To do or not to do homework: is that the question?


Emma doesn’t like to do her homework. She is in 5th grade of Primary Education and her teachers ask her to do the same tasks over and over again: in Mathematics, she has to complete several pages of operations and problems from the textbook; in Language, she must stress words and answer questions about a text; in Natural Sciences, she is asked to identify the parts of some living thing; and so on in other subjects.

When I was in 4th grade, I enjoyed doing homework. Now he no longer finds them so interesting. When doing them, he tries to finish as soon as possible and pays little attention. Also, lately he gets distracted and needs more time to finish them. If she does them, it’s because she doesn’t want to be scolded at home or at school.

Emma’s case is not exceptional. There is evidence that boys and girls are less committed to doing homework as they progress through the year.

Why is this important? Because for homework to have a positive impact on academic performance, it is not enough to do it: it is necessary for students to make an active effort to complete the tasks.

How should homework be done?

When a student is involved in homework, they actively participate in its execution. Of the different forms of involvement that she can adopt, there are some that would be especially relevant:

  1. Complete only the assigned homework: for the homework to be effective it is not necessary to do many. It is more beneficial for students to finish what teachers prescribe in class rather than only half or a few.
  2. Take advantage of time: spending a lot of time doing homework can be a sign of high effort. However, it can also indicate difficulties in carrying them out. For this reason, it is important that they effectively manage the time they dedicate to them, avoiding distraction.
  3. Adopting a deep work approach: some students carry out tasks by concentrating on them in order to learn (deep approach). Other students rush them to fulfill their obligations (shallow approach). However, those who take an in-depth approach to homework use strategies that increase their understanding of the content . Consequently, they would get better academic grades.

In our example, Emma is a student who is not very involved with homework. If she did all her homework and didn’t get distracted, she would do better in school. She would also achieve higher grades if she understood the contents of each subject through them.

But why are there students who are involved in these tasks and others who are not?

From doing homework to getting involved in it

The answer is found in the motivation of the students. Like Emma, ​​many students are reluctant to do homework, for example because they find it boring or redundant. They are simply made to meet school requirements.

However, other boys and girls believe that homework is relevant and useful for learning. In this way, those who have a good attitude towards homework put more effort into it, complete more tasks, make the most of their time, and adopt a deep work approach. Specifically, students with a high motivational commitment:

  1. Shows interest in tasks.
  2. Maintain a positive attitude towards them.
  3. Perceives the usefulness of homework.

The disengagement of students with homework

In general, in primary education, students tend to make an effort when they do their homework. At first, they even enjoy themselves with them. However, their motivation and commitment diminish over the years . In this sense, it is to be expected that Emma will have a less positive attitude and make less effort with her homework in 6th grade. This change would be more evident even in secondary education.

At this point we should ask ourselves: how do we get the boys and girls to get involved in doing their homework?

Typically, homework serves the purpose of reviewing what has been learned in class. Therefore, the type of tasks that are usually assigned focus on the repetition of previously learned content. This, however, can be unstimulating for the students .

To avoid this situation, it is essential to design tasks that adapt to the characteristics of each student. Today there are task prescription methods that suggest varying the type of exercises and specifying their value, among other conditions.

For example, in Mathematics, Emma could act as a teacher and give the mark to a test invented by her teacher. Thus, she would practice calculation skills in a more attractive way. And she in language she could write what will happen next in the story that they are reading in class using some conditions, such as using the new vocabulary words that she has learned.

Quality duties

By setting up quality homework we will get students like Emma to show more interest in homework and maintain a more positive attitude. Thus, if they feel motivated when doing the activities at home, then they will make more effort when completing them, finishing most of the tasks proposed by the teachers and taking advantage of the time they dedicate to them.

With quality duties, we will be able to change the situation raised in the introduction to the following:
“Emma likes to do her homework. Her teachers send her different and interesting tasks. When doing them, she concentrates until she is done and pays attention to what she is doing. She finishes all the activities without spending too much time on them. Plus, she makes them because she learns with them.”

This will ultimately be what leads Emma to do better in school. And, most importantly, to enjoy the learning process outside of the classroom.

Author Bios: Carolina Rodriguez Llorente is FPU pre-doctoral contracted, area of ​​educational psychology and Antonio Valle Arias is a Professor of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology both at the University of A Coruña