Homework in Middle School: Building a Foundation for Study Skills

In the middle school years, students begin to experience the benefits of homework, though it is difficult to determine how much good it does, particularly at a given age. And there is some debate on how much homework students need to receive that benefit.

Duke University’s Harris Cooper, one of the leading researchers on homework, says students enjoy genuine academic benefits from homework, including better comprehension and retention of subject matter. However, while the benefit is clear for high school students and beyond, the degree to which homework helps middle school students is a matter of some contention.

Homework starts to prove its value for middle school students.Research on homework is complex because multiple factors come into play:

  • It’s difficult to tell if homework helps high achievers do well, or if they do their homework because they are high achievers.
  • It’s challenging to determine how much homework students actually do. Most homework studies rely on self-reported data, which means students can easily misstate the quantity of time they spend on homework.
  • Many studies use test scores to measure academic success, which, as many researchers point out, is an inherently problematic form of measurement.

Teachers should assign an appropriate amount of homework

While there is still much discussion on the effectiveness of homework, research asserts that the 10-minute rule per grade level holds true for middle school students. This means that students might receive anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes of homework each evening.

In middle school, students’ higher academic achievement starts to correlate with completing homework. However, this correlation fades if homework lasts longer than that.  Indeed, giving more than 90 minutes of homework has been shown to have detrimental effects on students.

Students need time away from their studies to relax and engage in social, extracurricular and family activities. When given too much homework, students lose this time and suffer the effects of stress and sleep deprivation, which has proved to reduce academic performance.

Purposeful assignments

Teachers who give homework must consider the purpose and value of the assignments. While elementary school homework can build confidence and engage students in the subject matter, middle school homework needs a more specific purpose.

Certain subjects require practice homework, such as vocabulary, which often requires drills. Other homework requires reading or more complicated skill work. Still, there is a growing belief among researchers that even when homework serves a clear and distinct purpose, less is more.

Homework should be clearly connected to learning outcomes and shouldn’t overwhelm students so much they are unable to actively participate in their lives beyond the walls of the classroom. Teachers should carefully consider how much practice students need and design homework to effectively meet those goals within the shortest duration possible.

Ultimately, even if the benefit margin is small for middle school students, there are other advantages of completing homework. Some researchers argue that at least anecdotally, students develop important study skills that will benefit them in high school and college, and they learn the value of time management and responsibility.

Caitrin Blake has a BA in English and Sociology from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado Denver. She teaches composition at Arapahoe Community College.

Tags: /

Learn More: Click to view related resources.
Share on Pinterest
Our featured stories are an amalgamation of all things education—you’ll find articles on trends and challenges facing present-day educators, as well as resources that help educators successfully navigate through any demanding environment.

LEARN MORE

It only takes a minute...

Please correct highlighted fields...
123

You're almost done...

Please correct highlighted fields...
123

The last step...

Please correct highlighted fields...
Yes! By submitting this form I ask to receive email, texts and calls about degree programs on behalf of Concordia University-Portland, and agree automated technology may be used to dial the number(s) I provided. I understand this consent is not required to enroll.
123

It only takes a minute...

Please correct highlighted fields...
123

You're almost done...

Please correct highlighted fields...
123

The last step...

Please correct highlighted fields...
Yes! By submitting this form I ask to receive email, texts and calls about degree programs on behalf of Concordia University-Portland, and agree automated technology may be used to dial the number(s) I provided. I understand this consent is not required to enroll.
123