for such benefits, which include learning the importance of responsibility, managing time, developing study habits, and staying with a task until it is completed (Cooper, Robinson and Patall 2006; Corno and Xu 2004; Johnson and Pontius 1989; Warton 2001).
While research on the optimum amount of time students should spend on homework is limited, there are indications that for high school students, 1½ to 2½ hours per night is optimum. Middle school students appear to benefit from smaller amounts (less than 1 hour per night). When students spend more time than this on homework, the positive relationship with student achievement diminishes (Cooper, Robinson, and Patall 2006).
Some research has shown that students who spend more time on homework score higher on measures of achievement and attitude. Studies that have delved more deeply into this topic suggest, however, that the amount of homework assigned by teachers is unrelated to student achievement, while the amount of homework actually completed by students is associated with higher achievement (Cooper 2001; Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, and Greathouse 1998).
Studies of after-school programs that provide homework assistance have found few definite links to improved student achievement. Several studies, however, noted improvements in student motivation and work habits, which may indirectly affect achievement (Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, and Macias 2001; James-Burdumy et al. 2005).
Homework assignments that require interaction between students and parents result in higher levels of parent involvement and are more likely to be turned in than noninteractive assignments. Some studies have shown, however, that parent involvement in homework has no impact on student achievement. Other studies indicate that students whose parents are more involved in their homework have lower test scores and class grades — but this may be because the students were already lower performing and needed more help from their parents than did higher-performing students. (Balli, Wedman, and Demo 1997; Cooper, Lindsay, and Nye 2000; Epstein 1988; Van Voorhis 2003).
Most teachers assign homework to reinforce what was presented in class or to prepare students for new material. Less commonly, homework is assigned to extend student learning to different contexts or to integrate learning by applying multiple skills around a project. Little research exists on the effects of these different kinds of homework on student achievement, leaving policymakers with little evidence on which to base decisions (Cooper 1989; Foyle 1985; Murphy and Decker 1989).
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Balli, S. J., Wedman, J. F., & Demo, D. H. (1997). Family involvement with middle-grades homework: Effects of differential prompting. Journal of Experimental Education, 66, 31-48.
Cooper, H. (1989). Homework. White Plains, N.Y.: Longman.
Cooper, H. (2001). Homework for all — in moderation. Educational Leadership, 58, 34-38.
Cooper, H., Lindsay, J. J, Nye, B., & Greathouse, S. (1998). Relationships among attitudes about homework, amount of homework assigned and completed, and student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(1), 70-83.
Cooper, H., & Nye, B. (1994). Homework for students with learning disabilities: The implications of research for policy and practice. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27, 470-479.
Cooper, H., Nye, B.A., & Lindsay, J.J. (2000). Homework in the home: How student, family and parenting style differences relate to the homework process. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(4), 464-487.
Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research. Review of Educational Research, 76, 1-62.
Corno, L., & Xu, J. (2004). Homework as the job of childhood. Theory Into Practice, 43, 227-233.
Cosden, M., Morrison, G., Albanese, A. L., & Macias, S. (2001). When homework is not home work: After-school programs for homework assistance. Educational Psychologist, 36(3), 211-221.
Epstein, J. L. (1998). Homework practices, achievements, and behaviors of elementary school students. Baltimore: Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED301322]
Foyle, H. C. (1985). The effects of preparation and practice homework on student achievement in tenth-grade American history (Doctoral dissertation, Kansas State University, 1985). Dissertation Abstracts International, 45, 8A.
Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Battiato, A. C., Walker, J. M. T., Reed, R. P., DeJong, J. M. & Jones, K. P. (2001). Parental involvement in homework. Educational Psychologist, 36, 195-209.
James-Burdumy, S., Dynarski, M., Moore, M., Deke, J., Mansfield, W., Pistorino, C. & Warner, E. (2005). When Schools Stay Open Late: The National Evaluation of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Final Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education/Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
Johnson, J. K., & Pontius, A. (1989). Homework: A survey of teacher beliefs and practices. Research in Education, 41, 71-78.
Keith, T. Z., & Benson, M. J. (1992). Effects of manipulable influences on high school grades across five ethnic groups. Journal of Educational Research, 86, 85-93.
Kohn, A. (2006, September). Abusing research: The study of homework and other examples. Phi Delta Kappan, 8-22.
Leone, C. M., & Richards, M. H. (1989). Classwork and homework in early adolescence: The ecology of achievement. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 18, 531-548.
McDermott, R. P., Goldman, S. V., & Varenne, H. (1984). When school goes home: Some problems in the organization of homework [Abstract]. Teachers College Record, 85, 391-409.
Muhlenbruck, L., Cooper, H., Nye, B., & Lindsay, J. J. (2000). Homework and achievement: explaining the different strengths of relation at the elementary and secondary school levels. Social Psychology of Education, 3, 295-317.
Murphy, J. & Decker, K. (1989). Teachers’ use of homework in high schools. Journal of Educational Research, 82(5), 261-269.
Rosenberg, M. S. (1989). The effects of daily homework assignments on the acquisition of basic skills by students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 314-323.
Scott-Jones, D. (1984). Family influences on cognitive development and school achievement. Review of Research in Education, 11, 259-304.
Trautwein, U., & Koller, O. (2003). The relationship between homework and achievement — still much of a mystery. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 115-145.
Van Voorhis, F. L. (2003). Interactive homework in middle school: Effects on family involvements and science achievement. Journal of Educational Research, 96(6), 323-338.
Warton, P. M. (2001). The forgotten voice in homework: Views of students. Educational Psychologist, 36, 155-165.
Is Homework Good for Kids? Here's What the Research Says
A s kids return to school, debate is heating up once again over how they should spend their time after they leave the classroom for the day.
The no-homework policy of a second-grade teacher in Texas went viral last week , earning praise from parents across the country who lament the heavy workload often assigned to young students. Brandy Young told parents she would not formally assign any homework this year, asking students instead to eat dinner with their families, play outside and go to bed early.
But the question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial, and plenty of parents take issue with no-homework policies, worried their kids are losing a potential academic advantage. Here’s what you need to know:
For decades, the homework standard has been a “10-minute rule,” which recommends a daily maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level. Second graders, for example, should do about 20 minutes of homework each night. High school seniors should complete about two hours of homework each night. The National PTA and the National Education Association both support that guideline.
But some schools have begun to give their youngest students a break. A Massachusetts elementary school has announced a no-homework pilot program for the coming school year, lengthening the school day by two hours to provide more in-class instruction. “We really want kids to go home at 4 o’clock, tired. We want their brain to be tired,” Kelly Elementary School Principal Jackie Glasheen said in an interview with a local TV station . “We want them to enjoy their families. We want them to go to soccer practice or football practice, and we want them to go to bed. And that’s it.”
A New York City public elementary school implemented a similar policy last year, eliminating traditional homework assignments in favor of family time. The change was quickly met with outrage from some parents, though it earned support from other education leaders.
New solutions and approaches to homework differ by community, and these local debates are complicated by the fact that even education experts disagree about what’s best for kids.
The most comprehensive research on homework to date comes from a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, who found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school. The correlation was stronger for older students—in seventh through 12th grade—than for those in younger grades, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance.
Cooper’s analysis focused on how homework impacts academic achievement—test scores, for example. His report noted that homework is also thought to improve study habits, attitudes toward school, self-discipline, inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills. On the other hand, some studies he examined showed that homework can cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time for children. At the end of his analysis, Cooper recommended further study of such potential effects of homework.
Despite the weak correlation between homework and performance for young children, Cooper argues that a small amount of homework is useful for all students. Second-graders should not be doing two hours of homework each night, he said, but they also shouldn’t be doing no homework.
Not all education experts agree entirely with Cooper’s assessment.
Cathy Vatterott, an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, supports the “10-minute rule” as a maximum, but she thinks there is not sufficient proof that homework is helpful for students in elementary school.
“Correlation is not causation,” she said. “Does homework cause achievement, or do high achievers do more homework?”
Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs , thinks there should be more emphasis on improving the quality of homework tasks, and she supports efforts to eliminate homework for younger kids.
“I have no concerns about students not starting homework until fourth grade or fifth grade,” she said, noting that while the debate over homework will undoubtedly continue, she has noticed a trend toward limiting, if not eliminating, homework in elementary school.
The issue has been debated for decades. A TIME cover in 1999 read: “Too much homework! How it’s hurting our kids, and what parents should do about it.” The accompanying story noted that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to a push for better math and science education in the U.S. The ensuing pressure to be competitive on a global scale, plus the increasingly demanding college admissions process, fueled the practice of assigning homework.
“The complaints are cyclical, and we’re in the part of the cycle now where the concern is for too much,” Cooper said. “You can go back to the 1970s, when you’ll find there were concerns that there was too little, when we were concerned about our global competitiveness.”
Cooper acknowledged that some students really are bringing home too much homework, and their parents are right to be concerned.
“A good way to think about homework is the way you think about medications or dietary supplements,” he said. “If you take too little, they’ll have no effect. If you take too much, they can kill you. If you take the right amount, you’ll get better.”
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Research Trends: Why Homework Should Be Balanced
Research suggests that while homework can be an effective learning tool, assigning too much can lower student performance and interfere with other important activities.
Homework: effective learning tool or waste of time?
Since the average high school student spends almost seven hours each week doing homework, it’s surprising that there’s no clear answer. Homework is generally recognized as an effective way to reinforce what students learn in class, but claims that it may cause more harm than good, especially for younger students, are common.
Here’s what the research says:
- In general, homework has substantial benefits at the high school level, with decreased benefits for middle school students and few benefits for elementary students (Cooper, 1989; Cooper et al., 2006).
- While assigning homework may have academic benefits, it can also cut into important personal and family time (Cooper et al., 2006).
- Assigning too much homework can result in poor performance (Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015).
- A student’s ability to complete homework may depend on factors that are outside their control (Cooper et al., 2006; OECD, 2014; Eren & Henderson, 2011).
- The goal shouldn’t be to eliminate homework, but to make it authentic, meaningful, and engaging (Darling-Hammond & Ifill-Lynch, 2006).
Why Homework Should Be Balanced
Homework can boost learning, but doing too much can be detrimental. The National PTA and National Education Association support the “10-minute homework rule,” which recommends 10 minutes of homework per grade level, per night (10 minutes for first grade, 20 minutes for second grade, and so on, up to two hours for 12th grade) (Cooper, 2010). A recent study found that when middle school students were assigned more than 90–100 minutes of homework per day, their math and science scores began to decline (Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, & Muñiz, 2015). Giving students too much homework can lead to fatigue, stress, and a loss of interest in academics—something that we all want to avoid.
Homework Pros and Cons
Homework has many benefits, ranging from higher academic performance to improved study skills and stronger school-parent connections. However, it can also result in a loss of interest in academics, fatigue, and a loss of important personal and family time.
Grade Level Makes a Difference
Although the debate about homework generally falls in the “it works” vs. “it doesn’t work” camps, research shows that grade level makes a difference. High school students generally get the biggest benefits from homework, with middle school students getting about half the benefits, and elementary school students getting few benefits (Cooper et al., 2006). Since young students are still developing study habits like concentration and self-regulation, assigning a lot of homework isn’t all that helpful.
Parents Should Be Supportive, Not Intrusive
Well-designed homework not only strengthens student learning, it also provides ways to create connections between a student’s family and school. Homework offers parents insight into what their children are learning, provides opportunities to talk with children about their learning, and helps create conversations with school communities about ways to support student learning (Walker et al., 2004).
However, parent involvement can also hurt student learning. Patall, Cooper, and Robinson (2008) found that students did worse when their parents were perceived as intrusive or controlling. Motivation plays a key role in learning, and parents can cause unintentional harm by not giving their children enough space and autonomy to do their homework.
Homework Across the Globe
OECD , the developers of the international PISA test, published a 2014 report looking at homework around the world. They found that 15-year-olds worldwide spend an average of five hours per week doing homework (the U.S. average is about six hours). Surprisingly, countries like Finland and Singapore spend less time on homework (two to three hours per week) but still have high PISA rankings. These countries, the report explains, have support systems in place that allow students to rely less on homework to succeed. If a country like the U.S. were to decrease the amount of homework assigned to high school students, test scores would likely decrease unless additional supports were added.
Homework Is About Quality, Not Quantity
Whether you’re pro- or anti-homework, keep in mind that research gives a big-picture idea of what works and what doesn’t, and a capable teacher can make almost anything work. The question isn’t homework vs. no homework ; instead, we should be asking ourselves, “How can we transform homework so that it’s engaging and relevant and supports learning?”
Cooper, H. (1989). Synthesis of research on homework . Educational leadership, 47 (3), 85-91.
Cooper, H. (2010). Homework’s Diminishing Returns . The New York Times .
Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987–2003 . Review of Educational Research, 76 (1), 1-62.
Darling-Hammond, L., & Ifill-Lynch, O. (2006). If They'd Only Do Their Work! Educational Leadership, 63 (5), 8-13.
Eren, O., & Henderson, D. J. (2011). Are we wasting our children's time by giving them more homework? Economics of Education Review, 30 (5), 950-961.
Fernández-Alonso, R., Suárez-Álvarez, J., & Muñiz, J. (2015, March 16). Adolescents’ Homework Performance in Mathematics and Science: Personal Factors and Teaching Practices . Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.
OECD (2014). Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education? PISA in Focus , No. 46, OECD Publishing, Paris.
Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Robinson, J. C. (2008). Parent involvement in homework: A research synthesis . Review of Educational Research, 78 (4), 1039-1101.
Van Voorhis, F. L. (2003). Interactive homework in middle school: Effects on family involvement and science achievement . The Journal of Educational Research, 96 (6), 323-338.
Walker, J. M., Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Whetsel, D. R., & Green, C. L. (2004). Parental involvement in homework: A review of current research and its implications for teachers, after school program staff, and parent leaders . Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.
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What we know about online learning and the homework gap amid the pandemic.
America’s K-12 students are returning to classrooms this fall after 18 months of virtual learning at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some students who lacked the home internet connectivity needed to finish schoolwork during this time – an experience often called the “ homework gap ” – may continue to feel the effects this school year.
Here is what Pew Research Center surveys found about the students most likely to be affected by the homework gap and their experiences learning from home.
Children across the United States are returning to physical classrooms this fall after 18 months at home, raising questions about how digital disparities at home will affect the existing homework gap between certain groups of students.
Methodology for each Pew Research Center poll can be found at the links in the post.
With the exception of the 2018 survey, everyone who took part in the surveys is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .
The 2018 data on U.S. teens comes from a Center poll of 743 U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 conducted March 7 to April 10, 2018, using the NORC AmeriSpeak panel. AmeriSpeak is a nationally representative, probability-based panel of the U.S. household population. Randomly selected U.S. households are sampled with a known, nonzero probability of selection from the NORC National Frame, and then contacted by U.S. mail, telephone or face-to-face interviewers. Read more details about the NORC AmeriSpeak panel methodology .
Around nine-in-ten U.S. parents with K-12 children at home (93%) said their children have had some online instruction since the coronavirus outbreak began in February 2020, and 30% of these parents said it has been very or somewhat difficult for them to help their children use technology or the internet as an educational tool, according to an April 2021 Pew Research Center survey .
Gaps existed for certain groups of parents. For example, parents with lower and middle incomes (36% and 29%, respectively) were more likely to report that this was very or somewhat difficult, compared with just 18% of parents with higher incomes.
This challenge was also prevalent for parents in certain types of communities – 39% of rural residents and 33% of urban residents said they have had at least some difficulty, compared with 23% of suburban residents.
Around a third of parents with children whose schools were closed during the pandemic (34%) said that their child encountered at least one technology-related obstacle to completing their schoolwork during that time. In the April 2021 survey, the Center asked parents of K-12 children whose schools had closed at some point about whether their children had faced three technology-related obstacles. Around a quarter of parents (27%) said their children had to do schoolwork on a cellphone, 16% said their child was unable to complete schoolwork because of a lack of computer access at home, and another 14% said their child had to use public Wi-Fi to finish schoolwork because there was no reliable connection at home.
Parents with lower incomes whose children’s schools closed amid COVID-19 were more likely to say their children faced technology-related obstacles while learning from home. Nearly half of these parents (46%) said their child faced at least one of the three obstacles to learning asked about in the survey, compared with 31% of parents with midrange incomes and 18% of parents with higher incomes.
Of the three obstacles asked about in the survey, parents with lower incomes were most likely to say that their child had to do their schoolwork on a cellphone (37%). About a quarter said their child was unable to complete their schoolwork because they did not have computer access at home (25%), or that they had to use public Wi-Fi because they did not have a reliable internet connection at home (23%).
A Center survey conducted in April 2020 found that, at that time, 59% of parents with lower incomes who had children engaged in remote learning said their children would likely face at least one of the obstacles asked about in the 2021 survey.
A year into the outbreak, an increasing share of U.S. adults said that K-12 schools have a responsibility to provide all students with laptop or tablet computers in order to help them complete their schoolwork at home during the pandemic. About half of all adults (49%) said this in the spring 2021 survey, up 12 percentage points from a year earlier. An additional 37% of adults said that schools should provide these resources only to students whose families cannot afford them, and just 13% said schools do not have this responsibility.
While larger shares of both political parties in April 2021 said K-12 schools have a responsibility to provide computers to all students in order to help them complete schoolwork at home, there was a 15-point change among Republicans: 43% of Republicans and those who lean to the Republican Party said K-12 schools have this responsibility, compared with 28% last April. In the 2021 survey, 22% of Republicans also said schools do not have this responsibility at all, compared with 6% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.
Even before the pandemic, Black teens and those living in lower-income households were more likely than other groups to report trouble completing homework assignments because they did not have reliable technology access. Nearly one-in-five teens ages 13 to 17 (17%) said they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they do not have reliable access to a computer or internet connection, a 2018 Center survey of U.S. teens found.
One-quarter of Black teens said they were at least sometimes unable to complete their homework due to a lack of digital access, including 13% who said this happened to them often. Just 4% of White teens and 6% of Hispanic teens said this often happened to them. (There were not enough Asian respondents in the survey sample to be broken out into a separate analysis.)
A wide gap also existed by income level: 24% of teens whose annual family income was less than $30,000 said the lack of a dependable computer or internet connection often or sometimes prohibited them from finishing their homework, but that share dropped to 9% among teens who lived in households earning $75,000 or more a year.
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Effects of homework creativity on academic achievement and creativity disposition: Evidence from comparisons with homework time and completion based on two independent Chinese samples
1 College of Educational Science, Bohai University, Jinzhou, China
2 Research Center of Brain and Cognitive Neuroscience, Liaoning Normal University, Dalian, China
3 Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Foundations, College of Education, Mississippi State University, MS, United States
The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.
During the past several decades, the previous studies have been focusing on the related theoretical issues and measuring tool of homework behaviors (mainly including homework time, completion, and homework creativity). However, the effects of these homework behaviors on general creativity remain unknown. Employing a number of questionnaires, this study investigated two samples from middle schools of Mainland China. The results showed that (1) the eight-item version of Homework Creativity Behaviors Scale had acceptable validity and reliability; (2) compared with homework completion and homework time, homework creativity explained less variety of academic achievement (3.7% for homework creativity; 5.4% for completion and time); (3) homework creativity explained more variance of general creativity than that of homework completion and homework time accounted (7.0% for homework creativity; 1.3% for completion and time); and (4) homework creativity was negatively associated with grade level. Contrary to the popular beliefs, homework completion and homework creativity have positive effects on the students’ general creativity. Several issues that need further studies were also discussed.
Homework is an important part of the learning and instruction process. Each week, students around the world spend 3–14 hours on homework, with an average of 5 hours a week ( Dettmers et al., 2009 ; OECD, 2014 ). The results of the previous studies and meta-analysis showed that the homework time is correlated significantly with students’ gains on the academic tests ( Cooper et al., 2012 ; Fan et al., 2017 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2019 ).
Homework is a multi-faceted process which has many attributes – each attribute can be identified, defined, and measured independently ( Guo and Fan, 2018 ). Some attributes, such as homework time ( Núñez et al., 2013 ; Kalenkoski and Pabilonia, 2017 ), homework frequency ( Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ), homework completion ( Rosário et al., 2015 ), homework effort ( Trautwein and Lüdtke, 2007 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ), homework purpose ( Trautwein and Lüdtke, 2009 ; Xu, 2010 , 2021 ), homework performance and problems ( Power et al., 2007 ), homework management behavior ( Xu, 2008 ), homework expectation ( Xu, 2017 ), and self-regulation of homework behavior ( Yang and Tu, 2020 ), have been well recorded in the literature, and operationally defined and measured.
Recently, a research community has noticed the “creativity” in homework (in short form, “homework creativity”) who have raised some speculations about its effects on students’ academic achievement and general creativity disposition ( Kaiipob, 1951 ; Beghetto and Kaufman, 2007 ; Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009 ; Guo, 2018 ; Guo and Fan, 2018 ; Chang, 2019 ). However, the scientific measurement of homework creativity has not been examined systematically. The relationship between homework creativity, academic achievement, and general creativity disposition, as well as the grade difference in homework creativity, are still in the state of conjectures consequently.
As a scientific probe to homework creativity, this study included three main sections. In the “Literature Review” section, the conceptualization and relevant measurement of homework creativity were summarized; the relationship between homework behaviors and academic achievements, general creativity, and the grade difference in homework behaviors and general creativity were also evaluated. These four main results related to the four research questions were also presented in the body of this article. They are reliability and validity of homework creativity behavior scale (HCBS), the relationships between the scores of HCBS and those of general creativity and academic achievement, and the grade effects of scores of HCBS. In the “Discussion” section, the scientific contributions and interpretations of the findings of this study were elaborated.
Conceptual background of homework creativity.
As an attribute of homework process, homework creativity refers to the novelty and uniqueness of homework ( Guo and Fan, 2018 ). Specifically, the ways relating to homework creativity with extant theoretical literature are presented below.
First, creativity is a natural part of homework process which serves as a sub-process of learning. Guilford (1950) is the first psychologist who linked creativity with learning, pointing out that the acquisition of creativity is a typical quality of human learning, and that a complete learning theory must take creativity into account.
Second, according to the Four-C Model of Creativity (e.g., Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009 ), the homework creativity can be divided mainly into the category of “Transformative Learning” (Mini-C creativity), which is different from the “Everyday Innovation” (Little-C creativity), “Professional Expertise” (Pro-C creativity), or “Eminent Accomplishments” (Big-C creativity, Beghetto and Kaufman, 2007 ; Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009 ; Kozbelt et al., 2011 ).
The Mini-C is defined as a type of intrapersonal creativity which has personal meaning, not solid contribution or breakthrough in a field ( Beghetto and Kaufman, 2007 , p. 76, Table 1 ). The most important point which distinguishes Mini-C from other types of creativity is the level of novelty of product. The Mini-C creativity involves the personal insight or interpretation which is new to a particular individual, but may be ordinary to others. The Little-C creativity refers to any small, but solid innovation in daily life. The Pro-C creativity is represented in the form of professional contribution which is still not a breakthrough. The Big-C creativity generates a real breakthrough appears in some field which is considered as something new to all human beings. The other difference is related with the subjects of sub-types of creativity. The Mini-C creativity mainly happens in all kinds of students. The Little-C creativity can be widely found in normal people. The Pro-C creativity’s masters are those who are proficient in some field. The Big-C creativity is related frequently with those giants who has made eminent contribution to human being.
Basic information of samples 1 and 2 included.
The Mini-C creativity frequently happens in learning process. When the contribution of the Mini-C creativity grows big enough, it can move into the category of the Little-C creativity, or the Big-C creativity. Most homework creativity is of Mini-C creativity, and of which a small part may grow as the Little-C and Big-C creativities. For example, when students independently find a unique solution to a problem in homework which has scientific meaning, a Little-C or Big-C occurs.
Third, the education researchers have observed homework creativity for many years and been manipulating them in educational practice. Kaiipob (1951) described that homework is a semi-guide learning process in which homework such as composition, report, public speech, difficult and complex exercises, experiments, and making tools and models consumes a lot of time and accelerate the development of students’ creativity disposition (p. 153).
In the recent years, creativity has become a curriculum or instruction goal in many countries (the case of United Kingdom, see Smith and Smith, 2010 ; Chinese case, see Pang and Plucker, 2012 ). Homework is the most important way that accomplish this goal. Considering Chinese in primary and secondary schools in China as an example, the curriculum standards have clearly required homework to cultivate students’ creative spirit, creative thinking, and ability to imagination since the year 2000. The results of Qian’s (2006) investigation revealed that the percent of these creative homework items in each unit fluctuates between 29 and 45%.
Previous instruments of homework behaviors
Those existent instruments measuring homework behavior can be divided into the following two categories: The single-indicator instruments and the multi-dimension instruments ( Guo and Fan, 2018 ). The single-indicator instruments employ only one item to measure homework attributes, such as homework time (e.g., Trautwein and Lüdtke, 2007 ), homework frequency (e.g., De Jong et al., 2000 ), homework completion (e.g., Xu et al., 2019 ), and effort (e.g., Liu et al., 2013 ).
The typical multi-dimension instruments include Homework Process Inventory ( Cooper et al., 1998 ), Homework Purpose Scale ( Xu, 2010 ), Homework Performance Questionnaire ( Pendergast et al., 2014 ), Homework Management Scale (HMS; Xu and Corno, 2003 ), Homework Evaluating Scale ( Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ), Homework Problem Checklist ( Anesko et al., 1987 ), Science Homework Scale ( Tas et al., 2016 ), Homework Expectancy Value Scale ( Yang and Xu, 2017 ), and Online Homework Distraction Scale ( Xu et al., 2020 ).
Although the previous tools measured some dimensions of homework ( Guo and Fan, 2018 ), there is hardly any tool that can be employed to gauge the homework creativity. Guo and Fan (2018) extracted several attributes (i.e., time, completion, quality, purpose, effort, creativity, sociality, liking) represented in the existent instruments of homework behaviors, and put forth a multi-faceted model of homework behaviors which intuitionally predicts the existence of homework creativity.
Under the guideline of the multi-faceted model ( Guo and Fan, 2018 ), Guo (2018) developed a multi-dimensional homework behavior instrument, which detected the homework creativity as a dimension in the homework behavior of middle school students. A typical item of homework creativity in Guo (2018) is “The way I do my homework is different from others.” The subscale homework creativity reported by Guo (2018) needs to be improved because it has a small number of items with lower reliability.
Following Guo’s (2018) work, Chang (2019) conducted a new investigation focusing on homework creativity behavior. Using an open-ended questionnaire, a total of 30 students from primary, middle, and high schools were invited to answer this question, that is, “What characteristics can be considered as creative in the process of completing the homework?” Here, “creativity” refers to novelty, uniqueness, and high quality. A group of 23 specific behaviors were reported, among which the top 10 are as follows: Learning by analogy, open minded, one question with multiple solutions, unique solution, summarizing the cause of errors, constructing a personal understanding, analyzing knowledge points clearly, classifying homework contents, making more applications, having rich imagination, and a neat handwriting (see Chang, 2019 , Table 4 , p. 14). Based on these results of open-ended questionnaire, Chang (2019) invented a nine-item scale (see Table 1 and Supplementary Table S3 for details) called as the HCBS which has a good reliability coefficient (α = 0.87).
Regression analyses of homework creative behavior on academic achievement and general creativity.
AA, academic achievement; WCAPt, total score of WCAP; TWk, time spent on homework in week days; TWw, time spent on homework in weekend; HCp, homework completion; HCb, homework creativity behavior.
Previous studies on the relationship between homework behaviors and academic achievement
In the literature, homework behaviors is one cluster of variables typically including homework time, homework completion, effort, purpose, frequency, etc. Academic achievement is an outcome of homework which is operationally measured using the scores on the standardized tests, or non-standardized tests (including final examinations, or teachers’ grades, or estimations by participants themselves, those forms were used widely in the literature, see Fan et al., 2017 ). Academic achievement may be affected by a lot of factors inherited in the process of learning (see Hattie, 2009 for an overview of its correlates). The relationship between homework behaviors and academic achievement is one of the most important questions in homework field, because it is related to the effectiveness of homework ( Cooper et al., 2006 , 2012 ; Fan et al., 2017 ).
Most of the previous studies focused on the relationship between homework time and academic achievement. Cooper et al. (2006) synthesized the primary studies published from 1989 to 2003, and found that the correlation between homework time of America students and their academic achievement was about 0.15. Fan et al. (2017) reviewed those individual studies published before June 2015, and reported that the averaged correlation between homework time of international students and their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academic achievement was about 0.20. Fernández-Alonso et al. (2017) investigated a representative sample of Spanish students (more than 26,000), and the results of multi-level analysis indicated that the correlation between homework time and academic achievement was negative at student level, but positive at school level ( r = 0.16). Fernández-Alonso et al. (2019) took a survey on a big sample from 16 countries from Latin America, and reported that the relationship between homework time and academic achievement was very weak. Valle et al. (2019) analyzed the homework time, time management, and achievement of 968 Spain students finding that homework time management was positively related to academic achievement. Taken all these together, we will find that the homework has some small significant correlations with academic achievement, the average r = 0.15.
The correlation between homework completion and academic achievement has also been investigated for decades. Based on a review of 11 primary studies, Fan et al. (2017) reported a high correlation of 0.59 between them. Rosário et al. (2015) investigated 638 students, and demonstrated a correlation of 0.22 between amount of homework completed and math test scores. Xu et al. (2019) took a survey using a sample of 1,450 Chinese eighth graders, and found that the correlations between homework completion and the gains in math test scores ranged from 0.25 to 0.28. Dolean and Lervag (2022) employed the Randomized Controlled Trial design, and demonstrated that amount of homework completed has immediate effect on writing competency in which the effect of moderate amount of homework can last for 4 months. Integrating the aforementioned results, we can find that the averaged correlation between homework completion and academic achievement was higher than that between homework time with academic achievement.
Homework effort was also found to be correlated with academic achievement. Fan et al. (2017) reviewed four primary studies and returned that a medium correlation ( r = 0.31) between homework effort and academic achievement. Two recent investigations showed that this relationship is positively and reciprocally related ( r = 0.41–0.42) ( Xu, 2020 ; Xu et al., 2021 ).
The effect of homework purpose was also correlated with the academic achievement. Fan et al. (2017) summarized four existent primary studies and reported an averaged correlation of 0.11 between them. Later, Rosário et al. (2015) found a similar correlation coefficient of these two variables on a sample of 638 students. Xu’s (2018) investigation revealed that the correlation between purpose and academic achievement was about 0.40. Sun et al. (2021) investigated a larger sample ( N = 1,365), and found that the subscales of homework purpose had different correlation patterns with academic achievement (academic purpose is 0.40, self-regulatory purpose is 0.20, and approval-seeking purpose is 0.10).
Considering the case of homework creativity, there is only one study preliminarily investigated its relationship with academic achievement. Guo (2018) investigated a sample of 1,808 middle school students, and reported a significant correlation between homework creativity and academic achievement ( r = 0.34, p < 0.05).
Previous studies on the relationship between homework behaviors and general creativity
General creativity refers to the psychological attributes which can generate novel and valuable products ( Kaufman and Glăveanu, 2019 ; Sternberg and Karami, 2022 ). These psychological attributes typically included attitude (e.g., willing to take appropriate risk), motivations (e.g., intrinsic motivation, curiosity), abilities (e.g., divergent thinking), and personality (e.g., independence) ( Kaufman and Glăveanu, 2019 ; Long et al., 2022 ). These attributes can be assessed independently, or in the form of grouping ( Plucker et al., 2019 ; Sternberg, 2019 ). For instance, the divergent thinking was measured independently ( Kaufman et al., 2008 ). Also, the willing to take appropriate risk was measured in tools contain other variables ( Williams, 1979 ). There are many studies examined the relationship between learning and general creativity in the past several decades indicating that the correlation between them was around 0.22 (e.g., Gajda et al., 2017 ; Karwowski et al., 2020 ).
Regarding the relationship between homework behaviors and general creativity, there are few studies which presented some contradictory viewpoints. Kaiipob (1951) posited that homework could accelerate development of students’ general creativity disposition, because the tasks in homework provide opportunities to exercise creativity. Cooper et al. (2012) argued that homework can diminish creativity. Furthermore, Zheng (2013) insisted that homework will reduce curiosity and the ability to challenging – the two core components of creativity. The preliminary results of Chang (2019) indicated that the score of HCBS is significantly correlated with scores of a test of general creativity, Williams’ creativity packet ( r = 0.25–0.33, p < 0.05).
Previous studies on the relationship between homework behaviors and homework creativity
In Guo and Fan’s (2018) theoretical work, homework creativity was combined from two independent words, homework and creativity, which was defined as a new attribute of homework process and was considered as a new member of homework behaviors. Up till now, there are two works providing preliminary probe to the relationship between homework behaviors and homework creativity. Guo (2018) investigated a sample of 1808 middle school students, and found that homework creativity was correlated significantly with liking ( r = 0.33), correctness ( r = 0.47), completion ( r = 0.57), and purpose ( r = 0.53). Based on another sample of Chinese students (elementary school students, N = 300; middle school students, N = 518; high school students, N = 386), Chang (2019) showed that the score of homework creativity was correlated significantly with homework time ( r = 0.11), completion ( r = 0.39), correctness ( r = 0.63), effort ( r = 0.73), social interaction ( r = 0.35), quality ( r = 0.69), interpersonal relation purpose ( r = 0.17), and purpose of personal development ( r = 0.41).
Previous studies on grade differences of homework behaviors and general creativity
Grade differences of homework behaviors.
As a useful indicator, homework time was recorded frequently (e.g., Cooper et al., 2006 ; Fan et al., 2017 ). A recent meta-analysis included 172 primary studies (total N = 144,416) published from 2003 to 2019, and demonstrated that time Chinese K-12 students spent on homework increased significantly along with increasing of grades ( Zhai and Fan, 2021 , October).
Regarding homework managing time, some studies reported the grade difference was insignificant. Xu (2006) surveyed 426 middle school students and found that there was no difference between middle school students and high school students. Xu and Corno (2003) reported that urban junior school students ( N = 86) had no grade difference in homework Managing time. Yang and Tu (2020) surveyed 305 Chinese students in grades 7–9, and found that in managing time behavior, the grade differences were insignificant. The rest studies showed that the grade effect is significant. A survey by Xu et al. (2014) based on 1799 Chinese students in grades 10 and 11 showed that the higher level the grade, the lower level of time management.
Grade differences of general creativity
The findings from the previous studies suggested that the scores of general creativity deceases as the grade increases except for some dimensions. Kim (2011) reviewed the Torrance Tests of Creative thinking (TTCT) scores change using five datasets from 1974 to 2008, and reported that three dimensions of creative thinking (i.e., “Fluency,” “Originality,” and “Elaboration”) significantly decreased along with grades increase, while the rest dimension (i.e., “Abstractness of titles”) significantly increased when grades increase. Nie and Zheng (2005) investigated a sample of 3,729 participants from grades 3–12 using the Williams’ Creativity Assessment Packet (WCAP), and reported that the creativity scores decreased from grades 9–12. Said-Metwaly et al. (2021) synthesized 41 primary studies published in the past 60 years, and concluded that the ability of divergent thinking had a whole increase tendency from grades 1 to 12 with a decrease tendency from grades 8 to 11 at the same time.
The purpose and questions of this study
What we have known about homework creativity hitherto is nothing except for its notation and a preliminary version of measurement. To get deeper understanding of homework creativity, this study made an endeavor to examine its relationships with relevant variables based on a confirmation of the reliability and validity of HCBS. Specifically, there are four interrelated research questions, as the following paragraphs (and their corresponding hypotheses) described.
(i) What is the reliability and validity of the HCBS?
Because the earlier version of the HCBS showed a good Cronbach α coefficient of 0.87, and a set of well-fitting indices ( Chang, 2019 ), this study expected that the reliability and validity will also behave well in the current conditions as before. Then, we present the first set of hypotheses as follows:
H1a: The reliability coefficient will equal or greater than 0.80.
H1b: The one-factor model will also fit the current data well; and all indices will reach or over the criteria as the expertise suggested.
(ii) What degree is the score of the HCBS related with academic achievement?
As suggested by the review section, the correlations between homework behaviors and academic achievement ranged from 0.15 and 0.59 (e.g., Fan et al., 2017 ), then we expected that the relationship between homework creativity and academic achievement will fall into this range, because homework creativity is a member of homework behaviors.
The results of the previous studies also demonstrated that the correlation between general creativity and academic achievement changed in a range of 0.19–0.24 with a mean of 0.19 ( Gajda et al., 2017 ). Because it can be treated as a sub-category of general creativity, we predicted that homework creativity will have a similar behavior under the current condition.
Taken aforementioned information together, Hypothesis H2 is presented as follows:
H2: There will be a significant correlation between homework creativity and academic achievement which might fall into the interval of 0.15–0.59.
(iii) What degree is the relationship between HCBS and general creativity?
As discussed in the previous section, there are no inconsistent findings about the relationship between the score of HCBS and general creativity. Some studies postulated that these two variables be positive correlated (e.g., Kaiipob, 1951 ; Chang, 2019 ); other studies argued that this relationship be negative (e.g., Cooper et al., 2012 ; Zheng, 2013 ). Because homework creativity is a sub-category of general creativity, we expected that this relationship would be positive and its value might be equal or less than 0.33. Based on those reasoning, we presented our third hypothesis as follows:
H3: The correlation between homework creativity and general creativity would be equal or less than 0.33.
(iv) What effect does grade have on the HCBS score?
Concerning the grade effect of homework behaviors, the previous findings were contradictory ( Xu et al., 2014 ; Zhai and Fan, 2021 , October). However, the general creativity decreased as the level of grade increases from grade 8 to grade 11 ( Kim, 2011 ; Said-Metwaly et al., 2021 ). Taken these previous findings and the fact that repetitive exercises increase when grades go up ( Zheng, 2013 ), we were inclined to expect that the level of homework creativity is negative correlated with the level of grade. Thus, we presented our fourth hypothesis as follows:
H4: The score of HCBS might decrease as the level of grades goes up.
Materials and methods
To get more robust result, this study investigated two convenient samples from six public schools in a medium-sized city in China. Among them, two schools were of high schools (including a key school and a non-key school), and the rest four schools were middle schools (one is key school, and the rest is non-key school). All these schools included here did not have free lunch system and written homework policy. Considering the students were mainly prepared for entrance examination of higher stage, the grades 9 and 12 were excluded in this survey. Consequently, students of grades 7, 8, 10, and 11 were included in our survey. After getting permission of the education bureau of the city investigated, the headmasters administrated the questions in October 2018 (sample 1) and November 2019 (sample 2).
A total of 850 questionnaires were released and the valid number of questionnaires returned is 639 with a valid return rate of 75.18%. Therefore, there were 639 valid participants in sample 1. Among them, there were 273 boys and 366 girls (57.2%); 149 participants from grade 7 (23.31%), 118 from grade 8 (18.47%), 183 from grade 10 (28.64%), and 189 from grade 11 (29.58%); the average age was 15.25 years, with a standard deviation (SD) of 1.73 years. See Table 1 for the information about each grade.
Those participants included received homework assignments every day (see Table 1 for the distribution of homework frequency). During the working days, the averaged homework time was 128.29 minutes with SD = 6.65 minutes. In the weekend, the average homework time was 3.75 hours, with SD = 0.22 hours. The percentage distribution here is similar with that of a national representative sample ( Sun et al., 2020 ), because the values of Chi-squared (χ 2 ) were 7.46 (father) and 8.46 (mother), all p -values were above 0.12 (see Supplementary Table S1 for details).
Another package of 850 questionnaires were released. The valid number of questionnaires returned is 710 with a valid return rate of 83.53%. Among them, there were 366 girls (51.50%); 171 participants from grade 7 (24.23%), 211 from grade 8 (26.06%), 190 from the grade 10 (22.96%), and 216 from grade 11 (26.76%); the average age was 15.06 years, with SD = 1.47 years.
Those participants included received homework assignments almost each day (see Table 1 for details for the distribution of homework frequency). During the working days, the averaged homework time was 123.02 minutes with SD = 6.13 minutes. In weekend, the average homework time was 3.47 hours, with SD = 0.21 hours.
The percentage distribution here is insignificantly different from that of a national representative sample ( Sun et al., 2020 ), because the values of χ 2 were 5.20 (father) and 6.05 (mother), p -values were above 0.30 (see Supplementary Table S1 for details).
The homework creativity behavior scale.
The HCBS contains nine items representing students’ creativity behaviors in the process of completing homework (for example, “I do my homework in an innovative way”) ( Chang, 2019 , see Supplementary Table S3 for details). The HCBS employs a 5-point rating scale, where 1 means “completely disagree” and 5 means “completely agree.” The higher the score, the stronger the homework creative behavior students have. The reliability and validity of the HCBS can be found in Section “Reliability and validity of the homework creativity behavior scale” (see Table 2 and Figures 1 , ,2 2 for details).
Results of item discrimination analysis and exploratory factor analysis.
**p < 0.01, two side-tailed. The same for below.
a Correlations for sample 1; b Correlations for sample 2. c Seventh item should be removed away according to the results of CFA (see section “Reliability and validity of the HCBS” for details).
Parallel analysis scree plots of the HCBS data.
The standardized solution for HCBS eight-item model. hcb, homework creativity behavior; it 1∼9, item1 ∼6, 8∼9.
Homework management scale
The HMS contains 22 items describing specific behaviors related to self-management in homework (for example, “I will choose a quiet place to do my homework” or “Tell myself to calm down when encountering difficulties”) ( Xu and Corno, 2003 ; Xu, 2008 ). The HMS employs a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (completely disagree) to 5 (completely agree). All items can be divided into five dimensions, i.e., arranging environment, managing time, focusing attention, monitoring motivation, and monitoring and controlling emotion. Among them, the monitoring and controlling emotion dimension adopts a method of reverse scoring.
Except for the internal consistency of arranging environment in sample 1, which is 0.63, the internal consistency coefficients of the five dimensions based two samples in this study are all greater than 0.7, ranging from 0.70 to 0.79. The Cronbach’s coefficients of the overall HMS-based two samples are 0.88 and 0.87, respectively. The ω coefficients of the dimensions of HMS ranged from 0.64 to 0.80. The ω coefficients of the HMS total scores were 0.88 and 0.87 for samples 1 and 2, respectively. Those reliability coefficients were acceptable for research purpose ( Clark and Watson, 1995 ; Peterson and Kim, 2013 ).
Williams’ creativity assessment packet
The WCAP including a total of 40 items is a revised version to measure general disposition of creativity (for example, “I like to ask some questions out of other’s expectation” or “I like to imagine something novel, even if it looks useless”) ( Williams, 1979 ; Wang and Lin, 1986 ; Liu et al., 2016 ). The WCAP uses a 3-point Likert scales, in which 1 = disagree, 2 = uncertain, and 3 = agree. The higher WCAP score, the higher is the general creativity level. All items of WCAP can be scattered into four dimensions: adventure, curiosity, imagination, and challenge ( Williams, 1979 ; Wang and Lin, 1986 ; Liu et al., 2016 ). In this study, the Cronbach’s α coefficients of adventure, curiosity, imagination, challenge, and total scale are 0.62, 0.71, 0.78, 0.64, and 0.90, respectively. The ω coefficients were in sequence 0.61, 0.70, 0.77, 0.63, and 0.90 for adventure, curiosity, imagination, challenge, and the total score of WCAP. The correlations between the four dimensions of WCAP are between 0.47 and 0.65. The patterns of reliability coefficients and correlations between dimensions are similar to those results reported by the previous studies ( Williams, 1979 ; Wang and Lin, 1986 ; Liu et al., 2016 ) which stand acceptable reliability and validity ( Clark and Watson, 1995 ; Peterson and Kim, 2013 ).
The participants were asked to report the time spent on homework in the past week. This technique has been employed widely in many international survey programs, such as PISA from OECD (e.g., Trautwein and Lüdtke, 2007 ). The items are as follows: (1) “Every day, from Monday to Friday, in last week, how many minutes you spent on homework?” The options are as follows: (A) 0–30 min; (B) 31–60 min (C) 61–90 min (D) 91–120 min; (E) 121–180 min; (F) 181 min or more. (2) “In last weekend, how many hours you spent on homework?” The options are as follows: (A) 0–1 h; (B) 1.1–3 h; (C) 3.1–5 h; (D) 5.1–7 h; (E) 7.1 h or more.
The homework completion is a useful indicator demonstrated in the previous studies ( Welch et al., 1986 ; Austin, 1988 ; Swank, 1999 ; Pelletier, 2005 ; Wilson, 2010 ), and had large correlation with achievement, as a meta-analytic results suggested ( Fan et al., 2017 ). In the survey of this study, the participants were also asked to estimate a percent of the completion of homework in the past week and fill in the given blank space. It includes three items which are as follows: “What is the percentage of Chinese/Maths/English homework assignment you completed in the last week?” “Please estimate and write a number from 0 to 100 in the blank space.”
To record the academic achievement, an item required participants to make a choice based on their real scores of tests, not estimate their tests scores. The item is, “In the last examination, what is the rank of your score in your grade?” (A) The first 2%; (B) The first 3–13%; (C) The first 14–50%; (D) The first 51–84%; (E) The last 16%. The options here correspond to the percentage in the normal distribution, it is convenient to compute a Z -score for each student.
The method employed here is effective to retrieve participants’ test scores. First, the self-report method is more effective than other method under the condition of anonymous investigation. To our knowledge, participants do not have the will to provide their real information in the real name format. Second, this method transforms test scores from different sources into the same space of norm distribution which benefits the comparisons. Third, the validity of this method has been supported by empirical data. Using another sample ( N = 234), we got the academic achievement they reported and real test scores their teacher recorded. The correlation between ranks self-reported and the real scores from Chinese test were r = 0.81, p < 0.001; and the correlation coefficient for mathematics was also large, i.e., r = 0.79, p < 0.001.
Data collection procedure
There are three phases in data collection. The first one is the design stage. At this stage, the corresponding author of this study designed the study content, prepared the survey tools, and got the ethical approve of this project authorized from research ethic committee of school the corresponding author belongs to.
The second stage is to releasing questionnaire prepared. The questionnaire was distributed and retrieved by the head master of those classes involved. Neither the teachers nor the students knew the purpose of this research. During this stage, students can stop answering at any time, or simply withdraw from the survey. None of the teachers and students in this study received payment.
The third stage is the data entry stage. At this stage, the corresponding author of this study recruited five volunteers majored in psychology and education, and explained to them the coding rules, missing value processing methods, identification of invalid questionnaires, and illustrated how to deal with these issues. The volunteers used the same data template for data entry. The corresponding author of this study controlled the data entry quality by selective check randomly.
Data analysis strategies
R packages employed.
The “psych” package in R environment ( R Core Team, 2019 ) was employed to do descriptive statistics, correlation analysis, mean difference comparisons, exploratory factor analysis (EFA), reliability Analysis ( Revelle, 2022 ); and the “lavaan” package was used in confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and measurement invariance test ( Rosseel, 2012 ); and the “semPlot” package was employed to draw the picture of CFA’s outputs ( Epskamp et al., 2022 ).
Analysis strategies of exploratory factor analysis and reliability
Sample 1 was used for item analysis, EFA, reliability analysis. In EFA, factors were extracted using maximum likelihood, and the promax method served as the rotation method. The number of factors were determined according to the combination of the results from screen plot, and the rule of Eigenvalues exceeding 1.0, and parallel analysis ( Luo et al., 2019 ).
The Cronbach’s α and MacDonald’s ω test were employed to test the reliability of the scale. The rigorous criteria that α ≥ 0.70 ( Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994 ) and ω ≥ 0.7 ( Green and Yang, 2015 ) were taken as acceptable level of the reliability of HCBS.
Analysis strategies of confirmatory factor analysis
As suggested by Hu and Bentler (1999) , two absolute goodness-of-fit indices, namely, the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) and the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR), and two relative goodness-of-fit indices, namely, comparative fit index (CFI) and Tucker–Lewis Index (TLI) were recruited as fitting indicators. The absolute goodness-of-fit indices are less than 0.08, and the relative goodness-of-fit indices greater than 0.90 are considered as a good fit. The CFA was conducted using the second sample.
Strategies for measurement invariance
Measurement invariance testing included four models, they are Configural invariance (Model 1), which is to test whether the composition of latent variables between different groups is the same; Weak invariance (Factor loading invariance, Model 2), which is to test whether the factor loading is equal among the groups; Intercept invariance (Model 3), that is, whether the intercepts of the observed variables are equal; Strict equivalent (Residual Variance invariance, Model 4), that is, to test whether the error variances between different groups are equal ( Chen, 2007 ; Putnick and Bornstein, 2016 ).
Since the χ 2 test will be affected easily by the sample size, even small differences will result in significant differences as the sample size will increase. Therefore, this study used the changes of model fitting index CFI, RMSEA, and SRMR (ΔCFI, ΔRMSEA, and ΔSRMR) to evaluate the invariance of the measurement. When ΔCFI ≤ 0.010, ΔRMSEA ≤ 0.015, and ΔSRMR ≤ 0.030 (for metric invariance) or 0.015 (for scalar or residual invariance), the invariance model is considered acceptable ( Cheung and Rensvold, 2002 ; Chen, 2007 ; Putnick and Bornstein, 2016 ).
Strategies of controlling common methods biases
The strategy of controlling common methods biases is mainly hided in the directions. Each part of the printed questionnaire had a sub-direction which invites participants answer the printed questions honestly. The answer formats between any two neighboring parts were different from each other which requested participants change their mind in time. For example, on some part, the answering continuum varied from “1 = totally disagreed” to “5 = total agreed,” while the answering continuum on the neighboring part is the from “5 = totally disagreed” to “1 = total agreed.” Additionally, according to the suggestion of the previous studies, the one factor CFA model and the bi-factor model can be used to detect the common methods biases (e.g., Podsakoff et al., 2012 ).
Detection of common method biases
The fitting results of the one-common-factor model using CFA technique were as follows: χ 2 = 15,073, df = 3320, p < 0.001; χ 2 / df = 4.54, CFI = 0.323, TLI = 0.306, RMSEA = 0.071, 90% CI: 0.070–0.072, and SRMR = 0.101. The results of the bi-factor model under CFA framework were presented as follows: χ 2 = 2,225.826, df = 117, p < 0.001; χ 2 / df = 19.024, CFI = 0.650, TLI = 0.543, RMSEA = 0.159, 90% CI: 0.154–0.164, and SRMR = 0.127. These poor indices of the two models suggested that the one-common-factor model failed to fit the data well and that the biases of common method be ignored ( Podsakoff et al., 2012 ).
Reliability and validity of the homework creativity behavior scale
Based on the sample 1, the correlation coefficients between the items of the HCBS were between 0.34 and 0.64, p -values were below 0.01. The correlations between the items and the total score of HCBS vary from 0.54 to 0.75 ( p -values are below 0.01). On the condition of sample 2, the correlations between the items fluctuate between 0.31 and 0.58, the correlation coefficients between the items and the total score of the HCBS change from 0.63 to 0.75 ( p -values were below 0.01). All correlation coefficients between items and total score are larger than those between items and reached the criterion suggested ( Ferketich, 1991 ; see Table 2 for details).
Results of exploratory factor analysis
The EFA results (based on sample 1) showed that the KMO was 0.89, and the χ 2 of Bartlett’s test = 1,666.07, p < 0.01. The rules combining eigenvalue larger than 1 and the results of parallel analysis (see Figure 1 for details) suggested that one factor should be extracted. The eigenvalue of the factor extracted was 3.63. The average variance extracted was 0.40. This factor accounts 40% variance with factor loadings fluctuating from 0.40 to 0.76 (see Table 2 ).
Results of confirmatory factor analysis
In the CFA situation (based on sample 2) the fitting indices of the nine-item model of the HCBS are acceptable marginally, they are χ 2 = 266.141; df = 27; χ 2 / df = 9.857; CFI = 0.904; TLI = 0.872; RMSEA = 0.112; 90% CI: 0.100–0.124; SRMR = 0.053.
The modification indices of item 7 were too big (MI value = 74.339, p < 0.01), so it is necessary to consider to delete item 7. Considering its content of “I designed a neat, clean and clear homework format by myself,” item 7 is an indicator of strictness which is weakly linked with creativity. Therefore, the item 7 should be deleted.
After removing item 7, the fitting results were, χ 2 = 106.111; df = 20; χ 2 / df = 5.306; CFI = 0.957; TLI = 0.939; RMSEA = 0.078; 90% CI: 0.064–0.093; SRMR = 0.038). The changes of the fitting indices of the two nested models (eight-item vs. nine-item models) are presented as follows: Δχ 2 = 160.03, Δ df = 7, χ 2 (α = 0.01, df = 7) = 18.48, p < 0.05. After deleting item 7, both CFI and TLI indices increased to above 0.93, and RMSEAs decreased below 0.08 which suggested that the factor model on which eight items loaded fitted the data well. The average variance extracted was 0.50 which is adequate according to the criteria suggested by Fornell and Larcker (1981) . The standardized solution for the eight-item model of the HCBS was shown in Figure 2 .
Correlations between the homework creativity behavior scale and similar concepts
The results showed that the score of the HCBS was significantly correlated with the total score and four dimensions of WCAP and their correlation coefficients ranged from 0.20 to 0.29, p -values were below 0.01. Similarly, the correlations between the score of the HCBS and the scores of arranging environment, managing time, motivation management, and controlling emotion, and total score of the HMS ranged from 0.08 to 0.22, p -values were 0.01; at the meanwhile, the correlation between the score of HCBS and the distraction dimension of the HMS was r = –0.14, p -values were 0.01. The HCBS score was also significantly related to homework completion ( r = 0.18, p < 0.01), but insignificantly related to homework time (see Table 3 for details).
Correlation matrix between variables included and the corresponding descriptive statistics.
About correlation between variables, the results of sample 1 and sample 2 were presented in the lower, upper triangle, respectively.
a In analyses, grades 7, 8, 10, and 11 were valued 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively.
b TWk, the time spent on homework in the weekend; TWw, the time spent on homework from Monday to Friday; HCp, homework completion; HMSt, total score of homework management scale; AE, arrange environment; MT, manage time; MM, monitor motivation; CE, control emotion; FA, focus attention; WCAPt, WCAP total score; AD, adventure; CU, curiosity; IM, imagination; CH, challenging; HCb, homework creativity behavior; AA, academic achievement.
c Since sample 1 did not answer the WCAP, so the corresponding cells in the lower triangle are blank. *p < 0.05, two side-tailed, the same for below.
d Since there is only one item from variable 1 to 4, the α and ω coefficients cannot be computed.
Correlations between the homework creativity behavior scale and distinct concepts
The correlation analysis results demonstrated that both the correlation coefficients between the score of HCBS and the time spent on homework in week days, and time spent on in weekend days were insignificant ( r -values = 0.02, p -values were above 0.05), which indicated a non-overlap between two distinct constructs of homework creativity and time spent on homework.
The results revealed that both the Cronbach’s α coefficients of sample 1 and sample 2 were 0.86, which were greater than a 0.70 criteria the previous studies suggest ( Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994 ; Green and Yang, 2015 ).
Effect of homework creativity on academic achievement
The results (see Table 4 ) of hierarchical regression analyses demonstrated that (1) gender and grade explained 0.8% variation of the score of academic achievement. This number means closing to zero because the regression equation failed to pass the significance test; (2) homework time and completion explained 5.4% variation of academic achievement; considering the β coefficients of the time spent on homework is insignificant, this contribution should be attributed to homework completion totally, and (3) the score of the HCBS explained 3.7% variation of the academic achievement independently.
Effect of homework creativity on general creativity
The results showed the following (see Table 4 for details):
(1) Gender and grade explained 1.3% variation of the total score of general creativity (i.e., the total score of WACP); homework time and completion explained 1.3% variation of the total score of general creativity disposition; and the score of the HCBS independently explained 7.0% variation of the total score of general creativity.
(2) Gender and grade explained 1.7% variation of the adventure score, and homework time and completion explained 1.6% variation of the adventure score, and the score of the HCBS independently explained 6.4% variation of the adventure score.
(3) Gender and grade explained 2.4% variation of the curiosity score, and homework time and completion explained 1.1% variation of the curiosity score, and the score of the HCBS independently explained 5.1% variation of the curiosity score.
(4) Gender and grade explained 0.3% variation of the imagination score, homework time completion explained 0.3% variation of the imagination score. The real values of the two “0.3%” are zeros because both the regression equations and coefficients failed to pass the significance tests. Then the score of the HCBS independently explained 4.4% variation of the imagination score.
(5) Gender and grade explained 0.3% variation of the score of the challenge dimension, homework time and completion explained 2.3% variation of the challenge score, and the score of the HCBS independently explained 4.9% variation of the challenge score.
Grade differences of the homework creativity behavior scale
Test of measurement invariance.
The results of measurement invariance test across four grades indicated the following:
(1) The fitting states of the four models (Configural invariance, Factor loading invariance, Intercept invariance, and Residual variance invariance) were marginally acceptable, because values of CFIs (ranged from 0.89 to 0.93), TLIs (varied from 0.91 to 0.93), RMSEAs (fluctuated from 0.084 to 0.095), and SRMRs (changed from 0.043 to 0.074) located the cutoff intervals suggested by methodologists ( Cheung and Rensvold, 2002 ; Chen, 2007 ; Putnick and Bornstein, 2016 ; see Table 5 for fitting indices, and refer to Supplementary Table S2 for the estimation of parameters).
Fitting results of invariance tests across grades.
(2) When setting factor loadings equal across four grades (i.e., grades 7, 8, 10, and 11), the ΔCFA was –0.006, ΔRMSEA was –0.007, and ΔSRMR was 0.016 which indicated that it passed the test of factor loading invariance. After adding the limit of intercepts equal across four groups, the ΔCFA was –0.008, ΔRMSEA was –0.004, and the ΔSRMR was 0.005 which supported that it passed the test of intercept invariance. At the last step, the error variances were also added as equal, the ΔCFA was –0.027, ΔRMSEA was 0.005, and the ΔSRMR was 0.019 which failed to pass the test of residual variance invariance (see Table 5 for changes of fitting indices). Taking into these fitting indices into account, the subsequent comparisons between the means of factors can be conducted because the residuals are not part of the latent factor ( Cheung and Rensvold, 2002 ; Chen, 2007 ; Putnick and Bornstein, 2016 ).
Grade differences in homework creativity and general creativity
The results of ANOVA showed that there were significant differences in the HCBS among the four grades [ F (3,1345) = 27.49, p < 0.001, η 2 = 0.058, see Table 6 for details]. Further post-test tests returned that the scores of middle school students were significantly higher than those of high school students (Cohen’s d values ranged from 0.46 to 0.54; the averaged Cohen’s d = 0.494), and no significant difference occurs between grades 7 and 8, or between grades 10 and 11. See Figure 3 for details.
Grade differences in HCBS.
***p < 0.001.
The mean differences of the HCBS between the groups of grades.
To address the gap in the previous research on homework creativity, this study examined the psychometric proprieties of the HCBS and its relationship with academic achievement and general creativity. The main findings were (1) Hypotheses H1a and H1b were supported that the reliability and validity of the HCBS were acceptable; (2) Hypothesis H2 was supported that the correlation between the score of the HCBS and academic achievement was significant ( r -values = 0.23–0.26 for two samples); (3) Hypothesis H3 received support that the correlation between the scores of HCBS and WCAP was significant ( r -values = 0.20–0.29 for two samples); and (4) the H4 was supported from the current data that the score of high school students’ was lower than that of the middle school students’ (Cohen’s d = 0.49).
The positive correlations among homework creativity, homework completion, and general creativity
The first key finding should be noted is that the positive correlations with between pairs of homework creativity, homework completion, and general creativity. This result is inconsistent with prediction of an argument that homework diminishes creativity ( Cooper et al., 2012 ; Zheng, 2013 ). Specifically, the correlation between homework completion and curiosity was insignificant ( r = 0.08, p > 0.05) which did not support the argument that homework hurts curiosity of creativity ( Zheng, 2013 ). The possible reason may be homework can provide opportunities to foster some components of creativity by independently finding and developing new ways of understanding what students have learned in class, as Kaiipob (1951) argued. It may be the homework creativity that served as the way to practice the components of general creativity. In fact, the content of items of the HCBS are highly related with creative thinking (refer to Table 2 for details).
Possible reasons of the grade effect of the score of the homework creativity behavior scale
The second key finding should be noted is that the score of the HCBS decreased as the level of grades increased from 7 to 11. This is consistent with the basic trend recorded in the previous meta-analyses ( Kim, 2011 ; Said-Metwaly et al., 2021 ). There are three possible explanations leading to this grade effect. The first one is the repetitive exercises in homework. As Zheng (2013) observed, to get higher scores in the highly competitive entrance examination of high school and college, those Chinese students chose to practice a lot of repetitive exercises. The results of some behavior experiments suggested that repetitive activity could reduce the diverse thinking of subjects’ (e.g., Main et al., 2020 ). Furthermore, the repetitive exercises would lead to fast habituation (can be observed by skin conductance records) which hurts the creative thinking of participants ( Martindale et al., 1996 ). The second explanation is that the stress level in Chinese high schools is higher than in middle school because of the college entrance examination. The previous studies (e.g., Beversdorf, 2018 ) indicated that the high level of stress will trigger the increase activity of the noradrenergic system and the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis which could debase the individual’s performance of creativity. Another likely explanation is the degree of the certainty of the college entrance examination. The level of certainty highly increases (success or failure) when time comes closer to the deadline of the entrance examination. The increase of degree of certainty will lead to the decrease of activity of the brain areas related to curiosity (e.g., Jepma et al., 2012 ).
The theoretical implications
From the theoretical perspective, there are two points deserving to be emphasized. First, the findings of this study extended the previous work ( Beghetto and Kaufman, 2007 ; Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009 ). This study revealed that homework creativity had two typical characteristics, including the personal meaning of students (as represented by the content of items of the HCBS) and the small size of “creativity” and limited in the scope of exercises (small correlations with general creativity). These characteristics are in line with what Mini-C described by the previous studies ( Beghetto and Kaufman, 2007 ; Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009 ). Second, this study deepened our understanding of the relationship between learning (homework is a part of learning) and creativity which has been discussed more than half a century. One of the main viewpoints is learning and creativity share some fundamental similarities, but no one explained what is the content of these “fundamental similarities” (e.g., Gajda et al., 2017 ). This study identified one similarity between learning and creativity in the context of homework, that is homework creativity. Homework creativity has the characteristics of homework and creativity at the same time which served as an inner factor in which homework promote creativity.
The practical implications
The findings in this study also have several potential practical implications. First, homework creativity should be a valuable goal of learning, because homework creativity may make contributions to academic achievement and general creativity simultaneously. They accounted for a total of 10.7% variance of academic achievement and general creativity which are the main goals of learning. Therefore, it is valuable to imbed homework creativity as a goal of learning, especially in the Chinese society ( Zheng, 2013 ).
Second, the items of the HCBS can be used as a vehicle to help students how to develop about homework creativity. Some studies indicated that the creative performance of students will improve just only under the simple requirement of “to be creative please” ( Niu and Sternberg, 2003 ). Similarly, some simple requirements, like “to do your homework in an innovative way,” “don’t stick to what you learned in class,” “to use a simpler method to do your homework,” “to use your imagination when you do homework,” “to design new problems on the basis what learnt,” “to find your own unique insights into your homework,” and “to find multiple solutions to the problem,” which rewritten from the items of the HCBS, can be used in the process of directing homework of students. In fact, these directions are typical behaviors of creative teaching (e.g., Soh, 2000 ); therefore, they are highly possible to be effective.
Third, the HCBS can be used to measure the degree of homework creativity in ordinary teaching or experimental situations. As demonstrated in the previous sections, the reliability and validity of the HCBS were good enough to play such a role. Based on this tool, the educators can collect the data of homework creativity, and make scientific decisions to improve the performance of people’s teaching or learning.
Strengths, limitations, and issues for further investigation
The main contribution is that this study accumulated some empirical knowledge about the relationship among homework creativity, homework completion, academic achievement, and general creativity, as well as the psychometric quality of the HCBS. However, the findings of this study should be treated with cautions because of the following limitations. First, our study did not collect the test–retest reliability of the HCBS. This makes it difficult for us to judge the HCBS’s stability over time. Second, the academic achievement data in our study were recorded by self-reported methods, and the objectivity may be more accurate. Third, the lower reliability coefficients existed in two dimensions employed, i.e., the arrange environment of the HMS (the α coefficient was 0.63), and the adventure of the WCAP (the α coefficient was 0.61). Fourth, the samples included here was not representative enough if we plan to generalize the finding to the population of middle and high school students in main land of China.
In addition to those questions listed as laminations, there are a number of issues deserve further examinations. (1) Can these findings from this study be generalized into other samples, especially into those from other cultures? For instances, can the reliability and validity of the HCBS be supported by the data from other samples? Or can the grade effect of the score of the HCBS be observed in other societies? Or can the correlation pattern among homework creativity, homework completion, and academic achievement be reproduced in other samples? (2) What is the role of homework creativity in the development of general creativity? Through longitudinal study, we can systematically observe the effect of homework creativity on individual’s general creativity, including creative skills, knowledge, and motivation. The micro-generating method ( Kupers et al., 2018 ) may be used to reveal how the homework creativity occurs in the learning process. (3) What factors affect homework creativity? Specifically, what effects do the individual factors (e.g., gender) and environmental factors (such as teaching styles of teachers) play in the development of homework creativity? (4) What training programs can be designed to improve homework creativity? What should these programs content? How about their effect on the development of homework creativity? What should the teachers do, if they want to promote creativity in their work situation? All those questions call for further explorations.
Homework is a complex thing which might have many aspects. Among them, homework creativity was the latest one being named ( Guo and Fan, 2018 ). Based on the testing of its reliability and validity, this study explored the relationships between homework creativity and academic achievement and general creativity, and its variation among different grade levels. The main findings of this study were (1) the eight-item version of the HCBS has good validity and reliability which can be employed in the further studies; (2) homework creativity had positive correlations with academic achievement and general creativity; (3) compared with homework completion, homework creativity made greater contribution to general creativity, but less to academic achievement; and (4) the score of homework creativity of high school students was lower than that of middle school students. Given that this is the first investigation, to our knowledge, that has systematically tapped into homework creativity, there is a critical need to pursue this line of investigation further.
Data availability statement
The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by the research ethic committee, School of Educational Science, Bohai University. Written informed consent to participate in this study was provided by the participants’ legal guardian/next of kin.
HF designed the research, collected the data, and interpreted the results. YM and SG analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. HF, JX, and YM revised the manuscript. YC and HF prepared the HCBS. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
We thank Dr. Liwei Zhang for his supports in collecting data, and Lu Qiao, Dounan Lu, Xiao Zhang for their helps in the process of inputting data.
This work was supported by the LiaoNing Revitalization Talents Program (grant no. XLYC2007134) and the Funding for Teaching Leader of Bohai University.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.
The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.923882/full#supplementary-material
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The Cult of Homework
America’s devotion to the practice stems in part from the fact that it’s what today’s parents and teachers grew up with themselves.
America has long had a fickle relationship with homework. A century or so ago, progressive reformers argued that it made kids unduly stressed , which later led in some cases to district-level bans on it for all grades under seventh. This anti-homework sentiment faded, though, amid mid-century fears that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union (which led to more homework), only to resurface in the 1960s and ’70s, when a more open culture came to see homework as stifling play and creativity (which led to less). But this didn’t last either: In the ’80s, government researchers blamed America’s schools for its economic troubles and recommended ramping homework up once more.
The 21st century has so far been a homework-heavy era, with American teenagers now averaging about twice as much time spent on homework each day as their predecessors did in the 1990s . Even little kids are asked to bring school home with them. A 2015 study , for instance, found that kindergarteners, who researchers tend to agree shouldn’t have any take-home work, were spending about 25 minutes a night on it.
But not without pushback. As many children, not to mention their parents and teachers, are drained by their daily workload, some schools and districts are rethinking how homework should work—and some teachers are doing away with it entirely. They’re reviewing the research on homework (which, it should be noted, is contested) and concluding that it’s time to revisit the subject.
Read: My daughter’s homework is killing me
Hillsborough, California, an affluent suburb of San Francisco, is one district that has changed its ways. The district, which includes three elementary schools and a middle school, worked with teachers and convened panels of parents in order to come up with a homework policy that would allow students more unscheduled time to spend with their families or to play. In August 2017, it rolled out an updated policy, which emphasized that homework should be “meaningful” and banned due dates that fell on the day after a weekend or a break.
“The first year was a bit bumpy,” says Louann Carlomagno, the district’s superintendent. She says the adjustment was at times hard for the teachers, some of whom had been doing their job in a similar fashion for a quarter of a century. Parents’ expectations were also an issue. Carlomagno says they took some time to “realize that it was okay not to have an hour of homework for a second grader—that was new.”
Most of the way through year two, though, the policy appears to be working more smoothly. “The students do seem to be less stressed based on conversations I’ve had with parents,” Carlomagno says. It also helps that the students performed just as well on the state standardized test last year as they have in the past.
Earlier this year, the district of Somerville, Massachusetts, also rewrote its homework policy, reducing the amount of homework its elementary and middle schoolers may receive. In grades six through eight, for example, homework is capped at an hour a night and can only be assigned two to three nights a week.
Jack Schneider, an education professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell whose daughter attends school in Somerville, is generally pleased with the new policy. But, he says, it’s part of a bigger, worrisome pattern. “The origin for this was general parental dissatisfaction, which not surprisingly was coming from a particular demographic,” Schneider says. “Middle-class white parents tend to be more vocal about concerns about homework … They feel entitled enough to voice their opinions.”
Schneider is all for revisiting taken-for-granted practices like homework, but thinks districts need to take care to be inclusive in that process. “I hear approximately zero middle-class white parents talking about how homework done best in grades K through two actually strengthens the connection between home and school for young people and their families,” he says. Because many of these parents already feel connected to their school community, this benefit of homework can seem redundant. “They don’t need it,” Schneider says, “so they’re not advocating for it.”
That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that homework is more vital in low-income districts. In fact, there are different, but just as compelling, reasons it can be burdensome in these communities as well. Allison Wienhold, who teaches high-school Spanish in the small town of Dunkerton, Iowa, has phased out homework assignments over the past three years. Her thinking: Some of her students, she says, have little time for homework because they’re working 30 hours a week or responsible for looking after younger siblings.
As educators reduce or eliminate the homework they assign, it’s worth asking what amount and what kind of homework is best for students. It turns out that there’s some disagreement about this among researchers, who tend to fall in one of two camps.
In the first camp is Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Cooper conducted a review of the existing research on homework in the mid-2000s , and found that, up to a point, the amount of homework students reported doing correlates with their performance on in-class tests. This correlation, the review found, was stronger for older students than for younger ones.
This conclusion is generally accepted among educators, in part because it’s compatible with “the 10-minute rule,” a rule of thumb popular among teachers suggesting that the proper amount of homework is approximately 10 minutes per night, per grade level—that is, 10 minutes a night for first graders, 20 minutes a night for second graders, and so on, up to two hours a night for high schoolers.
In Cooper’s eyes, homework isn’t overly burdensome for the typical American kid. He points to a 2014 Brookings Institution report that found “little evidence that the homework load has increased for the average student”; onerous amounts of homework, it determined, are indeed out there, but relatively rare. Moreover, the report noted that most parents think their children get the right amount of homework, and that parents who are worried about under-assigning outnumber those who are worried about over-assigning. Cooper says that those latter worries tend to come from a small number of communities with “concerns about being competitive for the most selective colleges and universities.”
According to Alfie Kohn, squarely in camp two, most of the conclusions listed in the previous three paragraphs are questionable. Kohn, the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing , considers homework to be a “reliable extinguisher of curiosity,” and has several complaints with the evidence that Cooper and others cite in favor of it. Kohn notes, among other things, that Cooper’s 2006 meta-analysis doesn’t establish causation, and that its central correlation is based on children’s (potentially unreliable) self-reporting of how much time they spend doing homework. (Kohn’s prolific writing on the subject alleges numerous other methodological faults.)
In fact, other correlations make a compelling case that homework doesn’t help. Some countries whose students regularly outperform American kids on standardized tests, such as Japan and Denmark, send their kids home with less schoolwork , while students from some countries with higher homework loads than the U.S., such as Thailand and Greece, fare worse on tests. (Of course, international comparisons can be fraught because so many factors, in education systems and in societies at large, might shape students’ success.)
Kohn also takes issue with the way achievement is commonly assessed. “If all you want is to cram kids’ heads with facts for tomorrow’s tests that they’re going to forget by next week, yeah, if you give them more time and make them do the cramming at night, that could raise the scores,” he says. “But if you’re interested in kids who know how to think or enjoy learning, then homework isn’t merely ineffective, but counterproductive.”
His concern is, in a way, a philosophical one. “The practice of homework assumes that only academic growth matters, to the point that having kids work on that most of the school day isn’t enough,” Kohn says. What about homework’s effect on quality time spent with family? On long-term information retention? On critical-thinking skills? On social development? On success later in life? On happiness? The research is quiet on these questions.
Another problem is that research tends to focus on homework’s quantity rather than its quality, because the former is much easier to measure than the latter. While experts generally agree that the substance of an assignment matters greatly (and that a lot of homework is uninspiring busywork), there isn’t a catchall rule for what’s best—the answer is often specific to a certain curriculum or even an individual student.
Given that homework’s benefits are so narrowly defined (and even then, contested), it’s a bit surprising that assigning so much of it is often a classroom default, and that more isn’t done to make the homework that is assigned more enriching. A number of things are preserving this state of affairs—things that have little to do with whether homework helps students learn.
Jack Schneider, the Massachusetts parent and professor, thinks it’s important to consider the generational inertia of the practice. “The vast majority of parents of public-school students themselves are graduates of the public education system,” he says. “Therefore, their views of what is legitimate have been shaped already by the system that they would ostensibly be critiquing.” In other words, many parents’ own history with homework might lead them to expect the same for their children, and anything less is often taken as an indicator that a school or a teacher isn’t rigorous enough. (This dovetails with—and complicates—the finding that most parents think their children have the right amount of homework.)
Barbara Stengel, an education professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, brought up two developments in the educational system that might be keeping homework rote and unexciting. The first is the importance placed in the past few decades on standardized testing, which looms over many public-school classroom decisions and frequently discourages teachers from trying out more creative homework assignments. “They could do it, but they’re afraid to do it, because they’re getting pressure every day about test scores,” Stengel says.
Second, she notes that the profession of teaching, with its relatively low wages and lack of autonomy, struggles to attract and support some of the people who might reimagine homework, as well as other aspects of education. “Part of why we get less interesting homework is because some of the people who would really have pushed the limits of that are no longer in teaching,” she says.
“In general, we have no imagination when it comes to homework,” Stengel says. She wishes teachers had the time and resources to remake homework into something that actually engages students. “If we had kids reading—anything, the sports page, anything that they’re able to read—that’s the best single thing. If we had kids going to the zoo, if we had kids going to parks after school, if we had them doing all of those things, their test scores would improve. But they’re not. They’re going home and doing homework that is not expanding what they think about.”
“Exploratory” is one word Mike Simpson used when describing the types of homework he’d like his students to undertake. Simpson is the head of the Stone Independent School, a tiny private high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that opened in 2017. “We were lucky to start a school a year and a half ago,” Simpson says, “so it’s been easy to say we aren’t going to assign worksheets, we aren’t going assign regurgitative problem sets.” For instance, a half-dozen students recently built a 25-foot trebuchet on campus.
Simpson says he thinks it’s a shame that the things students have to do at home are often the least fulfilling parts of schooling: “When our students can’t make the connection between the work they’re doing at 11 o’clock at night on a Tuesday to the way they want their lives to be, I think we begin to lose the plot.”
When I talked with other teachers who did homework makeovers in their classrooms, I heard few regrets. Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Joshua, Texas, stopped assigning take-home packets of worksheets three years ago, and instead started asking her students to do 20 minutes of pleasure reading a night. She says she’s pleased with the results, but she’s noticed something funny. “Some kids,” she says, “really do like homework.” She’s started putting out a bucket of it for students to draw from voluntarily—whether because they want an additional challenge or something to pass the time at home.
Chris Bronke, a high-school English teacher in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, told me something similar. This school year, he eliminated homework for his class of freshmen, and now mostly lets students study on their own or in small groups during class time. It’s usually up to them what they work on each day, and Bronke has been impressed by how they’ve managed their time.
In fact, some of them willingly spend time on assignments at home, whether because they’re particularly engaged, because they prefer to do some deeper thinking outside school, or because they needed to spend time in class that day preparing for, say, a biology test the following period. “They’re making meaningful decisions about their time that I don’t think education really ever gives students the experience, nor the practice, of doing,” Bronke said.
The typical prescription offered by those overwhelmed with homework is to assign less of it—to subtract. But perhaps a more useful approach, for many classrooms, would be to create homework only when teachers and students believe it’s actually needed to further the learning that takes place in class—to start with nothing, and add as necessary.
Should Kids Get Homework?
Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say.
Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful. (Getty Images)
How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.
Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.
But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.
Value of Homework
Homework provides a chance to solidify what is being taught in the classroom that day, week or unit. Practice matters, says Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University 's Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.
"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice," she adds. "We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there."
Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.
"The children are bringing things from the school into the home," says Paula S. Fass, professor emerita of history at the University of California—Berkeley and the author of "The End of American Childhood." "Before the pandemic, (homework) was the only real sense that parents had to what was going on in schools."
Harris Cooper, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," examined more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and found that — when designed properly — homework can lead to greater student success. Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary.
"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level," he says. "For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest."
Negative Homework Assignments
Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.
But assignments that are just busy work, that force students to learn new concepts at home, or that are overly time-consuming can be counterproductive, experts say.
Homework that's just busy work.
Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful, experts say. Assignments that look more like busy work – projects or worksheets that don't require teacher feedback and aren't related to topics learned in the classroom – can be frustrating for students and create burdens for families.
"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense," says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.
Homework on material that kids haven't learned yet.
With the pressure to cover all topics on standardized tests and limited time during the school day, some teachers assign homework that has not yet been taught in the classroom.
Not only does this create stress, but it also causes equity challenges. Some parents speak languages other than English or work several jobs, and they aren't able to help teach their children new concepts.
" It just becomes agony for both parents and the kids to get through this worksheet, and the goal becomes getting to the bottom of (the) worksheet with answers filled in without any understanding of what any of it matters for," says professor Susan R. Goldman, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois—Chicago .
Homework that's overly time-consuming.
The standard homework guideline recommended by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association is the "10-minute rule" – 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level. A fourth grader, for instance, would receive a total of 40 minutes of homework per night.
But this does not always happen, especially since not every student learns the same. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that primary school children actually received three times the recommended amount of homework — and that family stress increased along with the homework load.
Young children can only remain attentive for short periods, so large amounts of homework, especially lengthy projects, can negatively affect students' views on school. Some individual long-term projects – like having to build a replica city, for example – typically become an assignment for parents rather than students, Fass says.
"It's one thing to assign a project like that in which several kids are working on it together," she adds. "In (that) case, the kids do normally work on it. It's another to send it home to the families, where it becomes a burden and doesn't really accomplish very much."
Private vs. Public Schools
Do private schools assign more homework than public schools? There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.
Of course, not all private schools are the same – some focus on college preparation and traditional academics, while others stress alternative approaches to education.
"I think in the academically oriented private schools, there's more support for homework from parents," says Gerald K. LeTendre, chair of educational administration at Pennsylvania State University—University Park . "I don't know if there's any research to show there's more homework, but it's less of a contentious issue."
How to Address Homework Overload
First, assess if the workload takes as long as it appears. Sometimes children may start working on a homework assignment, wander away and come back later, Cooper says.
"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it," he adds. "They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it."
But if homework is becoming stressful or workload is excessive, experts suggest parents first approach the teacher, followed by a school administrator.
"Many times, we can solve a lot of issues by having conversations," Steckler says, including by "sitting down, talking about the amount of homework, and what's appropriate and not appropriate."
Study Tips for High School Students
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More than two hours of homework may be counterproductive, research suggests.
A Stanford education researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect kids, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends and activities matter. "Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good," wrote Denise Pope , a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education . The researchers used survey data to examine perceptions about homework, student well-being and behavioral engagement in a sample of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities. Along with the survey data, Pope and her colleagues used open-ended answers to explore the students' views on homework. Median household income exceeded $90,000 in these communities, and 93 percent of the students went on to college, either two-year or four-year. Students in these schools average about 3.1 hours of homework each night. "The findings address how current homework practices in privileged, high-performing schools sustain students' advantage in competitive climates yet hinder learning, full engagement and well-being," Pope wrote. Pope and her colleagues found that too much homework can diminish its effectiveness and even be counterproductive. They cite prior research indicating that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night, and that 90 minutes to two and a half hours is optimal for high school. Their study found that too much homework is associated with: • Greater stress : 56 percent of the students considered homework a primary source of stress, according to the survey data. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent put the pressure to get good grades in that category. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor. • Reductions in health : In their open-ended answers, many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems. The researchers asked students whether they experienced health issues such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems. • Less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits : Both the survey data and student responses indicate that spending too much time on homework meant that students were "not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills," according to the researchers. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy. A balancing act The results offer empirical evidence that many students struggle to find balance between homework, extracurricular activities and social time, the researchers said. Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills. Also, there was no relationship between the time spent on homework and how much the student enjoyed it. The research quoted students as saying they often do homework they see as "pointless" or "mindless" in order to keep their grades up. "This kind of busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points," said Pope, who is also a co-founder of Challenge Success , a nonprofit organization affiliated with the GSE that conducts research and works with schools and parents to improve students' educational experiences.. Pope said the research calls into question the value of assigning large amounts of homework in high-performing schools. Homework should not be simply assigned as a routine practice, she said. "Rather, any homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development," wrote Pope. High-performing paradox In places where students attend high-performing schools, too much homework can reduce their time to foster skills in the area of personal responsibility, the researchers concluded. "Young people are spending more time alone," they wrote, "which means less time for family and fewer opportunities to engage in their communities." Student perspectives The researchers say that while their open-ended or "self-reporting" methodology to gauge student concerns about homework may have limitations – some might regard it as an opportunity for "typical adolescent complaining" – it was important to learn firsthand what the students believe. The paper was co-authored by Mollie Galloway from Lewis and Clark College and Jerusha Conner from Villanova University.
Clifton B. Parker is a writer at the Stanford News Service .
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Stanford research shows pitfalls of homework
A Stanford researcher found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance and even alienation from society. More than two hours of homework a night may be counterproductive, according to the study.
Education scholar Denise Pope has found that too much homework has negative effects on student well-being and behavioral engagement. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)
A Stanford researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect kids, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends and activities matter.
“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,” wrote Denise Pope , a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education .
The researchers used survey data to examine perceptions about homework, student well-being and behavioral engagement in a sample of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities. Along with the survey data, Pope and her colleagues used open-ended answers to explore the students’ views on homework.
Median household income exceeded $90,000 in these communities, and 93 percent of the students went on to college, either two-year or four-year.
Students in these schools average about 3.1 hours of homework each night.
“The findings address how current homework practices in privileged, high-performing schools sustain students’ advantage in competitive climates yet hinder learning, full engagement and well-being,” Pope wrote.
Pope and her colleagues found that too much homework can diminish its effectiveness and even be counterproductive. They cite prior research indicating that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night, and that 90 minutes to two and a half hours is optimal for high school.
Their study found that too much homework is associated with:
• Greater stress: 56 percent of the students considered homework a primary source of stress, according to the survey data. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent put the pressure to get good grades in that category. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.
• Reductions in health: In their open-ended answers, many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems. The researchers asked students whether they experienced health issues such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems.
• Less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits: Both the survey data and student responses indicate that spending too much time on homework meant that students were “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills,” according to the researchers. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy.
A balancing act
The results offer empirical evidence that many students struggle to find balance between homework, extracurricular activities and social time, the researchers said. Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.
Also, there was no relationship between the time spent on homework and how much the student enjoyed it. The research quoted students as saying they often do homework they see as “pointless” or “mindless” in order to keep their grades up.
“This kind of busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points,” Pope said.
She said the research calls into question the value of assigning large amounts of homework in high-performing schools. Homework should not be simply assigned as a routine practice, she said.
“Rather, any homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development,” wrote Pope.
In places where students attend high-performing schools, too much homework can reduce their time to foster skills in the area of personal responsibility, the researchers concluded. “Young people are spending more time alone,” they wrote, “which means less time for family and fewer opportunities to engage in their communities.”
The researchers say that while their open-ended or “self-reporting” methodology to gauge student concerns about homework may have limitations – some might regard it as an opportunity for “typical adolescent complaining” – it was important to learn firsthand what the students believe.
The paper was co-authored by Mollie Galloway from Lewis and Clark College and Jerusha Conner from Villanova University.
Are You Down With or Done With Homework?
- Posted January 17, 2012
- By Lory Hough
The debate over how much schoolwork students should be doing at home has flared again, with one side saying it's too much, the other side saying in our competitive world, it's just not enough.
It was a move that doesn't happen very often in American public schools: The principal got rid of homework.
This past September, Stephanie Brant, principal of Gaithersburg Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Md., decided that instead of teachers sending kids home with math worksheets and spelling flash cards, students would instead go home and read. Every day for 30 minutes, more if they had time or the inclination, with parents or on their own.
"I knew this would be a big shift for my community," she says. But she also strongly believed it was a necessary one. Twenty-first-century learners, especially those in elementary school, need to think critically and understand their own learning — not spend night after night doing rote homework drills.
Brant's move may not be common, but she isn't alone in her questioning. The value of doing schoolwork at home has gone in and out of fashion in the United States among educators, policymakers, the media, and, more recently, parents. As far back as the late 1800s, with the rise of the Progressive Era, doctors such as Joseph Mayer Rice began pushing for a limit on what he called "mechanical homework," saying it caused childhood nervous conditions and eyestrain. Around that time, the then-influential Ladies Home Journal began publishing a series of anti-homework articles, stating that five hours of brain work a day was "the most we should ask of our children," and that homework was an intrusion on family life. In response, states like California passed laws abolishing homework for students under a certain age.
But, as is often the case with education, the tide eventually turned. After the Russians launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957, a space race emerged, and, writes Brian Gill in the journal Theory Into Practice, "The homework problem was reconceived as part of a national crisis; the U.S. was losing the Cold War because Russian children were smarter." Many earlier laws limiting homework were abolished, and the longterm trend toward less homework came to an end.
The debate re-emerged a decade later when parents of the late '60s and '70s argued that children should be free to play and explore — similar anti-homework wellness arguments echoed nearly a century earlier. By the early-1980s, however, the pendulum swung again with the publication of A Nation at Risk , which blamed poor education for a "rising tide of mediocrity." Students needed to work harder, the report said, and one way to do this was more homework.
For the most part, this pro-homework sentiment is still going strong today, in part because of mandatory testing and continued economic concerns about the nation's competitiveness. Many believe that today's students are falling behind their peers in places like Korea and Finland and are paying more attention to Angry Birds than to ancient Babylonia.
But there are also a growing number of Stephanie Brants out there, educators and parents who believe that students are stressed and missing out on valuable family time. Students, they say, particularly younger students who have seen a rise in the amount of take-home work and already put in a six- to nine-hour "work" day, need less, not more homework.
Who is right? Are students not working hard enough or is homework not working for them? Here's where the story gets a little tricky: It depends on whom you ask and what research you're looking at. As Cathy Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework , points out, "Homework has generated enough research so that a study can be found to support almost any position, as long as conflicting studies are ignored." Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth and a strong believer in eliminating all homework, writes that, "The fact that there isn't anything close to unanimity among experts belies the widespread assumption that homework helps." At best, he says, homework shows only an association, not a causal relationship, with academic achievement. In other words, it's hard to tease out how homework is really affecting test scores and grades. Did one teacher give better homework than another? Was one teacher more effective in the classroom? Do certain students test better or just try harder?
"It is difficult to separate where the effect of classroom teaching ends," Vatterott writes, "and the effect of homework begins."
Putting research aside, however, much of the current debate over homework is focused less on how homework affects academic achievement and more on time. Parents in particular have been saying that the amount of time children spend in school, especially with afterschool programs, combined with the amount of homework given — as early as kindergarten — is leaving students with little time to run around, eat dinner with their families, or even get enough sleep.
Certainly, for some parents, homework is a way to stay connected to their children's learning. But for others, homework creates a tug-of-war between parents and children, says Liz Goodenough, M.A.T.'71, creator of a documentary called Where Do the Children Play?
"Ideally homework should be about taking something home, spending a few curious and interesting moments in which children might engage with parents, and then getting that project back to school — an organizational triumph," she says. "A nag-free activity could engage family time: Ask a parent about his or her own childhood. Interview siblings."
Instead, as the authors of The Case Against Homework write, "Homework overload is turning many of us into the types of parents we never wanted to be: nags, bribers, and taskmasters."
Leslie Butchko saw it happen a few years ago when her son started sixth grade in the Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) United School District. She remembers him getting two to four hours of homework a night, plus weekend and vacation projects. He was overwhelmed and struggled to finish assignments, especially on nights when he also had an extracurricular activity.
"Ultimately, we felt compelled to have Bobby quit karate — he's a black belt — to allow more time for homework," she says. And then, with all of their attention focused on Bobby's homework, she and her husband started sending their youngest to his room so that Bobby could focus. "One day, my younger son gave us 15-minute coupons as a present for us to use to send him to play in the back room. … It was then that we realized there had to be something wrong with the amount of homework we were facing."
Butchko joined forces with another mother who was having similar struggles and ultimately helped get the homework policy in her district changed, limiting homework on weekends and holidays, setting time guidelines for daily homework, and broadening the definition of homework to include projects and studying for tests. As she told the school board at one meeting when the policy was first being discussed, "In closing, I just want to say that I had more free time at Harvard Law School than my son has in middle school, and that is not in the best interests of our children."
One barrier that Butchko had to overcome initially was convincing many teachers and parents that more homework doesn't necessarily equal rigor.
"Most of the parents that were against the homework policy felt that students need a large quantity of homework to prepare them for the rigorous AP classes in high school and to get them into Harvard," she says.
Stephanie Conklin, Ed.M.'06, sees this at Another Course to College, the Boston pilot school where she teaches math. "When a student is not completing [his or her] homework, parents usually are frustrated by this and agree with me that homework is an important part of their child's learning," she says.
As Timothy Jarman, Ed.M.'10, a ninth-grade English teacher at Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, N.C., says, "Parents think it is strange when their children are not assigned a substantial amount of homework."
That's because, writes Vatterott, in her chapter, "The Cult(ure) of Homework," the concept of homework "has become so engrained in U.S. culture that the word homework is part of the common vernacular."
These days, nightly homework is a given in American schools, writes Kohn.
"Homework isn't limited to those occasions when it seems appropriate and important. Most teachers and administrators aren't saying, 'It may be useful to do this particular project at home,'" he writes. "Rather, the point of departure seems to be, 'We've decided ahead of time that children will have to do something every night (or several times a week). … This commitment to the idea of homework in the abstract is accepted by the overwhelming majority of schools — public and private, elementary and secondary."
Brant had to confront this when she cut homework at Gaithersburg Elementary.
"A lot of my parents have this idea that homework is part of life. This is what I had to do when I was young," she says, and so, too, will our kids. "So I had to shift their thinking." She did this slowly, first by asking her teachers last year to really think about what they were sending home. And this year, in addition to forming a parent advisory group around the issue, she also holds events to answer questions.
Still, not everyone is convinced that homework as a given is a bad thing. "Any pursuit of excellence, be it in sports, the arts, or academics, requires hard work. That our culture finds it okay for kids to spend hours a day in a sport but not equal time on academics is part of the problem," wrote one pro-homework parent on the blog for the documentary Race to Nowhere , which looks at the stress American students are under. "Homework has always been an issue for parents and children. It is now and it was 20 years ago. I think when people decide to have children that it is their responsibility to educate them," wrote another.
And part of educating them, some believe, is helping them develop skills they will eventually need in adulthood. "Homework can help students develop study skills that will be of value even after they leave school," reads a publication on the U.S. Department of Education website called Homework Tips for Parents. "It can teach them that learning takes place anywhere, not just in the classroom. … It can foster positive character traits such as independence and responsibility. Homework can teach children how to manage time."
Annie Brown, Ed.M.'01, feels this is particularly critical at less affluent schools like the ones she has worked at in Boston, Cambridge, Mass., and Los Angeles as a literacy coach.
"It feels important that my students do homework because they will ultimately be competing for college placement and jobs with students who have done homework and have developed a work ethic," she says. "Also it will get them ready for independently taking responsibility for their learning, which will need to happen for them to go to college."
The problem with this thinking, writes Vatterott, is that homework becomes a way to practice being a worker.
"Which begs the question," she writes. "Is our job as educators to produce learners or workers?"
Slate magazine editor Emily Bazelon, in a piece about homework, says this makes no sense for younger kids.
"Why should we think that practicing homework in first grade will make you better at doing it in middle school?" she writes. "Doesn't the opposite seem equally plausible: that it's counterproductive to ask children to sit down and work at night before they're developmentally ready because you'll just make them tired and cross?"
Kohn writes in the American School Board Journal that this "premature exposure" to practices like homework (and sit-and-listen lessons and tests) "are clearly a bad match for younger children and of questionable value at any age." He calls it BGUTI: Better Get Used to It. "The logic here is that we have to prepare you for the bad things that are going to be done to you later … by doing them to you now."
According to a recent University of Michigan study, daily homework for six- to eight-year-olds increased on average from about 8 minutes in 1981 to 22 minutes in 2003. A review of research by Duke University Professor Harris Cooper found that for elementary school students, "the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero."
So should homework be eliminated? Of course not, say many Ed School graduates who are teaching. Not only would students not have time for essays and long projects, but also teachers would not be able to get all students to grade level or to cover critical material, says Brett Pangburn, Ed.M.'06, a sixth-grade English teacher at Excel Academy Charter School in Boston. Still, he says, homework has to be relevant.
"Kids need to practice the skills being taught in class, especially where, like the kids I teach at Excel, they are behind and need to catch up," he says. "Our results at Excel have demonstrated that kids can catch up and view themselves as in control of their academic futures, but this requires hard work, and homework is a part of it."
Ed School Professor Howard Gardner basically agrees.
"America and Americans lurch between too little homework in many of our schools to an excess of homework in our most competitive environments — Li'l Abner vs. Tiger Mother," he says. "Neither approach makes sense. Homework should build on what happens in class, consolidating skills and helping students to answer new questions."
So how can schools come to a happy medium, a way that allows teachers to cover everything they need while not overwhelming students? Conklin says she often gives online math assignments that act as labs and students have two or three days to complete them, including some in-class time. Students at Pangburn's school have a 50-minute silent period during regular school hours where homework can be started, and where teachers pull individual or small groups of students aside for tutoring, often on that night's homework. Afterschool homework clubs can help.
Some schools and districts have adapted time limits rather than nix homework completely, with the 10-minute per grade rule being the standard — 10 minutes a night for first-graders, 30 minutes for third-graders, and so on. (This remedy, however, is often met with mixed results since not all students work at the same pace.) Other schools offer an extended day that allows teachers to cover more material in school, in turn requiring fewer take-home assignments. And for others, like Stephanie Brant's elementary school in Maryland, more reading with a few targeted project assignments has been the answer.
"The routine of reading is so much more important than the routine of homework," she says. "Let's have kids reflect. You can still have the routine and you can still have your workspace, but now it's for reading. I often say to parents, if we can put a man on the moon, we can put a man or woman on Mars and that person is now a second-grader. We don't know what skills that person will need. At the end of the day, we have to feel confident that we're giving them something they can use on Mars."
Read a January 2014 update.
Homework Policy Still Going Strong
The magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Commencement Marshal Sarah Fiarman: The Principal of the Matter
Making Math “Almost Fun”
Alum develops curriculum to entice reluctant math learners
Lessons Learned: Zid Mancenido, Ph.D.'22
Time Spent on Homework and Academic Achievement: A Meta-analysis Study Related to Results of TIMSS
[el tiempo dedicado a la tarea y al rendimiento académico: un estudio metaanalítico relacionado con los resultados de timss], gulnar ozyildirim akdeniz university, konyaalti, antalya, turkey, https://doi.org/10.5093/psed2021a30.
Received 31 August 2020, Accepted 24 May 2021
Homework is a common instructional technique that requires extra time, energy, and effort apart from school time. Is homework worth these investments? The study aimed to investigate whether the amount of time spent on homework had any effect on academic achievement and to determine moderators in the relationship between these two terms by using TIMSS data through the meta-analysis method. In this meta-analysis study, data obtained from 488 independent findings from 74 countries in the seven surveys of TIMSS and a sample of 429,970 students was included. The coefficient of standardized means, based on the random effect model, was used to measure the mean effect size and the Q statistic was used to determine the significance of moderator variables. This study revealed that the students spending their time on homework at medium level had effect on their academic achievement and there were some significant moderators in this relationship.
La tarea es una técnica instructiva común que requiere tiempo extra, energía y esfuerzo aparte del horario escolar. ¿Vale la pena hacer estas inversiones? El objetivo del estudio era investigar si el tiempo dedicado a la tarea tenía algún efecto en el rendimiento académico y determinar los moderadores de la relación entre estos dos términos mediante el uso de datos TIMSS a través del método de metaanálisis. En este estudio de metaanálisis se incluyeron los datos obtenidos de 488 hallazgos independientes de 74 países en las siete encuestas de TIMSS y una muestra de 429,970 estudiantes. Se utilizó el coeficiente de medias estandarizadas, basado en el modelo de efecto aleatorio, para medir el tamaño medio del efecto y el estadístico Q para determinar la significación de las variables moderadoras. El estudio reveló el hecho de que los estudiantes que dedican su tiempo a la tarea en el nivel medio tiene efecto en su rendimiento académico y hubo algunos moderadores significativos de esta relación.
Cite this article as: Ozyildirim, G. (2022). Time Spent on Homework and Academic Achievement: A Meta-analysis Study Related to Results of TIMSS. Psicología Educativa, 28 (1) , 13 - 21. https://doi.org/10.5093/psed2021a30
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