Homework Has Become Counterproductive

The hours students must spend on homework per class has made it worse for many students as they become overwhelmed with work

Elizabeth Nielson, Staff Writer

  Many students, most, in fact, have various commitments outside of school. Many have jobs, care for their families, or are a part of an athletic or academic competition team. Taking time to eat, sleep, and shower into consideration, there isn’t too much time in a day. Yet, students come home most nights and have to do some form of homework. A day at school equals the equivalent of a traditional shift at most jobs, clocking in at about eight hours. After having an entire day of consecutive work, it seems counterintuitive to force students to continue working for several hours at home. Due to a lack of professional boundaries, students will grow up to be adults who struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance and aren’t able to enjoy hobbies or personal time.

  Homework has been a long-term debate; students and parents alike argue that unproductive and repetitive homework takes time away from students that they should be spending outside, working, with their friends or family, or pursuing hobbies and interests.

  “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,” said California mother Leslie Butchko at a school board meeting for her district.

  There is a third group in the fight against homework: the compromisers, who believe that homework should still be implemented in education, but should look different. Many studies have shown that homework is beneficial for students, teaching them essential real-life skills such as  managing their time and being productive in the face of distractions.

  Yet, studies also show that this is only true to a point. At a certain level, homework does become counterproductive. Dr. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, references the law of diminishing returns, meaning that the more energy invested in something, the less beneficial it is, when talking about homework.

  “The bottom line really is all kids should be doing homework, but the amount and type should vary according to their developmental level,” Cooper said.

  Cooper supports the well-known “10-minute rule” in regards to homework. The 10-minute rule states that students should only receive 10 minutes of homework per grade level. For example, a third-grader should only receive 30 minutes of homework for maximum benefit. Cooper’s research shows that this holds true even throughout years of higher education.

  Yet, even this has its complaints. For example, every student works at a different pace. For students who work at a slower pace, they would end up getting assigned much less work than a student who is able to work faster. While this benefits students at the slower end of the spectrum, as it prevents them from having to work for a longer period of time than a faster peer to complete an assignment, it means that the faster student would have more work in the same amount of time. While this is true, the 10-minute rule is more of an equitable principle, which reflects in closer accuracy how things actually work in the modern workplace. This policy would also allow for equal amounts of time for students to partake in hobbies and social activities which are crucial to an individual’s enrichment, development, and both their physical and mental health.

  Cumulatively, the research seems to support, with certain exceptions, that limited homework assigned with the intent of teaching students responsibility and time management and helping them practice concepts is more beneficial to learners of every grade level than any other homework system.