Homework has been around as long as schooling itself. In the 19th and early 20th centuries primary schools, which were only considered grades 1-4, only focused on reading, writing and arithmetic. Additional material was only introduced in grammar (5th-8th grade) and high school, which most students did not or could not attend (Vatterott). In primary schools, the homework was based on simple rote learning which is “the memorization of information based on repetition” (What is Rote Learning). Homework had faced a period of negative public opinion in the early 20th century where it was removed from many schools. This reform was rescinded in the mid-20th century giving way to modern curriculum featuring: history, mathematics, language, art, computer tech, reading, and music in primary schools (Vatterott). All of these subjects came with their own form of homework, each more complex than the 19th century’s rote memorization.
In recent years, since the start of the 21st century, homework has been under meticulous evaluation yet again. There has been a resurgence of the question “are students receiving too much homework?”. However, in the past few years this question further developed to include whether homework, and the amount of it, has negative effects on students. For the purpose of evaluating the question above, students will be operationally defined as primary school students (K-12), due to different standards for secondary school (college) and tertiary school (graduate school) students.
Teachers choose to give homework for a multitude of reasons with the intent to benefit the students. Homework functions as a continuation of the information from the classes earlier that day. It also allows students to work at their own pace; taking as much time as he or she may need to fully grasp the concept they are working on. Repetition in the form of solving mathematic problems, memorizing multiplication tables and vocabulary words has been proved to be helpful for remembering in the past with rote learning. Homework is intended to work as a preparation for the future whether it be the class the next day, or where information will build upon the day before lessons, or for exams.
Homework is expected to have positive consequences for students. It is intended to reinforce and refresh information to better instill learning of the materials. Homework is also intended to teach good time management, requiring the student to juggle many assignments in one night. Group projects or assignments also should help with management and teach students how to collaborate, lead, and manage a large amount of work among several people.
Unfortunately, the intended beneficence of homework is not always what students get out of their homework. For example, what often happens with group projects is there are several members who do not complete their portion of the work and leave one or two students to complete all the work because they do not want to fail. Furthermore, teachers often try to persuade students to do their homework by making the assignments weighted more heavily. Another method of choice in recent years is to increase the amount of homework to produce further understanding of the material. The National Education Association suggests 10-minutes of homework per grade per night (i.e. 10-minutes for first graders to 120-minutes for 12th graders), however many students are getting anywhere from two to three times this amount (Wallace). The combination of these two methods, weighting homework more heavily and giving more of it, is extremely detrimental to students’ success; when a student receives hours of homework a night, which is a large part of the students’ grade, it becomes too difficult to manage.
The actual consequences of homework, after all of the aforementioned factors are considered, are quiet negative. Homework produces stress and anxiety. A correlational study by Hong et. al. found that, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2015, 8% of youth, ages 13-18, had an anxiety disorder, a previously “adult only” diagnosis. The early onset of other “adult” disorders, disorders according to the DSM V to express onset in young adulthood (ages 18-25), had been linked to educational stress. Students are also missing out on key parts of development; such as social activities, because they must stay in to complete homework. “Through social interactions, children begin to establish a sense of ‘self’ and to learn what others expect of them” (Chagnon). Students are facing anxiety and depression, along with a fear of failing due to lower self-efficacy and belief in one’s ability to complete a task, and this is not only affecting their school work but their entire life.
It is evident that while homework is intended to benefit students, in practice it is actually producing negative consequences that are affecting all aspects of students’ lives both at home and in the classroom. Homework is intended to reinforce learning and produce a finer understanding and stronger grasp of classroom concepts. In reality, the amount of homework combined with its stressed importance, is resulting in students having a low self-efficacy, decreased belief in their ability to complete a task, and anxiety towards what should be a positive educational experience. When it comes to the question of whether homework is having a negative effect on students, the answer is clear and will surely become more defined as further research is conducted.