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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 disinterest.

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 younger students.


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.


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