Research Myth 10: Homework ‘Works’

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Does setting homework make a difference?

It has been described as an inefficient, jaded and bankrupt practice.

Dylan Wiliam said once that “most homework teachers set is crap.”

Alfie Kohn (2006) in ‘The Homework Myth’ thinks schools should set their default policy to ‘no homework’.

Why? There is no evidence of any academic benefit supporting the value of homework for primary age children (John Hattie says it “has an effect of zero”) and there are grim uncertainties about whether homework benefits older students.

Even though Hattie says that 5-10 minutes of practising what was taught that day at school has the same effect as 1-2 hours does, an OECD report on data from the PISA survey looked at homework among 15-year-olds and found socio-economically advantaged students and those who attended socio-economically advantaged schools tended to spend more time doing homework than other students which could perpetuate inequalities in education.

Is homework a meaningful contribution to learning?

Does it promote higher achievement and teach study skills and responsibility?


It’s all pain for no gain and schools have proven that educational excellence is possible by ditching it and that it could (further) widen inequality.

As Matt Miller and Alice Keeler say in their book Ditch That Homework,

When you employ modern teaching techniques to optimise learning to its peak in the classroom, it becomes possible to accomplish all that you need to do during the school day, which makes homework less and less of a necessity. Until, one day, you are able to ditch it. Completely.


Read the full Research Myths series.

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