Pros and cons of homework

Homework has long been a point of contention, with parents, teachers and education experts continually debating the merits of take-home learning. We’ve taken a look at some key arguments to provide you with a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of homework. 

Pros

Develops important study skills: from time management and organisation to self-motivation and independent learning, homework teaches students a range of positive skills that they will carry with them throughout their academic and working lives. Home learning motivates students to take responsibility for their workload, while also encouraging the development of positive research practices. 

Opportunity to consolidate classroom learning: homework is at its most effective when it allows students to revise what they’ve learnt in class. Assigned tasks that revisit what’s been taught during the day reinforces learnt knowledge and increases the likelihood of students remembering key information. Homework can then help students apply these learnt skills to other subjects and practical situations in their everyday lives. 

Provides indication of academic comprehension: assigning learning tasks at home is a useful way for teachers to identify whether students are understanding the curriculum. Teachers can analyse gaps in comprehension or information through homework, making it easier for them to tailor their approach to each student’s needs – they can recognise students who need extra support in certain learning areas, while also identifying children who may benefit from more complex learning tasks.  

Cons

Causes unnecessary stress: simply uttering the word ‘homework’ can instil a sense of dread in students. When the workload is too large and tasks become increasingly difficult, homework causes students to feel anxious, stressed and unmotivated. This can lead to sleep deprivation and behavioural changes, while also ingraining homework as a negative aspect of schooling life. 

Takes away from leisure time: free time allows children to not only relax, but also discover the world on their own terms – learning how to ride a bike, reading books or interacting with friends and family teaches students useful skills that can’t be learnt by sitting at a desk. Healthy levels of physical activity, which can help to boost cognitive function, can also be impeded by sedentary time spent completing homework.    

Not always effective: plenty of studies have sought to analyse the value of homework and how it benefits academic performance. Research by John Hattie, Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne, has found that homework in primary school has an effect of around zero, as students are completing separate and unrelated projects rather than reinforcing learnt knowledge. Hattie’s work has suggested that homework only becomes effective at the primary and secondary levels when students are assigned learning tasks that ask them to revise taught information.       

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