Homework has been scrutinized for years because there has been inconsistent findings on the relationship between homework and academic achievement (Bempechat, 2004). High school students experience the greatest advantage from homework completion. For students in junior high school, the effect is only half that of those in high school. Finally, homework appears to have no effect on academic achievement for students at the elementary school level (Cooper, 1994).
The negative effects of homework described by Cooper are often the result of misuse of homework as a teaching and learning strategy (i.e., assigning too much homework, assigning “busy work,” putting too much pressure on students, and not allowing for individual differences).
When students are repeatedly presented with “busy work” (i.e., homework designed to make sure the child is doing something, but that does not require the student to push her/his academic development or utilize creativity), they may reach a point of satiation indicated by signs of fatigue and loss of interest in the material. Cooper notes that, “an activity can only be rewarding for so long. If students are required to spend too much time on academic material, they are bound to grow bored with it” (2001, p. 35).
Assigning an overload of homework may also cause students to miss out on valuable leisure time and other community activities, which may be important for personal, spiritual, moral, and social development. Too much homework can take away from socializing with family and friends and after-school enrichment activities such as sports, clubs, community service, and other hobbies. Cooper argues that these forms of development may be as essential for personal growth as is academic development.
Another issue explored by Cooper is cheating. Cooper (1994) supports that students are more likely to cheat when placed under a great deal of pressure to complete over-burdening homework assignments.
Homework also places parents in the role of monitoring homework, but children’s home environments may vary drastically. Many parents do not have the time or resources to help their children. Therefore, completing homework assignments may increase academic understanding for some children and be entirely detrimental to others (Cooper, 1994; Karlovec & Buell, 2000).
However, if parents can help, homework often becomes a struggle and promotes conflict between parents and children (Bempechat, 2004). For example, Junior high school students perform better in school when their parents help them with their homework, but respond with mixed perceptions when asked how much they enjoyed the experience (Balli, 1997).