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Homework


The Early Career Framework states that teachers should learn that homework can improve pupil outcomes, particularly for older pupils, but it is likely that the quality of homework and its relevance to main class teaching is more important than the amount set.


Homework can be defined as any task assigned by schoolteachers intended for students to carry out during non-school hours (Cooper, 1989). This definition explicitly excludes (a) in-school guided study; (b) home study courses delivered through any means; and (c) extracurricular activities such as sports and participation in clubs. The phrase “intended for students to carry out during non-school hours” is used because students may complete homework assignments during study club, library time, or even during subsequent classes.


Homework activities vary significantly, particularly between younger and older pupils, including but not limited to home reading activities, longer projects or essays and more directed and focused work such as revision for tests.


Research by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) found that The average impact of homework is positive across both primary and secondary school. There is, however variation behind this average with homework set in primary school having a smaller impact on average.


The quality of the task set appears to be more important than the quantity of work required from the pupil. There is some evidence that the impact of homework diminishes as the amount of time pupils spend on it increases. The studies reviewed with the highest impacts set homework twice a week in a particular subject.


Evidence also suggests that how homework relates to learning during normal school time is important. In the most effective examples homework was an integral part of learning, rather than an add-on. To maximise impact, it also appears to be important that students are provided with high quality feedback on their work.


When we look at the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) Teaching and Learning Toolkit evidence summary for secondary homework then we will find that homework is much more effective with older children. It states: “The evidence shows that the impact of homework, on average, is five months’ additional progress.


MacBeath and Turner (1990) suggest a number of sensible and reasonable ideas:

  • Homework should be clearly related to on-going classroom work.

  • There should be a clear pattern to class work and homework.

  • Homework should be varied.

  • Homework should be manageable.

  • Homework should be challenging but not too difficult.

  • Homework should allow for individual initiative and creativity.

  • Homework should promote self-confidence and understanding.

  • There should be recognition or reward for work done.

  • There should be guidance and support.

Vatterott has also identified five fundamental characteristics of good homework: purpose, efficiency, ownership, competence, and aesthetic appeal (Vatterott, 2010).

  • Purpose: All homework assignments are meaningful and students must also understand the purpose of the assignment and why it is important in the context of their academic experience.

  • Efficiency: Homework should not take a disproportionate amount of time and needs to involve some hard thinking.

  • Ownership: Students who feel connected to the content learn more and are more motivated. Providing students with choice in their assignments is one way to create ownership.

  • Competence: Students should feel competent in completing homework and so we need to abandon the one-size-fits-all model. Homework that students cannot do without help is not good homework.

  • Inspiring: A well-considered and clearly designed resource and task impacts positively upon student motivation.

Homework can promote academic learning by

  • increasing the amount of time students spend studying

  • providing opportunities for practice, preparation, and extension work

  • assisting in the development of a range of intellectual skills

Homework can assist in the development of generic skills by

  • providing opportunities for individualised work

  • fostering initiative and independence

  • developing skills in using libraries and other learning resources

  • training pupils in planning and organising time

  • developing good habits and self-discipline

  • encouraging ownership and responsibility for learning

Homework can be beneficial to schools through

  • easing time constraints on the curriculum and allowing examination demands to be met

  • allowing assessment of pupils’ progress and mastery of work

  • exploiting resources not available in school

  • fulfilling the expectations of parents, pupils, politicians and the public

  • enabling accountability to external inspection agencies

Homework can promote home-school liaison by

  • encouraging the involvement of parents

  • developing links and opportunities for dialogue between parents and the school

  • encourages parents and children to work together

Derived from Cowan and Hallam (1999)


Homework: its uses and abuses by Professor Susan Hallam, Institute of Education, University of London provides interesting reading on the topic


Homework its uses and abuses
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Further information & research

  • Homework: Its uses and abuses, Hallam, Institute of Education, UCL, 2006: http://bit.ly/31xXo0u

  • The End of Homework: How homework disrupts families, overburdens children, and limits learning, Kralovec & Buell, Beacon Press, 2000.

  • The Homework Myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing, Kohn, De Capo Books, 2006: www.alfiekohn.org/homework-myth/

  • Homework Myths, Vatterott, The Homework Lady, February 2008: http://bit.ly/2H34wua

  • Homework (Secondary) Evidence Summary, Teaching and Learning Toolkit, Education Endowment Foundation: http://bit.ly/2YGEGa5

  • “Homework in primary school has an effect of zero”, John Hattie interview, BBC Radio 4, August 2014: https://bbc.in/2yWgcdK

  • Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses on achievement, Professor John Hattie, 2009: https://visible-learning.org

  • Why teaching will never be a research based profession, Dylan Wiliam presentation, ResearchEd, 2017: http://bit.ly/2MdFeO1

  • How to shift a school towards better homework, Kelleher, The Learning Scientists, June 2017: http://bit.ly/3016QJA

  • The case for and against homework, Marzano & Pickering, Educational Leadership, March 2007: http://bit.ly/2KK3unz

  • Speaking with: John Hattie on how to improve the quality of education in Australian schools, The Conversation, May 2016: http://bit.ly/2H3SzUG

  • Rethinking Homework: Best practices that support diverse needs, Vatterott, ASCD, 2018.

  • Five hallmarks of good homework, Vatterott, Educational Leadership, September 2010: http://bit.ly/2MfnodE

  • Unhomework: How to get the most out of homework, without really setting it, Mark Creasy, Independent Thinking Press, 2014.

  • Why students should set and mark their own homework, Mark Creasy, Guardian, April 2014: http://bit.ly/2KwP5MM

  • Takeaway Homework, Tarr’s Toolbox, Tarr, 2015: www.classtools.net/blog/takeaway-homework

  • Effective primary teaching practice, Teaching Schools Council, 2016: http://bit.ly/2TrXOCC


The Early Career Framework Further Reading

[Further reading recommendations are indicated with an asterisk.]

Alexander R.J. (2020) A Dialogic Teaching Companion, London: Routledge.

*Coe, R., Aloisi, C., Higgins, S., & Major, L. E. (2014) What makes great teaching. Review of the underpinning research. Durham University: UK. Available at: http://bit.ly/2OvmvKO

Donker, A. S., de Boer, H., Kostons, D., Dignath van Ewijk, C. C., & van der Werf, M. P. C. (2014) Effectiveness of learning strategy instruction on academic performance: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 11, 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2013.11.002.

Donovan, M. S., & Bransford, J. D. (2005) How students learn: Mathematics in the classroom. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Dunlosky, J.,