Does Homework Really help Students Learn?


Picture by Violet Mbela

By Violet Mbela, Staff Writer

Homework: the natural bane of a student’s existence. For most students, homework is not what the teachers intended for it to be; instead, homework is just one more chore added to the ever-growing pile of tasks to be done in a day’s work. Thus, most students are led to believe that there is some kind of loophole to avoid homework, just as there are several loopholes to be found when finessing one’s way out of doing the chores around the house. Dropped an ice cube on the floor? Kick it under the fridge. Don’t want to sweep the floor? Kick the pieces of trash under the couch/ sweep it under the rug. There is an equivalent of these actions in relation to school work, but taking shortcuts in the hopes of just finishing a task as opposed to actually retaining information can be very harmful to students in the long run.

This is a scene that is not too hard for a student to imagine: you’re in math class. Your teacher is droning on and on and you can’t seem to focus. You zone out for what feels like a second, but when you look back to the board, it seems like there is a year’s worth of missed information on the board. You’re lost, but embarrassment and pride keep you from asking any questions. The person next to you brags loudly about how easy the subject is. You’ve been defeated. But, instead of calling it a day and allowing your dejected, beaten mind to recuperate from the onslaught of information, your teacher assigns homework instead.

Now, anyone who has experienced this slippery slope knows that the usual course of action is to simply copy off of someone else’s homework or not do the assignment at all and just pray that it’ll all click at some point. But depending on the student’s learning style, they may never pick up the information with homework and lectures alone. An Alfie Kohn article published in 2006 describes the main downside of homework: “…any theoretical benefit of practice homework must be weighed against the effect it has on students’ interest in learning…  slogging through worksheets dampens one’s desire to read or think…when an activity feels like drudgery, the quality of learning tends to suffer, too…children regard homework as something to finish as quickly as possible or even as a significant source of stress, [which] helps to explain why it [does not appear to] offer any academic advantage.”

In simple terms, giving students worksheets for “review” has not been scientifically proven to be an effective method of improving their understanding of a subject. In fact, it instead attaches a negative connotation to the idea of homework. This, in turn, makes students dread the thought of doing homework, which consequently gives them the drive to come up with more creative methods or loopholes to avoid doing the work. In the long run, this will harm more than help students.