“On the Necessity of Homework”

student_stress_by_osmont2-d31t3hjOnly few day ago I was a kind of intrigued by an article I read on Alexander Atkins‘s blog Bookshelf, which recited “Too much homework is bad for students“. Being a teacher I had already started to feel guilty. Alexander was referring to a study of Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, who had found that “too much homework has a significantly negative impact on a high school student’s physical and mental well-being as well as behavioural engagement “. Too much? But, how much? 3.1 hours of homework each evening. Ah.The majority of the students, who had been the object if this survey (4,317) referred that:
1. Homework and tests were their primary sources of stress.
2. A lot of homework led to sleep deprivation and related health problems (e.g., exhaustion, weight loss, headaches, etc.)
3. They had to choose homework over social time (spending time with family and friends) or activities (such as sports or hobbies).
Furthermore it was also noticed that many students complained about homework that (they) considered “pointless” or “mindless“.
Alexander glosses his article saying that:
Until high school teachers, principals, and tiger parents learn about and digest this important research, students across the country will have to stress out over homework, burning the midnight oil, a little longer. When wiser heads prevail, students will finally be able to put down their books and go out and get a life.”

stressI was glad to see that the debate on the role of modern education is exactly the same in every part of the world. Nowadays school effort seems to deprive students of their life. But what life? Aren’t schools supposed to form students for their life as adults? But, let’s go step by step. First of all I have to say that even if I am not the kind of teacher who is used to giving loads of homework and firmly believes that holidays are made to relax and have fun so that anybody has time  “to get a life“, I don’t think that an effort of 3.1 hours each evening could be considered a cause of “stress“, unless there are other priorities in the life of that student.

footHere in Italy, an average student of, let’s say, seventeen years old, belonging to the same social class of that survey, practices a sport at least tree or four times a week – which is good, I am a sportswoman myself -, then there are the matches or competitions on week-ends ( you can easily guess that 80% of the boys here play soccer and intensely wishes for a future as footballers), goes to the gym, studies to get the driving license, spends a lot of time facebooking, whatsapping, playing with video games, hanging out………..well, certainly the effort to find some time to study could be actually seen as a cause of some stress, I guess. It’s not surprising at all  that after a day like this, you feel exhausted, you have headaches and 3.1 hours to dedicate to a different activity may seem a nightmare.

For what concerns the complaint about the fact that homework is often “pointless” or “mindless” I could agree on this point, as teachers should do their best to give motivation, finding challenging and interesting activities, but then I cannot help but wonder: how often do I have to do things that I consider “pointless” and “mindless” at work? Even if I adore my job, there are activities that bore me to death and I would happily abstain from. Are we given the chance to do only what we like in the world of adulthood? Shouldn’t we prepare our students to cope with, stress, frustration and even boredom, as well? If you want to reach your target, you need time, effort, sacrifice. I don’t know anyone who has escaped this simple life formula; footballers either.

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166 thoughts on ““On the Necessity of Homework”

  1. Dear teacher,
    I read this article and I found it very interesting. I think that homework is really helpful to consolidate the work that you have done at school, and every student should do it to improve his level. Sometimes it can be stressful becouse of the quantity and for a student it’s hard to get organized and study if you practice sport or other activities.
    In my opinion the best thing to do is taking advantage of the time at school and to balance the work at home with the work at school.
    Alessia Salvatori 3E

  2. Pingback: On the Necessity of Homework (again) | e-Tinkerbell

  3. I think homework, if students are concentrated on it, is a good way to practice for school. In this arcticle, a student says too much homework is bad for students because they get stressed and they can’t do other activities, and I agree with her, because if you have too much homework of different subjects, you can’t concentrate on any of them. Some teachers know students’ problems with homework, so they give a bit less. To resume everything, I think that teachers shouldn’t give too much homework to students but students should pay attention at the lessons, for example, to learn things faster.

  4. I agree with the thought that we have to study and all … but should we spend entire of our afternoons on books?
    Sometimes it happens that after a day of school we have to study and it means kind of 6 hours of school plus other 4/5 hours to do homework.
    We all have different way to study, someone is quick and someone is slow but all of us spend a lot of time on the books sometimes missing sports training and whatever. I think that everyone would like to spend more time doing everything but study…
    I think that too many homework and sport and whatever when you can’t organize, because you don’t have time, could be cause of stress and, headache too.

  5. I think that homework is very important to enhance what has been studied in classroom , but some teachers, many times , tend to assign too much homework, which students sometimes find difficult to organize. It often happens we can’t focus properly on one subject because we have to study many others at the same time and this could cause stress. I think that all teachers have to give a little daily homework in order that students keep on practicing.
    Finally I think it is so difficult to organize school effort, homework, sport and other activities but I understand it’s important for us students .

      • In reply to the aforementioned post.
        Surely the expression “Too much homework is bad for students” is sensationalist, well-thought to bait some clicks and a little bit of indignation extra by “legions of idiots” on the web, on Internet. It needs to be entirely argued, because some homework may be rationally considered by the students pointless and mindless (as well I sometimes believe it for some exercises). It doesn’t mean that they are useless and unnecessary, they are fundamental for the growth and development of teens, because working life (except in some rare cases) is full of repetitive activities. The sooner students understand how these boring actions have to be faced, the sooner they will obtain the best possible result from their job (according to the singular potentialities of each one). Obviously a more diversification of working plan for a student could be more exciting than earlier, so it could help also less-engagè (in school universe) students to participate and take part in interesting projects.
        Now, I’d like to comment about “to get a life”: the school, in particular way the class, has to be the first centre of aggregation for guys. Italian school should take inspiration by the English school system, where students pass almost the whole afternoon in loco for activities after-school such as sports, theatre, studying groups etc. Furthermore, there should be more healthy cooperation among students of own class, and thus seeing the scholastic course in less individualist way such as a community (collectivism).
        I am a very anxious student and homework and tests sometimes are sources of stress for me, but I am also a responsible student that completes the workload at all costs. I believe that the keystone is planning; for a good organisation of workload a regular communication between students and teachers, among the students, among the same teachers to avoid a unhomogeneous (irregular) distribution of homework or tests and unpleasant happenings is required. Communication, as in any team sports (like soccer, football, rugby, volley and so on) is essential for the achievement of certain “fore-established” objectives. I believe that cooperation about study at home is the way to follow, but many students (me too) have several difficulties to agree on studying altogether.
        Imo, homework does not only mean exercise , but it is also a way to keep our mind trained and ready to enhance our skills of problem solving, thus developing more efficient ones.

      • Dear Francesco, I am glad you appreciate the English school system, but , I was wondering, would you really enjoy spending the entire afternoon at school? Every day?🤔🤔

  6. In my opinion, this post reflects almost full what students in some schools live constantly. Adolescents’ lives have changed in recent times, the needs are different and for most students who practice a sport or other activities beyond school, it’s difficult to match everything without stress.
    Each teacher believes that his subject is always the most important one and this is the reason why eventually students do too MUCH homework, hence, in this way they find ourselves super busy studying many topics every day , which takes a lot if time, to the detritment od our “social life” and for this reason there are also cases of strong stress.
    According to me, as the article says, if a student spends too MUCH time for his homework , eventually he won’t be able to focus on any of the topics properly , thus achieving no results.
    Only when teachers understand the gravity of the situation, the impact of school effort on students will change.

    • So,the fault is all on our side, I understand, but,I beg you to believe me when I say that when I was an adolescent myself I had a lot of activities in my daily routine, but school was, or better, had to be my priority. The core of this discussion is that priorities have changed in time and this is a fact. 🙃

  7. Dear teacher,
    I agree with Alexander Atkins‘s blog because lot of homework may damage a student’s health and IT IS not productive. I think that students must constantly study a little every day, without getting tired and straining the brain. Many teachers exaggerate and cause only confusion in students’ minds. So, if students practice sport, it is difficult to get organized for study

  8. I think that homework is very useful for students because it helps us consolidate what we have learned at school. Furthermore, teachers should assign a little daily homework for each subject so that students can focus on all of them. I also consider it necessary that “the student” organizes his time to optimize it in such a way to have free time after the study, in order to practice sport and other activities.

  9. I consider homework important , but if it is too much there is the risk that the students eventually have time for nothing else. Each student has a different way to study: for someone the time for studying can take one hour or less, but for someone else even more so that they can’t have the time for relax a little, and here is when they start to have anxiety, frustration and more. For these reasons the students often ask for less homework, only to have a little time to relax and take care of their health.

    • In my humble opinion, it is not a matter of quantity of time, but rather, the quality of the time you spend for your homework. If you are focused and dedicated since the very beginning, your effort will decrease in time , because you enhance your process of learning, otherwise, it is and will be useless, that is why you need all that time to manage your work.

  10. Reading Alexander Atkins’ s post , I can see many thoughts which reflect my own point of view. In fact, I believe that the amount of homework can be a “stress” for the students sometimes. For example, eight different subjects can make students stay too many hours on books. Sometimes having a great amount of homework to do by myself at home can be less productive if I am less confident with the subject. I also think that having some free time in the afternoon helps students release stress. This can be done with many activities such as sports or going out with friends. On the other hand, having plenty of free time can be a problem for students. It is important to dedicate the free time both to homework and relax, to have a perfect balance to stay focused on your objectives.

  11. Homework can be seen as a weight, a stress and an intrusion of school (considered a cage by most) in our free time. As a student, I sometimes feel this way, but I recognize it happens always when I do not organize myself. Looking at the way I study I have to admit that planning is the real key, during the whole year, not only in critical periods. Organizing my study, even adapting it to my free time, is very useful and studying a little bit every day helps me on getting good marks with a relatively low effort, and with plenty of free time (which I spend in sport). I see many students and friends who don’t open a book for a long period of time and then, when there is test in the next few days, struggle to recover all the time they had wasted before studying the whole topic of the test in one-two days. It happens that topics of subjects as history can be nearly a hundred pages and obviously doing them in a short time can be stressful. If you add that in critical months we can have five-six tests in a week you can easily understand that all condensed it becomes a gigantic amount of work to do. In fact, it is now that students struggle and feel stressed, but this couldn’t be considered teacher’s fault in my opinion, it is simply bad planning.
    Reading Atkins’ article as a quite responsible student I agree with the fact that too much homework is stressful and I think there should be a limit to the amount of work teachers give us. But it made me also think of the situation of some people I know, and I recognize that the symptoms described in the article fit perfectly to them, but this because they act like I said before not because they really have a lot of homework to do. To me, climbing a mountain is a step by step job.

  12. Dear teacher,
    I agree with Alexander Atkin’s blog, obviously too much homework 📚 s pointless because it must be found a fair balance in everything. I think that homework is not useless, in fact it is important to prepare all students for tests, but I also think the majority of the work needs to be done in class. I am a good student,so I want to carry out all homework and even if I have to study until late because I am also a sportswoman. I really care about being organized and precise, but my life is full of activities and this is why I need to find time for all of them. Furthermore, I believe that school is my primary priority, because thank to it I will build my future, but I don’t want to give up to “get a life” for what that I consider not so much important as for example a lot of homework.

  13. In my opinion homework is useful to prepare us all to approach the world of adulthood.
    It’s also true that too much homework can have a negative impact on students,but as mentioned in the article, without training you will not reach your targets.

  14. I agree in part with the teacher’s opinion.I think that homework is important to keep us trained so as not to switch off our brain,but there are days when I must study difficult subjects all together and if student isn’t able to get organised, some subjects will be studied superficially eventually.

  15. Certainly homework for a student is cause of stress, particularly I have six different subjects to study for the following day. The only way to survive is to make an effective plan of all my daily activities such as school, homework, sport, friends etc.

  16. Having read the teacher’s post, I noticed that my thoughts are the same, that is, every boy/girl should certainly study but with moderation and serenity so as not to feel stress and also leave them their own leisure time. I noticed from this text that the teacher is one of the few who tries to understand us unlike others who fill us with tasks without realizing the amount of effort. We often happen to have 6 real subjects for the next day and I think that this is not truly productive.

  17. Dear teacher in my opinion the point is not how much homework students have to do, but how to organise it. That’s why it is very important how to organise our work, but most of us maybe don’t know how to do it. When it happens, students become stressed and anxious. So I think that most of us should be relaxed in order to spend a nice school year.

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