Not only does too much homework negatively affect students’ test scores, but new research suggests that even an hour or two of homework each night gives no measurable advantages to students before they enter grades 10 through 12. Sydney University’s Richard Walker headed up the study outlined in his new book “Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies.”
According to the study, students in elementary school get limited benefits from homework, while middle schoolers get slightly more. It’s not until high school that academic performance becomes enhanced with homework. Even then, too much homework can lead to poor mental and physical health. A lack of sleep is one cause of this, with one study linking sleep deficiencies in teens to obesity. A lack of sleep can also lead to diabetes, another study found.
Several factors seems to be responsible for this finding. Teachers often give students busy work as take-home assignments, which do not help advance the students’ learning. To help enhance achievement, teachers must know how to give valuable homework assignments.
Environments at home are also a factor, with kids being easily distracted by the TV, siblings, and other activities. Students who participate in extracurricular activities also experience problems with juggling both when the take-home course load is substantial.
One rule of thumb is to give students in first grade around 10 minutes of homework, second graders 20 minutes, and so on. After 90 minutes of homework, middle schoolers are on homework overload, while high schoolers in one study saw decreasing test scores if their homework was somewhere between 90 and 150 minutes.
At one school in California, educators have limited the amount of homework they assign in light of its possible detrimental effects. They want students to get a good night’s rest so they’ll perform better in school. From there, it’s up to the parents to enforce a decent bedtime. But as we’ve discussed many times before, sleep is an essential part of our health and should never be neglected – studies or no studies. As a general rule, adults should aim for at least seven hours of rest a night, if not eight or nine. And kids need even more – up to 10 depending on their age.