In the early 20th century, the mind was viewed as a muscle that could be strengthened through mental exercise. Since such mental exercise could be done at home, homework was viewed favorably. During the 1940s, schools began shifting their emphasis from memorization to problem solving. Homework fell out of favor because it was closely associated with the repetition of material. In the 1950s, Americans worried that education lacked rigor and left children unprepared for the new technologies, such as computers. Homework, it was believed, could speed up learning. A decade later, however, educators and parents became concerned that homework was crowding out social experience, outdoor recreation and creative activities. By the 1980s, homework came back into favor as a way to stem the rising tide of mediocrity in American education. Fueled by rising academic standards, the push for more homework has continued through the 1990s into the 21st century.
“Homework's effect on achievement can be described most accurately as above average," claims Harris Cooper in "Homework Research and Policy: A Review of Literature." Since the 1960s, numerous studies have evidenced the importance of homework to academic achievement; in fact, the ratio of studies in support of homework’s relationship to achievement to studies concluding it had no impact on achievement has been more than 2:1. Moreover, those studies indicated that the connection to achievement increased with the grade level; in other words, the higher the grade level, the greater the importance of homework. A typical homework-completing junior high school student will outperform students who do not do homework by 35% on standardized tests; at the high school level, students outperform homework non-completers by an amazing 69%.
From the perspective of the Federal government’s initiative “No Child Left Behind” and officials of the U.S. Department of Education, homework serves as an intellectual discipline in itself, establishes study habits, eases time constraints on the amount of curricular material that can be covered in class, supplements the work done in school and reinforces that learning experience. In addition, it fosters student initiative, independence, and responsibility.Most educators are in agreement; the effects of homework are numerous and long-lasting.
- Immediate: Students retain information and understand material better. Critical thinking and concept formation are increased. Information processing is improved, and the curriculum in enriched.
- Long-term academic: Learning is encouraged during leisure time. Attitude toward school is improved. Study habits and skills are better. Self-responsibility is cultivated each time a student completes and hands in an assignment.
Long-term non-academic: Students have greater self-direction and self-discipline. Time management is easier for students. Students are more inquisitive and participate in more independent problem solving.
After School Suggestions for Healthy Study Habits
- Establish a routine; consistency improves concentration and effectiveness.
- Condition the mind and body to the task; study at the same time and place.
- Eat, relax, and play a little bit before sitting down to homework.
- Choose a time during the day or early evening; nighttime study can take twice as long.
- Eliminate all distractions (TV, music, people, etc); the mind can only do one thing at a time.
- Provide good lighting, a clean, uncluttered desk or table and a comfortable chair.
- Place all the necessary study materials nearby (e.g. paper, pencil, calculator, etc.)
Work 40-45 minutes then take a 5-10 minute break; resume for another 40-45 minutes.
Research has indicated that praise for effort yields better results than either acknowledgment of intelligence or reminders of capabilities. The important message is that effort determines success.
Walberg, H. (1991). “Does homework help?” School community journal 1, (1).