How much homework is too much? What determines the amount of homework that is appropriate? I am not aware of any magic formula or chart that would tell a teacher how much homework to assign or how much homework might be considered too much for a particular student.
I know some students and some parents who feel that any amount of homework is too much. By the same token, I know parents who feel that their children don’t get assigned enough homework. Where is the happy medium?
To enable us to answer whether or not children receive too much homework, we need to ask a question. That question is, why are children assigned homework; what is the purpose of homework?
Homework is assigned to allow the student to demonstrate his or her understanding of what is being taught in the classroom. Teachers operate under a time constraint. They simply do not have enough time in the day to cover all of the material that they need to cover and to formally assess each student on that material daily. As a result, homework is assigned to give the student the opportunity to perform at home and then allow the teacher to assess that performance during non-classroom hours.
Yes, it’s true. Teachers have homework, too. I don’t know any teachers who do not take papers home to grade. And if you don’t think that is homework, then you need to think again. Trust me, if teachers did not think that homework was important they would not assign it.
Granted, there are a few teachers who may not grade homework as diligently as they should. But these folks are few and far between. Teachers grade homework in order to determine how effective he or she has been in the classroom. That is why it is extremely important that the work done at home is the work of the student, and not the student’s parent, sibling, or friend. Some assistance at home is okay, but too much assistance will result in an inaccurate picture of what the student really knows and this can lead to problems later on.
The problems, of course, are gaps in learning that may occur because the homework may show that the student had acquired specific knowledge and skills when in reality he or she did not. Once a child has gaps in learning, it is very difficult to close the gaps without accelerated instruction and/or tutorial time. These gaps in learning actually may lead to a student or parent feeling that a child is being given too much homework.
For example, if a student is given a math assignment and due to gaps in learning, for whatever reason, he or she has difficulty with the work the assignment may not get completed. The student then has an incomplete paper. The teacher may grade the paper based on what the child has completed or the child may be given the opportunity to take the assignment home and complete it.
Of course, this will be in addition to any other assignment made for that day. This means that we now have a heavier homework load. And if the problem that caused the work to be incomplete in the first place (the gap) has not been alleviated, then we can probably look forward to the homework load continuing to grow throughout the week. It can turn into a very nasty situation in which it looks like too much homework has been assigned. The reality, though, is that it was not the length of the assignment that was the problem but rather the students the fact that the student did not complete a short assignment and the result is an exponentially expanding assignment.
In this case, both the parent and the student may perceive that the amount of homework assigned is too much. It can certainly look that way. Frustration levels begin to grow, effort on the assignment decreases, animosity toward the teacher from both the parent and student may grow and the problem feeds on itself and grows.
In this scenario it may look like too much has been assigned. In reality, it’s not that too much homework was assigned at one time, it is that the student did not complete an initial assignment and it snowballed and became a problem.
It is up to the teacher in this situation to realize that the student is having difficulties and to address those difficulties in the classroom. There are various remedies that the teacher can prescribe to help fill any learning gaps that may have occurred and to help ensure that the student will be successful.
But, it is up to the student to tell the teacher that he or she is having trouble grasping a concept. When the student has difficulties the student needs to inform the teacher of this. Many times when an assignment is turned in incomplete the teacher will assume that it is because the student did not take the time to finish; he or she may think the student just didn’t want to do the homework.
Parents have a responsibility, too, to communicate with the teacher. It is best to open the lines of communication early rather than to wait until there are gaps in learning and/or really poor grades.
Too much homework being assigned? I don’t think so. Miscommunication or a lack of communication between parent, student, and teacher? That’s more like it.