Homework has been a staple of mainstream curriculum since the beginning of the teaching profession. It is rumored that even the Paleolithic student complained to their parents about the amount of homework they had to do when they got home from fire-starting and wheel-inventing classes. Tradition aside, it is important to examine just how much assigned homework is an effective learning tool and when the amount of homework given becomes ineffective “busy work” that the students begrudgingly complete minutes before class starts.
At its best, homework is additional practice for students. Practice is important because it helps students make a skill automatic and encourages the brain to move knowledge from short-term working memory into long-term memory. Studies have shown the completion of homework to help students reinforce what they learn in the classroom and increase retention of factual knowledge while reinforcing critical life skills like time management and independent problem solving. However, there seems to be a tipping point.
Homework can boost learning, but doing too much can be detrimental. The National PTA and National Education Association support the “ten-minute homework rule,” which recommends ten minutes of homework per grade level, per night (ten minutes for first grade, 20 minutes for second grade, and so on, up to two hours total for 12th grade). 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 actually began to decline. Giving students too much homework can lead to fatigue, stress, and a loss of interest in academics – something that we all want to avoid.
The goal shouldn’t be to eliminate homework or to choose an amount to assign for assigning’s sake, but to make the work authentic, meaningful, and engaging. 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. For more teacher-tips and curriculum guides, be sure to stay up to date with the blogs and products provided by Social Studies MegaStore