Research continues to reveal effects of too much homework on students

Stock photo via BBC

The age-old assumption that homework benefits students of all ages, includes skills that some say only homework can help develop. From time management to organisation, proponents of giving homework to students point to its ability to help them learn pertinent life skills.

But, many countries are gradually stopping the issuance of homework as they say it is exhausting learners in more than 1 way. From China recently banning homework and after school, core subject tutoring, to Finland doing away with homework completely, the reasons for ceasing homework are varied. One thing, however, that is not going away, is the mounting evidence towards the negative affects that homework has on students.


As engagement has been a buzzword in recent years for almost every industry, the education industry has taken the term to a whole new level when it comes to teacher training. Research from top universities and education organisations say homework only helps when students are engaged and ready to learn.

The studies show that the more homework given, correlates with less motivation being seen in students to actually complete their homework. And, if you think about it, it is a scenario that most working-aged people encounter daily. For example, when faced with a load of work, many people get highly discouraged just upon seeing how much they have to complete. The same can be said for piles of homework, as the motivation factor and engagement factor go down the drain.

Other areas affected

Research and psychology experts say that homework has multiple negative affects on students. From their health to their social lives, and even grades, the vast impact that homework can have can’t be ignored. Although homework is important to give students a sense of responsibility and to encourage them to think outside of the box, too much is said to have the opposite effect.

Those students who spend too much time on homework can end up neglecting other areas of their lives, like physical and social activity. And, those students end up seeing a decline in their mental health as well. These musings aren’t just an opinion, as they are found to be the results of many research studies concerning homework and its effects on mental health.

Stanford University in America, published a study that concluded that 56% of students considered homework a primary source of stress. The students also said that the burden of too much homework resulted in a lack of sleep, exhaustion, weight loss, headaches, and poor eating habits.

In terms of social lives, students reported that they have less time to spend with their families and friends if they have a lot of homework. The negative effects of this result in feelings of isolation and a lacking support system.

The opposite effect on grades

In terms of excessive homework affecting students’ grades, research shows more homework doesn’t mean better grades. As students spend all day in class, only to come home to more schoolwork, the result oftentimes ends in burnout. And, burnout equates to not completing homework-which has the opposite effect of what it was designed to accomplish. Those research studies also show that if students stop doing homework altogether out of feeling unmotivated or burned out, it affects their grades.

Too much homework has also shown to reduce active learning, which is a type of learning that occurs in context and encourages participation and creative thinking. Active learning also promotes the application and analysis of class content in real world settings, which is important for problem-solving in real life scenarios.

Exacerbating student inequity

Moreover, the issuance of homework highlights the inequity of students. The American Psychological Association says that homework has been found to affect those disproportionately from less affluent families.

“Kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at afterschool jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs.”

But, the inequity isn’t just seen in American students. As affluent students everywhere are busy with after-school extracurricular activities or private tutoring, less affluent students may have to work to support their families. Adding homework into the mix can be one more thing that less affluent students have to conquer.

That’s not all. Homework also affects affluent students when it comes to being stressed. As many students from higher socioeconomic families are expected to carry on the family name or excel in their studies, the stress can be daunting. Private, elite schools – who may not buy into the less homework is better trend – may actually give more homework to their affluent students, resulting in extreme levels of stress.

How much is too much?

Clearly, the answer is not crystal-clear when it comes to how much homework should be given versus how much it really helps students learn. The line is definitely a fine one, as many feel that- traditionally- homework is supposed to supplement what students learn at school.

The conundrum then becomes a question of how much homework is actually healthy for students? In the U.S., the National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association have put forth recommendations for how much homework should be given for students’ ages.

It advises that students should be given, if any, homework that is the equivalent to 10 minutes per each grade level. So, for grade 1 students, a healthy homework amount should be 10 minutes. For grade 5 students, it can be up to 50 minutes, and so on.

But, upon reaching grade 6 and higher, this recommended time limit equtes to at least an hour per day. Health experts, like the APA, disagree that 1 hour or more per day is actually beneficial to students’ development and learning. The APA cites that even professional musicians or those who are considered experts in their fields, only spend about 4 hours per day doing productive work.

As a school day is usually at least 7 hours, the APA’s advice contradicts the need for a full school day, and additional homework after, to maximise learning. Companies are also taking note of the recent research, with some moving to 5 hour work days.

Although it may seem like a trend, the research concerning healthy levels of productivity and learning has been around for ages. With more focus on mental and physical health in the modern world, research-heavy areas are now including the negative effects of excessive homework on students.

Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.