Homework: An Hour a Day Is All the Experts Say


How much time does your teen spend doing busy school work each night? According to a recent study, if it’s more than one hour… then it’s too much. A study from Spain published in the Journal of Educational Psychology by the American Psychological Association found that spending more than one hour on math and science homework can be counterproductive. Students seem to gain the most benefit when a small amount of homework is consistently assigned, rather than large portions assigned at once.

The study examined the performance of 7,725 public and private school students (mean age 13.78 years). Students answered questions about the frequency of homework assigned and how long it took them to complete assignments. Researchers looked at standardized tests to examine academic performance in math and science. They found that students in Spain spent approximately one to two hours per day doing homework. Compare that to studies that indicate American students spent more than three hours a day doing homework.

Researchers found that teachers who assigned 90-100 minutes of homework per day had students who performed poorer on standardized tests than those with less homework. However when teachers consistently assigned small amounts of homework students scored nearly 50 points higher on standardized test than those who had daunting amounts of homework.  Another interesting finding from this study was students who were assigned about 70 minutes of homework, of which they needed help from someone else to complete, scored in the 50th percentile on standardized tests. Whereas those who were assigned the same amount of homework, but could do it independently, scored in the 70th percentile.  So clearly, not only is the amount of homework assigned of importance, but so is the ability to master it independently.

 There are several possible explanations for these findings. First, teachers may be using homework as a means to cover what was not completed in class. So rather than practicing concepts taught in class, students are left to self-teach material not covered in class. Homework should supplement learning, and not be used as a tool to keep up with a curriculum pacing guide. Another explanation for testing gains is those who work to master material independently experience more academic success.
As a student, I know for sure that I am negatively affected by excess homework. I would consider more than one hour to be a nightly thing, but anywhere more than three hours is when I begin to see negative side affects. Many nights I get home around 7 o’clock because of after school activities, and am up much past 10 (when I like to go to sleep) doing homework. I wish there was more of a penalty to teachers who assigned excess homework. I believe that homework should be a time for practicing what you learn in class, not working on an entire new project or teaching yourself.

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