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Learning at its Best, Student Voices

Homework: Help or Hassle?

(cross-posted from Huffington Post Teen)

Homework. It’s hard to find one student who hasn’t complained about it, and almost impossible to find one who’s never done it. Lately, many students I’ve talked with about education have been talking about homework, more than just your average complaint. A lot of this deeper conversation about homework was fueled by the release of the documentary A Race to Nowhere last year.

This documentary, A Race to Nowhere, follows a few students and their journey through high school, alongside interviews with concerned teachers and parents. The documentary centers around student, teacher and parent thoughts on homework and how it’s turned school into a race to virtually nowhere filled with stress and struggles. When I saw the movie, I had gone with the preconceived notion that the ideas were revolutionary. Now, as much as I often loathe doing my homework, I don’t believe it’s as big a deal as some people make it out to be. I still find time to hang out with my friends and do the stuff I want to, even with a pretty rigorous course load and subsequent homework.

I don’t think that homework should necessarily be totally abolished. The core idea of homework is that it’s used to polish concepts and reinforce lessons outside of the classroom. It is what it has become — a way for teachers to teach less and cover more material — that is not useful. I don’t think that all of the fuss is positive; personally, I think lots of students just don’t want to do it. If used properly, the idea of working at home on a study topic can be very helpful.

Ben Carson, an incredible neurosurgeon, had a rough childhood. In an effort to mobilize him and his brothers, Carson’s mother assigned them book reports. This homework led to study habits that propelled him forward in school and college. Carson is a prime example of how, when used properly, homework is a great tool for reinforcement. That’s not to say that I enjoy it, but I see the value. Lots of key concepts come from and are explained through homework, especially in math and science — much more than from lectures. Lectures present the fundamentals, and homework presents the concepts through examples.

Homework, if treated properly to further knowledge and reinforce concepts, can be a good thing. Not overloading the homework to crowd material but assigning it in small doses helps the students learn!


4 thoughts on “Homework: Help or Hassle?

  1. In my post in on my RaisingTeens, I tackle this from a parent’s perspective. If you think there hasn’t been one teen who hasn’t complained about it, you should poll parents. I haven’t found a parent who hasn’t complained about how much homework their teens are assigned. I’m all for homework, but I’m not in favor of stressed out teens who are forced to learn fundamentals at home that they aren’t being taught in class.

    Posted by Cindy Goodman | October 3, 2012, 10:58 am
  2. As a teacher and a student I think that homework has a real purpose when used correctly. Nothing bothers me more than homework that is assigned to fill up your time dreading and hating a particular class. I believe that for homework to be useful both the teacher and the student need to have a clear understanding of why the homework is being assigned in the first place. If it is merely to make a class seem harder than it really is, or to give students something to do after class then homework has failed. However, if it is used to allow students to think about a concept in a meaningful way that can’t be accomplished in the classroom then that needs to be clear to students as well. Everything that we do in a classroom needs to have a clearly stated purpose for both the teacher and the student, otherwise it’s just busy work.

    Posted by Miriam Lizette (@LetterWings) | December 15, 2012, 3:28 am
    • I agree with Miriam. I teach Spanish, and although I am constantly clarifying to my students why we have nightly homework, they really do have a clear understanding and the majority of my students do the homework now without complaints. I actually had a student thank me for giving homework because he said that without it, he probably would not have done well on quizzes or tests. I think that especially in subjects like global languages and mathematics where extra practice helps to students to solidify their understanding of concepts and ability to solve problems on their own without the help of the teacher. I also spend time in class answering questions about the previous night’s homework and that also helps it to been seen as important.

      Posted by sheri | May 29, 2013, 7:54 pm


  1. Pingback: The Burden of Homework - February 10, 2013

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