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Here at Tutorhub, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the rising debate surrounding the topic of homework and how beneficial the practice really is to learning outcomes. In November we blogged about French President Hollande’s astonishing announcement that he was moving to ban homework as part of large-scale reforms to the Gallic schools system.

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Did you know that not a single academic study has ever been able to prove a positive correlation between academic success and homework? Me neither. Now, a new study reported on in the Huffington Post adds weight to the growing pile evidence that says homework has little or no effect on academic success.

Conducted by Adam Maltese (Assistant Professor of Science Education at Indiana University) Robert H. Tai, (Associate Professor of Science Education at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, and Xitao Fan, (Dean of Education at the University of Macau), the latest study surveyed more than 18,000 high-school maths and science students to investigate the relationship between homework academic performance – specifically whether more time spent on homework affects overall grades.

Thousands of students were asked one question ‘How much time do you spend on homework?’ and though a “very modest” correlation between the amount of homework students said they did and their scores on standardised tests was found, there was no relationship whatsoever between time spent on homework and course grades, and furthermore “no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not.”

Co-author Robert Tai said: “In today’s current educational environment, with all the activities taking up children’s time both in school and out of school, the purpose of each homework assignment must be clear and targeted.”

“With homework, more is not better.”

So if homework is seemingly a waste of time, perhaps Hollande is on to something. Incorporating homework back into the classroom where learning outcomes are best could work to improve grades, though I guess only time will tell.

If the responses to the study question are to be believed it would mean 100 – 180 50-minute class periods of extra learning time a year could be brought back into the classroom, leaving our kids to explore other interests and develop in other ways after school.

6 Comments

6 Responses to “New study finds homework doesn’t improve grades”

  1. icaltefl

    I don’t think it’s as simple as this. Personally I feel that it’s more about the type of homework given and quality rather than the quantity. Giving homework merely for the sake of giving homework is pointless. Giving homework which is very specific, involves self-learning, stretches the student and so on is useful. It’s not simply a black and white issue.

    Reply (7) (10)
  2. headguruteacher

    Sigh. I think this is classic averaged-out research mush. Self-reported answer to one question? Come off it. It’s entirely obvious that ‘time spent’ is no measure of learning, whether done at home or in a classroom. That could only be true with something requiring repetitive practice like with the piano. There’s no indication of the nature of the homework in this test or the home learning environment at all. It’s a poorly constructed study. Some students who do well on tests will inevitably complete their homework more quickly while some others, who struggle, might well take longer.

    Really, this kind of study doesn’t tell us anything at all. Even if the study was sound, it only shows what has happened historically in a relation to a specific measured outcome; it could be a record of systematic mediocre practice or simply of bad data reporting. It says nothing about what is possible if things are done well or about the role homework can play more broadly in supporting a culture of learning and in creating interesting opportunities that can’t be managed within the confines of the school timetable.

    Reply (3) (9)

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