According to a new study released by researchers from the University of Oviedo, the average 13-year-old should be performing no more than one hour of homework per night.
Researchers surveyed 7,725 Spanish secondary school students concerning how many hours a day they spent doing homework, how many days each week they had homework to do, how much help they received in completing their homework, and how much effort they put into it. Researchers administered a test to students comprising of 24 math and 24 science questions.
Those students who did homework every day did better on the test than those who did homework less often. In addition, those who completed their homework on their own did better than those who received help from their parents.
The study was controlled for outside factors, including gender and socioeconomic status.
Prior knowledge also played a role. Looking at previous letter grades for the students who completed the survey, researchers were able to accurately predict who would perform better on the test compared to looking at completed homework.
On average, students spent between one and two hours on homework each night when all subjects were considered. While students who spent the most time on their homework did outperform their peers on the test, they did not do better by much, causing researchers to come to the conclusion that spending 90 minutes on homework instead of 70 minutes did not make a significant difference.
“That small gain requires two hours more homework per week, which is a large time investment for such small gains,” the authors wrote. “For that reason, assigning more than 70 minutes homework per day does not seem very efficient, as the expectation of improved results is very low.”
Interestingly, researchers discovered that test scores actually went down as students spent more than 100 minutes per day on homework. “The key is that the optimum time is about 60 or 70 minutes [of homework] a day,” Javier Suarez-Alvarez, co-lead researcher on the study, said.
The authors of the study did point out that the results only show a relationship between test scores and homework, not causality, and that no differentiation was made concerning math and science homework.
Meanwhile, New York City elementary school PS 116 has decided to do away with homework all together. The school spent a year researching the effectiveness of homework, and came to the conclusion that homework was not a good use of students’ time. Instead, children are encouraged to spend time reading or playing outside.
“The negative effects of homework have been well established,” Principal Jane Hsu wrote in a note to parents, according to the New York local news website DNAInfo. “They include: children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities and family time and, sadly for many, loss of interest in learning.”