- 1: piecework done at home for pay
- 2: an assignment given to a student to be completed outside the regular class period
- 3: preparatory reading or research (as for a discussion or a debate)
Homework, or homework assignment, refers to tasks assigned to students by their teachers to be completed outside of class. Common homework assignments may include a quantity or period of reading to be performed, writing or typing to be completed, problems to be solved, a school project to be built (such as a diorama or display), or other skills to be practiced.
The basic objectives of assigning homework to students are the same as schooling in general: To increase the knowledge and improve the abilities and skills of the students. However, opponents of homework cite homework as rote, or grind work, designed to take up children's time, without offering tangible benefit. Homework may be designed to reinforce what students have already learned, prepare them for upcoming (or complex or difficult) lessons, extend what they know by having them apply it to new situations, or to integrate their abilities by applying many different skills to a single task. Homework also provides an opportunity for parents to participate in their children's education.
Historically, homework was frowned upon in American culture. With few students interested in higher education, and due to the necessity to complete daily chores, homework was discouraged not only by parents, but also by school districts. In 1901, the California legislature passed an act that effectively abolished homework for those who attended kindergarten through the eighth grade. But, in the 1950s, with increasing pressure on the United States to stay ahead in the Cold War, homework made a resurgence, and children were encouraged to keep up with their Russian counterparts. By the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the consensus in American education was overwhelmingly in favor of issuing homework to students of all grade levels.
In a study done at the University of Michigan in 2007, research concluded that the amount of homework given is increasing over time. In a sample taken of students between the ages of 6 and 9, it was shown that students spend more than two hours a week on homework, as opposed to 44 minutes in 1981. Harris Cooper, nations top homework scholar, concluded after a comprehensive review that homework does not improve academic achievements for grade school students. Cooper analyzed dozens of students and found that kids who are assigned homework in middle and high school actually score "somewhat" better on standardized tests, but that kids who do 60 to 90 minutes of homework in middle school and more than 2 hours in high school actually score worse.