Too Much Homework is Bad for Students

atkins-bookshelf-educationThat’s right, you read that correctly: too much homework is bad for students — great news for students; bad news for tiger parents. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education (July 2013), Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, found that too much homework has a significantly negative impact on a high school student’s physical and mental well-being as well as behavioral engagement — as if they don’t have enough problems (puberty, peer pressure, embarrassing parents, wearing the “right” clothes, bad hair days, etc). Pope and her colleagues surveyed 4,317 students from ten high-performing high schools located in upper-middle-class communities in California. Student respondents, who lived in households with a median income of more than $90,000, generally had 3.1 hours of homework each evening, and graduated from high school to attend a two- or four-year college. Researchers asked students open-ended questions (presumably after they pried the smartphones out of the students’ hands to get their full attention) about their perceptions regarding homework and their daily life.

The results of the study indicate that too much homework is counterproductive, building on previous research that found that the benefits of homework peak at about two hours per night (optimal is 90 to 120 minutes); Pope writes: “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… [Students are] not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills.”  Specifically. Pope reported the following findings:
1. The majority of students found homework and tests primary sources of stress.
2. Students indicated that a lot of homework led to sleep deprivation and related health problems (e.g., exhaustion, weight loss, headaches, etc.)
3. Students had to choose homework over social time (spending time with family and friends) or activities (such as sports or hobbies).

Pope and her team noted that many students complained about homework that was “pointless” or “mindless.” In response to this finding, Pope writes “This kind of busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points… [Any] homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development.”

Until high school teachers, principals, and tiger parents learn about and digest this important research, students across the country will have to stress out over homework,  burning the midnight oil, a little longer. When wiser heads prevail, students will finally be able to put down their books and go out and get a life.

Read related posts: Education Reform
Education is the Engine of Personal Development
What Makes a Great Teacher?

For further reading:

2 thoughts on “Too Much Homework is Bad for Students

    • Stefania: Yes, that with about 90-120 minutes vs. 3 or more hours of homework each evening. The key, as the ancient Greeks observed, is everything in moderation. Recent research consistently indicates that society, school, and the kids themselves are imposing high and unhealthy levels of stress.

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