A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Top 5: Homework Tips for Parents, Teachers, and Students

By Mason Spirit contributor on October 31, 2012


“Homework is the first ‘job’ for students with clear consequences if not completed,” says Mason educational psychology professor Anastasia Kitsantas. “It is a vehicle for students to assume responsibility and to learn that they are accountable for their own actions.” Recent research studies reveal that homework experiences increase students’ responsibility for learning and help them build study habits. In Kitsantas’s research, she has found that homework has a positive impact on students’ confidence, development of study strategies, and academic independence. It also influences student achievement indirectly via improved responsibility. Here she shares five tips to make homework a successful experience for everyone involved: parents, teachers, and, especially, students.

Mason education professor Anastasia Kitsantas works with education students on their research posters. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

1. Shift responsibility for homework completion to students.

Help students set goals, engage in time management, monitor their learning environment and effectiveness of strategies, and evaluate performance based on goals. That is, plan out how much time homework completion should take before starting an assignment, make a calendar, and develop a checklist for long-term assignments by dividing the assignment into smaller pieces. Encourage students to self-reflect and discuss outcomes in terms of strategies. If it takes a student a long time to complete a nightly assignment, check to see whether he or she is being distracted. Common distractions can range from viewing video clips to instant messaging.

2. Instill confidence in students to handle homework assignments.

Create mastery experiences with portions of assignments that students believe they can successfully complete. Show a positive attitude for homework completion. If students express dissatisfaction or frustration, allow for a small break and provide support and verbal encouragement for them to continue.

3. Prescribe the right amount of time to spend on homework.

Mason education professor Anastasia Kitsantas has found in her research that more homework doesn’t always translate into greater achievement.

Take into consideration the students’ age, grade level, student capability, and the subject matter when assigning homework. Create shorter and easy-to-complete assignments for elementary students. Children in grades K to 2 should not spend more than10 to 20 minutes each day doing homework. Children in grades 3 to 6, should spend 30 to 60 minutes a day, whereas in junior high and high school, the amount of homework should be about 30 minutes per subject. Research shows thatgenerally increasing the amount of time spent on homework does not lead to higher achievement scores.In fact in one of our studies, increased proportions of homework time spent on mathematics homework were associated with a decrease in math achievement.

4. Provide adequate homework resources.

Create a quiet environment for your child to study. In addition, make sure that items, such as a computer, dictionaries, necessary books, a calculator, drawing instruments, and so forth, are available for use. Research findings show that achievement gaps diminish with the increase in availability of homework resources.

5. View homework as a partnership in learning between the teacher and the home.

Form a teacher-parent team and actively communicate with each other. Parents should follow the directions given by the teacher and avoid confusing their children by using instructional techniques different from the teacher’s.

A correct formula for homework enhances students’ development as independent learners with better study skills, more positive academic attitudes, and greater responsibility toward learning.


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