A senior lecturer at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University has published a study that finds too much nightly homework for high school students is counterproductive.
The survey of over 4,000 students from ten high-performing high schools from upper middle class Californian communities also cited prior studies indicating the benefits of homework plateau at the two-hour mark, with the optimum daily homework time being between ninety minutes and two-and-a-half hours.
Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good
The study, Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged High-Performing High Schools, was published last year in the Journal of Experimental Education. It found students from these upper middle class families regularly did an average of 3.1 hours of homework per night and were chosen for the study because
In upper middle class, advantaged communities, the practice of homework is deeply embedded, as parents who hold political clout and influence view homework as a way to sustain their child’s academic edge and status in the social and economic hierarchy
Findings from the study listed a range of negative effects when significant hours of nightly homework was regularly undertaken, including
- greater stress
- reductions in health
- less time for friends, family and extra-curricular pursuits
- sleep deprivation
- weight loss
- lack of engagement in class
- too much solitary time
Researchers noted homework assigned on a routine basis was not beneficial. Stanford University senior lecturer Denise Pope stated
Any homework assigned should have a purpose and a benefit, and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development
While the findings of this study may surprise some educators, there is no shock here. While most teachers understand the nature of Mathematics or English homework, many do not understand what homework in a Drama class can entail. With anything from line-learning and character creation, to essay writing, costume construction and monologue rehearsals, Drama homework is sometimes analytical, often creative, and occasionally both. In a way, we may be fortunate our subject does not lend itself to the need for regular, nightly homework (partly because it is normally not a subject students have class for, every single day). Therefore, Drama homework should always have a specific purpose and only be given when absolutely necessary. I, for one, intend to reduce the amount of homework with my Year 12 Drama class this year in the belief that if my students use class time more effectively than they have done so in the past, they will reap better benefits and be more engaged in their learning.