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Why homework doesn't seem to boost learning--and how it could.

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Some schools are eliminating homework, citing research showing it doesn’t do much to boost achievement. But maybe teachers just need to assign a different kind of homework.

In 2016, a second-grade teacher in Texas delighted her students—and at least some of their parents—by announcing she would no longer assign homework. “Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance,” she explained.

The following year, the superintendent of a Florida school district serving 42,000 students eliminated homework for all elementary students and replaced it with twenty minutes of nightly reading, saying she was basing her decision on “solid research about what works best in improving academic achievement in students.”

Many other elementary schools seem to have quietly adopted similar policies. Critics have objected that even if homework doesn’t increase grades or test scores, it has other benefits, like fostering good study habits and providing parents with a window into what kids are doing in school.

Those arguments have merit, but why doesn’t homework boost academic achievement? The research cited by educators just doesn’t seem to make sense. If a child wants to learn to play the violin, it’s obvious she needs to practice at home between lessons (at least, it’s obvious to an adult). And psychologists have identified a range of strategies that help students learn, many of which seem ideally suited for homework assignments.

For example, there’s something called “ retrieval practice ,” which means trying to recall information you’ve already learned. The optimal time to engage in retrieval practice is not immediately after you’ve acquired information but after you’ve forgotten it a bit—like, perhaps, after school. A homework assignment could require students to answer questions about what was covered in class that day without consulting their notes. Research has found that retrieval practice and similar learning strategies are far more powerful than simply rereading or reviewing material.

One possible explanation for the general lack of a boost from homework is that few teachers know about this research. And most have gotten little training in how and why to assign homework. These are things that schools of education and teacher-prep programs typically don’t teach . So it’s quite possible that much of the homework teachers assign just isn’t particularly effective for many students.

Even if teachers do manage to assign effective homework, it may not show up on the measures of achievement used by researchers—for example, standardized reading test scores. Those tests are designed to measure general reading comprehension skills, not to assess how much students have learned in specific classes. Good homework assignments might have helped a student learn a lot about, say, Ancient Egypt. But if the reading passages on a test cover topics like life in the Arctic or the habits of the dormouse, that student’s test score may well not reflect what she’s learned.

The research relied on by those who oppose homework has actually found it has a modest positive effect at the middle and high school levels—just not in elementary school. But for the most part, the studies haven’t looked at whether it matters what kind of homework is assigned or whether there are different effects for different demographic student groups. Focusing on those distinctions could be illuminating.

A study that looked specifically at math homework , for example, found it boosted achievement more in elementary school than in middle school—just the opposite of the findings on homework in general. And while one study found that parental help with homework generally doesn’t boost students’ achievement—and can even have a negative effect— another concluded that economically disadvantaged students whose parents help with homework improve their performance significantly.

That seems to run counter to another frequent objection to homework, which is that it privileges kids who are already advantaged. Well-educated parents are better able to provide help, the argument goes, and it’s easier for affluent parents to provide a quiet space for kids to work in—along with a computer and internet access . While those things may be true, not assigning homework—or assigning ineffective homework—can end up privileging advantaged students even more.

Students from less educated families are most in need of the boost that effective homework can provide, because they’re less likely to acquire academic knowledge and vocabulary at home. And homework can provide a way for lower-income parents—who often don’t have time to volunteer in class or participate in parents’ organizations—to forge connections to their children’s schools. Rather than giving up on homework because of social inequities, schools could help parents support homework in ways that don’t depend on their own knowledge—for example, by recruiting others to help, as some low-income demographic groups have been able to do . Schools could also provide quiet study areas at the end of the day, and teachers could assign homework that doesn’t rely on technology.

Another argument against homework is that it causes students to feel overburdened and stressed.  While that may be true at schools serving affluent populations, students at low-performing ones often don’t get much homework at all—even in high school. One study found that lower-income ninth-graders “consistently described receiving minimal homework—perhaps one or two worksheets or textbook pages, the occasional project, and 30 minutes of reading per night.” And if they didn’t complete assignments, there were few consequences. I discovered this myself when trying to tutor students in writing at a high-poverty high school. After I expressed surprise that none of the kids I was working with had completed a brief writing assignment, a teacher told me, “Oh yeah—I should have told you. Our students don’t really do homework.”

If and when disadvantaged students get to college, their relative lack of study skills and good homework habits can present a serious handicap. After noticing that black and Hispanic students were failing her course in disproportionate numbers, a professor at the University of North Carolina decided to make some changes , including giving homework assignments that required students to quiz themselves without consulting their notes. Performance improved across the board, but especially for students of color and the disadvantaged. The gap between black and white students was cut in half, and the gaps between Hispanic and white students—along with that between first-generation college students and others—closed completely.

There’s no reason this kind of support should wait until students get to college. To be most effective—both in terms of instilling good study habits and building students’ knowledge—homework assignments that boost learning should start in elementary school.

Some argue that young children just need time to chill after a long day at school. But the “ten-minute rule”—recommended by homework researchers—would have first graders doing ten minutes of homework, second graders twenty minutes, and so on. That leaves plenty of time for chilling, and even brief assignments could have a significant impact if they were well-designed.

But a fundamental problem with homework at the elementary level has to do with the curriculum, which—partly because of standardized testing— has narrowed to reading and math. Social studies and science have been marginalized or eliminated, especially in schools where test scores are low. Students spend hours every week practicing supposed reading comprehension skills like “making inferences” or identifying “author’s purpose”—the kinds of skills that the tests try to measure—with little or no attention paid to content.

But as research has established, the most important component in reading comprehension is knowledge of the topic you’re reading about. Classroom time—or homework time—spent on illusory comprehension “skills” would be far better spent building knowledge of the very subjects schools have eliminated. Even if teachers try to take advantage of retrieval practice—say, by asking students to recall what they’ve learned that day about “making comparisons” or “sequence of events”—it won’t have much impact.

If we want to harness the potential power of homework—particularly for disadvantaged students—we’ll need to educate teachers about what kind of assignments actually work. But first, we’ll need to start teaching kids something substantive about the world, beginning as early as possible.

Natalie Wexler

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The Cult of Homework

America’s devotion to the practice stems in part from the fact that it’s what today’s parents and teachers grew up with themselves.

homework does not work well

America has long had a fickle relationship with homework. A century or so ago, progressive reformers argued that it made kids unduly stressed , which later led in some cases to district-level bans on it for all grades under seventh. This anti-homework sentiment faded, though, amid mid-century fears that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union (which led to more homework), only to resurface in the 1960s and ’70s, when a more open culture came to see homework as stifling play and creativity (which led to less). But this didn’t last either: In the ’80s, government researchers blamed America’s schools for its economic troubles and recommended ramping homework up once more.

The 21st century has so far been a homework-heavy era, with American teenagers now averaging about twice as much time spent on homework each day as their predecessors did in the 1990s . Even little kids are asked to bring school home with them. A 2015 study , for instance, found that kindergarteners, who researchers tend to agree shouldn’t have any take-home work, were spending about 25 minutes a night on it.

But not without pushback. As many children, not to mention their parents and teachers, are drained by their daily workload, some schools and districts are rethinking how homework should work—and some teachers are doing away with it entirely. They’re reviewing the research on homework (which, it should be noted, is contested) and concluding that it’s time to revisit the subject.

Read: My daughter’s homework is killing me

Hillsborough, California, an affluent suburb of San Francisco, is one district that has changed its ways. The district, which includes three elementary schools and a middle school, worked with teachers and convened panels of parents in order to come up with a homework policy that would allow students more unscheduled time to spend with their families or to play. In August 2017, it rolled out an updated policy, which emphasized that homework should be “meaningful” and banned due dates that fell on the day after a weekend or a break.

“The first year was a bit bumpy,” says Louann Carlomagno, the district’s superintendent. She says the adjustment was at times hard for the teachers, some of whom had been doing their job in a similar fashion for a quarter of a century. Parents’ expectations were also an issue. Carlomagno says they took some time to “realize that it was okay not to have an hour of homework for a second grader—that was new.”

Most of the way through year two, though, the policy appears to be working more smoothly. “The students do seem to be less stressed based on conversations I’ve had with parents,” Carlomagno says. It also helps that the students performed just as well on the state standardized test last year as they have in the past.

Earlier this year, the district of Somerville, Massachusetts, also rewrote its homework policy, reducing the amount of homework its elementary and middle schoolers may receive. In grades six through eight, for example, homework is capped at an hour a night and can only be assigned two to three nights a week.

Jack Schneider, an education professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell whose daughter attends school in Somerville, is generally pleased with the new policy. But, he says, it’s part of a bigger, worrisome pattern. “The origin for this was general parental dissatisfaction, which not surprisingly was coming from a particular demographic,” Schneider says. “Middle-class white parents tend to be more vocal about concerns about homework … They feel entitled enough to voice their opinions.”

Schneider is all for revisiting taken-for-granted practices like homework, but thinks districts need to take care to be inclusive in that process. “I hear approximately zero middle-class white parents talking about how homework done best in grades K through two actually strengthens the connection between home and school for young people and their families,” he says. Because many of these parents already feel connected to their school community, this benefit of homework can seem redundant. “They don’t need it,” Schneider says, “so they’re not advocating for it.”

That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that homework is more vital in low-income districts. In fact, there are different, but just as compelling, reasons it can be burdensome in these communities as well. Allison Wienhold, who teaches high-school Spanish in the small town of Dunkerton, Iowa, has phased out homework assignments over the past three years. Her thinking: Some of her students, she says, have little time for homework because they’re working 30 hours a week or responsible for looking after younger siblings.

As educators reduce or eliminate the homework they assign, it’s worth asking what amount and what kind of homework is best for students. It turns out that there’s some disagreement about this among researchers, who tend to fall in one of two camps.

In the first camp is Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Cooper conducted a review of the existing research on homework in the mid-2000s , and found that, up to a point, the amount of homework students reported doing correlates with their performance on in-class tests. This correlation, the review found, was stronger for older students than for younger ones.

This conclusion is generally accepted among educators, in part because it’s compatible with “the 10-minute rule,” a rule of thumb popular among teachers suggesting that the proper amount of homework is approximately 10 minutes per night, per grade level—that is, 10 minutes a night for first graders, 20 minutes a night for second graders, and so on, up to two hours a night for high schoolers.

In Cooper’s eyes, homework isn’t overly burdensome for the typical American kid. He points to a 2014 Brookings Institution report that found “little evidence that the homework load has increased for the average student”; onerous amounts of homework, it determined, are indeed out there, but relatively rare. Moreover, the report noted that most parents think their children get the right amount of homework, and that parents who are worried about under-assigning outnumber those who are worried about over-assigning. Cooper says that those latter worries tend to come from a small number of communities with “concerns about being competitive for the most selective colleges and universities.”

According to Alfie Kohn, squarely in camp two, most of the conclusions listed in the previous three paragraphs are questionable. Kohn, the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing , considers homework to be a “reliable extinguisher of curiosity,” and has several complaints with the evidence that Cooper and others cite in favor of it. Kohn notes, among other things, that Cooper’s 2006 meta-analysis doesn’t establish causation, and that its central correlation is based on children’s (potentially unreliable) self-reporting of how much time they spend doing homework. (Kohn’s prolific writing on the subject alleges numerous other methodological faults.)

In fact, other correlations make a compelling case that homework doesn’t help. Some countries whose students regularly outperform American kids on standardized tests, such as Japan and Denmark, send their kids home with less schoolwork , while students from some countries with higher homework loads than the U.S., such as Thailand and Greece, fare worse on tests. (Of course, international comparisons can be fraught because so many factors, in education systems and in societies at large, might shape students’ success.)

Kohn also takes issue with the way achievement is commonly assessed. “If all you want is to cram kids’ heads with facts for tomorrow’s tests that they’re going to forget by next week, yeah, if you give them more time and make them do the cramming at night, that could raise the scores,” he says. “But if you’re interested in kids who know how to think or enjoy learning, then homework isn’t merely ineffective, but counterproductive.”

His concern is, in a way, a philosophical one. “The practice of homework assumes that only academic growth matters, to the point that having kids work on that most of the school day isn’t enough,” Kohn says. What about homework’s effect on quality time spent with family? On long-term information retention? On critical-thinking skills? On social development? On success later in life? On happiness? The research is quiet on these questions.

Another problem is that research tends to focus on homework’s quantity rather than its quality, because the former is much easier to measure than the latter. While experts generally agree that the substance of an assignment matters greatly (and that a lot of homework is uninspiring busywork), there isn’t a catchall rule for what’s best—the answer is often specific to a certain curriculum or even an individual student.

Given that homework’s benefits are so narrowly defined (and even then, contested), it’s a bit surprising that assigning so much of it is often a classroom default, and that more isn’t done to make the homework that is assigned more enriching. A number of things are preserving this state of affairs—things that have little to do with whether homework helps students learn.

Jack Schneider, the Massachusetts parent and professor, thinks it’s important to consider the generational inertia of the practice. “The vast majority of parents of public-school students themselves are graduates of the public education system,” he says. “Therefore, their views of what is legitimate have been shaped already by the system that they would ostensibly be critiquing.” In other words, many parents’ own history with homework might lead them to expect the same for their children, and anything less is often taken as an indicator that a school or a teacher isn’t rigorous enough. (This dovetails with—and complicates—the finding that most parents think their children have the right amount of homework.)

Barbara Stengel, an education professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, brought up two developments in the educational system that might be keeping homework rote and unexciting. The first is the importance placed in the past few decades on standardized testing, which looms over many public-school classroom decisions and frequently discourages teachers from trying out more creative homework assignments. “They could do it, but they’re afraid to do it, because they’re getting pressure every day about test scores,” Stengel says.

Second, she notes that the profession of teaching, with its relatively low wages and lack of autonomy, struggles to attract and support some of the people who might reimagine homework, as well as other aspects of education. “Part of why we get less interesting homework is because some of the people who would really have pushed the limits of that are no longer in teaching,” she says.

“In general, we have no imagination when it comes to homework,” Stengel says. She wishes teachers had the time and resources to remake homework into something that actually engages students. “If we had kids reading—anything, the sports page, anything that they’re able to read—that’s the best single thing. If we had kids going to the zoo, if we had kids going to parks after school, if we had them doing all of those things, their test scores would improve. But they’re not. They’re going home and doing homework that is not expanding what they think about.”

“Exploratory” is one word Mike Simpson used when describing the types of homework he’d like his students to undertake. Simpson is the head of the Stone Independent School, a tiny private high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that opened in 2017. “We were lucky to start a school a year and a half ago,” Simpson says, “so it’s been easy to say we aren’t going to assign worksheets, we aren’t going assign regurgitative problem sets.” For instance, a half-dozen students recently built a 25-foot trebuchet on campus.

Simpson says he thinks it’s a shame that the things students have to do at home are often the least fulfilling parts of schooling: “When our students can’t make the connection between the work they’re doing at 11 o’clock at night on a Tuesday to the way they want their lives to be, I think we begin to lose the plot.”

When I talked with other teachers who did homework makeovers in their classrooms, I heard few regrets. Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Joshua, Texas, stopped assigning take-home packets of worksheets three years ago, and instead started asking her students to do 20 minutes of pleasure reading a night. She says she’s pleased with the results, but she’s noticed something funny. “Some kids,” she says, “really do like homework.” She’s started putting out a bucket of it for students to draw from voluntarily—whether because they want an additional challenge or something to pass the time at home.

Chris Bronke, a high-school English teacher in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, told me something similar. This school year, he eliminated homework for his class of freshmen, and now mostly lets students study on their own or in small groups during class time. It’s usually up to them what they work on each day, and Bronke has been impressed by how they’ve managed their time.

In fact, some of them willingly spend time on assignments at home, whether because they’re particularly engaged, because they prefer to do some deeper thinking outside school, or because they needed to spend time in class that day preparing for, say, a biology test the following period. “They’re making meaningful decisions about their time that I don’t think education really ever gives students the experience, nor the practice, of doing,” Bronke said.

The typical prescription offered by those overwhelmed with homework is to assign less of it—to subtract. But perhaps a more useful approach, for many classrooms, would be to create homework only when teachers and students believe it’s actually needed to further the learning that takes place in class—to start with nothing, and add as necessary.

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10 Times Homework Doesn’t Work

Author: Naimish Gohil

Posted: 21 Jul 2013

Estimated time to read: 3 mins

  Regardless of the worth of homework, there are certain situations when homework doesn't work at all. As teachers, we know it's important to recognise how homework fits into the curriculum 

Homework just doesn’t work when:

1. an emergency hits.

We know the excuses: couldn’t find it, brother ripped it up, dog ate it … but let’s face it, if there is a true family emergency, then a student can’t be expected to do homework. This could range from the electricity going out or the computer system malfunctioning to someone having an accident or needing to go to the hospital.

2. Other more important assignments take precedent

If there is an assignment (paper, project, test, etc.) in another subject that impacts a grade to a stronger degree or if the student needs to boost a grade or has a stronger interest in a different subject, then homework just won’t get done in every subject.

3. It provokes an overwhelming feeling

Do you know what this feels like? Instead of coping with the assigned work, it is just too much. Maybe the assignment could have been organised and broken down into smaller more manageable pieces so it could be completed by the deadline date. Maybe for a whole bunch of other reasons it is just too much. A common reaction is to just give up completely.

4. The student does not value it

Without a perceived need to do homework (whether a link to more understanding or acquiring more knowledge, to having relevance to real-life or future studies/career, or maybe even without reinforcement from home), this is not a value that a student wants to swap his/her time for.

5. Competing interests prevent it from being a priority

Let’s see …music and sports, friends and jobs … you get the picture. What to choose and how to organise all of the interests plays a big role.

6. There is little understanding of how to do it

You can only try so much … asking a parent or a friend … looking on-line or back at previous assignments and work covered in class. But if you don’t understand the material, if it wasn’t covered as much as it should have been in class, or if you just tuned out, then doing homework might be counter-productive.

7. Access to technology/resources are limited

Assignments based on all students having all the necessary software and gadgets or that all students can easily arrange a mutual time to work on a group project may not be the way to go. Already it puts some students at a disadvantage and impedes them from doing quality work or, in some cases, any work altogether.

8. Lack of structure interferes

Perhaps the student does not have the assignment clearly written down or all of the materials to do the work. They may not have a place to work at home that is uninterrupted to help speed the process of getting the homework completed.

9. It is beyond the ability of the student

It is too difficult. Similar work may not have been covered enough in class or the student did not understand the skill or concept to the degree needed to complete independent practice at home.

10. The work is too repetitive and not meaningful

On the flip side, if a student can do the work already or it is too much of the same thing, then what is the purpose of it ? Busy work or relevance? Just enough or overload?

When setting homework it's important to think about the impact this task is going to have, and how you're going to help ensure that the work you set is going to help your students. This of course is relevant to the content of work you're setting, but you also need to take into account the factors listed above - there are other aspects of life that can have an impact on the work you set which need to be taken into consideration. 

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Should Kids Get Homework?

Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say.

Mother helping son with homework at home

Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful. (Getty Images)

How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.

Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.

But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.

Value of Homework

Homework provides a chance to solidify what is being taught in the classroom that day, week or unit. Practice matters, says Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University 's Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice," she adds. "We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there."

Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.

"The children are bringing things from the school into the home," says Paula S. Fass, professor emerita of history at the University of California—Berkeley and the author of "The End of American Childhood." "Before the pandemic, (homework) was the only real sense that parents had to what was going on in schools."

Harris Cooper, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," examined more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and found that — when designed properly — homework can lead to greater student success. Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary.

"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level," he says. "For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest."

Negative Homework Assignments

Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.

But assignments that are just busy work, that force students to learn new concepts at home, or that are overly time-consuming can be counterproductive, experts say.

Homework that's just busy work.

Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful, experts say. Assignments that look more like busy work – projects or worksheets that don't require teacher feedback and aren't related to topics learned in the classroom – can be frustrating for students and create burdens for families.

"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense," says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.

Homework on material that kids haven't learned yet.

With the pressure to cover all topics on standardized tests and limited time during the school day, some teachers assign homework that has not yet been taught in the classroom.

Not only does this create stress, but it also causes equity challenges. Some parents speak languages other than English or work several jobs, and they aren't able to help teach their children new concepts.

" It just becomes agony for both parents and the kids to get through this worksheet, and the goal becomes getting to the bottom of (the) worksheet with answers filled in without any understanding of what any of it matters for," says professor Susan R. Goldman, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois—Chicago .

Homework that's overly time-consuming.

The standard homework guideline recommended by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association is the "10-minute rule" – 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level. A fourth grader, for instance, would receive a total of 40 minutes of homework per night.

But this does not always happen, especially since not every student learns the same. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that primary school children actually received three times the recommended amount of homework — and that family stress increased along with the homework load.

Young children can only remain attentive for short periods, so large amounts of homework, especially lengthy projects, can negatively affect students' views on school. Some individual long-term projects – like having to build a replica city, for example – typically become an assignment for parents rather than students, Fass says.

"It's one thing to assign a project like that in which several kids are working on it together," she adds. "In (that) case, the kids do normally work on it. It's another to send it home to the families, where it becomes a burden and doesn't really accomplish very much."

Private vs. Public Schools

Do private schools assign more homework than public schools? There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.

Of course, not all private schools are the same – some focus on college preparation and traditional academics, while others stress alternative approaches to education.

"I think in the academically oriented private schools, there's more support for homework from parents," says Gerald K. LeTendre, chair of educational administration at Pennsylvania State University—University Park . "I don't know if there's any research to show there's more homework, but it's less of a contentious issue."

How to Address Homework Overload

First, assess if the workload takes as long as it appears. Sometimes children may start working on a homework assignment, wander away and come back later, Cooper says.

"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it," he adds. "They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it."

But if homework is becoming stressful or workload is excessive, experts suggest parents first approach the teacher, followed by a school administrator.

"Many times, we can solve a lot of issues by having conversations," Steckler says, including by "sitting down, talking about the amount of homework, and what's appropriate and not appropriate."

Study Tips for High School Students

High angle view of young woman sitting at desk and studying at home during coronavirus lockdown

Tags: K-12 education , students , elementary school , children

Is it time to get rid of homework? Mental health experts weigh in.

homework does not work well

It's no secret that kids hate homework. And as students grapple with an ongoing pandemic that has had a wide range of mental health impacts, is it time schools start listening to their pleas about workloads?

Some teachers are turning to social media to take a stand against homework. 

Tiktok user @misguided.teacher says he doesn't assign it because the "whole premise of homework is flawed."

For starters, he says, he can't grade work on "even playing fields" when students' home environments can be vastly different.

"Even students who go home to a peaceful house, do they really want to spend their time on busy work? Because typically that's what a lot of homework is, it's busy work," he says in the video that has garnered 1.6 million likes. "You only get one year to be 7, you only got one year to be 10, you only get one year to be 16, 18."

Mental health experts agree heavy workloads have the potential do more harm than good for students, especially when taking into account the impacts of the pandemic. But they also say the answer may not be to eliminate homework altogether.

Emmy Kang, mental health counselor at Humantold , says studies have shown heavy workloads can be "detrimental" for students and cause a "big impact on their mental, physical and emotional health."

"More than half of students say that homework is their primary source of stress, and we know what stress can do on our bodies," she says, adding that staying up late to finish assignments also leads to disrupted sleep and exhaustion.

Cynthia Catchings, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist at Talkspace , says heavy workloads can also cause serious mental health problems in the long run, like anxiety and depression. 

And for all the distress homework  can cause, it's not as useful as many may think, says Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a psychologist and CEO of Omega Recovery treatment center.

"The research shows that there's really limited benefit of homework for elementary age students, that really the school work should be contained in the classroom," he says.

For older students, Kang says, homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night. 

"Most students, especially at these high achieving schools, they're doing a minimum of three hours, and it's taking away time from their friends, from their families, their extracurricular activities. And these are all very important things for a person's mental and emotional health."

Catchings, who also taught third to 12th graders for 12 years, says she's seen the positive effects of a no-homework policy while working with students abroad.

"Not having homework was something that I always admired from the French students (and) the French schools, because that was helping the students to really have the time off and really disconnect from school," she says.

The answer may not be to eliminate homework completely but to be more mindful of the type of work students take home, suggests Kang, who was a high school teacher for 10 years.

"I don't think (we) should scrap homework; I think we should scrap meaningless, purposeless busy work-type homework. That's something that needs to be scrapped entirely," she says, encouraging teachers to be thoughtful and consider the amount of time it would take for students to complete assignments.

The pandemic made the conversation around homework more crucial 

Mindfulness surrounding homework is especially important in the context of the past two years. Many students will be struggling with mental health issues that were brought on or worsened by the pandemic , making heavy workloads even harder to balance.

"COVID was just a disaster in terms of the lack of structure. Everything just deteriorated," Kardaras says, pointing to an increase in cognitive issues and decrease in attention spans among students. "School acts as an anchor for a lot of children, as a stabilizing force, and that disappeared."

But even if students transition back to the structure of in-person classes, Kardaras suspects students may still struggle after two school years of shifted schedules and disrupted sleeping habits.

"We've seen adults struggling to go back to in-person work environments from remote work environments. That effect is amplified with children because children have less resources to be able to cope with those transitions than adults do," he explains.

'Get organized' ahead of back-to-school

In order to make the transition back to in-person school easier, Kang encourages students to "get good sleep, exercise regularly (and) eat a healthy diet."

To help manage workloads, she suggests students "get organized."

"There's so much mental clutter up there when you're disorganized. ... Sitting down and planning out their study schedules can really help manage their time," she says.

Breaking up assignments can also make things easier to tackle.

"I know that heavy workloads can be stressful, but if you sit down and you break down that studying into smaller chunks, they're much more manageable."

If workloads are still too much, Kang encourages students to advocate for themselves.

"They should tell their teachers when a homework assignment just took too much time or if it was too difficult for them to do on their own," she says. "It's good to speak up and ask those questions. Respectfully, of course, because these are your teachers. But still, I think sometimes teachers themselves need this feedback from their students."

More: Some teachers let their students sleep in class. Here's what mental health experts say.

More: Some parents are slipping young kids in for the COVID-19 vaccine, but doctors discourage the move as 'risky'

Stanford University

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Stanford research shows pitfalls of homework

A Stanford researcher found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance and even alienation from society. More than two hours of homework a night may be counterproductive, according to the study.

Denise Pope

Education scholar Denise Pope has found that too much homework has negative effects on student well-being and behavioral engagement. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

A Stanford researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect kids, especially their lives away from school, where family, friends and activities matter.

“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,” wrote Denise Pope , a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education .

The researchers used survey data to examine perceptions about homework, student well-being and behavioral engagement in a sample of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities. Along with the survey data, Pope and her colleagues used open-ended answers to explore the students’ views on homework.

Median household income exceeded $90,000 in these communities, and 93 percent of the students went on to college, either two-year or four-year.

Students in these schools average about 3.1 hours of homework each night.

“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,” Pope wrote.

Pope and her colleagues found that too much homework can diminish its effectiveness and even be counterproductive. They cite prior research indicating that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night, and that 90 minutes to two and a half hours is optimal for high school.

Their study found that too much homework is associated with:

• Greater stress: 56 percent of the students considered homework a primary source of stress, according to the survey data. Forty-three percent viewed tests as a primary stressor, while 33 percent put the pressure to get good grades in that category. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.

• Reductions in health: In their open-ended answers, many students said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems. The researchers asked students whether they experienced health issues such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems.

• Less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits: Both the survey data and student responses indicate that spending too much time on homework meant that students were “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills,” according to the researchers. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy.

A balancing act

The results offer empirical evidence that many students struggle to find balance between homework, extracurricular activities and social time, the researchers said. Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.

Also, there was no relationship between the time spent on homework and how much the student enjoyed it. The research quoted students as saying they often do homework they see as “pointless” or “mindless” in order to keep their grades up.

“This kind of busy work, by its very nature, discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points,” Pope said.

She said the research calls into question the value of assigning large amounts of homework in high-performing schools. Homework should not be simply assigned as a routine practice, she said.

“Rather, any homework assigned should have a purpose and benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development,” wrote Pope.

High-performing paradox

In places where students attend high-performing schools, too much homework can reduce their time to foster skills in the area of personal responsibility, the researchers concluded. “Young people are spending more time alone,” they wrote, “which means less time for family and fewer opportunities to engage in their communities.”

Student perspectives

The researchers say that while their open-ended or “self-reporting” methodology to gauge student concerns about homework may have limitations – some might regard it as an opportunity for “typical adolescent complaining” – it was important to learn firsthand what the students believe.

The paper was co-authored by Mollie Galloway from Lewis and Clark College and Jerusha Conner from Villanova University.

homework does not work well

The Homework Debate: The Case Against Homework

This post has been updated as of December 2017.

It’s not uncommon to hear students, parents, and even some teachers always complaining about homework. Why, then, is homework an inescapable part of the student experience? Worksheets, busy work, and reading assignments continue to be a mainstay of students’ evenings.

Whether from habit or comparison with out-of-class work time in other nations, our students are getting homework and, according to some of them, a LOT of it. Educators and policy makers must ask themselves—does assigning homework pay off?

Is there evidence that homework benefits students younger than high school?

The Scholastic article Is Homework Bad? references Alfie Kohn’s book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing , in which he says, “There is no evidence to demonstrate that homework benefits students below high school age.”

The article goes on to note that those who oppose homework focus on the drawbacks of significant time spent on homework, identifying one major negative as homework’s intrusion into family time. They also point out that opponents believe schools have decided homework is necessary and thus assign it simply to assign some kind of homework, not because doing the work meets specifically-identified student needs.

“Busy work” does not help students learn

Students and parents appear to carry similar critiques of homework, specifically regarding assignments identified as busy work—long sheets of repetitive math problems, word searches, or reading logs seemingly designed to make children dislike books.

When asked how homework can negatively affect children, Nancy Kalish, author of The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It , says that many homework assignments are “simply busy work” that makes learning “a chore rather than a positive, constructive experience.”

Commenters on the piece, both parents and students, tended to agree. One student shared that on occasion they spent more time on homework than at school, while another commenter pointed out that, “We don’t give slow-working children a longer school day, but we consistently give them a longer homework day.”

Without feedback, homework is ineffective

The efficacy of the homework identified by Kalish has been studied by policy researchers as well. Gerald LeTendre, of Penn State’s Education Policy Studies department points out that the shotgun approach to homework, when students all receive the same photocopied assignment which is then checked as complete rather than discussed individually with the student, is “not very effective.”  He goes on to say that, “If there’s no feedback and no monitoring, the homework is probably not effective.”

Researchers from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia had similar findings in their study, “ When Is Homework Worth The Time ?” According to UVAToday, these researchers reported no “substantive difference” in the grades of students related to homework completion.

As researcher Adam Maltese noted, “Our results hint that maybe homework is not being used as well as it could be.” The report further suggested that while not all homework is bad, the type and quality of assignments and their differentiation to specific learners appears to be an important point of future research.

If homework is assigned, it should heighten understanding of the subject

The Curry School of Education report did find a positive association between standardized test performance and time spent on homework, but standardized test performance shouldn’t be the end goal of assignments—a heightened understanding and capability with the content material should.

As such, it is important that if/when teachers assign homework assignments, it is done thoughtfully and carefully—and respectful of the maximum times suggested by the National Education Association, about 10 minutes per night starting in the first grade, with an additional 10 minutes per year after.

Continue reading — The Homework Debate: How Homework Benefits Students

Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.

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Is Too Much Homework Bad for Kids’ Health?

Research shows that some students regularly receive higher amounts of homework than experts recommend, which may cause stress and negative health effects.

homework does not work well

Research suggests that when students are pushed to handle a workload that’s out of sync with their development level, it can lead to significant stress — for children and their parents.

Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the National PTA (NPTA) support a standard of “10 minutes of homework per grade level” and setting a general limit on after-school studying.

For kids in first grade, that means 10 minutes a night, while high school seniors could get two hours of work per night.

Experts say there may be real downsides for young kids who are pushed to do more homework than the “10 minutes per grade” standard.

“The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there’s really a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills, and their quality of life,” Donaldson-Pressman told CNN .

But the most recent study to examine the issue found that kids in their study who were in early elementary school received about three times the amount of recommended homework.

Published in The American Journal of Family Therapy, the 2015 study surveyed more than 1,100 parents in Rhode Island with school-age children.

The researchers found that first and second graders received 28 and 29 minutes of homework per night.

Kindergarteners received 25 minutes of homework per night, on average. But according to the standards set by the NEA and NPTA, they shouldn’t receive any at all.

A contributing editor of the study, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, told CNN that she found it “absolutely shocking” to learn that kindergarteners had that much homework.

And all those extra assignments may lead to family stress, especially when parents with limited education aren’t confident in their ability to talk with the school about their child’s work.

The researchers reported that family fights about homework were 200 percent more likely when parents didn’t have a college degree.

Some parents, in fact, have decided to opt out of the whole thing. The Washington Post reported in 2016 that some parents have just instructed their younger children not to do their homework assignments.

They report the no-homework policy has taken the stress out of their afternoons and evenings. In addition, it’s been easier for their children to participate in after-school activities.

Consequences for high school students

Other studies have found that high school students may also be overburdened with homework — so much that it’s taking a toll on their health.

In 2013, research conducted at Stanford University found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance in their lives, and alienation from society.

That study, published in The Journal of Experimental Education , suggested that any more than two hours of homework per night is counterproductive.

However, students who participated in the study reported doing slightly more than three hours of homework each night, on average.

To conduct the study, researchers surveyed more than 4,300 students at 10 high-performing high schools in upper middle-class California communities. They also interviewed students about their views on homework.

When it came to stress, more than 70 percent of students said they were “often or always stressed over schoolwork,” with 56 percent listing homework as a primary stressor. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.

The researchers asked students whether they experienced physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss, and stomach problems.

More than 80 percent of students reported having at least one stress-related symptom in the past month, and 44 percent said they had experienced three or more symptoms.

The researchers also found that spending too much time on homework meant that students were not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills. Students were more likely to forgo activities, stop seeing friends or family, and not participate in hobbies.

Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.

“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,” said Denise Pope, PhD, a senior lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education, and a co-author of a study.

Pressure to work as hard as adults takes a toll  

A smaller New York University study published in 2015 noted similar findings.

It focused more broadly on how students at elite private high schools cope with the combined pressures of school work, college applications, extracurricular activities, and parents’ expectations.

That study, which appeared in Frontiers in Psychology, noted serious health effects for high schoolers, such as chronic stress, emotional exhaustion, and alcohol and drug use.

The research involved a series of interviews with students, teachers, and administrators, as well as a survey of a total of 128 juniors from two private high schools.

About half of the students said they received at least three hours of homework per night. They also faced pressure to take college-level classes and excel in activities outside of school.

Many students felt they were being asked to work as hard as adults, and noted that their workload seemed inappropriate for their development level. They reported having little time for relaxing or creative activities.

More than two-thirds of students said they used alcohol and drugs, primarily marijuana, to cope with stress.

The researchers expressed concern that students at high-pressure high schools can get burned out before they even get to college.

“School, homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, repeat — that’s what it can be for some of these students,” said Noelle Leonard, PhD, a senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing, and lead study author, in a press release .

The quality of homework assignments matters more than quantity

Experts continue to debate the benefits and drawbacks of homework.

But according to an article published this year in Monitor on Psychology , there’s one thing they agree on: the quality of homework assignments matters.

In the Stanford study, many students said that they often did homework they saw as “pointless” or “mindless.”

Pope, who co-authored that study, argued that homework assignments should have a purpose and benefit, and should be designed to cultivate learning and development.

It’s also important for schools and teachers to stick to the 10-minutes per grade standard.

In an interview with Monitor on Psychology, Pope pointed out that students can learn challenging skills even when less homework is assigned.

Pope described one teacher she worked with who taught Advanced Placement biology, and experimented by dramatically cutting down homework assignments. First the teacher cut homework by a third, and then cut the assignments in half.

The students’ test scores didn’t change.

“You can have a rigorous course and not have a crazy homework load,” Pope said.

Editor’s Note: The story was originally reported by Sandra Levy on April 11, 2017. Its current publication date reflects an update, which includes a medical review by Karen Gill, MD .

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homework does not work well

Should homework be banned?

Social media has sparked into life about whether children should be given homework - should students be freed from this daily chore? Dr Gerald Letendre, a professor of education at Pennsylvania State University, investigates.

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We’ve all done it: pretended to leave an essay at home, or stayed up until 2am to finish a piece of coursework we’ve been ignoring for weeks. Homework, for some people, is seen as a chore that’s ‘wrecking kids’ or ‘killing parents’, while others think it is an essential part of a well-rounded education. The problem is far from new: public debates about homework have been raging since at least the early-1900s, and recently spilled over into a Twitter feud between Gary Lineker and Piers Morgan.

Ironically, the conversation surrounding homework often ignores the scientific ‘homework’ that researchers have carried out. Many detailed studies have been conducted, and can guide parents, teachers and administrators to make sensible decisions about how much work should be completed by students outside of the classroom.

So why does homework stir up such strong emotions? One reason is that, by its very nature, it is an intrusion of schoolwork into family life. I carried out a study in 2005, and found that the amount of time that children and adolescents spend in school, from nursery right up to the end of compulsory education, has greatly increased over the last century . This means that more of a child’s time is taken up with education, so family time is reduced. This increases pressure on the boundary between the family and the school.

Plus, the amount of homework that students receive appears to be increasing, especially in the early years when parents are keen for their children to play with friends and spend time with the family.

Finally, success in school has become increasingly important to success in life. Parents can use homework to promote, or exercise control over, their child’s academic trajectory, and hopefully ensure their future educational success. But this often leaves parents conflicted – they want their children to be successful in school, but they don’t want them to be stressed or upset because of an unmanageable workload.

François Hollande says homework is unfair, as it penalises children who have a difficult home environment © Getty Images

However, the issue isn’t simply down to the opinions of parents, children and their teachers – governments also like to get involved. In the autumn of 2012, French president François Hollande hit world headlines after making a comment about banning homework, ostensibly because it promoted inequality. The Chinese government has also toyed with a ban, because of concerns about excessive academic pressure being put on children.

The problem is, some politicians and national administrators regard regulatory policy in education as a solution for a wide array of social, economic and political issues, perhaps without considering the consequences for students and parents.

More like this

Does homework work.

Homework seems to generally have a positive effect for high school students, according to an extensive range of empirical literature. For example, Duke University’s Prof Harris Cooper carried out a meta-analysis using data from US schools, covering a period from 1987 to 2003. He found that homework offered a general beneficial impact on test scores and improvements in attitude, with a greater effect seen in older students. But dig deeper into the issue and a complex set of factors quickly emerges, related to how much homework students do, and exactly how they feel about it.

In 2009, Prof Ulrich Trautwein and his team at the University of Tübingen found that in order to establish whether homework is having any effect, researchers must take into account the differences both between and within classes . For example, a teacher may assign a good deal of homework to a lower-level class, producing an association between more homework and lower levels of achievement. Yet, within the same class, individual students may vary significantly in how much homework improves their baseline performance. Plus, there is the fact that some students are simply more efficient at completing their homework than others, and it becomes quite difficult to pinpoint just what type of homework, and how much of it, will affect overall academic performance.

Over the last century, the amount of time that children and adolescents spend in school has greatly increased

Gender is also a major factor. For example, a study of US high school students carried out by Prof Gary Natriello in the 1980s revealed that girls devote more time to homework than boys, while a follow-up study found that US girls tend to spend more time on mathematics homework than boys. Another study, this time of African-American students in the US, found that eighth grade (ages 13-14) girls were more likely to successfully manage both their tasks and emotions around schoolwork, and were more likely to finish homework.

So why do girls seem to respond more positively to homework? One possible answer proposed by Eunsook Hong of the University of Nevada in 2011 is that teachers tend to rate girls’ habits and attitudes towards work more favourably than boys’. This perception could potentially set up a positive feedback loop between teacher expectations and the children’s capacity for academic work based on gender, resulting in girls outperforming boys. All of this makes it particularly difficult to determine the extent to which homework is helping, though it is clear that simply increasing the time spent on assignments does not directly correspond to a universal increase in learning.

Can homework cause damage?

The lack of empirical data supporting homework in the early years of education, along with an emerging trend to assign more work to this age range, appears to be fuelling parental concerns about potential negative effects. But, aside from anecdotes of increased tension in the household, is there any evidence of this? Can doing too much homework actually damage children?

Evidence suggests extreme amounts of homework can indeed have serious effects on students’ health and well-being. A Chinese study carried out in 2010 found a link between excessive homework and sleep disruption: children who had less homework had better routines and more stable sleep schedules. A Canadian study carried out in 2015 by Isabelle Michaud found that high levels of homework were associated with a greater risk of obesity among boys, if they were already feeling stressed about school in general.

BBC Bitesize

It is also worth noting that too much homework can create negative effects that may undermine any positives. These negative consequences may not only affect the child, but also could also pile on the stress for the whole family, according to a recent study by Robert Pressman of the New England Centre for Pediatric Psychology. Parents were particularly affected when their perception of their own capacity to assist their children decreased.

What then, is the tipping point, and when does homework simply become too much for parents and children? Guidelines typically suggest that children in the first grade (six years old) should have no more that 10 minutes per night, and that this amount should increase by 10 minutes per school year. However, cultural norms may greatly affect what constitutes too much.

A study of children aged between 8 and 10 in Quebec defined high levels of homework as more than 30 minutes a night, but a study in China of children aged 5 to 11 deemed that two or more hours per night was excessive. It is therefore difficult to create a clear standard for what constitutes as too much homework, because cultural differences, school-related stress, and negative emotions within the family all appear to interact with how homework affects children.

Should we stop setting homework?

In my opinion, even though there are potential risks of negative effects, homework should not be banned. Small amounts, assigned with specific learning goals in mind and with proper parental support, can help to improve students’ performance. While some studies have generally found little evidence that homework has a positive effect on young children overall, a 2008 study by Norwegian researcher Marte Rønning found that even some very young children do receive some benefit. So simply banning homework would mean that any particularly gifted or motivated pupils would not be able to benefit from increased study. However, at the earliest ages, very little homework should be assigned. The decisions about how much and what type are best left to teachers and parents.

As a parent, it is important to clarify what goals your child’s teacher has for homework assignments. Teachers can assign work for different reasons – as an academic drill to foster better study habits, and unfortunately, as a punishment. The goals for each assignment should be made clear, and should encourage positive engagement with academic routines.

Parents who play an active role in homework routines can help give their kids a more positive experience of learning © Getty Images

Parents should inform the teachers of how long the homework is taking, as teachers often incorrectly estimate the amount of time needed to complete an assignment, and how it is affecting household routines. For young children, positive teacher support and feedback is critical in establishing a student’s positive perception of homework and other academic routines. Teachers and parents need to be vigilant and ensure that homework routines do not start to generate patterns of negative interaction that erode students’ motivation.

Likewise, any positive effects of homework are dependent on several complex interactive factors, including the child’s personal motivation, the type of assignment, parental support and teacher goals. Creating an overarching policy to address every single situation is not realistic, and so homework policies tend to be fixated on the time the homework takes to complete. But rather than focusing on this, everyone would be better off if schools worked on fostering stronger communication between parents, teachers and students, allowing them to respond more sensitively to the child’s emotional and academic needs.

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Special Topic / The Case For and Against Homework

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The Case for Homework

The case against homework, the dangers of ignoring the research, grade level, time spent on homework, parent involvement, going beyond the research.

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Special Topic / The Case For and Against Homework - table

Synthesis Study


Number of Effect Sizes


Percentile Gains

Graue, Weinstein, &Walberg, 1983 1General effects of homework29.4919
Bloom, 1984General effects of homework.3012
Paschal, Weinstein, & Walberg, 1984 2Homework versus no homework47.2811
Cooper, 1989aHomework versus no homework20.218
Hattie, 1992; Fraser, Walberg, Welch, & Hattie, 1987General effects of homework110.4317
Walberg, 1999With teacher comments2.8831
Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006Homework versus no homework6.6023
Two meta-analyses by Cooper and colleagues (Cooper, 1989a; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006) are the most comprehensive and rigorous. The 1989 meta-analysis reviewed research dating as far back as the 1930s; the 2006 study reviewed research from 1987 to 2003. Commenting on studies that attempted to examine the causal relationship between homework and student achievement by comparing experimental (homework) and control (no homework) groups, Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) noted, With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant. Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement. (p. 48)
In a third book, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (2006a), Kohn took direct aim at the research on homework. In this book and in a recent article in Phi Delta Kappan (2006b), he became quite personal in his condemnation of researchers. For example, referring to Harris Cooper, the lead author of the two leading meta-analyses on homework, Kohn noted, A careful reading of Cooper's own studies . . . reveals further examples of his determination to massage the numbers until they yield something—anything—on which to construct a defense of homework for younger children. (2006a, p. 84)He also attacked a section on homework in our book Classroom Instruction that Works (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).
  • Grades 4–6: ES = .15 (Percentile gain = 6)
  • Grades 7–9: ES = .31 (Percentile gain = 12)
  • Grades 10–12: ES = .64 (Percentile gain = 24)
The pattern clearly indicates that homework has smaller effects at lower grade levels. Even so, Cooper (1989b) still recommended homework for elementary students because homework for young children should help them develop good study habits, foster positive attitudes toward school, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as at school. (p. 90)
  • For students in the earliest grades , it should foster positive attitudes, habits, and character traits; permit appropriate parent involvement; and reinforce learning of simple skills introduced in class.
  • For students in upper elementary grades , it should play a more direct role in fostering improved school achievement.
  • In 6th grade and beyond , it should play an important role in improving standardized test scores and grades.
One of the more contentious issues in the homework debate is the amount of time students should spend on homework. The Cooper synthesis (1989a) reported that for junior high school students, the benefits increased as time increased, up to 1 to 2 hours of homework a night, and then decreased. The Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) study reported similar findings: 7 to 12 hours of homework per week produced the largest effect size for 12th grade students. The researchers suggested that for 12th graders the optimum amount of homework might lie between 1.5 and 2.5 hours per night, but they cautioned that no hard-and-fast rules are warranted. Still, researchers have offered various recommendations. For example, Good and Brophy (2003) cautioned that teachers must take care not to assign too much homework. They suggested that homework must be realistic in length and difficulty given the students' abilities to work independently. Thus, 5 to 10 minutes per subject might be appropriate for 4th graders, whereas 30 to 60 minutes might be appropriate for college-bound high school students. (p. 394)
Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) also issued a strong warning about too much homework: Even for these oldest students, too much homework may diminish its effectiveness or even become counterproductive. (p 53)
  • Parents receive clear guidelines spelling out their role.
  • Teachers do not expect parents to act as experts regarding content or to attempt to teach the content.
  • Parents ask questions that help students clarify and summarize what they have learned.
Good and Brophy (2003) provided the following recommendations regarding parent involvement: Especially useful for parent-child relations purposes are assignments calling for students to show or explain their written work or other products completed at school to their parents and get their reactions (Epstein, 2001; Epstein, Simon, & Salinas, 1997) or to interview their parents to develop information about parental experiences or opinions relating to topics studied in social studies (Alleman & Brophy, 1998). Such assignments cause students and their parents or other family members to become engaged in conversations that relate to the academic curriculum and thus extend the students' learning. Furthermore, because these are likely to be genuine conversations rather than more formally structured teaching/learning tasks, both parents and children are likely to experience them as enjoyable rather than threatening. (p. 395)
Riehl (2006) pointed out the similarity between education research and medical research. She commented, When reported in the popular media, medical research often appears as a blunt instrument, able to obliterate skeptics or opponents by the force of its evidence and arguments. . . . Yet repeated visits to the medical journals themselves can leave a much different impression. The serious medical journals convey the sense that medical research is an ongoing conversation and quest, punctuated occasionally by important findings that can and should alter practice, but more often characterized by continuing investigations. These investigations, taken cumulatively, can inform the work of practitioners who are building their own local knowledge bases on medical care. (pp. 27–28)

Research-Based Homework Guidelines

Assign purposeful homework. Legitimate purposes for homework include introducing new content, practicing a skill or process that students can do independently but not fluently, elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students' knowledge, and providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest.

Design homework to maximize the chances that students will complete it. For example, ensure that homework is at the appropriate level of difficulty. Students should be able to complete homework assignments independently with relatively high success rates, but they should still find the assignments challenging enough to be interesting.

Involve parents in appropriate ways (for example, as a sounding board to help students summarize what they learned from the homework) without requiring parents to act as teachers or to police students' homework completion.

Carefully monitor the amount of homework assigned so that it is appropriate to students' age levels and does not take too much time away from other home activities.

Balli, S. J. (1998). When mom and dad help: Student reflections on parent involvement with homework. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 31 (3), 142–148.

Bangert-Drowns, R. L., Kulik, C. C., Kulik, J. A., & Morgan, M. (1991). The instructional effects of feedback in test-like events. Review of Educational Research, 61 (2), 213–238.

Bennett, S., & Kalish, N. (2006). The case against homework: How homework is hurting our children and what we can do about it . New York: Crown.

Bloom, B. S. (1984). The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to one tutoring. Educational Leadership, 41 (8), 4–18.

Cooper, H. (1989a). Homework . White Plains, NY: Longman.

Cooper, H. (1989b). Synthesis of research on homework. Educational Leadership, 47 (3), 85–91.

Cooper, H. (2007). The battle over homework (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987–2003. Review of Educational Research, 76 (1), 1–62.

Corno, L. (1996). Homework is a complicated thing. Educational Researcher, 25 (8), 27–30.

Epstein, J. (2001). School, family, and community partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools . Boulder, CO: Westview.

Epstein, J. L., & Becker, H. J. (1982). Teachers' reported practices of parent involvement: Problems and possibilities. Elementary School Journal, 83 , 103–113.

Fraser, B. J., Walberg, H. J., Welch, W. W., & Hattie, J. A. (1987). Synthesis of educational productivity research [Special issue]. International Journal of Educational Research, 11 (2), 145–252.

Gill, B. P., & Schlossman, S. L. (2000). The lost cause of homework reform. American Journal of Education, 109 , 27–62.

Good, T. L., & Brophy, J. E. (2003). Looking in classrooms (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Graue, M. E., Weinstein, T., & Walberg, H. J. (1983). School-based home instruction and learning: A quantitative synthesis. Journal of Educational Research, 76 , 351–360.

Hattie, J. A. (1992). Measuring the effects of schooling. Australian Journal of Education, 36 (1), 5–13.

Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Bassler, O. C., & Burow, R. (1995). Parents' reported involvement in students' homework: Strategies and practices. The Elementary School Journal, 95 (5), 435–450.

Kavale, K. A. (1988). Using meta-analyses to answer the question: What are the important influences on school learning? School Psychology Review, 17 (4), 644–650.

Kohn, A. (2006a). The homework myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing . Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Kohn, A. (2006b). Abusing research: The study of homework and other examples. Phi Delta Kappan. 88 (1), 9–22.

Kralovec, E., & Buell, J. (2000). The end of homework: How homework disrupts families, overburdens children, and limits learning . Boston: Beacon.

Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2007). Response to Kohn's allegations . Centennial, CO: Marzano & Associates. Available:

Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (in press). Errors and allegations about research on homework. Phi Delta Kappan .

Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement . Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

National Education Commission on Time and Learning (1994). Prisoners of time . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Paschal, R. A., Weinstein, T., & Walberg, H. J. (1984). The effects of homework on learning: A quantitative synthesis. Journal of Educational Research, 78 , 97–104.

Perkins, P. G., & Milgram, R. B. (1996). Parental involvement in homework: A double-edge sword. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 6 (3), 195–203.

Riehl, C. (2006). Feeling better: A comparison of medical research and education research. Educational Researcher, 35 (5), 24–29.

Van Voorhis, F. (2003). Interactive homework in middle school: Effects on family involvement and science achievement. Journal of Educational Research, 96 , 323–338.

Walberg, H. J. (1999). Productive teaching. In H. C. Waxman & H. J. Walberg (Eds.), New directions for teaching practice research (pp. 75–104). Berkeley, CA: McCutchen.

Wallis, C. (2006). Viewpoint: The myth about homework. Time, 168 (10), 57.

• 1 For a more detailed response to Kohn's views on homework, see Marzano & Pickering (2007) and Marzano & Pickering (in press).

homework does not work well

Robert Marzano is the CEO of Marzano Research Laboratory in Centennial, CO, which provides research-based, partner-centered support for educators and education agencies—with the goal of helping teachers improve educational practice.

As strategic advisor, Robert brings over 50 years of experience in action-based education research, professional development, and curriculum design to Marzano Research. He has expertise in standards-based assessment, cognition, school leadership, and competency-based education, among a host of areas.

He is the author of 30 books, 150 articles and chapters in books, and 100 sets of curriculum materials for teachers and students in grades K–12.

homework does not work well

The late Debra J. Pickering consulted with schools and districts nationally and internationally as vice president of field services for Marzano Research Laboratory. She passed away in 2020.

In addition to her work with schools, Pickering coauthored (with Robert Marzano) educational books and manuals, including  Dimensions of Learning ,  Classroom Instruction That Works ,  Classroom Management That Works , and  Building Academic Vocabulary .

With a combination of theoretical grounding and more than three decades of practical experience, Pickering worked with educators to translate theory into practice. In later years her work continued to focus on the study of learning and the development of resources for curriculum, instruction, and assessment to help all educators meet the needs of all students.

Pickering had a master's degree in school administration and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis in cognitive psychology.

ASCD is a community dedicated to educators' professional growth and well-being.

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The movement to end homework is wrong.

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Jay Caspian Kang

By Jay Caspian Kang

Opinion Writer

Do students really need to do their homework?

As a parent and a former teacher, I have been pondering this question for quite a long time. The teacher side of me can acknowledge that there were assignments I gave out to my students that probably had little to no academic value. But I also imagine that some of my students never would have done their basic reading if they hadn’t been trained to complete expected assignments, which would have made the task of teaching an English class nearly impossible. As a parent, I would rather my daughter not get stuck doing the sort of pointless homework I would occasionally assign, but I also think there’s a lot of value in saying, “Hey, a lot of work you’re going to end up doing in your life is pointless, so why not just get used to it?”

I certainly am not the only person wondering about the value of homework. Recently, the sociologist Jessica McCrory Calarco and the mathematics education scholars Ilana Horn and Grace Chen published a paper, “ You Need to Be More Responsible: The Myth of Meritocracy and Teachers’ Accounts of Homework Inequalities .” They argued that while there’s some evidence that homework might help students learn, it also exacerbates inequalities and reinforces what they call the “meritocratic” narrative that says kids who do well in school do so because of “individual competence, effort and responsibility.”

The authors believe this meritocratic narrative is a myth and that homework — math homework in particular — further entrenches the myth in the minds of teachers and their students. Calarco, Horn and Chen write, “Research has highlighted inequalities in students’ homework production and linked those inequalities to differences in students’ home lives and in the support students’ families can provide.”

Put a bit more simply: The quality of students’ homework production is linked to their socioeconomic status. This alone doesn’t seem particularly controversial. As I’ve discussed in this newsletter, many measures of academic achievement wind up being linked to wealth. The authors go on to argue that since this is the case, teachers should “interpret differences in students’ homework production through a structural inequalities frame.” What they have found, however, is that teachers don’t think of homework this way. Instead, they tend to rely on the “myth of meritocracy” to explain “homework inequalities.”

Calarco, Horn and Chen are all respected scholars at top-tier universities. Their paper was published in Educational Researcher, a journal of the American Educational Research Association, one of the pre-eminent research organizations in the education space. Homework reduction, or abolition, is part of an emerging educational movement. And while the authors acknowledge that eliminating homework would be difficult in the short term, given how rooted it is in American pedagogy, I imagine that many public schools over the next decade or so will start to de-emphasize homework as these ideas start to make their way to school boards and curriculum writers.

Trying to assess the value of homework, reduce it or at least make less of it busywork might very well be a useful endeavor. But Calarco, Horn and Chen are questioning something much more fundamental to the American educational system than homework. Whether they intend to or not, they are, in effect, reframing the purpose of schooling itself. Is school a place where a select group of children can distinguish themselves from their peers through diligence, talent and the pursuit of upward mobility? Is it a place where everyone should have equal access to learning and opportunity, whatever that might mean? And are these two ideals mutually exclusive?

The authors of “You Need to Be More Responsible” are part of a movement that argues, sometimes convincingly, that a meritocratic vision impedes true equal opportunity. In regards to homework, what they are saying, in effect, is that the idea of responsibility itself — requiring students to be accountable for completing assignments — exacerbates inequality. And that rather than trying to run all students through a hierarchical educational system in the hopes that they will end up in the same place, it appears that the authors would rather de-emphasize anything that reinforces the idea that one student is better than another.

According to the authors, then, teachers should factor in students’ socioeconomic status when evaluating their homework. Teachers should acknowledge that, even with completed assignments, structural inequalities may be why students with access to fewer resources got more questions wrong than their better-resourced peers did. And if they want to help these hypothetical poor students, they shouldn’t appeal to messages of personal responsibility and individual agency because those concepts reinforce the myth of meritocracy.

This all sounds a bit abstract. Having taught at a variety of schools, I agree that students’ socioeconomic status will likely be a better predictor of how they do on their homework than any personal traits, but I still can’t quite imagine how a structural inequalities frame would operate in the classroom. How would you even talk to your students?

Teacher: Hey there. You got half the questions wrong on your homework.

Student: I’m sorry about that. What do you think I could do to improve my performance?

Teacher: Well, you could boost your socioeconomic status. Otherwise, the deck’s extremely stacked against you getting any of these questions right.

To help combat the myth of meritocracy, the authors suggest that teachers not assign overly challenging homework and stop rewarding or punishing students based on the quality of the homework they produce. They also suggest that some teachers, if so inclined, could go “a step further in attempting to reduce homework’s harm” and just get rid of it altogether. They write:

More research is needed to understand the consequences of these more “progressive” homework policies. Yet, we suspect that while optional and ungraded homework may reduce inequalities in homework-related rewards and punishments, it may not prevent teachers from judging those students (and their parents) who do not complete the optional or ungraded work. No-homework policies have greater potential for alleviating the kinds of unequal practices we observed in the schools in our study.

In short, teachers can’t even be trusted to give out optional homework because they’re too meritocracy-brained and will still judge the students based on the results. The easiest solution is to just stop giving homework altogether, so the wrong-thinking teachers don’t have as much of a platform upon which to prop up their meritocratic myths.

I want to be fair to the authors and acknowledge that even if I’m a bit skeptical about how their prescriptions could operate in a classroom, there might be other good reasons for doing away with homework.

Evidence about the effectiveness of homework is pretty scattered. There are studies and articles saying that homework helps students learn and that kids aren’t overly burdened with it. There are also studies and articles that say excessive homework shows diminishing returns and can be harmful to students’ mental health . Having read some of these studies, I think the fairest assessment right now would be to say that the evidence about the benefits of homework is pretty inconclusive because of the inherent difficulties in isolating one part of a student’s academic life and drawing huge conclusions about how it affects everything else.

From a theoretical standpoint, I mostly agree with Calarco, Horn and Chen’s diagnosis of the American educational system. It does largely function as a way to sort and stratify children into different socioeconomic bands, which, again, in theory, means that it would be helpful for teachers to approach their work with that in mind. Many richer kids go to private schools that feed into elite colleges that will more or less ensure their alumni will be on the glide path to staying rich. Many poorer kids go to poorer schools that provide them, in many cases, with fewer opportunities that might help them advance socioeconomically. Some portion of middle-class and working-class people, including a lot of immigrants and children of immigrants, pragmatically use the school system to achieve class mobility.

When you break it all down, the amount of class mobility our education system can grind out each year falls well short of what most people expect. The spoils of academic meritocracy, then, aren’t particularly widespread, which does bring up the question: If we all agree that everyone should go to school and if the class mobility part is working only for some families and not at all for others, why do we structure it in such a competitive way?

But there’s a defense of homework that doesn’t really have much to do with class mobility, equality or any sense of reinforcing the notion of meritocracy. It’s one that became quite clear to me when I was a teacher: Kids need to learn how to practice things. Homework, in many cases, is the only ritualized thing they have to do every day. Even if we could perfectly equalize opportunity in school and empower all students not to be encumbered by the weight of their socioeconomic status or ethnicity, I’m not sure what good it would do if the kids didn’t know how to do something relentlessly, over and over again, until they perfected it. Most teachers know that type of progress is very difficult to achieve inside the classroom, regardless of a student’s background, which is why, I imagine, Calarco, Horn and Chen found that most teachers weren’t thinking in a structural inequalities frame. Holistic ideas of education, in which learning is emphasized and students can explore concepts and ideas, are largely for the types of kids who don’t need to worry about class mobility.

A defense of rote practice through homework might seem revanchist at this moment, but if we truly believe that schools should teach children lessons that fall outside the meritocracy, I can’t think of one that matters more than the simple satisfaction of mastering something that you were once bad at. That takes homework and the acknowledgment that sometimes a student can get a question wrong and, with proper instruction, eventually get it right.

Jay Caspian Kang ( @jaycaspiankang ), a writer for Opinion and The New York Times Magazine, is the author of “The Loneliest Americans.”

Have feedback? Send a note to [email protected] .

Reasons Why Homework Is Bad For Students?

why homework is bad

  • Post author By admin
  • October 12, 2022

Homework is a word that most students don’t want to hear. Because, after many hours of sitting in the same class, the last thing students get is more schoolwork over their precious weekends. Well, it is known to be a traditional schooling system. Lets now 

Some feel that Homework is a necessary part of education. On the other hand, some believe that the time should be invested in extra activities. Many studies have found that most students are getting too much extra Homework and assignments that lead to many problems like stress, sleeping problems, and other problems related to health. 

Typically in high schools, students take six classes a day, which means they receive 24.5 hours of homework weekly. But this is not the main problem. The problem with the school nowadays is that it promotes stress at a very high level by giving students extra work that most of the students don’t want to do. 

There are plenty of reasons why Homework is bad for students, but in this Blog, we will look at the top 18 most crucial reasons.

Without wasting any time, let’s get started.

Table of Contents

18 Reasons Why Homework Is Bad For Students

There are many reasons why Homework is bad, but in this Blog, we will cover the top 18 reasons why Homework is bad for students. 

  • May lead to Stress Problems

No time for outside activities

Excessive homework cause depression, have no real impact on performance, homework control the student’s freedom.

  • May break student’s confidence

No real benefit

The school became a full-time job, irrelevant content, lack of social skills , waste of time, no time for family, destroy sleep cycle.

  • Excessive Homework encourages cheating 

Can lower your grades


  • No time for daily exercise

Consume free time

May lead to stress problems..

Extra assignments given by high schools and universities to students may lead to unhealthy stress levels. If bombarded with countless work at the school and at home, students may feel anxiety and stress. I know students need to learn in the class, but they also get some time to explore other things outside the academic world. 

This is obvious if you get work after work and fail to complete that work. You will automatically get stressed, and that gets worse over time. 

According to the survey, 56 percent of the students think that Homework is the primary cause of stress. At the same time, the remaining students think that giving tests and getting good marks causes stress. Only 1 percent of the students think that Homework does not cause notable stress.

One of the main reasons Homework is bad is that you get no time to go outside and play something that will automatically boost your productivity and instantly kill stress. Doing outside activities will not only boost your productivity but also make you healthy physically as well as mentally. 

Excessive Homework may cause Depression, which then affects students mentally and physically too. According to the studies, more than 39% of the students have experienced Depression daily. The main reason is that most students want more grades rather than doing Homework. When students are unable to attain their goals, then it is really hard to maintain their health, so as a result, they get depressed. All of these issues can have a negative impact on someone’s life. 

Extra time spent on Homework does not have a real impact on performance. As a result, it’s more like you’re wasting time by doing the same thing repeatedly, which does not produce any result.

Childhood is meant to be enjoyed, but extra Homework makes it impossible. Instead of spending time on something else, students spend most of their time on Homework. As a result, Homework became the reason to control students’ freedom. 

May break students’ confidence

If you’re doing the same thing repeatedly, you don’t get any result from this. Then the probability is high that you will lose your confidence. So, to boost your confidence, students should take some breaks and then get back to work.

A decrease in academic performance is directly connected to spending more time on Homework. Homework can help you get better marks, but it usually has a low return. As a result, there is no real benefit from the Homework. 

This is the seventh reason why Homework is bad for the students. 

In Chile, most school days start from 8 a.m and end at 4 p.m or later. Every day, students spend approximately 9 hours in school, like you’re doing a full-time job. 

If the Homework has nothing to do with the topic or the subject, it should be prohibited. It is unfair to provide Homework that a student did not cover in the class and expect a better report. 

Heavy homework activities may have a terrible effect on student life. Everyone needs some time for daily routine activity and quality time with their friends and family. But teachers assign heavy Homework during weekends. Then there is no choice but for the students to complete the task rather than be more social. 

Most studies found that Homework is a waste of time that keeps people from doing things they want to do. Such as attending important events or sports. As a result, even if a student wants to attend or participate in such events, in such circumstances, students don’t have enough time due to workload. 

This is the twelfth reason why Homework is bad and should be banned. In most parts of the world, students doest have time to spend with their family members. Well, the most difficult thing for today’s parents is that they don’t spend enough time with their children. Students start working on their homework as soon as they get back home. As a result, students barely have time to talk with their parents.

Even on the weekend, students work on their extra assignments and Homework. That being said, students miss weekends that they are supposed to spend with their family members. However, without work, students have more time for family. 

In most cases, students don’t want to get up early in the morning. When you sleep for a longer period and wake up late in the morning, you would feel more relaxed and chill. But due to excessive amounts of Homework, students barely get 7 hours of sleep. As a result, Homework is the biggest concern that destroys the sleep cycle. 

This is the thirteenth reason why Homework should be banned. 

Excessive Homework encourages cheating

When students have an excessive amount of work to complete in a short period, it is really difficult for them to complete their Homework. As a result, to complete Homework in time, they copy from other students. Cheating is illegal in any school. If the teacher finds out that both assignments have relevant material, they get punished. That is why Homework is bad. 

One of the main reasons Homework is bad is that many teachers cannot provide all the important information in the class, and parents can not help children. If you spend most of the time doing homework, you don’t get time to study. As a result, it can lower your grades. 

Rather than improving education, a heavy homework load may affect the students’ performance. Students have too much stress to complete Homework every other night, which can affect the student’s performance in school. A homework load may counter your productivity skills. 

No Time For Daily Workout

This is the seventeenth reason why Homework is bad. Well, exercise has many benefits, like if you work out daily then it can improve your mental health, and remove stress. On the other hand, some aerobic exercise can even help you with Depression. Students don’t have time for daily workouts due to an excessive homework load. 

Everybody needs some free time to chill or relax, but what if you don’t have time to do anything? How do you feel? Well, the obvious answer is you feel very bad. That’s what students feel when they don’t have time to play or to spend some time with family, just because of frequently given Homework and assignments by the teachers. 

Reasons Why Homework Is Bad & Should be Banned

homework does not work well

Four main reasons why homework should be banned

  • It creates family stress : Some parents argue with their children about getting Homework done or being frustrated with their inability to teach children about any topic.
  • Students can do other important activities : Other activities include outdoor time, family bonding time, and other unscheduled play.
  • Doesn’t increase academic achievement : According to many studies, Homework has weak links to get better academic achievements.
  • Leads to more anxiety : It can cause more academic stress for students. 

Conclusion: Why Homework is Bad

In this blog, we have learned 18 reasons why Homework is bad. I hope you understand why Homework is bad for the student; not only do students in the same city face this problem, but it’s a worldwide cause. Students also have the freedom to do other activities and have some free time to chill and relax. 

This is the end of this Blog. I hope you like it. Also, Read: Best Homework Songs to Listen While Study

Q1. Is Homework Good or bad?

Ans. Too much of anything can harm you instead of helping you. So, if students get too much work, it can do more harm than good. Studies have shown that if a student gets less Homework, it’s good, but if it’s too much, it’s bad.

Q2. Why is too much Homework bad for mental health?

Ans. Studies conducted at Stanford University in 2013 have found that top-performing students are distracted and mostly spend more time on Homework than on improving academic skills. As a result, they experienced more stress, problems related to health, lack of social skills, and many more.

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What’s the Right Amount of Homework?

Decades of research show that homework has some benefits, especially for students in middle and high school—but there are risks to assigning too much.

Many teachers and parents believe that homework helps students build study skills and review concepts learned in class. Others see homework as disruptive and unnecessary, leading to burnout and turning kids off to school. Decades of research show that the issue is more nuanced and complex than most people think: Homework is beneficial, but only to a degree. Students in high school gain the most, while younger kids benefit much less.

The National PTA and the National Education Association support the “ 10-minute homework guideline ”—a nightly 10 minutes of homework per grade level. But many teachers and parents are quick to point out that what matters is the quality of the homework assigned and how well it meets students’ needs, not the amount of time spent on it.

The guideline doesn’t account for students who may need to spend more—or less—time on assignments. In class, teachers can make adjustments to support struggling students, but at home, an assignment that takes one student 30 minutes to complete may take another twice as much time—often for reasons beyond their control. And homework can widen the achievement gap, putting students from low-income households and students with learning disabilities at a disadvantage.

However, the 10-minute guideline is useful in setting a limit: When kids spend too much time on homework, there are real consequences to consider.

Small Benefits for Elementary Students

As young children begin school, the focus should be on cultivating a love of learning, and assigning too much homework can undermine that goal. And young students often don’t have the study skills to benefit fully from homework, so it may be a poor use of time (Cooper, 1989 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). A more effective activity may be nightly reading, especially if parents are involved. The benefits of reading are clear: If students aren’t proficient readers by the end of third grade, they’re less likely to succeed academically and graduate from high school (Fiester, 2013 ).

For second-grade teacher Jacqueline Fiorentino, the minor benefits of homework did not outweigh the potential drawback of turning young children against school at an early age, so she experimented with dropping mandatory homework. “Something surprising happened: They started doing more work at home,” Fiorentino writes . “This inspiring group of 8-year-olds used their newfound free time to explore subjects and topics of interest to them.” She encouraged her students to read at home and offered optional homework to extend classroom lessons and help them review material.

Moderate Benefits for Middle School Students

As students mature and develop the study skills necessary to delve deeply into a topic—and to retain what they learn—they also benefit more from homework. Nightly assignments can help prepare them for scholarly work, and research shows that homework can have moderate benefits for middle school students (Cooper et al., 2006 ). Recent research also shows that online math homework, which can be designed to adapt to students’ levels of understanding, can significantly boost test scores (Roschelle et al., 2016 ).

There are risks to assigning too much, however: A 2015 study found that when middle school students were assigned more than 90 to 100 minutes of daily homework, their math and science test scores began to decline (Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, & Muñiz, 2015 ). Crossing that upper limit can drain student motivation and focus. The researchers recommend that “homework should present a certain level of challenge or difficulty, without being so challenging that it discourages effort.” Teachers should avoid low-effort, repetitive assignments, and assign homework “with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-directed learning.”

In other words, it’s the quality of homework that matters, not the quantity. Brian Sztabnik, a veteran middle and high school English teacher, suggests that teachers take a step back and ask themselves these five questions :

  • How long will it take to complete?
  • Have all learners been considered?
  • Will an assignment encourage future success?
  • Will an assignment place material in a context the classroom cannot?
  • Does an assignment offer support when a teacher is not there?

More Benefits for High School Students, but Risks as Well

By the time they reach high school, students should be well on their way to becoming independent learners, so homework does provide a boost to learning at this age, as long as it isn’t overwhelming (Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). When students spend too much time on homework—more than two hours each night—it takes up valuable time to rest and spend time with family and friends. A 2013 study found that high school students can experience serious mental and physical health problems, from higher stress levels to sleep deprivation, when assigned too much homework (Galloway, Conner, & Pope, 2013 ).

Homework in high school should always relate to the lesson and be doable without any assistance, and feedback should be clear and explicit.

Teachers should also keep in mind that not all students have equal opportunities to finish their homework at home, so incomplete homework may not be a true reflection of their learning—it may be more a result of issues they face outside of school. They may be hindered by issues such as lack of a quiet space at home, resources such as a computer or broadband connectivity, or parental support (OECD, 2014 ). In such cases, giving low homework scores may be unfair.

Since the quantities of time discussed here are totals, teachers in middle and high school should be aware of how much homework other teachers are assigning. It may seem reasonable to assign 30 minutes of daily homework, but across six subjects, that’s three hours—far above a reasonable amount even for a high school senior. Psychologist Maurice Elias sees this as a common mistake: Individual teachers create homework policies that in aggregate can overwhelm students. He suggests that teachers work together to develop a school-wide homework policy and make it a key topic of back-to-school night and the first parent-teacher conferences of the school year.

Parents Play a Key Role

Homework can be a powerful tool to help parents become more involved in their child’s learning (Walker et al., 2004 ). It can provide insights into a child’s strengths and interests, and can also encourage conversations about a child’s life at school. If a parent has positive attitudes toward homework, their children are more likely to share those same values, promoting academic success.

But it’s also possible for parents to be overbearing, putting too much emphasis on test scores or grades, which can be disruptive for children (Madjar, Shklar, & Moshe, 2015 ). Parents should avoid being overly intrusive or controlling—students report feeling less motivated to learn when they don’t have enough space and autonomy to do their homework (Orkin, May, & Wolf, 2017 ; Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008 ; Silinskas & Kikas, 2017 ). So while homework can encourage parents to be more involved with their kids, it’s important to not make it a source of conflict.

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School Life Balance , Tips for Online Students

The Pros and Cons of Homework


Homework is a word that most students dread hearing. After hours upon hours of sitting in class , the last thing we want is more schoolwork over our precious weekends. While it’s known to be a staple of traditional schooling, homework has also become a rather divise topic. Some feel as though homework is a necessary part of school, while others believe that the time could be better invested. Should students have homework? Have a closer look into the arguments on both sides to decide for yourself.

A college student completely swamped with homework.

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Why should students have homework, 1. homework encourages practice.

Many people believe that one of the positive effects of homework is that it encourages the discipline of practice. While it may be time consuming and boring compared to other activities, repetition is needed to get better at skills. Homework helps make concepts more clear, and gives students more opportunities when starting their career .

2. Homework Gets Parents Involved

Homework can be something that gets parents involved in their children’s lives if the environment is a healthy one. A parent helping their child with homework makes them take part in their academic success, and allows for the parent to keep up with what the child is doing in school. It can also be a chance to connect together.

3. Homework Teaches Time Management

Homework is much more than just completing the assigned tasks. Homework can develop time management skills , forcing students to plan their time and make sure that all of their homework assignments are done on time. By learning to manage their time, students also practice their problem-solving skills and independent thinking. One of the positive effects of homework is that it forces decision making and compromises to be made.

4. Homework Opens A Bridge Of Communication

Homework creates a connection between the student, the teacher, the school, and the parents. It allows everyone to get to know each other better, and parents can see where their children are struggling. In the same sense, parents can also see where their children are excelling. Homework in turn can allow for a better, more targeted educational plan for the student.

5. Homework Allows For More Learning Time

Homework allows for more time to complete the learning process. School hours are not always enough time for students to really understand core concepts, and homework can counter the effects of time shortages, benefiting students in the long run, even if they can’t see it in the moment.

6. Homework Reduces Screen Time

Many students in North America spend far too many hours watching TV. If they weren’t in school, these numbers would likely increase even more. Although homework is usually undesired, it encourages better study habits and discourages spending time in front of the TV. Homework can be seen as another extracurricular activity, and many families already invest a lot of time and money in different clubs and lessons to fill up their children’s extra time. Just like extracurricular activities, homework can be fit into one’s schedule.

A female student who doesn’t want to do homework.

The Other Side: Why Homework Is Bad

1. homework encourages a sedentary lifestyle.

Should students have homework? Well, that depends on where you stand. There are arguments both for the advantages and the disadvantages of homework.

While classroom time is important, playground time is just as important. If children are given too much homework, they won’t have enough playtime, which can impact their social development and learning. Studies have found that those who get more play get better grades in school , as it can help them pay closer attention in the classroom.

Children are already sitting long hours in the classroom, and homework assignments only add to these hours. Sedentary lifestyles can be dangerous and can cause health problems such as obesity. Homework takes away from time that could be spent investing in physical activity.

2. Homework Isn’t Healthy In Every Home

While many people that think homes are a beneficial environment for children to learn, not all homes provide a healthy environment, and there may be very little investment from parents. Some parents do not provide any kind of support or homework help, and even if they would like to, due to personal barriers, they sometimes cannot. Homework can create friction between children and their parents, which is one of the reasons why homework is bad .

3. Homework Adds To An Already Full-Time Job

School is already a full-time job for students, as they generally spend over 6 hours each day in class. Students also often have extracurricular activities such as sports, music, or art that are just as important as their traditional courses. Adding on extra hours to all of these demands is a lot for children to manage, and prevents students from having extra time to themselves for a variety of creative endeavors. Homework prevents self discovery and having the time to learn new skills outside of the school system. This is one of the main disadvantages of homework.

4. Homework Has Not Been Proven To Provide Results

Endless surveys have found that homework creates a negative attitude towards school, and homework has not been found to be linked to a higher level of academic success.

The positive effects of homework have not been backed up enough. While homework may help some students improve in specific subjects, if they have outside help there is no real proof that homework makes for improvements.

It can be a challenge to really enforce the completion of homework, and students can still get decent grades without doing their homework. Extra school time does not necessarily mean better grades — quality must always come before quantity.

Accurate practice when it comes to homework simply isn’t reliable. Homework could even cause opposite effects if misunderstood, especially since the reliance is placed on the student and their parents — one of the major reasons as to why homework is bad. Many students would rather cheat in class to avoid doing their homework at home, and children often just copy off of each other or from what they read on the internet.

5. Homework Assignments Are Overdone

The general agreement is that students should not be given more than 10 minutes a day per grade level. What this means is that a first grader should be given a maximum of 10 minutes of homework, while a second grader receives 20 minutes, etc. Many students are given a lot more homework than the recommended amount, however.

On average, college students spend as much as 3 hours per night on homework . By giving too much homework, it can increase stress levels and lead to burn out. This in turn provides an opposite effect when it comes to academic success.

The pros and cons of homework are both valid, and it seems as though the question of ‘‘should students have homework?’ is not a simple, straightforward one. Parents and teachers often are found to be clashing heads, while the student is left in the middle without much say.

It’s important to understand all the advantages and disadvantages of homework, taking both perspectives into conversation to find a common ground. At the end of the day, everyone’s goal is the success of the student.

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College Reality Check

College Reality Check

Should Students Have Homework? 8 Reasons Pro and 8 Against

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), students in the US spend an average of 6.64 hours in school per day.

It doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that they can spend the rest of the day — excluding sleep hours — as they please. Doing homework, for one, should be squeezed into a student’s schedule to get good grades.

Homework instills many skills students can benefit from throughout their academic and professional careers, too. They include self-discipline, time management, organizing and communication skills. However, it can also leave students stressed, not to mention that some studies suggest homework does not make them smarter.

Got some homework and torn between doing it ASAP or saving it for later? Read on.

While there are many good reasons why students should have homework, all of which can be helpful in the pursuit of a grade school or high school diploma or an undergraduate degree, there are also some downsides that are hard to overlook.

homework pros and cons

8 Reasons Why Students Should Have Homework

Let’s kick things off by enumerating some of the perks that homework brings to a student’s life. Many of them can be beneficial for them not only during the time being but also in their future academic and professional endeavors.

Students Forget 95% of Things They Learn in School

Students tend to forget up to 95% of the things they learn in the classroom after 3 days.

Of course, some may forget less and some may forget more in a shorter or longer period of time. But the main takeaway is that the way information is retained can look different from one student to the other.

This is when homework can help students keep the lessons intact, reviewing allows students to remember and retain particulars in the long term.

So, in other words, doing homework facilitates the transfer of lessons learned from their short-term to their long-term memory.

By giving students homework to take care of, say, over the weekend, all the information obtained in the classroom in the past week can be reinforced, thus allowing them to benefit from them going forward.

Homework instills self-discipline

Since homework is done without any teacher in sight, it encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.

To put it another way, it gives students the opportunity to learn how to be disciplined .

Discipline is essential to helping students obtain their academic goals. It adds that being disciplined does so effectively as a result of the following:

Other than bad grades, lack of discipline that homework helps fight off can cause many other problems, too.

For one, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) says that indiscipline can result in disobeying school rules and being late to class .

The organization adds that it can also promote all kinds of anti-social behaviors and vices, all of which, if allowed to continue, may manifest later in life.

Homework hones time management

A tell-tale sign of poor time management is procrastination, and many students are no strangers to it.

As a matter of fact, the counseling office at the University at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) says that around 25% of students end up being chronic procrastinators .

Having excellent time-management skills can prove to be extremely beneficial to students whose everyday schedules are hectic. It lets them stay organized, well-prepared and on schedule by enabling them to use their time wisely.

student doing schoolwork

In the process, students also develop self-confidence and self-reliability, both of which can help them excel in and out of academia.

But, like many other vital skills, managing time well is something that requires students to learn and practice, too, and doing their homework dutifully each and every time helps ensure that they are on the right path.

Studying for 3 to 4 hours Gets the Work Done

Scientists say that, as reported by Think Impact, students should study 3 to 4 hours daily to get the best results.

But it’s possible to cut down on the number of hours students spend studying outside of the classroom by developing good study habits. So, in other words, if they want to study less, they should study more for the time being!

Doing homework is an effective way for students to develop much-needed study skills. This makes it possible for the brain to be able to process and retain information so much better.

The brain may be made of soft tissue called the gray matter and white matter alright. However, it’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised on a regular basis for strength and efficiency.

Good study habits can help students in more ways than one.

Besides their grades, it can also increase their self-confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, it can lower stress and anxiety related to examinations and deadlines.

And since it can promote more effective studying, students need not spend a lot of time trying to remember everything that needs to be remembered, thus giving them plenty of time to do other things.

More Homework Limits Screen Time

According to a report by Medline Plus, most American children spend around 3 hours a day in front of the TV.

But because there are things such as smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and computers, added together, the online health information resource, which is a service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), says that all screen time types daily can total 5 to 7 hours.

But here’s the deal: young ones aged 2 and above should have screen time of only between 1 to 2 hours a day of high-quality programming, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Too much screen time in kids may lead to the following problems:

It’s a good thing that there are many ways to reduce screen time in school-age kids, such as encouraging unplugged and unstructured playtime as well as urging them to do their homework instead.

Homework fosters communication

In some instances, homework has to be done in groups.

This helps students hone good communication skills as they discuss and share their views with their co-members on the various elements of the task at hand.

In the process, they also get to know some of their classmates better and even establish friendships with them in case they haven’t already in school.

On the other hand, homework that needs to be done separately by students gives the child and the parent the opportunity to communicate with one another and strengthen their bond.

Experts say that parents helping with homework brings the following benefits:

doing homework with Dad

Homework helps parents see what their kids are learning

Sending a child to a public school may be cheaper than sending him or her to a private school. But it doesn’t mean that parents have no more various education-related expenses to shoulder.

Due to the fact that money is involved, it’s important that kids are getting the best education possible.

Thanks to homework, parents can have an idea of what sort of things their youngsters are learning in school.

It also allows them to have a sense of their children’s learning style or progress and inform the teachers or school administration of any problem encountered that could have an impact on their academic achievement or development.

Homework helps teachers improve their craft

Believe it or not, it’s not just the students who can benefit from having homework and doing them diligently, too. In many instances, teachers who assign homework themselves can also gain something positive from it.

For one, homework allows them to determine whether or not their students understand the lessons well.

Depending on their observations, it also enables them to come up with alternative teaching approaches to help students become better learners, which requires them to become better teachers — much of teaching is learning on the job.

Besides, teaching methods are constantly changing, and teachers need to keep up every single time.

8 Reasons Why Students Should Have No Homework

And now, let’s enumerate some of the things that make students better off without any homework to complete after school hours or over the weekend, many of which can prove to be beneficial for their academic performance and overall well-being.

help needed with homework

Homework causes additional stress

Based on a stress statistics report by Finances Online, 75% of high school students and 50% of middle school students report that schoolwork makes them often or always feeling stressed .

It goes without saying, then, that bringing some schoolwork to their homes for them to complete can make matters worse for them.

Especially if the goal is for the student to earn a diploma, too much stress is a no-no because it can cause:

It’s no secret, too, that a lot of stress can affect the mental health of a person, student or otherwise.

Homework promotes a sedentary lifestyle

While we were talking about the reasons why students should have homework, it was mentioned that doing schoolwork at home lessens screen time, which can lower the risk of obesity.

But on the flip side, homework can be a reason for students to pack on excess pounds.

Instead of spending time in the playground with their friends, students sit at their desks at home for hours until such time that they have completed their homework.

Clearly, homework promotes a sedentary lifestyle , which, according to a warning issued by WHO, can double the risk of obesity as well as many other serious health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease.

Homework takes away quality time

Most of the waking hours of students are spent with their classmates and teachers. But they also have a relationship with family members and friends outside of the campus they need to build and foster.

Rather than spend their time away from the books with people they care about and who care about them, students have no choice but to devote their remaining energy to school-related matters because of homework.

It can also keep them from partaking in extracurricular and/or everyday activities they are interested in or are passionate about.

Homework has no favorable impact on grades

It can be easy to assume that the more homework assigned, the brighter students get.

However, data obtained by Trends in Math and Science Study (TIMSS) says not so fast — there’s no proof that homework can be associated with increased academic achievement .

Going by the said information, needless to say, some of the perks that come with doing homework, including better study habits and knowledge consolidation, are complete baloney.

Doing homework also does not guarantee improvement in a student’s knowledge and academic performance.

Access to the internet, for instance, allows them to find answers without much effort with the help of Google or send their smart classmates (who probably have already completed their homework) emails or DMs, which fosters cheating.

Homework takes no account of various types of learners

The name itself pretty much explains what homework is: schoolwork students need to do at home. Needless to say, without any teacher in sight, students have to complete their homework on their own accord and at their own pace.

According to a report by Digital Promise, whose mission is to shape the future of learning as well as to advance equitable education systems by collating solutions across research, practice and technology, not every student is capable of working at his or her own pace.

It adds that, for some children, self-paced learning means no-pace learning.

So, in other words, not all students are very good with homework , depending on their learning style or preference.

Homework does not go well with all types of homes

Earlier, it was mentioned that one of the reasons why students should have homework is that it helps in building good study habits, which is a critical component of attaining academic success.

And the #1 tip for developing good study habits?

Find a good place to study.

Unfortunately, not all students have homes that are conducive to homework completion. Someone who is from a big family that lives in a small home where space is constrained, undeniably, will have a hard time finding a nice quiet spot in which to do his homework.

The same conundrum will surely be faced by a student who lives in a very busy and noisy neighborhood.

Also mentioned above is the fact that homework gives the child and parent the opportunity to bond over the assignment. Clearly, this perk excludes students whose parents are juggling multiple jobs or are from broken homes.

conflict with parents about school

Homework may cause conflict with parents

Speaking of which, not all parents are good at guiding their little ones in doing their homework.

As a matter of fact, according to many child psychologists, the relationship between a parent and child can create a learning environment at home that can pose a lot of challenges.

Parents, for instance, may contrast their kids’ accomplishments and failures against their own. Children, on the other hand, may see criticisms from their parents as personal attacks.

Because the parent-child dynamic can vary from one home to the other, it’s not all the time that homework can have a positive impact on the student’s grades and relationship with the parentals.

Homework makes teachers even busier

Last but not least, it’s not just students who end up with even more hectic everyday schedules by being given homework to work on but also those who assign the homework themselves — teachers!

Based on a global report that was featured by Australia-based The Educator Magazine , teachers are overworked and underworked professionals.

And that is why allowing their students to leave the school grounds without any homework to worry about later, which they will have to check during the following class meeting, can be immensely favorable for teachers.

Recap: Should Students Have Homework or Not

Assigning students with homework comes from a good place — teachers allocate them daily or weekly to reinforce knowledge learned in the classroom and instill good study skills, not to torture them.

For many students who have to go to school 160 to 180 times each year, however, homework that they need to take care of at the end of the day or over the weekend can be easily mistaken for punishment because, more often than not, it feels like one.

As a result, it’s not unlikely for many to overlook the positives of having homework and see only the negatives.

Indeed, as discussed above, homework comes with both pros and cons.

Here’s a great suggestion to allow students to continue to enjoy the benefits homework brings while minimizing the associated negatives: the Center for American Progress (CAP) recommends the 10-minute rule, which, simply put, means that students should be able to finish their homework in no more than 10 minutes multiplied by their grade level.

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I graduated with BA in Nursing and $36,000 in student loan debt from the UCF. After a decade in the workforce, I went back to school to obtain my MBA from UMGC.

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Ideas, Inspiration, and Giveaways for Teachers

We Are Teachers

7 Teacher Ideas for Supporting Students Who Aren’t Doing Any Work at All

We asked. You answered.

Julie Mason

What do you do when your students aren’t doing any work? Whether you are a new teacher or a veteran, we all struggle with this. We want to teach and help our students learn, not spend hours taking away points in Class Dojo or making exceptions. So it did not surprise me when I saw a teacher post, “Warning vent ahead: I am so tired of students not doing their work. I want to celebrate those who do, but penalize those who don’t” in our WeAreTeacher HELPLINE Facebook group .

I can relate to her frustration. But penalizing students who aren’t doing any work doesn’t solve the problem. There are ways we can help students who aren’t doing any work. We asked you, and you answered.

How we respond to missing or late work says a lot about what we think it means to be a teacher.

There’s a reason why the Facebook discussion over this topic generated so many comments. We want our students to learn, but in order for us to determine if they have learned, we need them to do the work. If students don’t do any work this feels impossible. As one teacher, Mary, put it, “I feel like I am a project manager sometimes more than a teacher. I’m dependent on the kids to their work so I can do my job.” So what do we do? A common thread in the comments was: before we put a zero in our grade books, it’s worth evaluating if the work we’re asking students to do is meaningful. Do they have the skills they need to complete it? Is it too much? Not enough? If we know we are asking students to do work that is fair, we can shift our attention to why they aren’t doing it. Here are some ways teachers are helping students who aren’t doing any work.

1. Mark it missing, and ask what’s going on. Their answer might surprise you.

After 21 years of teaching, I realize that kids have issues we aren’t aware of. Mark it missing. Then ask the kid what’s going on. Their answer might surprise you. Compassion and understanding have to be at the front of all we do. —Michelle

I am showing grace, but they must show effort and communication with me. Yes, zeros happen but can be overturned. Students need to follow through. —Tara

2. Invite students to reflect on why they aren’t doing any work.

I have an online form that the students fill out when they submit assignments after the due date. One field they have to fill out explains why it’s late. That has been eye-opening, and when they tell me what’s going on, I often offer grace and no penalty for being late. —Chris

We have to reach out and give students a hand who aren’t doing any work by getting them started on the missing assignment, helping them to clarify their thinking, or even making ourselves available during the day or after hours to help them achieve success. —Shelly

3. Teach students coping strategies.

I saw an increase in work getting done when I taught students coping strategies. Begin or end a class with meditation exercises to help students get focused. Check in with students during independent work. These are simple and small ways to support your students .—Kerith

4. Ask students to write a weekly email and set goals.

I have my students send a weekly email home that includes what we have been doing in class and a picture of the grades from Powerschool. They also have to include a goal on how they will get missing assignments in. I email this to parents with me cc’d in and goes in as a grade. —Lea

5. Consider grading assessments, but not homework or other types of practice.

I grade the assessments only and make sure they align with the standards. This will give them a grade based on what they know and can do. If they do not complete the assessments, give an incomplete. —Caitlin

Keep it simple. We’re grading them on the work that they do, not the work that they don’t do. —Kevin

6. Try positive reinforcement and celebrate students’ small wins.

I created a board called “Make yourself PROUD!” I post weekly the names of the students that are on task and send home certificates every month. —Kristy

Kids want to do well. Sometimes they just need more encouragement. Although it is exhausting to see so many half-assed assignments. I just try to convey that it’s not what I expect from them. I have a copy-paste response: This assignment is designed to demonstrate your understanding. Please review the material and when you turn in an example of your understanding, your grade will reflect that! You got this! Go give it another go!—Tuesday

7. Even when you’ve tried everything, never give up on your students.

Separating behavior from assessment is critical! We cannot possibly understand all of the reasons why students may not be completing their work . It is easy to just say they are lazy/choosing not to do the work and should be punished so they learn accountability but this is not really in the best interest of the child. Many students do not respond well to this punitive system and will continue to fail. —Caitlin

I finally came to the conclusion that I have my core students who deserve attention because they participate and do their assignments. For the others, after months of messages home and DoJoing the names of students who have done their homework, I can keep the light on…be excited and encouraging when they do appear. —Marie

Looking for more? Here are some ideas for how to address missing work.

Ideas to support students who aren't doing their work info graphic

For more articles like this, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter!

Plus, 5 practical ways teachers can respond to, “i don’t get it.”.

homework does not work well

Julie Mason is a Senior Editor at WeAreTeachers. She taught middle and high school English, and is a blended and personalized learning instructional coach. She loves reading a book in one sitting, good coffee, and spending time with her husband and sons.

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One minute, We Are Teachers post articles on how we teachers are giving too much of our free time for our job. How our families and connections are falling apart because we want to be martyrs.

Yet, in this very article, item #3, we are told we should work after hours.

What happened to the previous articles’ advice?

Log in to Reply

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Thanks for your note, Paully. #3 isn’t meant to indicate you should work later hours, but I understand how it could be interpreted that way. We’re definitely advocates for drawing boundaries, but we’ve heard from a lot of our readers that they are struggling with this issue, too. It’s a tricky balance, and one teacher’s experience or tip is never going to work for all. We appreciate you reaching out!

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Most of this list does not seem to take into account trauma informed practice. While some students might feel comfortable enough to tell a teacher why they haven’t completed the assignment, others might be going through something so traumatic that they feel embarrassed or ashamed to even voice it out loud. Students should not be defined by how much work they hand in. Education is moving away from content-based learning and more towards an inquiry-based approach, which ultimately allows students to explore things that are relevant to their own lives, while learning important life skills such as critical and creative thinking along the way! We can’t place all of our students in the same category when it comes to homework and what is or isn’t handed in.

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homework does not work well

No More Homework: 12 Reasons We Should Get Rid of It Completely

Last Updated: May 4, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Finn Kobler . Finn Kobler graduated from USC in 2022 with a BFA in Writing for Screen/Television. He is a two-time California State Champion and record holder in Original Prose/Poetry, a 2018 finalist for the Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate, and he's written micro-budget films that have been screened in over 150 theaters nationwide. Growing up, Finn spent every summer helping his family's nonprofit arts program, Showdown Stage Company, empower people through accessible media. He hopes to continue that mission with his writing at wikiHow. There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 90% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 25,279 times. Learn more...

The amount of homework students are given has increased dramatically in the 21st century, which has sparked countless debates over homework’s overall value. While some have been adamant that homework is an essential part of a good education, it’s been proven that too much homework negatively affects students’ mood, classroom performance, and overall well-being. In addition, a heavy homework load can put stress on families and teachers. Here are 12 reasons why homework should be banned (or at least heavily reduced).

School is already a full-time job.

Image titled Reasons Why Homework Should Be Banned Step 1

Homework negatively affects students’ health.

Image titled Reasons Why Homework Should Be Banned Step 2

Homework interferes with student’s opportunity to socialize.

Image titled Reasons Why Homework Should Be Banned Step 3

Homework hinders students’ chances to learn new things.

Image titled Reasons Why Homework Should Be Banned Step 4

Homework lowers students’ enthusiasm for school.

Image titled Reasons Why Homework Should Be Banned Step 5

Homework can lower academic performance.

Image titled Reasons Why Homework Should Be Banned Step 6

Homework cuts into family time.

Image titled Reasons Why Homework Should Be Banned Step 7

Homework is stressful for teachers.

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Homework is often irrelevant and punitive.

Image titled Reasons Why Homework Should Be Banned Step 9

Homework encourages cheating.

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Homework is inequitable.

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Other countries have banned homework with great results.

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Classroom Management Expert

How To Handle A Student Who Doesn’t Do Homework?

homework does not work well

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If you’ve been teaching for any length of time, you know that there are students who don’t do their homework.

This is not always a sign of laziness, apathy, or lack of interest in the subject matter. It may just be that they didn’t understand the assignment and/or were too busy to complete it.

Regardless of the reason, these students will need some extra attention and guidance if you want them to succeed academically.

A personal touch is usually the best approach. In other words, don’t hesitate to talk to your students face-to-face about their homework problems. They will appreciate your interest and show a willingness to improve because you care enough about them as an individual to find a solution.

If these students want to improve their grades, your guidance will simplify the learning process and help them experience the satisfaction of doing well in school.

I hope this article helps you manage your students who don’t do homework!

Why Some Students Don’t Do Their Homework?

This is a question often asked by young and veteran teachers alike. The following list contains common reasons why students don’t complete their homework, as well as ideas on how to make sure that such situations never occur in your classroom.

1) What’s the Point?  

Sometimes, students simply don’t see a point in doing their homework. This may be because the subject is boring, or monotonous – or it could be because it’s impossible to comprehend. Ensuring that students have a solid understanding of the material before moving on to the next topic will help eliminate this issue. In addition, if you find yourself instructing something that lacks value, it may be time to rethink your approach.

2) Too Many Homework Assignments  

This is often the most common issue students face. Teachers who fail to recognize that their students are carrying too much of a workload can create unbearable conditions that lead to laziness and failure.  If you’re finding yourself sending home a large amount of work every night, you should strongly consider revising your approach. It’s much better to focus on a small number of assignments and ensure they’re completed correctly, rather than overwhelming students with too many tasks.

3) Lack of Self-Motivation  

Many students don’t do their homework because they lack motivation and self-discipline. In situations such as these, it’s important to remember that you can’t force a student to complete their work – but there are ways for you to motivate them. The key is making the endeavor rewarding and worth their time – this could be through rewards or points systems.

4) Intellectual Disability  

Sometimes students don’t do their homework because they’re struggling to keep up. This can be due to a variety of reasons (e.g., medical conditions, learning disabilities, etc.) If you suspect that your students are facing issues like these, you must take immediate action at the appropriate time.

5) Lack of Parental Involvement  

Sometimes, parents fail to support their child’s education. This lack of involvement can significantly affect the student, who may then find it difficult to complete homework tasks without parental guidance. You should give students enough space to do their work, but you should also be supportive in helping them when they need help.

6) Poor Planning   

Students can underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete their homework. When this happens, they might put off starting work until the last minute – or simply give up altogether. You should always keep an eye on how much time has passed since your students were given their task, so you can notify them if it’s becoming overdue. In addition, you should encourage your students to start work early, so they have sufficient time to complete it.

7) Illness   

When students become ill, they may struggle to control their behavior and focus on homework. If your class falls victim to a bug, you should allow individuals to take the necessary time off without anxiety or pressure. The same goes for injuries – any situations where students are bedridden should be handled with appropriate care.

8) Bad Timing  

Sometimes, students don’t do their homework due to bad timing. This could be because they’ve only just returned home from school and haven’t had enough time to rest. It’s important that you give your students ample time to unwind before starting any work, so they can retain their focus.

9) Distractions at Home   

Modern homes contain a multitude of distractions that can affect the way students work. In addition to these, students may also have distracted siblings or relatives – making it hard for them to concentrate on tasks given by the teacher. You should always provide plenty of space and seclusion when working on academic tasks.

10) The Task is Too Challenging   

It’s possible that students are attempting to complete assignments that are just too difficult for them. If this happens, you should consider revising the difficulty of your work until all of your students feel comfortable completing it.

11) Poorly Organized  

Similar to planning issues, poorly organized students can struggle when it comes to completing their homework. You should work closely with your students to ensure they have the best tools for completing assignments.

12) Disinterest  

There are some students who just aren’t interested in what you’re teaching them. This could mean that they refuse to complete their work or it may prevent them from retaining information. You should try and engage all of your students in your lessons so they remain interested and invested.

In conclusion, there are several reasons why some students don’t do their homework. The main causes include a lack of planning, ill health, and excessive or poorly organized tasks. You should always monitor your classes to make sure they’re completing work effectively and without difficulty.

How Should Handle Students Who Don’t Do Their Homework?

For a new teacher, handling a student who doesn’t do their homework can be a difficult task. It could throw off the rest of your lesson plans that you have been working on all day or week. You have to find a way to deal with it without showing favoritism and giving out punishments for those who don’t complete their work.

This can be a very delicate situation especially if several children don’t complete their homework.

1. Let them know the importance of doing their work

One of the first steps to take when a student does not complete their work is letting them know the importance of doing so. You can tell students that it is important to do their work, so they will be prepared for the next school day.

2. Give them a warning

Giving out a simple warning would be an ideal approach when handling students who have not completed their work. This means letting them know of any consequences or possible punishments that can be given if they do not complete their homework.

3. Let them know what your role is as a teacher

Another very effective way to deal with students who don’t do their work is by informing them of what the teacher’s role is in the classroom. By explaining this, you are letting them know that you are not responsible for their education. You are there to help them when needed and direct them in the right direction.

4. Give students who don’t do their work another opportunity

After letting students know what consequences they will face if they don’t complete their work, you can give them an opportunity to turn it in the next day or the following class period. This is a very effective way of dealing with students who did not complete their homework because it lets them have another chance to do so.

5. Give consequences for students who don’t complete their work

The most common consequence that you can give out when a student does not do their schoolwork is giving them detention or some other form of punishment. This can be a difficult thing to do because you have to find a way of disciplining students without jeopardizing your relationship with students or other teachers.

6. Have the parent call the student’s teacher

If a student does not turn in homework more than two times and they continue to not complete their work for several weeks, you can give the student’s parent a call. This can be an effective way of notifying parents about their child’s lack of schoolwork and lack of studying at home.

7. Talk to the student after class or during lunch

If you feel as if it is appropriate, you can talk to the student outside of the classroom setting, during lunch, or after school. This is an approach you can take when dealing with students who continuously do not complete their homework. By talking to them outside of the classroom, it makes it easier to handle situations that may arise during class periods.

8. Give student work to another classmate

Another successful way of handling students who don’t do their work is to give them school work that is given to other students. For example, you can give out extra credit questions or assignments that are completed by other students if they do not complete their work.

9. Make an announcement about the homework policy

Announcing what your classroom’s policy for homework is can be helpful because it lets everyone know what to expect for the upcoming weeks or months. You can also use this chance to remind students of your classroom rules and procedures.

10. Make sure homework is not repeatedly an issue

Make sure that you are aware of how often homework becomes an issue in your classroom. If it happens all the time, then there may be something wrong with how you are handing out homework. It may be a good idea to have students complete homework during the first week of school so you can see if there becomes an issue or not.

Final Thought

It can be frustrating when students don’t do their homework. There are a variety of approaches for handling this issue, but the most important thing is to identify what will work best with your personality and teaching style. In this blog post, we’ve provided ten different ways you can address students who consistently turn in incomplete schoolwork or neglect it altogether. Don’t forget that it may take some time before you find out which approach works best for both you and your students! Check out more articles here.

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How To Handle Students Who Don’t Do Any Work

Smart Classroom Management: How To Handle Students Who Don't Do Any Work

You can gently ask if there is anything bothering them or keeping them from trying.

You can lighten their load, bribe them with incentives, or offer choices, accommodations, and a buddy to sit with.

You can work with them one on one and whisper assurances or gently convey the threat of consequences.

And you may get them going for a time.

You may prod them through an extra sentence or paragraph or persuade them to give half an effort.

But in doing so, you make a deal with the devil and do them more harm than good.

You see, by spending extra time with reluctant students, by coddling, appeasing, and buying into any of an unlimited number of justifications for their inaction, you create even more resistance.

You enable their behavior and make them weaker and less motivated .

You hide from them the realities of life and at the same time crush the development of a true work ethic—which is the only way to empower future success, no matter their circumstances.

So they sit there, subjected to the same doomed and disheartening strategies year after year.

Many have teams of professionals meeting about them, designing intervention plans for them, and assigning labels to them they don’t understand.

Meanwhile, these same students who are assumed to be too attentive-averse or ill-equipped to succeed rush home at the end of another wasted day and play the same video game for three hours without a break.

It’s all a bunch of hooey.

Yet, this failed approach, that merely acts as cover for students as well as those whose job it is to educate them, is promoted and recommended time and again by educational leaders and school districts across the country.

It’s baffling. But nothing changes. The same strategies will be trotted out again this year.

So what’s the solution? Well, providing the students are able to do the work—which, except in the rare circumstance of total misplacement, should be every student in your class—the best thing you can do for them is expect hard work.

Note: Within education, the word expect has been tremendously watered-down. For our purposes, it’s true meaning is to foresee, presuppose, and believe in strongly.

What follows are three steps to get reluctant students to start producing real work and making real improvement.

1. Teach great lessons.

This is your number one job and the very essence of being a teacher. Somehow, it’s been lost in a sea of less important or completely unimportant responsibilities.

You must produce clear, compelling lessons that students want to pay attention to.

Your classroom management skills must be strong enough to have the opportunity to capture their attention, and then you must be able to do so through your passion, your humor, your creativity, and most important your content knowledge.

You must be able to draw them in, absorb them in the moment, and maintain their state of flow— where time slows, mind-energy focuses, and concerns and worries of the past and future fade away.

You must set your students up for success by checking thoroughly for understanding. In this way, before you send them off to work independently they know exactly what to do and how to do it.

Being exceptional in whole-class instruction covers a multitude of potential learning and motivational problems, most notably those that cause students to struggle getting down to work.

Note: For more on how to teach compelling lessons, see The Happy Teacher Habits .

2. Let them be.

Once you’ve done your job, once you’ve provided your students everything they need to succeed, you now must shift responsibility to actually do the work over to them.

They need to know, and be reminded of each day, that it’s all up to them—every last bit of it—that you’re not going to turn around and reteach what you just taught minutes before.

This sends the message more than anything else you can do or say that they really can do it and that you believe in them and expect them to succeed.

Therefore, if after giving your signal to get started they just sit there, then let them sit.

Let them face the hard choice right now, in this moment, rather than when they’re 19 years old and it’s too late, to try and succeed or to do nothing and fail.

When you kneel down next to them to help, excuse, or placate, you let them off the hook. You allow them to avoid and delay this critical choice—to the point where they no longer believe in themselves or their abilities.

Forcing their hand is the change-agent they desperately need to upend their downward trajectory. When the decision to either succeed or fail comes so directly and honestly every day, the pressure to make the right one builds and grows stronger and harder to avoid.

It weighs heavily on their shoulders, especially combined with the intrinsic carrot of pride in success dangling just in front of them. Until, overwhelmed, the dam breaks.

You look over one day and find them immersed in their work. And when you do, you must seize it.

3. Praise the work, not the student.

Instead of rushing over with a huge smile and telling the student how wonderful they are because they completed a few sentences—which very effectively lowers the bar of expectation—point out their good work.

Focus on the content of their production, wherein lies the key to an untapped yet very powerful sense of pride. Just be sure that it’s true, quick, and subtle .

Avoid making a big deal. It’s embarrassing for the student—and not a little condescending—and just tells them they’re less capable than their classmates. Instead, point to something in particular in their work and tell them the truth.

“That’s a good sentence.”

“Smart word choice.”

“I like the direction you’re going.”

Tell them like it is, the straight dope, and then be on your way. Don’t wait for them to respond. Don’t stand there and enjoy their reaction or make them feel obligated to show their appreciation.

Let them enjoy the feeling of receiving pure acknowledgement of their authentic work, untainted by you and unconnected from who they are or were, what they’ve done in the past, or how much or little confidence they may or may not have.

Simply acknowledge their good work and allow the natural pride in a job well done, which they’ve rarely had a chance to experience, propel them to greater accomplishments.

The three steps above add up to the expectation that as a class they will succeed. They will improve. They will achieve and become better students than they ever thought possible.

And that’s just the way it’s gonna be.

But what if one or more continue to sit and do nothing? Then let them be. Let the pressure to want to work and try continue to build.

In the meantime, they’re a living and breathing reminder for you to be better. To learn the skills available right here at SCM to be an expert in classroom management and present better, stronger lessons.

Make success through your high-level instruction a foregone conclusion. Then dare your students to try. Challenge them. Believe in them.

And they will succeed, and be forever changed.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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54 thoughts on “How To Handle Students Who Don’t Do Any Work”

Great ideas! But I have done ALL of the good and the bad you talk about. I had 2-3 students last year who fit this to a Tee. The only way they would work and participate is on computer games. I did create Nearpods and assign computer work, they would play the ‘games’ but that was all. It was also very time consuming and not something I could make and do every night for every assignment. I did just let them sit and earn their F’s on their report cards, conferenced with parents. Nothing worked. Then they passed the state assessment with flying colors, I dont get it 🤷🏻‍♀️

It means they were learning, or already knew the material, but refused to give you the satisfaction of them obeying you. They were proving that you were not their boss and laughing at your futile attempts. They were being mean to you, resisting your authority, and the school’s and the world’s authority. Passing the state assessment perhaps as a twist ending to show they were playing you the whole time. We need smart people who do not obey authority but do the right thing anyway, but they can be little jerks while growing up.

Thank you for this article. This is a big area for me to improve on and as always you explain the way in a clear and practical manner.

You frequently mention checking for understanding as an important tool. Sometimes it’s easy to do this. For example if you are teaching how to add fractions, have the students do practice problems on whiteboards. How would you quickly check for understanding in a lesson on writing a strong conclusion to an essay or a lesson on understanding the theme of a short story, when it’s not as straightforward? Thank you for any advice!

Good question. I wish I had the time to answer it now, but I’ll be sure to cover it in a future article.

It is a big question, so I appreciate it being added to the list. Keep up the great work!

Excellent advise! I feel so guilty when I let them be and then I feel guilty for threatening and bribing. Thank you for sharing this. I am going to stick to this method for my scholars’ sake.

You’re welcome, Janine.

I do love your approach overall but was appalled to read ‘except in the rare circumstance of total misplacement, should be every student in your class’ because the majority of my classes every year in California at several different grade levels are always unable to do the work due to lack or basic skills. For the first time you seem very out of touch!

Hi Jennifer,

The article is about not doing any work (i.e., because of low motivation, confidence, apathy, poor listening, etc.). Being at grade level isn’t a prerequisite, but does point to the critical need for improved teaching. When you get a chance, please read the article again. The idea and common acceptance that more than the rarest, misplaced student can’t do any work on their own, or even quality work, is a major reason why schools are failing and so many students fall through the cracks.

Hi Michael,

Can I safely assume then that you aren’t referring to students with special needs in this article?

I couldn’t agree more with what you say with regards to regular students, and even, commensurate with their ability, with regards to certain students with special needs.

This is covered in the article.

In a future article, can you give an example of a really great lesson great?

Our middle school places students who had failed 7th grade math into 8th grade math along with students who did pass. Suggestions? Do most districts do this?

in my experience, yes. Social Promotion…..

I need this reminder! I overdo the help to find some success, but it is always up to them.

Thank you, this is very timely for me. I am curious though, does this mean to leave the student when assessment is being completed as well? I have one student who did this perfectly and will not complete assessment. My other question is due to an expectation in my school that consequences are issued for not working (usually detention to get the work done). What is your opinion on this? I seem to have a big pile of work that still isn’t being done and losing lunch breaks.

Do you grade the work that they don’t do? Are parents told about it?

I am responsible for students’ scores ultimately. It all gets printed out on a spreadsheet and I am evaluated on it

If scores are low, what then? Administrators don’t care to know about student responsibility; the idea is if if grades are poor, it is the teacher’s fault.

Also, if students do no work, do I assign study hall as a consequence- or just let them have full privileges no matter what?

Remember that different level students need scaffolding (such as ESL students) If your lesson includes scaffolding to support them (starting at whatever level is needed to reach the student(s), then your scaffolding can be removed bit by bit in subsequent lessons until they are able to accomplish the task on their own, without support. (ergo, the word “scaffolding”) There are so many things we teachers are expected to do well. It is overwhelming. It is a long process to become skilled in every single thing we are expected to do perfectly. Don’t give up. If you’re teaching because you LOVE students and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach all students, then you are in the right profession!

I’ve been following this plan for two years now and have seen tremendous improvement in behavior in my class. This year I have very young K students who have just turned 5 and so are basically acting like 4 year olds who have never apparently experienced school or consequences. Any additional suggestions for K kids who don’t listen? I’ve been giving the one warning then the timeout, and the letter home but after two weeks they are still not following our simple class plan.

The most difficult aspect to master of Michael’s classroom-management plan is the leverage he talks about as being key to an effective plan, i.e, creating a classroom that students want to be a part of (through good rapport and engaging lessons) and that they therefore care about not participating in. Is there something there you might tweak?

For timeouts, is there a fun game or activity that you could promise to do with students who remain out of timeout after a lesson segment or period so that, as Michael says, those in timeout will feel the weight of missing out?

But you say you’ve been implementing Michael’s plan for two years, so perhaps you’re well aware of these points. In that case, could your students benefit from stories about how a school and classroom work and what the expectations are for students, what teachers are and how to interact with them, etc.? Short videos can be effective as illustrations of these social skills (YouTube, etc.). You might also have fun with this by having your students help a puppet learn how to behave in school.

I would love to hear your response to some of the other posts, not just the one that was critical. There are some excellent questions there. I’m especially interested in your response to Nic’s question about checking for understanding. I completely agree with you that we need to build the lesson so the students can be successful when they work independently.

I noticed you are highly skilled at pointing out several common classroom management issues teachers struggle with. In fact, it’s scary how dead-on accurate you are. But I must ask if you currently struggle with these issues, or are they issues you observe in other teachers’ classes? Is it really possible to make it through an entire year with zero classroom management issues if a teacher follows all of your advice? I notice a lot of teachers posting that they do follow your advice, but are still struggling. Can you shed some light on this situation when you get a moment? I ask that you please do not omit this comment, because I am asking for a lot of teachers out there who are probably wondering the same thing and want answers. Thanks!!

I wonder this as well Pete. I have come to the conclusion (in my 3rd year of 5th grade/and of being a classroom teacher) 1. These are different times for a lot of kids. Regardless of demographic. Social media/fortnite/little parental support are key factors for a lot of the issues. 2. If a school is not consistent across the board (k-5 etc) with teachers and classroom management I could see that being a factor in our success. 3. Growing class sizes contribute a lot to the issues of student success as well as behaviors.

Though it is doable I haven’t cracked the code yet either. I am also still learning how to be an effective educator while keeping kids on track and not having chaos in the classroom. I just take all of the advice and input I have received and try my best each day. See what works and don’t give up. It’s never going to be ideal 100% of the time. Kids are humans and we have to accept that.

I am also wondering if consequences fit into a student not completing work.

I work with exceptional education students who have learning disabilities, severe ADHD, Autism, Language Impaired, or Developmentally Delayed. They are in the regular education classroom in an inclusion setting for the majority of the day. Many of the kids are hard workers, but a few get very frustrated by not being able to keep up. What are some suggestions of strategies that have worked for you? I work with students K – 3rd. Thank you!

Would you also give consequences for students who don’t produce any work?

Hi Sam and Tim,

As mentioned in the article, not in a traditional sense. But there are certainly consequences that I’ll point out more specifically in a future article.

I think this is your best article. I’m a special education teacher for students with emotional and behavioral disorders and I see this almost daily. It resonates when you mention how they can play a video game for three straight hours but not be attentive to a lesson for 3 minutes. I always let a child sit and do nothing and use my “point system” as a natural consequence. It is when they become disruptive by talking to others while also not doing any work when it gets frustrating. I remove the student in these cases. To play devils advocate on one of your points, though: not every lesson will be amazing nor needs to be. Isn’t that also a fact of life? Isn’t work ethic expected when the work itself isn’t always pleasant? Your relationship with the student should be compelling, but honestly not all my lessons will be, and I’m still extremely confident in my teaching practice.

You’re right, in that the lessons themselves don’t have to be amazing. This isn’t the same, however, as the act of teaching and preparing students for independent work, which does need to be top notch.

Philosophically, I agree with you – except that when I’ve done this, often other kids stop participating as well. They see that kids sit there with no consequence – natural or otherwise – and wonder why they have to work so hard.

This article made me remember last year when I received an email asking me to sign my child up for a “Mood App,” where ultimately it let the educators know when students were in mood/mind set to engage in learning. They would use this app in the morning and afternoon (time is precious, a lesson could have been taught during this time frame.)

It saddened me, as like you stated, it is setting students up for failure by giving them this choice. In the work place ( or life in general), we are not greeted with a mood app, nor given the opportunity to dwell on our emotional state. It is expected that we do our best and work hard, no matter the situation or what the day has brought. I did not feel that this was a beneficial approach.

I asked that my daughter did not participate and that she read a book instead.

Michael, I love your work and have purchased several of your books. Please do respond to the many good questions that have been brought up. I am willing to let the child “fail” if she/he absolutely refuses to produce any work or show any effort, but problems arise with parents and admin who want to see teachers exhaust themselves trying to get these few students to do work, otherwise they say you’re not a good teacher. Please comment. Juliet

A mood app? What school system is using this? I hope we never get this.

Following. Great questions asked, and I want to see the answers.

This is an excellent article with even broader applications (i.e. parenting lol). I also appreciate that you letting us all “sit” in the tension it has created. Y’all, we’ve got this! Just like the kids. To those of you asking questions, listen to yourselves and re-read the article.

I too would like to hear whether consequences for not working are appropriate. Bottom line is the work needs to be done!

Some children who are very capable need to be told firmly to get busy. Reasonable consequences work well, too.

A retired teacher.

In my sixth grade self-contained class, like many other teacher’s classes, I have 32+ students whose reading and math levels range from 2nd to twelfth grade. I appreciated this article very much, because it reinforces what I have been aiming to do for several years with great success. It has worked so well that my principal and some parents of low-performing students have been astounded that work is suddenly being completed. I have not had to defend myself for letting kids sit with this responsibility. I teach the lesson, provide intervention in small groups if skills are truly missing, and I allow some tools to be used regularly as perv504 Plans and IEPs: homemade dictionaries, word banks, multiplication charts, and copies of notes/PowerPoints. Clear directions, grading checklists and rubrics help so that kids know what they neeed to do. While circulating around the room I do not linger at any one kid for long. If they ask for help or they are just sitting doing nothing. I praise the work they’ve done so far, I prompt them to tell me what they need to do next, and then I leave. If they don’t know what comes next I direct them where to look on a hand-out or chart and ask them to read it or tell it to me. Then I give a thumbs up and walk away. (If they have not started I say something like, “I see you’ve got your book open to page ——. That’s a good place to start.” And I leave. Last year I had 19 special education students. No, they were not all at grade level by the end of the year, but most had shown at least 2 years of growth.

I teach at a charter school. My classroom has three grade levels, K, 1, & 2. It is also full inclusion where we provide services mostly within the classroom. This means accommodations must be provided within the classroom as well as some students receiving that one on one assistance. I have a particular student re-doing kindergarten with an IEP who is very immature. He frequently refuses to participate even when lessons are going very well and all the other kids are enjoying their learning time. He just doesn’t buy in. I’ve been doing the time outs and sent a couple letters. Parents seem to want to help from home but I am at a loss. I did have a breakthrough using this method with another student who really struggled last year to even start to work on their own. I often keep my students for the whole 3 years. Any advice on my immature little one? He crawls under tables, throws tantrums, etc. HELP! Thanks!

What about when they have a 504 that says shortened assignments but they do nothing? Recommendations?

Hi Michael, On point as always! As your regular reader of your blog and a purchaser of all of your books, I I have a great deal of respect for SCM am hoping to get your opinion; It seems that restorative justice is gaining momentum in education. I was going to look at learning more about restorative justice but I thought I’d ask your thoughts on the topic ? (It’ll probably be something you’ll write about later).

Thanks Greg! Good to hear from you. Yes, it is something I’ll have to cover in the future. In the meantime, there are some things I like about it while others are incompatible with SCM.

“Praise the work, not the student”. IMHO the secret to great teaching in a nutshell.

Hi Michael, Thank you again for this article! I read it a few times and feel that I understand your points, however, isn’t there a conflict between leaving the student alone for an indeterminate amount of time (however long they don’t complete the work) and upholding my promise to follow my CMP to a tee? I think that if a student is not doing their work, then they’re clearly breaking rule #1: Listen and Follow Directions. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this and of course Michael’s too. Thanks again!

Your classroom management plan is for misbehavior/disruption only. I’ll cover this topic again in the future.

Thank you, Michael!

What would one do with a student that I feel might have a disability, but has not been tested for one. I have a student that will just sit for the whole class and doesn’t do anything. He’s not a distraction and I am genuinely concerned. I also can’t get a bold of the parents.

Great article again! I always try to remember when I’m teaching to try to teach great lessons, like it says in this article and and in “Happy Teacher Habits” and “Dream Class.” A lot of times the boredom in my class is simply because MY lesson is not that great on that day. It puts the power back on me to teach great lessons.

The way it works in my classroom (3rd and 4th grade) is: whatever independent work they don’t finish in school goes home for homework. My question is, does this eliminate the “pressure to want to work and try” since they know they will be taking it home, and there they can possibly get Mom to help them do the assignment? Would it be better to take it away at the end of the period and give the grade for what was actually done? The difficulty with that method is that sometimes the child is working diligently but just needs a little more time than the amount allotted in class. Then again, I definitely have seen, and have this year, students who sit and do nothing. I don’t want to treat them differently than the rest of the class, but I also don’t want to be giving them a loophole to get out of that pressure which would lead them to improve and succeed. What is the best solution? Thank you for all your help and excellent articles. They really make a difference!

Hi Sister Mary,

This is a topic I hope to cover soon. However, the key is exactly what you said. If the child is working diligently, then it’s perfectly okay to let them finish at home.

As a 3rd grade teacher I inherited a student who in 2nd grade had been allowed to remain unengaged without working and then have an aide assist them with ALL of their work every afternoon!!! That came to an abrupt halt when she arrived in my classroom. She was a very capable A-B student who just wanted to lounge at her desk and play with her pencil and daydream once left to herself. She would participate in the lessons and even at the board, but chose not to work independently. Would you believe this girl chose to do this even throughtout the course of the year after she missed much of her recess, had notes home and took work home at times, had discussions with the principal, and had consequences at home? I kept trying to figure out the “positive reinforcement” she must somehow be receiving from it. Finally I tried after-school detention and that’s when she would work so she could go home. She was made to complete ALL work but the struggle was real.

What if 80% of your class does not do any work?

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