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Q&As For Students: Is Homework Harmful Or Helpful?

Question: Is homework harmful or helpful?

Answer: Truthfully, the answer is both: homework is both harmful and helpful. It entirely depends on the context because there are several different reasons why teachers assign it in the first place.

The first of these reasons is that assignments allow teachers to gauge students’ progress—it allow them to measure whether students are understanding what they are being taught. Tests are another way to gauge this, but assignments allow teachers to see whether students are able to work through problems or concepts with resources available to them. And in the real world, when students go to apply the concepts in a work setting, they will also have resources available to them. So in some ways assignments are a more accurate barometer of whether students will be able to use the materials they are learning in life.

Assignments also serve as valuable practice for students. For many subjects, such as math, science, grammar, or foreign languages, practice is an essential step in the learning process. While students get some practice time in class, it is also important that they have time to practice on their own, and assignments offer this opportunity.

It is also important to keep in mind that there are different kinds of assignments. There is a big different between writing a research paper and doing a math problem set. Some would argue that the research paper is a more valuable experience for students because it allows them to explore a subject independently, to develop their research, critical thinking, and writing skills, and because it allows for self directly learning. That being said, there is definitely also value to assignments like math problem sets that simply test your understanding and allow time for practice.

When homework can become harmful, rather than helpful, is when it becomes simple busy work that does not help to develop the students understanding in any way. While most teachers do not realize that they are assigning work like this, many of them probably end up doing it inadvertently. Another way that assignments can be harmful is if they don’t support multiple learning styles. Different students learn in different ways—some memorize things easily with others can understand higher level concepts more easily; some students learn visually while others are tactile learners. It is important for assignment to allow for all these kinds of learning.