YES JOHNNY, DOING YOUR HOMEWORK IS IMPORTANT
by H. Cooper, Ph.D., J. Lindsay, Ph.D., B. Nye, Ph.D., and S. Greathouse
The American Psychological Association
The more homework students complete, especially from grades six to
twelve, the better they do in school, according to recent research. The
research also demonstrates that parental attitudes toward homework play
an important role in their children's education.
The study, which is the first to incorporate attitudinal measures into
an analysis of the link between homework and achievement by examining the
beliefs parents, teachers, and students hold regarding homework,
represents an initial attempt to gather estimates of homework behavior
from three sources. The study relates teacher, student, and parent
reports of the amount of homework teachers assigned and the proportion of
homework students completed to students' standardized test scores and
class grades. The psychologists obtained complete data sets from over
700 "triads," which they defined as consisting of a teacher, at least one
student in a teacher's class, and one parent of that student. Homework
behavior was analyzed from students in second through twelfth grades.
While the amount of homework completed by students was positively related
to their achievement in school, the study demonstrates that the
relationship between homework completed and achievement is strongest at
upper grades and for teacher-assigned grades (as opposed to performance
on standardized tests).
At lower grades, teachers may determine the amount of homework they
assign young students based on their own beliefs regarding its merit, yet
the authors note that increased out-of-school assignments may lead to
unfavorable attitudes toward homework among elementary school students.
"Although the benefits of study at home for young children may not be
immediately evident, we support assigning homework to younger elementary
schoolchildren due to its potential long-term developmental impact, for
it helps elementary schoolers develop proper study skills, which, in
turn, influence grades," says Dr. Cooper, lead author of the study.
However, the authors advise that teachers should attempt to ensure that
outside assignments are of a proper length for the developmental level of
their students, since too much homework can lead to fatigue and academic
The authors note that parental attitudes with respect to study at
home have direct, positive effects on their children's attitudes toward
homework and, at upper grades, on their children's classroom achievement.
Attitudes about homework may be transmitted from parent to child, and
parental involvement in the homework process effects their child's
education. The authors assert that "school teachers and educational
policy makers should interpret these results to mean that efforts to
improve parental attitudes toward homework are likely to pay off."
Since over 90 percent of the study's respondents were White, the
authors maintain that future researchers need to involve families that are
typically under represented in homework studies. Additional studies
should "broaden the nature of the criteria used to evaluate the
effectiveness of homework," and the psychologists contend that certain
intermediate outcomes, such as improved motivation and effective study
habits should be used to assess the impact of homework, especially in
Reference: "Relationships Among Attitudes About Homework, Amount of
Homework Assigned and Completed, and Student Achievement" by Harris
Cooper, Ph.D., James J. Lindsay, Ph.D., and Scott Greathouse, Barbara Nye, Ph.D., Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 90, No. 1.
Harris Cooper, Ph.D., can be reached at 573-882-3360.
The American Psychological Association (APA), in
Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing
psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists.
APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians,
consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology
and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations,
APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means
of promoting human welfare.