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Definition: Homework from The SAGE Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences

A plan for students to complete assignments at home or outside class. The teacher must take into account each student's current level of proficiency, and the assignments should be directly related to the in-class learning objectives for the purpose of improving students' skills and abilities.

Summary Article: Homework
from Encyclopedia of Curriculum Studies

Homework is defined as the tasks assigned by school teachers to be carried out by the students during nonschool hours. Homework is usually given to enhance learning by practicing or enforcing skills. Some homework assignments aim to prepare students for future lessons. Occasionally, homework is used as a punishment of students. However, the use of homework as a curricular and instructional tool is not without debate. The homework debate has a direct impact on the curriculum because teachers and curriculum specialists have to determine the role homework plays in students' learning. As a result, they have to consider the nature and amount of homework they can include in the curriculum.

The Homework Debate

Many parents today complain that teachers assign too much homework to their children. Such practice, some argue, results in high stress for students and their parents, infringement on the family social time, sleep deprivation, and early burnout for students. Some attribute the increased homework load to the pressure for schools to improve their students' scores under No Child Left Behind Act mandates.

Proponents of homework argue that most studies prove positive effects for homework. Educators argue that when homework was graded and feedback was provided, homework has positive effects on students' learning. Harris Cooper maintained that homework has positive impact on students' learning, but the impact varies for different grade levels. He reasoned that homework should be decided based on the students' developmental needs and home circumstances.

Cooper, James Lindsay, Barbara Nye, and Scott Greathouse conducted an extensive series of studies on the effects of homework. The results of their studies can be summarized as follows: There were no significant effects for homework on grades or test scores. They found negative effects for the amount of homework on test scores for young students and no significant effects for older students.

Opponents of homework argue that teachers are assigning more homework to deflect criticism for inability of schools to prepare their graduates to compete in a global society. Teachers, on the other hand, argue that U.S. students spend less time on homework compared to their counterparts in Europe and Asia.

Some educators argue that excessive homework was one of the contributing factors to high school dropout. They argued that teachers cannot ensure that students are doing their homework. They argued that high school students are challenged to participate in a variety of activities to compile an impressive college application, and homework adds an undue stress on these students. Some schools around the country, concerned about students' burnout, established guidelines to limit the time students spend on homework each night.


Homework can elevate the Mathew's effect: Parents from low socioeconomic and educational background can provide little support to their children at home, while parents from high socioeco-nomic and educational background are more able to provide support to their children at home. This practice can directly contribute to increasing the gap between the poor and rich children. Therefore, it has been suggested that teachers recognize the existence and effects of the Mathew's effect.

It has also been suggested that teachers need to move away from the habit of assigning homework because it is expected of them, and they need to rethink homework assignments in terms of objectives and quality. Alfie Kohn contended that if teachers would consider these issues, the quality of students' learning will improve. He recommended that teachers design homework assignments that are suitable for the home environment. These assignments should be tasks that students cannot perform at school, involve the parents, and can be considered family activities. Teachers should encourage students to read leisurely at home without making demands on them to read certain books or prove that they read them to help motivate students to read. In addition, students should be given a choice in their homework assignment.

Curriculum Design

Many curriculum scholars believe that the role of homework in students' learning should be part of curriculum design. To many, it is an issue that should be researched and debated in the colleges of educations to better train teachers to construct, grade, and give feedback to students on their homework for it to be effective. By developing homework assignments that are varied in nature, curriculum specialists can address students' different learning styles and home environments.

See also

Class (Social-Economic) Research, Curriculum Development, Equity, No Child Left Behind

Further Readings
  • Cooper, H. (2007). The battle over homework: Common ground for administrators, teachers, and parents (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Cooper, H.; Lindsay, J.; Nye, B.; Greathouse, S. Relationships among attitudes about homework, amount of homework assigned, and completed, and student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology 90 : 70-83., 1998.
  • Kohn, A. (2006). The homework myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing. Cambridge, MA: Di Capo Life Long.
  • Lamkin, Marcia L.
    Saleh, Amany
    Copyright © 2010 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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