Impact of homework on students

New research lends weight to what parents have been saying all along; children burdened with daily homework become overstressed, and often it affects their academic and social life. Researchers have found evidence to suggest that when children are pushed to handle a workload that is beyond their physical and mental level, it can lead to significant stress for both children and their parents.

In the United States teachers and parents association support a standard of ‘10 minutes of homework per grade level’ and set a general limit on after-school studying. For kids in first grade, that means 10 minutes a night, while high school seniors could get two hours of work per night.

Experts say there may be real downsides for young kids who are pushed to do more homework than the ‘10 minutes per grade’ standard. Data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there is widespread evidence that it is detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills, and their quality of life.

But the most recent study to examine the issue found that kids who were in early elementary school received about three times the amount of recommended homework. The researchers found that first and second graders received 28 and 29 minutes of homework per night. Kindergarteners received 25 minutes of homework per night, on average, despite experts saying children at this level should receive no homework at all.

And all those extra assignments may lead to family stress, especially when parents with limited education are not confident in their ability to talk with the school about their child’s work. Other studies have found that high school students may also be overburdened with homework — so much that it is taking a toll on their health.

An earlier research done at Stanford University found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance in their lives, and alienation from society. That study recommended that any more than two hours of homework per night ends up being  counterproductive. But student participants in that study reported on average that they did slightly more than three hours of homework each night.

For the new study, researchers surveyed more than 4,300 students at 10 high-performing high schools. They also interviewed students about their views on homework. When it came to stress, more than 70 percent of students said they were “often or always stressed over schoolwork,” with 56 percent listing homework as a primary stressor. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.

The researchers asked students whether they experienced physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss, and stomach problems. More than 80 percent of students reported having at least one stress-related symptom in the past month, and 44 percent said they had experienced three or more symptoms.

The researchers also found that spending too much time on homework meant that students were not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills. Students were more likely to forgo activities, stop seeing friends or family, and not participate in hobbies. Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.

The researchers expressed concern that students at high-pressure high schools can get burned out before they even get to college. “School, homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, repeat — that is what life can be for some of these students,” said one researcher.

While experts disagree on the benefits of homework there is one aspect about it that they all appear to concur — the quality of homework assignments is what really matters. Students can learn many challenging skills even when less homework is assigned. Homework assignments should have a purpose and benefit, and should be designed to cultivate learning and development