Especially when so much of school has shifted to online learning, educators all over the world are wondering: how much homework should I be giving my students?
This is especially true for high school educators, who are trying to prepare their students for college or the workforce, and all-important standardized tests that could define their futures for them (as well as the funding for your school).
Giving a certain amount of homework seems necessary in order for students to truly understand and apply the material they are learning. Of course, teachers also might not have enough time to get through all the necessary work during class.
According to research on the effects of homework, over two hours of homework a night can have detrimental effects on students’ stress levels and create a lack of balance in their lives.
But educators will find no perfect answer to this question, so the best approach is to find a happy medium.
And, educators should remember that assigning homework as busy work, or to ask students to learn more material at home that wasn’t covered in class, could end up in hours of homework a night that are highly detrimental to students’ development and overall happiness.
Finding a Happy Medium
When it comes to homework assignments, strive to find a happy medium between challenging students and simply helping them learn the material.
To find that happy medium, consider the following:
Define the purpose of homework.
As an educator, you will find that defining the purpose of the homework you’re assigning will tell you how necessary it is or how much you should give.
If the purpose is to help students apply a new concept, demonstrate their understanding, or build an important skill, then assign away.
However, if you find yourself assigning work to keep students busy, teach new material not covered in class, or make sure they understand the value of hard work, you might be overdoing it.
Take high school schedules into consideration.
High school students, especially in an increasingly modern and digital world, already have nearly impossible schedules to maintain.
Even during a pandemic, they’re trying to fit in after-school activities, college prep, essay writing, sports, and time with family and friends into their lives.
All of this gets added to the fact that their brains are still developing, and they are dealing with the constant struggle inherent in growing up.
Remember that teens need sleep.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens between the ages of 13 and 18 need an average of 8-10 hours of sleep a night for healthy development, but most are not getting the amount of sleep they need on school nights.
Kids and teens who do not get enough sleep are at a higher risk of developing health and behavior problems, which could impair their ability to learn effectively.
So, sending teens home with too much homework might actually be impairing your ability to prepare them for the future or even for the next exam.
Reasons Not to Overwork High School Students
Rather than harping on the negative effects of too much homework, educators might feel more inspired to think about the positive effects of assigning less homework, if at all possible.
Create resilient learners, not perfectionists.
By focusing on learning from, working with, and even failing at classroom material, rather than immediately mastering it, educators will help to create resilient learners.
So many high school students face pressure to be the best, to be exceptional, and to attend top colleges and universities. They also face pressure to have perfect social media accounts, to be the most popular students, and to flawlessly define their identities.
This idea of perfection, as we know, is impossible to achieve. So, if educators can strive to teach students to work hard for shorter amounts of time, rather than perfectly learning a concept in one night, students will be more resilient and accepting of failure in life.
Instill the lifelong importance of play and rest.
In addition, as adults, we are constantly trying to find our sense of play again and searching for moments of rest. Many of us spend free time reading self-help books and listening to inspirational TED talks, knowing that we have lost some sense of ourselves by focusing only on work.
American society especially encourages us to be forever busy, working as hard as we can until we reach our goals.
Though the hard work narrative is still an important one in many respects, let’s not deprive our high school students of their inherent sense of play and rest.
Perhaps we can even cultivate an understanding of the importance of play and rest, building these concepts into educational homework plans, before these students become another generation of overworked adults.
Avoid early academic burnout.
Finally, by avoiding too much homework than is necessary, educators will help students also avoid academic burnout too early.
When high school students spend all of high school working as hard and as many hours, or more, than they will in college, the prospect of college work can be daunting.
Students don’t need to feel burned out before they even reach a college campus or start their first post-graduate career. They have plenty of time to overwork themselves if they wish, but they should be able to enjoy learning in high school without becoming completely overwhelmed in the process.
By assigning less homework, it might feel like you’re missing out as an educator or falling behind; but really think about how much is too much. And try to give your high school students a break.