Homework and academic achievement: is there a relationship?

Female student carrying lots of books up some stairs

We all have opinions on the value and place of homework. Some authors have called homework the “job of childhood” (Corno and Xu, 2004). It is a point of disagreement for schools and parents. Homework can be time-consuming. It’s difficult to see a direct relationship between the time invested and academic achievement. Many things can intervene between homework and academic achievement. Is it the time spent or the quality of homework set which makes the difference?

Homework research

Research has been mixed in the area of homework and academic achievement. Some research finds positive link between homework and achievement, while other research finds homework of little benefit in overall academic achievement. Separating the noise from the data is a particular issue in homework and achievement research. What I mean by noise are all the other variables which can affect homework and achievement that are not directly measured in research, confounding results. ## Does homework lead to a significantly better academic achievement for students?

At present research suggests there is little evidence that the amount of time spent on homework is related to primary school students’ academic achievement. Jerrim and Lopez-Agudo (2020) studied the results of several European countries via PIRLS and TIMSS data. In fact, the researchers found almost no association between the amount of homework set by teachers and primary school children’s academic achievement.

Other researchers Dettemers et al, (2009) have found mixed results between homework and academic achievement using the PISA data. In some countries, they found a positive relationship between homework time spent and academic achievement. Conversely, in other countries they found there was little support for the amount of sometime spent on homework and academic achievement.

Another large study conducted by the U.K. Education Endowment foundation found that although high school-level students do benefit academically from time spent on homework there is little evidence in support of similar benefits for primary school students (Education Endowment Foundation, 2017).

So what is the issue?

On the quality of homework set, there are differences in homework. Homework can be related to content-only or homework can be based on more real-life situations. Content-only based curriculum develops knowledge. Homework based on real-life skills in can extend the content knowledge to apply to improve real-world competencies. These are skills that students will use later in life.

Real-world competencies would seem to have more benefits to students in the long term than competency-based homework derived from curriculum only content knowledge alone. Therefore, quality of homework is suggested as an area for investigation into the benefits of homework for academic achievement.

Student motivation is connected to homework. Students’ perception of homework quality set by the teacher as high has positive benefits for student motivation (Trautwein et al, 2006). This requires a more thoughtful approaches to setting of homework so primary school students may improve connections between homework and academic achievement.

The amount of time spent on homework is not found to be a predictor of academic achievement for primary school children. Quality and type of homework appears to be more beneficial to primary students than increasing the amount of homework given and therefore the amount of time spent on its completion.