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The Effect of Homework on Students’ Academic Achievement

作者/来源:上海市第四中学 李乐思    发布时间:2009-12-04

The Effect of Homework on Students’ Academic Achievement

上海市第四中学 李乐思

作业作为学校教育教学的补充,如何对学生学业产生影响,到底有多大影响在中外都引起了广泛的关注。本文对中外相关的研究论文作了一个综述。其目的是为了能够给各位战斗在教育前线的同仁提供一些更深入的信息来重新考虑作业和学业的关系,以及该采取的作业策略。本文从作业的定义,作业的目的,作业和学业成就的关系三个方面入手。尤其是在作业和学业的关系中主要讨论了homework time, homework effort, teachers and homework, parents and homework四个关系。




1.      Introduction

1.1 The importance of the topic

Homework is assigned to the students to accomplish at home in most schools both in America and in China. As complementarity of the instruction at school, its effects attract considerable concerns over the past decades. If homework contribute significantly to academic achievement has been the focus of numerous studies, because the call for the education of high quality is echoing all around the world.

The idea that homework is a valuable tool in education is convinced by the majority of teachers, students, and parents (e.g., Cooper et al., 1998). Reviews of homework research (Cooper, 1989; Cooper et al., 2006; Keith, 1982) support the view that time spent on homework has a positive impact on achievement gains. These reviews are frequently cited as consistent evidence for positive homework effects.

In most of the studies on homework, the methodological weaknesses are suggested to be the threats to the internal and external validity. The variable used in the studies as a general measure of homework was ‘‘time spent on homework,’’. Time on homework is only one aspect of homework. The single student is often analyzed as the unitthe time a student needs to complete his or her homework assignments is influenced by many factors: Prior academic achievement; motivation, ability, quality of instruction, coursework quantity, and some background variables. In addition, a multi-level is also presented, because the class-level effect and the student-level effect are confounded. (Trautwein and Ko¨ller, 2001; Trautwein, 2007). Keith (1991) suggested that the effect of homework on achievement might decrease if additional variables were controlled.

All studies had design flaws. However there was a common sense that a positive influence of homework on achievement exists. (Cooper et al., 2006) This is meaningful to improve the quality of education.

1.2 Purpose statement

The purpose of the literature review is to provide in-depth information on the influences of homework and on what influence the effects of homework in order to reconsider the relationship between homework and academic achievement. The second purpose is to identify what homework policy the teachers should adopt to reach the optimal effect when the homework is assigned.

2. Background

2.1 Definitions of homework

Homework, or homework assignment has been defined as “tasks assigned to students by school teachers that are meant to be carried out during non-school hours” (Cooper, 1998, p.7) Common homework assignments may include some or at least one task as following: some reading to be performed, writing to be completed, problems to be solved, a project to be built, or other skills to be practiced. (

Cooper (1989) indicated the distinction between homework is made up of same-day tasks and homework including elements of practice and/or preparation. The former one is less demanding for highly order thinking, primarily consisting of repetitive exercises. Practice and/or preparation homework is more demanding in cognition because it covers materials that have not been completely discussed in class, or materials used in previous lessons.

2. 2The purposes of homework

Some teachers and researchers have identified three main purposes to help teachers to clarify their goals to for each assignment: instructional purposes (practice, preparation, participation, personal development); the communicative purposes (peer interactions, parent-child relations, parent-teacher communications); political purposes (policy, public relations) and punishment (not a valid purpose) (Epstein, 1988; Van Voorhis, 2004)

Homework has positive influence not only on students’ academic achievement but also on their general faculty. Homework can help make students independent learners possessing better study skills, more positive academic attitudes, and stronger responsibility toward learning (Cooper & Valentine, 2001). Barry J. Zimmerman and Anastasia Kitsantas (2005) have found that homework affected students’ self-efficacy beliefs and their perception of responsibility, and these characteristics in turn have an impact on their achievement.

Additionally, the results of a research (Xu, Jianzhong, 2005), showed that three quarters of the students (75.2%-77.9%) agreed or strongly agreed that doing homework strengthened their sense of responsibility; helped them work independently;  assist them master more study skills; and reinforced school learning. Six out of 10 students (60.5%) agreed or strongly agreed that homework made them more self-disciplined.

4. Homework-achievement relationship

4.1 Homework time

The view that time spent on homework is associated with achievement gains is generally supported by most researches on the effect of homework. (Cooper, 1989; Cooper et al, 2006; Keith, 1982). Cooper (1989) found in his review of 50 studies, 43 studies revealed a positive relationship between the amount of time spent on homework and achievement. The correlations between time spent on homework and achievement were stronger in secondary school than in elementary school assignments. Tevfik Aksoy and Charles R. Link, (1999) also supports the time spent on homework is a determinant of academic achievement based on a nationally representative sample of US high school students from the National Education Longitudinal Studies program (NELS88). The extra time spent on the mathematic homework increases the test scores.

For neglecting the multilevel feature of homework and other homework variables, the view is challenged. (Ulrich Trautwein and Olaf Ko¨ller, 2001; Ulrich Trautwein, 2007; Jaan, 2006) By analyzing the data of PISA 2000 (The 2000 cycle of the Programme for International Student Assessment), Ulrich Trautwein (2007) stated when controlling for the variables (i.e., school type), time spent on homework only had moderate incremental predictive power at class level (average time spent on homework reported by students in a given school).; when controlling for the other variables (cognitive ability, gender), homework time had a negative effect at the student level. (time spent on homework reported by individual students) The impact of homework length was closely related to individual achievement level, suggesting that extensive homework assignments might weaken intraclass achievement variability and make students internalize wrong routines. The length of homework times is affected by low previous achievement and does not an indicator of later achievement. Importantly, the homework here referred to homework assigned by the teacher, extra study time was not included.

The students who reported their time for mathematics homework was high had no significant correlation with the TIMSS (the International Math and Science Study) score. (Jaan, 2005) The researcher believed some students are rapid learners and others are slow learners who need more time in learning. But more time spent in learning for them dose not lead to the higher results than the average. The not significant correlation does not mean that individual student can not gain higher achievement when she/he studies longer.

The optimal time on homework has also been investigated in some studies. Cooper, Robinson, and Patall, (2006) indicated homework time less than 10 minutes per day did not contribute to achievement and the homework time longer than 1 – 2 hours per day had no positive relation to homework. A positive relationship exists when the time on homework was in-between these time intervals. Jaan (2005) indicated 1 - 1.5 hours per week on mathematics homework are the affirmative homework time for mathematics. The students who spent more than 1.5 hours or less than 1 hour for mathematics homework in a week did not gain such significantly on the TIMSS test.

4.2 Homework effort

Homework completion and homework behavior problems are common among school-aged children. ( Children's homework problems: A comparison of goal setting and parent training) Homework behavior consists of two aspects: homework effort (i.e., conscientious execution of homework assignments) and homework time. (Trautwein and Kropf, 2004) No positive correlation was founded between homework effort and homework time. Hence, homework time can not be viewed as a sign of the effort that students put into their homework.( Trautwein, 2007)Many factors influence students' homework effort, such as expectancy, value beliefs, homework characteristics, parental homework behavior, and conscientiousness. (Heitzmann, 2007)

Homework effort has a positively correlation to achievement gains. Some researchers tested the model in 2 studies with 414 and 1,501 8th graders respectively by using structural equation modeling and hierarchical linear modeling analyses. Conscientiousness and homework motivation were proved to be strong predictors of homework effort. The perceived homework quality varied considerably between classes, it predicted homework motivation and behavior (Trautwein et al, 2006)

Multilevel modeling showed that students' homework effort was decided by between-students differences (conscientiousness), within-student differences (perceived homework characteristics such as subject-specific quality of tasks and homework control), homework motivation, perceived parental valuation of specific subjects, (subject-specific expectancy and value beliefs). (Trautwein and Ludtke, 2007)

4.3 Teachers and homework

Teachers hold the key to assign homework with different instructional purposes. Homework should never be assigned just for homework. Teachers should identify their purposes before assigning homework. With the clear purposes they then can answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how much questions about the homework process. (Van voorhis and Frances L, 2001) The teachers should also evaluate the most suitable amount of time and the appropriate assignments for different grade levels. (Cooper, 2006; Marzano and Pickering, 2007)

Heitzmann (2007) believes homework reaches maximum effectiveness when teachers share both school’s homework policy and theirs with students and parents or guardians. It offers many benefits to teachers of all grade levels and students of all needs and abilities. (Heitzmann, 2007)

 Study show that well-designed TIPS (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork) homework assignments can help students practice skills, prepare for the next class, participate in learning activities, develop personal responsibility for homework, (instructional purposes) promote parent-child relations, develop parent-teacher communication, (communicative purposes) and fulfill policy directives from administrators(political purpose). TIPS homework is an valuble tool for teachers to develop students’ ability and to inform parents of what the students have learned in the classroom. By feedback from homework practices and fulfilling an f interactive homework, teachers have the potential to engage both students and families in more positive homework activities. (Battle-Bailey and Lora, 2003; Van voorhis and Frances L, 2001; Van voorhis and Frances L, 2004)

Besides, Teachers’ homework attitudes may influence the quality of homework and students’ homework effort. (Ulrich Trautwein, 2007) Collecting, correcting, and grading of homework may strengthen the positive relationship between homework and achievement gains (Walberg et al., 1985).

4.4 Parents and homework

When children bring homework home to ask their parents for help or share their homework ideas with parents, the parents then have been involved and the connection between home and school has been built. Cooper indicates the types of the homework involvement are (a) direct instruction, (b) providing guidelines (c) supervising homework (2007, p. 64). He also found that there was no correlation between direct parental involvement and academic gains. But it does not mean that there is no positive impact of parental involvement.

Parental involvement is related positively to children’s homework-related behaviors (homework completion, and quality of homework performance) (Xu, Jianzhong, 2007). Parents’ positive attitudes can also help to strengthen their children’s appreciation of education (Cooper & Valentine, 2001). Lynne Murray et al. (2006) have found that it is crucial for parents to stimulate children’s thinking and foster enthusiasm by conversations with children on homework.

5. Conclusion

In the past 2 decades, the researches on the homework-achievement relationship have investigated more homework variables than time on homework; adopted multiple analysis methods and multi-level models; examined more randomized experimental trials, and large-scale, nonexperimental studies. Generally, the positive effect of homework on students’ academic achievement is proved. Though many studies about the relationship between the time on homework and the academic achievement are conflicting, the negative effect all warrants some explanation when other variables are controlled.

The academic achievement measures in most of the researches are the grades and the standardized tests. The lasting effect of homework and the later academic achievement are seldom examined.

With the acknowledgement of the homework effect on the students which differs while different variables are controlled, the teachers should be more cautious and thoughtful to assign the homework in order to realize the best development of the students. At the same time, the effort of professional development should be always continue for self-improvement by the teachers.


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