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  • Writer's pictureNorth Heights Tutoring & Consulting

Homework. Is It Always Beneficial?

Updated: Dec 12, 2022


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Homework is often a hot topic in education. Students typically hate it, and parents tend to either love it because it keeps kids busy, or dread it because it ends up resulting in endless battles.


The truth is, all homework is not created equal. When done right, it can be a vital part of the learning process. For example, once concepts are modelled in class; assigning a limited amount of practice can be beneficial for most kids. This limited practice allows kids to practice a newly learned concept independently. However, if too much practice work is assigned (yes, there is such a thing!), or when it is assigned without considering the student’s learning profile, it can actually impede learning.


How Homework Could Potentially Interfere with Learning


When too much practice work is assigned, it is often seen as busy work rather than meaningful practice. This impacts learning because assigning too many questions, or too much homework, often leaves students feeling overwhelmed and defeated. This directly affects a student’s mindset and motivation to complete the work. Over the last 15 years, numerous studies have concluded that a growth mindset is a positive predictor of academic achievement. Therefore, before assigning homework, it is critical to be intentional about the amount of work that is being assigned, and to strive for that sweet spot, where students have the opportunity to still practice independently, but before students start feeling overwhelmed.


It is our experience that students inherently want to do well and learn. However, we inadvertently set students up for disappointment, and sometimes even failure, when we assign homework to students that live very busy lives outside of the classroom. While many people may be inclined to see assigning homework to busy students as a way to improve a student’s time management skills, the reverse often happens. Students, especially in elementary grades, often feel overburdened with their workload and end up withdrawing from school and sometimes the activities that they once enjoyed outside of school. This is cause for concern now more than ever, since the pandemic has left many students lacking the physical and social skills that lend itself to an overall sense of well-being. We continue to set students up for failure when the work assigned does not reflect the strengths and needs of that learner. Assigning work without accounting for the student’s learning profile is like hiring someone for a job without looking at their qualifications. It is therefore our job as educators, tutors and parents to help advocate for these student’s rights. Sometimes, this means ensuring that assigned work fits with their strengths and needs as a learner.


Finally, encouraging students to take work home when they haven’t had a chance to properly explore this new learning in class, is a disservice to the student. Students miss out on the opportunity to learn how to perfect the art of struggling and persevering. Likewise, educators miss out on the opportunity to explicitly teach how students are to struggle effectively, form questions and seek the clarification they need, all while maintaining a growth mindset.


What Does Effective Homework Look Like?


For homework to be beneficial, it must be seen as meaningful work that connects to a student's newly acquired learning. It must also be work that can be completed independently, with the intention of boosting mastery of a skill and a student’s overall confidence. Effective homework should be completed in an acceptable amount of time, so kids can still be involved in activities unrelated to school. For example, an uninterrupted family dinner, scheduled extracurriculars, spontaneous play at a park, organized play dates or a shift at a part-time job must still be prioritized for kids. For homework to be effective it must also account for the age and the learning profile of the student. Therefore, it must be differentiated much like classwork for the needs of each student. Homework relies on effective teaching that maintains a strong sense of each student’s strengths and needs.


Students also require a designated time and space to complete their homework in order for them to establish effective learning skills. If students are left scrambling before bed, or late Sunday evening, then the hope of having them improve their time management skills is lost. Rather, building a routine so that students know when they are expected to complete their work, and having a designated space, free of temptations and distractions, helps facilitate a more positive experience for the entire family.


Finally, if you are not confident that the homework being assigned is adding value to your child’s learning, don’t hesitate and reach out to the teacher. Homework should not be stressful, or a topic of contention - and it is never one-size-fits-all.


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Need help initiating the discussion with your child’s team of teachers?

Inquire about North Heights consulting services.





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