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  • Online vs. Paper: How Medium Affects Homework Completion Rate


Poster Presentation

Click here to view a PDF version of the poster

by Naomi Reiner

For students who struggle with paper organization, online platforms such as Google Classroom may provide a way to increase assignment turn-in rate. In this study, the homework completion rates of 170 9th grade students were measured over the course of two 6-week units in biology class: the first unit on paper, the second on Google Classroom. The overall homework turn-in rates for each unit were compared, and results indicated that a small group of students who struggled heavily with paper organization did turn in significantly more homework. However, there was a larger group of students who unexpectedly turned in significantly more homework on paper. When surveyed, these students reported that when they did not possess a physical paper to remind them, they forgot to do their homework. Overall, we found that an online system combined with a physical paper reminder could represent an effective two-prong approach to increasing students’ homework completion.

  • Schedule At-a-Glance
  • Keynote Address: Elizabeth Dawes Duraisingh
  • Roundtables
  • Alternative Black-Led Education: A Qualitative Case Study
  • America's Most Controversial Children's Book: Using "The Giving Tree" to Inform Civic Education
  • Borderline Curricula: How physical barriers shape student learning and identity
  • Central American studies:A proposal for Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)
  • Creating Effective Model for Faith-based Preschools
  • Creatique: Unpacking the Paradoxes of Artistic Critique
  • Critical Self-Awareness: Can We Teach Teachers About Their Biases?
  • Cultivating Innovation in Teaching Teams: The Role of Cohesion and Psychological Safety
  • Does Equity Benefit Everyone? Maybe Not Right Away
  • Does Money Buy Literacy? Assessing the Predictability of Education Spending on Youth Literacy Rate
  • Does slow processing speed underlie reading, math, and attention challenges?
  • Immigrant vs. Native Black Americans: Ethnic-Racial Identity and Mental Health
  • Increasing Teacher Capacity in Zimbabwe
  • Is Classical Music a Language? An Exploration of Music, Language & Bilingualism
  • Measurement in Context: The Baka people of Cameroon and Social-Emotional Learning Tool Development
  • Measuring Compassionate Care and its Association with Provider Environment
  • Motivation and Music: Does Motivation Matter
  • Nurturing Every Learner’s Potential: Curriculum Reform in Kenya
  • Teachers in the Lead: Teacher Agency and Well-being in Critical Participatory Action Research
  • The Association between PISA Reading Performance and Early Childhood Education
  • The Role of Trust in Disruptive School Turnaround Work
  • Trauma-Informed Education: An Analysis of Screening Measures

A Peer Tutor talks to a student at the ARC.

Peer Tutoring

The Beverly J. Duran Peer Tutoring Program at the ARC connects Harvard students with a network of trained peers who can support their learning.

Background video of aerial view of Harvard University and other b roll video of the inside of campus buidlings

Peer Tutors can provide an extra layer of academic support for students by reviewing critical concepts and materials from class, clarifying points of confusion, and developing study strategies for upcoming exams. 

The Beverly J. Duran Peer Tutoring Program at the ARC is a limited resource, and the service is a supplement to resources and support provided by courses/departments. This program is available to currently enrolled Harvard College degree candidates. Unfortunately, due to high demand, we cannot offer content tutoring for Harvard graduate students.

Finding an ARC Peer Tutor

In order to receive peer tutoring from the ARC, students must be registered in the course in which they are requesting tutoring. 

  • Visit the ARC SCHEDULER .  
  • If the course you want tutoring for is listed*, select a time to book an appointment.
  • If no times listed work for your schedule, please email [email protected] so we can assist.

*If the course you want tutoring for is not listed, please email the Peer Tutoring Team at [email protected]

Please note that not all classes are supported by the Beverly J. Duran Peer Tutoring Program at the ARC; the ARC can connect students with a peer tutor only when a qualified tutor is on our team and available. 

Policies for Meeting with ARC Peer Tutors  

Any student who connects with an ARC Peer Tutor is required to abide by the following policies. 

  • Students (i.e., Tutees) may sign up for two 60-minute, one-to-one sessions per course each week. A week is defined as Sunday to Saturday. Exceptions to the limit may be considered; please contact [email protected] for approval.  
  • Group tutoring does not count toward the weekly two-appointment per course weekly limit. 
  • Tutees are expected to come to peer tutoring sessions prepared with questions and having reviewed the material.  
  • Peer tutors do not have access to the answers for assignments and are not permitted to check answers or do full graded problems/assignments for tutees. 
  • Tutees must arrive on time for tutoring. If a tutee arrives late, peer tutors are not required to make up the missed time.
  • Students must notify their peer tutor about a cancellation at least 24 hours prior to appointment start time. 
  • Students who miss three scheduled appointments (either by not showing up or by cancelling with less than 24 hours’ notice) may lose access to participating in the Beverly J. Duran Peer Tutoring program for that course for the remainder of the term. 
  • Harvard College students can receive peer tutoring services free of charge up to a maximum of 6 total hours per week. 
  • Harvard Extension School admitted ALB and ALM degree candidates and Pre-medical Program participants should complete an ARC referral form and send to Sue Albrigo for additional guidance. 
  • All peer tutors and tutees are expected to abide by the College’s policies on academic integrity as outlined in the rules on academic dishonesty in the Harvard Handbook for Students and in Harvard College’s Honor Code .  
  • Non-College students must also adhere to their own school’s code of conduct and policies.  
  • The Student Academic Integrity Fellows ( SAIFs ) are available as a resource for all students who have concerns about academic integrity. 
  • Peer tutors may use homework problems as reference during tutoring sessions, but they will not assist tutees on homework directly, unless permitted by the course. Instead, peer tutors will review concepts and may work on practice problems similar to those commonly assigned as homework and on exams.  
  • Specific homework help should be sought out with the course/department directly, e.g., office hours, Math Question Center, Economics Question Center, Math Night, Physics Night.  
  • Tutees should provide similar or sample problems for the tutoring meeting which may be found in course material, or by request to the courses. 
  • All ARC Peer Tutors (when they are acting in their peer tutoring role) are considered “Responsible Employees” with regards to Title IX disclosures. If within the context of the peer tutoring relationship, a tutee discloses information about an incident of sexual or gender-based harassment, including sexual assault, ARC Peer Tutors have a responsibility to share that information with the Title IX Resource Coordinator. 
  • Peer tutoring is protected by FERPA .

Peer Tutoring FAQs

Peer tutors are typically available in select introductory STEM and problem-set courses. We encourage students to first check the  ARC Scheduler  to see if there are available tutors for their courses. However, students may also submit a request for any course they are registered in on the Tutor Matcher.

Students may then email a request to the Peer Tutoring team at [email protected] . Not every request can be accommodated, as ARC makes matches only when a qualified tutor is on our team and available.

No, ARC Peer Tutors do not. College students should contact the  Harvard College Writing Center  to schedule a conference with undergraduate tutors who provide writing support. Graduate students should contact the  Fellowships and Writing Center  for writing support.

Peer Tutoring is free for Harvard College Students. Unfortunately, due to high demand, we cannot offer content tutoring for Harvard graduate students. Students in the Harvard Extension School should contact Sue Albrigo for additional guidance. 

Harvard College students can book up to two hours of Peer Tutoring per week per course, up to a maximum of 6 hours per week.

ARC Peer Tutors are Harvard students who have excelled in the courses they tutor and are interested in supporting their peers as they learn the concepts.

Prior to a peer tutoring session, students should review content and bring questions regarding the course material. Bring any and all materials that may be helpful to the tutor in helping the student review what was presented during class.

Peer tutors can meet with students virtually via Zoom or in person at a mutually accessible location on campus such as a library, study room, or dining hall. Peer Tutoring in private residence rooms is prohibited.

Students should expect to discuss course topics and mains ideas, methodologies, problem solving steps and mechanisms. The peer tutor will help guide the tutee through the material and promote independent learning strategies through active tutoring.

Peer tutors will NOT: completely do graded problems/assignments, write on the student’s papers or type on their computers, have the answers for homework, tell a student what grade they will receive, or provide material from previous semesters.

Education Next

  • The Journal
  • Vol. 19, No. 1

The Case for (Quality) Homework

harvard study on homework

Janine Bempechat

harvard study on homework

Any parent who has battled with a child over homework night after night has to wonder: Do those math worksheets and book reports really make a difference to a student’s long-term success? Or is homework just a headache—another distraction from family time and downtime, already diminished by the likes of music and dance lessons, sports practices, and part-time jobs?

Allison, a mother of two middle-school girls from an affluent Boston suburb, describes a frenetic afterschool scenario: “My girls do gymnastics a few days a week, so homework happens for my 6th grader after gymnastics, at 6:30 p.m. She doesn’t get to bed until 9. My 8th grader does her homework immediately after school, up until gymnastics. She eats dinner at 9:15 and then goes to bed, unless there is more homework to do, in which case she’ll get to bed around 10.” The girls miss out on sleep, and weeknight family dinners are tough to swing.

Parental concerns about their children’s homework loads are nothing new. Debates over the merits of homework—tasks that teachers ask students to complete during non-instructional time—have ebbed and flowed since the late 19th century, and today its value is again being scrutinized and weighed against possible negative impacts on family life and children’s well-being.

Are American students overburdened with homework? In some middle-class and affluent communities, where pressure on students to achieve can be fierce, yes. But in families of limited means, it’s often another story. Many low-income parents value homework as an important connection to the school and the curriculum—even as their children report receiving little homework. Overall, high-school students relate that they spend less than one hour per day on homework, on average, and only 42 percent say they do it five days per week. In one recent survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a minimal 13 percent of 17-year-olds said they had devoted more than two hours to homework the previous evening (see Figure 1).

harvard study on homework

Recent years have seen an increase in the amount of homework assigned to students in grades K–2, and critics point to research findings that, at the elementary-school level, homework does not appear to enhance children’s learning. Why, then, should we burden young children and their families with homework if there is no academic benefit to doing it? Indeed, perhaps it would be best, as some propose, to eliminate homework altogether, particularly in these early grades.

On the contrary, developmentally appropriate homework plays a critical role in the formation of positive learning beliefs and behaviors, including a belief in one’s academic ability, a deliberative and effortful approach to mastery, and higher expectations and aspirations for one’s future. It can prepare children to confront ever-more-complex tasks, develop resilience in the face of difficulty, and learn to embrace rather than shy away from challenge. In short, homework is a key vehicle through which we can help shape children into mature learners.

The Homework-Achievement Connection

A narrow focus on whether or not homework boosts grades and test scores in the short run thus ignores a broader purpose in education, the development of lifelong, confident learners. Still, the question looms: does homework enhance academic success? As the educational psychologist Lyn Corno wrote more than two decades ago, “homework is a complicated thing.” Most research on the homework-achievement connection is correlational, which precludes a definitive judgment on its academic benefits. Researchers rely on correlational research in this area of study given the difficulties of randomly assigning students to homework/no-homework conditions. While correlation does not imply causality, extensive research has established that at the middle- and high-school levels, homework completion is strongly and positively associated with high achievement. Very few studies have reported a negative correlation.

As noted above, findings on the homework-achievement connection at the elementary level are mixed. A small number of experimental studies have demonstrated that elementary-school students who receive homework achieve at higher levels than those who do not. These findings suggest a causal relationship, but they are limited in scope. Within the body of correlational research, some studies report a positive homework-achievement connection, some a negative relationship, and yet others show no relationship at all. Why the mixed findings? Researchers point to a number of possible factors, such as developmental issues related to how young children learn, different goals that teachers have for younger as compared to older students, and how researchers define homework.

Certainly, young children are still developing skills that enable them to focus on the material at hand and study efficiently. Teachers’ goals for their students are also quite different in elementary school as compared to secondary school. While teachers at both levels note the value of homework for reinforcing classroom content, those in the earlier grades are more likely to assign homework mainly to foster skills such as responsibility, perseverance, and the ability to manage distractions.

Most research examines homework generally. Might a focus on homework in a specific subject shed more light on the homework-achievement connection? A recent meta-analysis did just this by examining the relationship between math/science homework and achievement. Contrary to previous findings, researchers reported a stronger relationship between homework and achievement in the elementary grades than in middle school. As the study authors note, one explanation for this finding could be that in elementary school, teachers tend to assign more homework in math than in other subjects, while at the same time assigning shorter math tasks more frequently. In addition, the authors point out that parents tend to be more involved in younger children’s math homework and more skilled in elementary-level than middle-school math.

In sum, the relationship between homework and academic achievement in the elementary-school years is not yet established, but eliminating homework at this level would do children and their families a huge disservice: we know that children’s learning beliefs have a powerful impact on their academic outcomes, and that through homework, parents and teachers can have a profound influence on the development of positive beliefs.

How Much Is Appropriate?

Harris M. Cooper of Duke University, the leading researcher on homework, has examined decades of study on what we know about the relationship between homework and scholastic achievement. He has proposed the “10-minute rule,” suggesting that daily homework be limited to 10 minutes per grade level. Thus, a 1st grader would do 10 minutes each day and a 4th grader, 40 minutes. The National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association both endorse this guideline, but it is not clear whether the recommended allotments include time for reading, which most teachers want children to do daily.

For middle-school students, Cooper and colleagues report that 90 minutes per day of homework is optimal for enhancing academic achievement, and for high schoolers, the ideal range is 90 minutes to two and a half hours per day. Beyond this threshold, more homework does not contribute to learning. For students enrolled in demanding Advanced Placement or honors courses, however, homework is likely to require significantly more time, leading to concerns over students’ health and well-being.

Notwithstanding media reports of parents revolting against the practice of homework, the vast majority of parents say they are highly satisfied with their children’s homework loads. The National Household Education Surveys Program recently found that between 70 and 83 percent of parents believed that the amount of homework their children had was “about right,” a result that held true regardless of social class, race/ethnicity, community size, level of education, and whether English was spoken at home.

Learning Beliefs Are Consequential

As noted above, developmentally appropriate homework can help children cultivate positive beliefs about learning. Decades of research have established that these beliefs predict the types of tasks students choose to pursue, their persistence in the face of challenge, and their academic achievement. Broadly, learning beliefs fall under the banner of achievement motivation, which is a constellation of cognitive, behavioral, and affective factors, including: the way a person perceives his or her abilities, goal-setting skills, expectation of success, the value the individual places on learning, and self-regulating behavior such as time-management skills. Positive or adaptive beliefs about learning serve as emotional and psychological protective factors for children, especially when they encounter difficulties or failure.

Motivation researcher Carol Dweck of Stanford University posits that children with a “growth mindset”—those who believe that ability is malleable—approach learning very differently than those with a “fixed mindset”—kids who believe ability cannot change. Those with a growth mindset view effort as the key to mastery. They see mistakes as helpful, persist even in the face of failure, prefer challenging over easy tasks, and do better in school than their peers who have a fixed mindset. In contrast, children with a fixed mindset view effort and mistakes as implicit condemnations of their abilities. Such children succumb easily to learned helplessness in the face of difficulty, and they gravitate toward tasks they know they can handle rather than more challenging ones.

Of course, learning beliefs do not develop in a vacuum. Studies have demonstrated that parents and teachers play a significant role in the development of positive beliefs and behaviors, and that homework is a key tool they can use to foster motivation and academic achievement.

Parents’ Beliefs and Actions Matter

It is well established that parental involvement in their children’s education promotes achievement motivation and success in school. Parents are their children’s first teachers, and their achievement-related beliefs have a profound influence on children’s developing perceptions of their own abilities, as well as their views on the value of learning and education.

Parents affect their children’s learning through the messages they send about education, whether by expressing interest in school activities and experiences, attending school events, helping with homework when they can, or exposing children to intellectually enriching experiences. Most parents view such engagement as part and parcel of their role. They also believe that doing homework fosters responsibility and organizational skills, and that doing well on homework tasks contributes to learning, even if children experience frustration from time to time.

Many parents provide support by establishing homework routines, eliminating distractions, communicating expectations, helping children manage their time, providing reassuring messages, and encouraging kids to be aware of the conditions under which they do their best work. These supports help foster the development of self-regulation, which is critical to school success.

Self-regulation involves a number of skills, such as the ability to monitor one’s performance and adjust strategies as a result of feedback; to evaluate one’s interests and realistically perceive one’s aptitude; and to work on a task autonomously. It also means learning how to structure one’s environment so that it’s conducive to learning, by, for example, minimizing distractions. As children move into higher grades, these skills and strategies help them organize, plan, and learn independently. This is precisely where parents make a demonstrable difference in students’ attitudes and approaches to homework.

Especially in the early grades, homework gives parents the opportunity to cultivate beliefs and behaviors that foster efficient study skills and academic resilience. Indeed, across age groups, there is a strong and positive relationship between homework completion and a variety of self-regulatory processes. However, the quality of parental help matters. Sometimes, well-intentioned parents can unwittingly undermine the development of children’s positive learning beliefs and their achievement. Parents who maintain a positive outlook on homework and allow their children room to learn and struggle on their own, stepping in judiciously with informational feedback and hints, do their children a much better service than those who seek to control the learning process.

A recent study of 5th and 6th graders’ perceptions of their parents’ involvement with homework distinguished between supportive and intrusive help. The former included the belief that parents encouraged the children to try to find the right answer on their own before providing them with assistance, and when the child struggled, attempted to understand the source of the confusion. In contrast, the latter included the perception that parents provided unsolicited help, interfered when the children did their homework, and told them how to complete their assignments. Supportive help predicted higher achievement, while intrusive help was associated with lower achievement.

Parents’ attitudes and emotions during homework time can support the development of positive attitudes and approaches in their children, which in turn are predictive of higher achievement. Children are more likely to focus on self-improvement during homework time and do better in school when their parents are oriented toward mastery. In contrast, if parents focus on how well children are doing relative to peers, kids tend to adopt learning goals that allow them to avoid challenge.

harvard study on homework

Homework and Social Class

Social class is another important element in the homework dynamic. What is the homework experience like for families with limited time and resources? And what of affluent families, where resources are plenty but the pressures to succeed are great?

Etta Kralovec and John Buell, authors of The End of Homework, maintain that homework “punishes the poor,” because lower-income parents may not be as well educated as their affluent counterparts and thus not as well equipped to help with homework. Poorer families also have fewer financial resources to devote to home computers, tutoring, and academic enrichment. The stresses of poverty—and work schedules—may impinge, and immigrant parents may face language barriers and an unfamiliarity with the school system and teachers’ expectations.

Yet research shows that low-income parents who are unable to assist with homework are far from passive in their children’s learning, and they do help foster scholastic performance. In fact, parental help with homework is not a necessary component for school success.

Brown University’s Jin Li queried low-income Chinese American 9th graders’ perceptions of their parents’ engagement with their education. Students said their immigrant parents rarely engaged in activities that are known to foster academic achievement, such as monitoring homework, checking it for accuracy, or attending school meetings or events. Instead, parents of higher achievers built three social networks to support their children’s learning. They designated “anchor” helpers both inside and outside the family who provided assistance; identified peer models for their children to emulate; and enlisted the assistance of extended kin to guide their children’s educational socialization. In a related vein, a recent analysis of survey data showed that Asian and Latino 5th graders, relative to native-born peers, were more likely to turn to siblings than parents for homework help.

Further, research demonstrates that low-income parents, recognizing that they lack the time to be in the classroom or participate in school governance, view homework as a critical connection to their children’s experiences in school. One study found that mothers enjoyed the routine and predictability of homework and used it as a way to demonstrate to children how to plan their time. Mothers organized homework as a family activity, with siblings doing homework together and older children reading to younger ones. In this way, homework was perceived as a collective practice wherein siblings could model effective habits and learn from one another.

In another recent study, researchers examined mathematics achievement in low-income 8th-grade Asian and Latino students. Help with homework was an advantage their mothers could not provide. They could, however, furnish structure (for example, by setting aside quiet time for homework completion), and it was this structure that most predicted high achievement. As the authors note, “It is . . . important to help [low-income] parents realize that they can still help their children get good grades in mathematics and succeed in school even if they do not know how to provide direct assistance with their child’s mathematics homework.”

The homework narrative at the other end of the socioeconomic continuum is altogether different. Media reports abound with examples of students, mostly in high school, carrying three or more hours of homework per night, a burden that can impair learning, motivation, and well-being. In affluent communities, students often experience intense pressure to cultivate a high-achieving profile that will be attractive to elite colleges. Heavy homework loads have been linked to unhealthy symptoms such as heightened stress, anxiety, physical complaints, and sleep disturbances. Like Allison’s 6th grader mentioned earlier, many students can only tackle their homework after they do extracurricular activities, which are also seen as essential for the college résumé. Not surprisingly, many students in these communities are not deeply engaged in learning; rather, they speak of “doing school,” as Stanford researcher Denise Pope has described, going through the motions necessary to excel, and undermining their physical and mental health in the process.

Fortunately, some national intervention initiatives, such as Challenge Success (co-founded by Pope), are heightening awareness of these problems. Interventions aimed at restoring balance in students’ lives (in part, by reducing homework demands) have resulted in students reporting an increased sense of well-being, decreased stress and anxiety, and perceptions of greater support from teachers, with no decrease in achievement outcomes.

What is good for this small segment of students, however, is not necessarily good for the majority. As Jessica Lahey wrote in Motherlode, a New York Times parenting blog, “homework is a red herring” in the national conversation on education. “Some otherwise privileged children may have too much, but the real issue lies in places where there is too little. . . . We shouldn’t forget that.”

My colleagues and I analyzed interviews conducted with lower-income 9th graders (African American, Mexican American, and European American) from two Northern California high schools that at the time were among the lowest-achieving schools in the state. We found that these students consistently described receiving minimal homework—perhaps one or two worksheets or textbook pages, the occasional project, and 30 minutes of reading per night. Math was the only class in which they reported having homework each night. These students noted few consequences for not completing their homework.

Indeed, greatly reducing or eliminating homework would likely increase, not diminish, the achievement gap. As Harris M. Cooper has commented, those choosing to opt their children out of homework are operating from a place of advantage. Children in higher-income families benefit from many privileges, including exposure to a larger range of language at home that may align with the language of school, access to learning and cultural experiences, and many other forms of enrichment, such as tutoring and academic summer camps, all of which may be cost-prohibitive for lower-income families. But for the 21 percent of the school-age population who live in poverty—nearly 11 million students ages 5–17—homework is one tool that can help narrow the achievement gap.

Community and School Support

Often, community organizations and afterschool programs can step up to provide structure and services that students’ need to succeed at homework. For example, Boys and Girls and 4-H clubs offer volunteer tutors as well as access to computer technology that students may not have at home. Many schools provide homework clubs or integrate homework into the afterschool program.

Home-school partnerships have succeeded in engaging parents with homework and significantly improving their children’s academic achievement. For example, Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University has developed the TIPS model (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork), which embraces homework as an integral part of family time. TIPS is a teacher-designed interactive program in which children and a parent or family member each have a specific role in the homework scenario. For example, children might show the parent how to do a mathematics task on fractions, explaining their reasoning along the way and reviewing their thinking aloud if they are unsure.

Evaluations show that elementary and middle-school students in classrooms that have adopted TIPS complete more of their homework than do students in other classrooms. Both students and parent participants show more positive beliefs about learning mathematics, and TIPS students show significant gains in writing skills and report-card science grades, as well as higher mathematics scores on standardized tests.

Another study found that asking teachers to send text messages to parents about their children’s missing homework resulted in increased parental monitoring of homework, consequences for missed assignments, and greater participation in parent-child conferences. Teachers reported fewer missed assignments and greater student effort in coursework, and math grades and GPA significantly improved.

Homework Quality Matters

Teachers favor homework for a number of reasons. They believe it fosters a sense of responsibility and promotes academic achievement. They note that homework provides valuable review and practice for students while giving teachers feedback on areas where students may need more support. Finally, teachers value homework as a way to keep parents connected to the school and their children’s educational experiences.

While students, to say the least, may not always relish the idea of doing homework, by high school most come to believe there is a positive relationship between doing homework and doing well in school. Both higher and lower achievers lament “busywork” that doesn’t promote learning. They crave high-quality, challenging assignments—and it is this kind of homework that has been associated with higher achievement.

What constitutes high-quality homework? Assignments that are developmentally appropriate and meaningful and that promote self-efficacy and self-regulation. Meaningful homework is authentic, allowing students to engage in solving problems with real-world relevance. More specifically, homework tasks should make efficient use of student time and have a clear purpose connected to what they are learning. An artistic rendition of a period in history that would take hours to complete can become instead a diary entry in the voice of an individual from that era. By allowing a measure of choice and autonomy in homework, teachers foster in their students a sense of ownership, which bolsters their investment in the work.

High-quality homework also fosters students’ perceptions of their own competence by 1) focusing them on tasks they can accomplish without help; 2) differentiating tasks so as to allow struggling students to experience success; 3) providing suggested time frames rather than a fixed period of time in which a task should be completed; 4) delivering clearly and carefully explained directions; and 5) carefully modeling methods for attacking lengthy or complex tasks. Students whose teachers have trained them to adopt strategies such as goal setting, self-monitoring, and planning develop a number of personal assets—improved time management, increased self-efficacy, greater effort and interest, a desire for mastery, and a decrease in helplessness.

harvard study on homework

Excellence with Equity

Currently, the United States has the second-highest disparity between time spent on homework by students of low socioeconomic status and time spent by their more-affluent peers out of the 34 OECD-member nations participating in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) (see Figure 2). Noting that PISA studies have consistently found that spending more time on math homework strongly correlates with higher academic achievement, the report’s authors suggest that the homework disparity may reflect lower teacher expectations for low-income students. If so, this is truly unfortunate. In and of itself, low socioeconomic status is not an impediment to academic achievement when appropriate parental, school, and community supports are deployed. As research makes clear, low-income parents support their children’s learning in varied ways, not all of which involve direct assistance with schoolwork. Teachers can orient students and parents toward beliefs that foster positive attitudes toward learning. Indeed, where homework is concerned, a commitment to excellence with equity is both worthwhile and attainable.

In affluent communities, parents, teachers, and school districts might consider reexamining the meaning of academic excellence and placing more emphasis on leading a balanced and well-rounded life. The homework debate in the United States has been dominated by concerns over the health and well-being of such advantaged students. As legitimate as these worries are, it’s important to avoid generalizing these children’s experiences to those with fewer family resources. Reducing or eliminating homework, though it may be desirable in some advantaged communities, would deprive poorer children of a crucial and empowering learning experience. It would also eradicate a fertile opportunity to help close the achievement gap.

Janine Bempechat is clinical professor of human development at the Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.

An unabridged version of this article is available here .

For more, please see “ The Top 20 Education Next Articles of 2023 .”

This article appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Education Next . Suggested citation format:

Bempechat, J. (2019). The Case for (Quality) Homework: Why it improves learning, and how parents can help . Education Next, 19 (1), 36-43.

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Summer 2023.

Vol. 24, No. 3

We Recommend You Read

harvard study on homework

In the News: What’s the Right Amount of Homework? Many Students Get Too Little, Brief Argues

by Education Next

harvard study on homework

In the News: Down With Homework, Say U.S. School Districts

harvard study on homework

In the News: Does Homework Really Help Students Learn?

Is Homework Good for Kids? Here’s What the Research Says

A s kids return to school, debate is heating up once again over how they should spend their time after they leave the classroom for the day.

The no-homework policy of a second-grade teacher in Texas went viral last week , earning praise from parents across the country who lament the heavy workload often assigned to young students. Brandy Young told parents she would not formally assign any homework this year, asking students instead to eat dinner with their families, play outside and go to bed early.

But the question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial, and plenty of parents take issue with no-homework policies, worried their kids are losing a potential academic advantage. Here’s what you need to know:

For decades, the homework standard has been a “10-minute rule,” which recommends a daily maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level. Second graders, for example, should do about 20 minutes of homework each night. High school seniors should complete about two hours of homework each night. The National PTA and the National Education Association both support that guideline.

But some schools have begun to give their youngest students a break. A Massachusetts elementary school has announced a no-homework pilot program for the coming school year, lengthening the school day by two hours to provide more in-class instruction. “We really want kids to go home at 4 o’clock, tired. We want their brain to be tired,” Kelly Elementary School Principal Jackie Glasheen said in an interview with a local TV station . “We want them to enjoy their families. We want them to go to soccer practice or football practice, and we want them to go to bed. And that’s it.”

A New York City public elementary school implemented a similar policy last year, eliminating traditional homework assignments in favor of family time. The change was quickly met with outrage from some parents, though it earned support from other education leaders.

New solutions and approaches to homework differ by community, and these local debates are complicated by the fact that even education experts disagree about what’s best for kids.

The research

The most comprehensive research on homework to date comes from a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, who found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school. The correlation was stronger for older students—in seventh through 12th grade—than for those in younger grades, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance.

Cooper’s analysis focused on how homework impacts academic achievement—test scores, for example. His report noted that homework is also thought to improve study habits, attitudes toward school, self-discipline, inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills. On the other hand, some studies he examined showed that homework can cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time for children. At the end of his analysis, Cooper recommended further study of such potential effects of homework.

Despite the weak correlation between homework and performance for young children, Cooper argues that a small amount of homework is useful for all students. Second-graders should not be doing two hours of homework each night, he said, but they also shouldn’t be doing no homework.

Not all education experts agree entirely with Cooper’s assessment.

Cathy Vatterott, an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, supports the “10-minute rule” as a maximum, but she thinks there is not sufficient proof that homework is helpful for students in elementary school.

“Correlation is not causation,” she said. “Does homework cause achievement, or do high achievers do more homework?”

Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs , thinks there should be more emphasis on improving the quality of homework tasks, and she supports efforts to eliminate homework for younger kids.

“I have no concerns about students not starting homework until fourth grade or fifth grade,” she said, noting that while the debate over homework will undoubtedly continue, she has noticed a trend toward limiting, if not eliminating, homework in elementary school.

The issue has been debated for decades. A TIME cover in 1999 read: “Too much homework! How it’s hurting our kids, and what parents should do about it.” The accompanying story noted that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to a push for better math and science education in the U.S. The ensuing pressure to be competitive on a global scale, plus the increasingly demanding college admissions process, fueled the practice of assigning homework.

“The complaints are cyclical, and we’re in the part of the cycle now where the concern is for too much,” Cooper said. “You can go back to the 1970s, when you’ll find there were concerns that there was too little, when we were concerned about our global competitiveness.”

Cooper acknowledged that some students really are bringing home too much homework, and their parents are right to be concerned.

“A good way to think about homework is the way you think about medications or dietary supplements,” he said. “If you take too little, they’ll have no effect. If you take too much, they can kill you. If you take the right amount, you’ll get better.”

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Research Trends: Why Homework Should Be Balanced

Research suggests that while homework can be an effective learning tool, assigning too much can lower student performance and interfere with other important activities.

Girl working on her laptop at home on the dining room table

Homework: effective learning tool or waste of time?

Since the average high school student spends almost seven hours each week doing homework, it’s surprising that there’s no clear answer. Homework is generally recognized as an effective way to reinforce what students learn in class, but claims that it may cause more harm than good, especially for younger students, are common.

Here’s what the research says:

  • In general, homework has substantial benefits at the high school level, with decreased benefits for middle school students and few benefits for elementary students (Cooper, 1989; Cooper et al., 2006).
  • While assigning homework may have academic benefits, it can also cut into important personal and family time (Cooper et al., 2006).
  • Assigning too much homework can result in poor performance (Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015).
  • A student’s ability to complete homework may depend on factors that are outside their control (Cooper et al., 2006; OECD, 2014; Eren & Henderson, 2011).
  • The goal shouldn’t be to eliminate homework, but to make it authentic, meaningful, and engaging (Darling-Hammond & Ifill-Lynch, 2006).

Why Homework Should Be Balanced

Homework can boost learning, but doing too much can be detrimental. The National PTA and National Education Association support the “10-minute homework rule,” which recommends 10 minutes of homework per grade level, per night (10 minutes for first grade, 20 minutes for second grade, and so on, up to two hours for 12th grade) (Cooper, 2010). A recent study found that when middle school students were assigned more than 90–100 minutes of homework per day, their math and science scores began to decline (Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, & Muñiz, 2015). Giving students too much homework can lead to fatigue, stress, and a loss of interest in academics—something that we all want to avoid.

Homework Pros and Cons

Homework has many benefits, ranging from higher academic performance to improved study skills and stronger school-parent connections. However, it can also result in a loss of interest in academics, fatigue, and a loss of important personal and family time.

Grade Level Makes a Difference

Although the debate about homework generally falls in the “it works” vs. “it doesn’t work” camps, research shows that grade level makes a difference. High school students generally get the biggest benefits from homework, with middle school students getting about half the benefits, and elementary school students getting few benefits (Cooper et al., 2006). Since young students are still developing study habits like concentration and self-regulation, assigning a lot of homework isn’t all that helpful.

Parents Should Be Supportive, Not Intrusive

Well-designed homework not only strengthens student learning, it also provides ways to create connections between a student’s family and school. Homework offers parents insight into what their children are learning, provides opportunities to talk with children about their learning, and helps create conversations with school communities about ways to support student learning (Walker et al., 2004).

However, parent involvement can also hurt student learning. Patall, Cooper, and Robinson (2008) found that students did worse when their parents were perceived as intrusive or controlling. Motivation plays a key role in learning, and parents can cause unintentional harm by not giving their children enough space and autonomy to do their homework.

Homework Across the Globe

OECD , the developers of the international PISA test, published a 2014 report looking at homework around the world. They found that 15-year-olds worldwide spend an average of five hours per week doing homework (the U.S. average is about six hours). Surprisingly, countries like Finland and Singapore spend less time on homework (two to three hours per week) but still have high PISA rankings. These countries, the report explains, have support systems in place that allow students to rely less on homework to succeed. If a country like the U.S. were to decrease the amount of homework assigned to high school students, test scores would likely decrease unless additional supports were added.

Homework Is About Quality, Not Quantity

Whether you’re pro- or anti-homework, keep in mind that research gives a big-picture idea of what works and what doesn’t, and a capable teacher can make almost anything work. The question isn’t  homework vs. no homework ; instead, we should be asking ourselves, “How can we transform homework so that it’s engaging and relevant and supports learning?”

Cooper, H. (1989). Synthesis of research on homework . Educational leadership, 47 (3), 85-91.

Cooper, H. (2010). Homework’s Diminishing Returns . The New York Times .

Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987–2003 . Review of Educational Research, 76 (1), 1-62.

Darling-Hammond, L., & Ifill-Lynch, O. (2006). If They'd Only Do Their Work! Educational Leadership, 63 (5), 8-13.

Eren, O., & Henderson, D. J. (2011). Are we wasting our children's time by giving them more homework? Economics of Education Review, 30 (5), 950-961.

Fernández-Alonso, R., Suárez-Álvarez, J., & Muñiz, J. (2015, March 16). Adolescents’ Homework Performance in Mathematics and Science: Personal Factors and Teaching Practices . Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.

OECD (2014). Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education? PISA in Focus , No. 46, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Robinson, J. C. (2008). Parent involvement in homework: A research synthesis . Review of Educational Research, 78 (4), 1039-1101.

Van Voorhis, F. L. (2003). Interactive homework in middle school: Effects on family involvement and science achievement . The Journal of Educational Research, 96 (6), 323-338.

Walker, J. M., Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Whetsel, D. R., & Green, C. L. (2004). Parental involvement in homework: A review of current research and its implications for teachers, after school program staff, and parent leaders . Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.

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How they’re feeling

Jill Radsken and Rebecca Coleman

Harvard Staff Writers

Mental health is a crisis-level issue for young people today, research says. We asked Harvard students to look inside and tell us why.

The well-documented mental health struggles of young people in America were made worse, but not created, by the pandemic. We asked College students why their generation has felt these problems so acutely, how their own lives fit into the narrative, and how they take care of themselves. The answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Em Barnes.

Em Barnes ’25

The circumstances in which my generation have grown up have not been particularly conducive to great mental health. Going through the recession in 2008, where a lot of people were still pretty young seeing their families go through financial troubles they didn’t have before. COVID obviously caused a lot of issues. Online school. Just general political polarization and radicalization. Also, growing up on social media.

Online school was really tough for me. I went home in the middle of my junior year of high school and I didn’t come back in person for a full year. The isolation from my friends was really, really tough for me and I ended up having a number of mental health problems. It just feels very normal to have mental health problems. Two students in my graduating class at my high school killed themselves. It’s been very standard to me for a while to be surrounded by people who are having serious mental health issues. It feels very much like the status quo of being alive today. I only started therapy this year and it’s been great for me. I think we just try to support each other. My biggest supports come from my friends who have gone through similar things that I have, and we are trying to work through it together.

Joey Bejjani.

Joey Bejjani ’26

I do feel at times dependent on my phone. Even when I’m bored for a second, that’s what you go to. I realize it’s unhealthy when I’m doing it, but what else are you going to do? I feel like I can manage it to a certain extent. I went a week without my phone for the pre-orientation [first-year outdoor program] here and that was fine, so I think I’m able to manage it. Sleep is important. I like to run. Outdoor stuff is nice for me. So is music. I play violin with the Bach Society.

Spencer Carter.

Spencer Carter ’23

I’m very much a person who’s opted out of social media so I don’t find that online social comparison is a big thing for me. But I’m introverted, and coming out of the pandemic, I feel content to not push myself as much socially. In terms of the expectation thing, I’m a senior, but I also took a gap year during the pandemic so I’ve now been around Harvard a while. As I’ve gone through College, I’ve come to a much better understanding of what I want and need versus just doing the things that are before me and being in the mindset that I have to do everything really well. I came in with the mindset that I had to be one of the best at everything. Now I am happy to find niches of things that I want to be really good at, but not trying to be really good at everything.

One thing that I’ve gotten more intentional about is saying no to things. It’s like a funny little ecosystem on campus with student organizations; it’s almost like a microcosm of the outside world. People start doing the jobs they want to do after college in college. They’re doing consulting, or they’re leading outdoor trips, or they’re running after-school programs And so it becomes this environment where there’s a lot of pressure to do those things — devote a ton of time to student organizations while also maintaining your classes. Especially on the student organization front, I’ve gotten better at saying: “This is a cool-ish opportunity, but it would also detract from me having time to get my homework done and sleep enough.”

Josephine Elting.

Josephine Elting ’26

On Instagram, people don’t really show, “Oh, I’m having a bad day today.” It makes it easier to feel bad about yourself and where you are, which creates a downward spiral. In a way, we have too much information today and it causes us to mentally not be doing so well.

My mom is from Zimbabwe and talking about mental health is not a big thing they do, and going to therapy is not very common and something you share with other people. That’s kind of the way I grew up and then when I went to high school, I saw it’s OK to talk about these things and a lot of times you’ll be better off after you talk about it, but it’s hard to become better if you can’t have that conversation.

Being here is a very stressful environment, so the second week, I was like, “Oh, I need to buy a bike.” I went on Craigslist and found a bike. If I’m getting stressed, I go for a bike ride somewhere quiet enough to think through things. Here it can be so busy that you don’t have time to think through things, so you have to force yourself to go to spaces where there’s no other option besides thinking, which for me is on my bike.

Ottou Fouda.

Ottou Fouda ’26

Growing up in this environment versus how it was maybe 30 or 40 years ago is very different in terms of affording a house or getting a job. You see a lot more people moving in with their parents. It’s just a very different economic space that contributes to these problems. Social media is definitely a factor.

There’s also a lot of stigma surrounding mental health that has in part been alleviated over the past couple of years, so I think a lot of people are coming forward talking about their struggle with mental illness — maybe not necessarily because something has happened in the last 10 years that has induced more signs of mental illness, but because more people are comfortable talking about it.

I can’t say personally that I’ve had any serious struggles with mental illness, thankfully. But at least in my experience, communication or expressing yourself in whatever outlet is really important. To de-stress I like to spend time with my friends. Aside from that, I have started to wake up a lot earlier. Campus is pretty much empty before 10 a.m., so I have a couple of hours in the morning to chill, get my work done, and you can take like a lot of time to do everything. It’s just a process I enjoy.

Madison Hussey.

Madison Hussey ’26

The idea that you have to impress — and there are so many people online that put up a fake narrative to impress — definitely contributes to the fact that kids my age, young adults, feel the need to have to conform. I think the only time I’ve had trouble with mental health is during the college application season. Applying to schools is definitely not the best. Overall, I think that I have made it a goal to get outside, like I am now, and find different hobbies that make me happy and balanced. All that’s really helped.

Emily Moore-Shrieves.

Emily Moore-Shrieves ’26

Social media is a huge contributor. Comparing yourself to others and seeing what goes on in others’ lives creates a false reality.

It’s funny: My mental health is better being in school now because going through the college application process and even younger years, in high school, you see people getting into these really great colleges and what they’re doing in high school — you’re comparing yourself and thinking, “What can I do to make myself better to be like them to get into these schools?” Once you get to graduation, you get to those places in life, you’re like “OK, looking back, I was doing my own thing and I ended up here too.” One of the great things about Harvard is the people, so I enjoy spending time with friends.

Sascha Pakravan.

Sascha Pakravan ’26

I see social media playing two different roles here. First, it’s being connected nonstop, 24/7. It never gives you any space to be by yourself or to think through your own thoughts, to take time to process emotions, process things that you have to do, because every time you have your phone on you, someone can reach you from wherever and whenever. Second, it’s always being subjected to look at what other people are doing and what other people’s lives consist of, and you can’t really focus on yourself and focus on improving yourself because all the time you’re seeing what other people are doing, and more often than not those aren’t accurate representations of how other people feel or what they’re doing. They are selective portrayals which give us the impression that those are lives that we should be living when even those people are not living those lives. I think this has a lot to do with where I’m from [Hawaii],

but the ocean and water give me peace. More often than not, I find myself just taking the T and going to the Seaport if I need to take a break or decompress. I go to the Seaport, whether it’s just to walk along the water or sit and listen to my music. Sometimes I even study there either with a friend or by myself, just go to a coffee shop by the water.

Helen Pang.

Helen Pang ’23

It’s hard to not compare yourself to other people. People are under a lot of stress now because there’s this pressure to get started early and start hustling early. Kids are not just playing anymore. I didn’t grow up exposed to mental health issues. I was raised to work hard and get a lot of fruit out of that. I think I’ve been lucky to handle the pressure, although there have definitely been times when it’s been hard. There’s a lot more focus on how much you as a person can produce — this utilitarian mindset that you’re worth your output — and that contributes to a lot of stress here. I’ve definitely felt that myself too.

I’m Christian, and I see the value of who I am in that way. My work is one thing, but it’s not who I am. I guess that’s what carries me through.

Campbell Rutherford.

Campbell Rutherford ’26

The Internet and social media have changed everything for our generation. Some of the things that we are experiencing now are a bit unprecedented. I’m uncommonly blessed with a very good family. When I do struggle with mental/emotional things, I feel as if I always have support at home to help me with that. I also do not tend to spend much time on social media because a lot of it is very visual and, for obvious reasons, that doesn’t appeal to me. Of course, there are blind people who do spend more time on social media than I do; I think it’s more of a personality preference thing. But in all honesty, I don’t think that I experience more negative emotion than I should or more positive emotion than I should. I think I’m in a relatively good mental health place. I’m certainly not in a place of homeostasis, but I think I’m able to grow where I am.

If you or someone you know needs access to mental health services at Harvard, visit the University’s Counseling and Mental Health Service or call 617-495-2042.

For more information about resources at Harvard and the We’re All Human wellbeing initiative, visit:  www.harvard.edu/wellbeing .

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Homework Help for Reluctant Children

  • Posted October 15, 2018
  • By Heather Miller

mother and two daughters doing homework at kitchen table

It’s hard to fault the child who resists doing homework. After all, she has already put in a long day at school, probably been involved in afterschool activities, and, as the late afternoon spills into evening, now faces a pile of assignments. Parents feel it, too — it’s no one’s favorite time of day.

But despite its bad rap, homework plays an important role in ensuring that students can execute tasks independently. When it’s thoughtfully assigned, homework provides deeper engagement with material introduced in class. And even when it’s “just” worksheets, homework can build the automatic habits and the basic skills required to tackle more interesting endeavors. Finally, homework is a nightly test of grit. Adult life brings its share of tasks that are both compulsory and unenjoyable. Developing the discipline to fulfill our responsibilities, regardless of whether they thrill us, begins in middle childhood.

So how to help the avoidant child embrace the challenge, rather than resist it?

The first step, especially with kids 13 and under, is to have them do their homework at a communal space, like a dining room or kitchen table. If other children are in the home, they can all do their homework at the same table, and the parent can sit nearby to support the work effort. This alleviates some of the loneliness a reluctant child might associate with assignments. The alternative — doing homework at a bedroom desk — can result in the child guiltily avoiding the work for as long as possible. Like all forms of procrastination, this has the effect of making the entire process take much longer than it needs to.  

When parents turn the homework ritual into a series of conversations about what needs to be done, how, and for how long, children feel less “alone” with their nightly work, they relish the company and support of their parent, and they work better and more efficiently.

Many parents are under the impression that they shouldn’t have anything to do with their children's homework. This comes from schools emphasizing that homework is a child's responsibility, not the parents'. While it is absolutely true that parents should not do their children's homework, there is a role for parents — one that's perhaps best described as “homework project manager.” Parents can be monitoring, organizing, motivating, and praising the homework effort as it gets done. And yes, that means sitting with your child to help them stay focused and on task. Your presence sends the message that homework is important business, not to be taken lightly.

Once you’re sitting down with your child, ask him to unload his school bag and talk you through his various assignments. Maybe he has a school planner with all his homework listed, or a printout from school, or perhaps his work is listed on the classroom website. Many children attend an afterschool program where, in theory, they are doing homework. They’ll often claim that they’ve done all their homework, even though they’ve only done some. Together, make a quick and easy “Done/To Do” list. Writing down what she has finished will give her a sense of satisfaction. Identifying what she still needs to do will help her to focus on the remaining assignments. Over time, this practice will help your child build an understanding that large tasks are completed incrementally.

Next, ask your child to put the assignments in the order he’d like to do them. Encourage him to explain his thinking. Doing this helps a child feel in control of the evening’s tasks and prompts him to reflect on his work style. Discuss the first task of the night together. Ask your child to think about the supplies he is likely to need, and ensure they’re at the ready. This “pre-work” work helps a child think through a task, understand it, and prepare to execute it with gusto.

Last but not least, introduce a timer to the evening’s proceedings. Challenge your child to estimate how long the first assignment will take. Then ask, “Do you want me to set the timer for the full amount of time you think you’ll need, or a smaller amount?” Then, set the timer with the understanding that the child must work without interruption until the timer goes off. Even questions are verboten while the timer runs. The goal here is to enable the child to solve problems independently, through concentration. This not only builds concentration powers, it builds creativity, critical thinking, resilience, and resourcefulness. In my experience, the theatricality of being timed helps relax children who would otherwise feel daunted by a mountain of homework.

As each piece of work gets done, parents can add meaningful positive reinforcement. Exclaiming, “Another assignment done! And done well!” helps your child feel like what they are doing matters.

By turning the homework ritual into a series of conversations about what needs to be done, how, and for how long, children feel less “alone” with their nightly work, they relish the company and support of their parent, and they complete the work much more efficiently and at a higher standard than they might otherwise.

Helping the Homework Resisters

  • Have children do their work at a communal table. Stay nearby, to alleviate the loneliness that some kids feel — and to prevent procrastination.
  • Ask your child to unload her backpack and talk through assignments.
  • Help your child make a "Done/To Do" list.
  • Ask your child to put the assignments in the order he’d like to do them. Encourage him to explain his thinking — fostering a sense of control.
  • Use a timer. Challenge your child to estimate how long an assignment will take, and ask if she wants to set the timer for that full amount of time, or less. 
  • Your role: To monitor, organize, motivate, and praise the homework effort as each piece is done. 

Additional Resource

  • More about Heather Miller's work to help parents create healthy routines on weeknights

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Student-AI Interaction: A Case Study of CS1 students

  • Amoozadeh, Matin
  • Prol, Daniel
  • Alfageeh, Ali
  • Prather, James
  • Hilton, Michael
  • Srinivasa Ragavan, Sruti
  • Alipour, Mohammad Amin

The new capabilities of generative artificial intelligence tools Generative AI, such as ChatGPT, allow users to interact with the system in intuitive ways, such as simple conversations, and receive (mostly) good-quality answers. These systems can support students' learning objectives by providing accessible explanations and examples even with vague queries. At the same time, they can encourage undesired help-seeking behaviors by providing solutions to the students' homework. Therefore, it is important to better understand how students approach such tools and the potential issues such approaches might present for the learners. In this paper, we present a case study for understanding student-AI collaboration to solve programming tasks in the CS1 introductory programming course. To this end, we recruited a gender-balanced majority non-white set of 15 CS1 students at a large public university in the US. We observed them solving programming tasks. We used a mixed-method approach to study their interactions as they tackled Python programming tasks, focusing on when and why they used ChatGPT for problem-solving. We analyze and classify the questions submitted by the 15 participants to ChatGPT. Additionally, we analyzed user interaction patterns, their reactions to ChatGPT's responses, and the potential impacts of Generative AI on their perception of self-efficacy. Our results suggest that in about a third of the cases, the student attempted to complete the task by submitting the full description of the tasks to ChatGPT without making any effort on their own. We also observed that few students verified their solutions. We discuss the results and their potential implications.

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  • Why use Homework?
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  • Think carefully about why students are doing homework. Is it to prepare for the next class? To practice material learned in class? To synthesize new information? Etc. Make it clear to students why they are being asked to complete homework to help motivate them to complete it.
  • Emphasize that the assignments are not just busy-work, but rather there to help students deepen their understanding of material.
  • Avoid fact regurgitation – students feel that repeating readily available facts is busy work and will not be motivated (and will most likely complain). Rather think of problems that applies information to new situations of challenges them to think critically
  • Vary types of questions – students can get bored if the same type or format of question is used. Vary the types of problems and format of responses. For example you can have students draw their responses, write short answers, or respond to a class-blog. 
  • Make questions personal and close to real-life situations – students will be more engaged if the questions are relatable. Use real-world data, reference activities on campus, or require students to generate their own data when possible while writing questions
  • Help students remember previously covered topics by having questions that incorporate old material with the new material. By repeating older material and having students retrieve previously learned knowledge, it helps them remember and learn
  • There are benefits to having individual assignments and group assignments. If you decide to have group work, encourage students to first work independently to test their own understanding before getting together with a study-group to work on the assignment.
  • Students can build confidence as they complete the work independently
  • Self-testing is a good way for students to evaluate how well they understand the material in a low-pressure environment
  • Students will learn the material more concretely if they have to struggle a little to complete the assignment
  • Students can tackle more difficult questions in a group as they can pool their knowledge
  • Students can teach each other. This benefits the students who are struggling as they can get help they need. It also benefits the students who are teaching as they need to further cement the information to clearly communicate their reasoning
  • Students appreciate multiple approaches to solving problems, especially for open ended questions that challenge students critical thinking skills
  • Enhances communication and team-work skills
  • Students may have questions while completing their homework. Have a designated system for them to contact you – either have office hours, an email policy, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to edit or clarify a question to the entire class if several students get suck at the same point.

Have a policy for missed work and stick to it. Also have a policy for what an accepted excuse will be

  • Students learn most from constructive feedback on their assignments. Praise good responses and indicate where errors occurred on incorrect responses
  • Post an answer key so students can compare their responses to the ‘correct’ response. This also cuts back on grading time, as you do not have to re-write correct answers for each student.


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Research: How Family Motivates People to Do Their Best Work

  • Lauren C. Howe
  • Jochen I. Menges

harvard study on homework

Work and family are often seen as competing for an employee’s time and energy — but that’s the wrong way to think about it.

Family is one of the most important things in most people’s lives, across cultures and geographies. Yet, the idea that family can be motivational at work has been overlooked. Instead, in the past, family has been mostly seen as competing with work for an employee’s finite resources, like their time and energy. A large body of research on work-family conflict drew on this notion and illustrated how work and family domains create conflicting demands and interfere with one another. And yet, there’s another growing body of research that finds that family can play a role in motivation at work, boosting employees’ performance and inspiring them to do their best. This article focuses on that body of research, and discusses how organizations that embrace family at work stand to benefit from attracting and retaining employees who are highly motivated and engaged.

Tennis star Serena Williams recently unveiled her next endeavor after leaving the courts behind: her new brand, Wyn Beauty. Like the decision to retire from tennis to focus on family, Williams’ choice to focus on beauty is a family affair. As Williams put it: “Motherhood has allowed me to look at beauty through the eyes of my daughter, Olympia. We’re always experimenting with makeup together, and I think about how these moments will be part of both of our beauty journeys… I also hope my daughters see how many different passions I have — from tennis to beauty — and learn that they can lead dynamic careers and lives across their many interests.”

harvard study on homework

  • Lauren C. Howe is an Associate Professor in Management at the University of Zurich. As a member of the Center for Leadership in the Future of Work , she focuses on how human aspects, such as mindsets, socioemotional skills, and social relationships play a role in the changing world of work.
  • Jochen I. Menges is a Professor of Leadership and Human Resource Management at the University of Zurich, the Director of the Center for Leadership in the Future of Work, and a co-founder of the Global HR Valley®, a growing people innovation ecosystem. He studies how people can feel and do their best at work, today and tomorrow. Jochen is also a faculty member at Cambridge Judge Business School.

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Search the site, search suggestions, a week in the life of a harvard student.

A group of students hugging each other.

A lot of people do "day in the life" videos and blogs, so I thought it would be cool to do a "week in my life" blog for you all to see what a typical week looks like at Harvard!

For context, I'm a junior studying Molecular and Cellular Biology, so a lot of my classes are STEM-based. 

Monday On Mondays, I typically have two classes—a chemistry course called Physical Sciences 11 (that I assist in, so I'm not actually a student), and a biotech ethics class called SCRB 120. Classes at Harvard usually last an hour and 15 minutes, and they're typically held in the morning at 10:30 am and in the afternoon at 1:30 pm. From 12-1:30 pm, I usually am free for lunch, so I stop by my dorm or Annenberg to grab a quick bite. After classes, I usually head to Lamont Library  to study for the rest of the evening!

Two women taking a selfie in the snow

A Typical Monday.

The first day of classes this semester with my friend Tabasom! It snowed that day and I was wearing heels and a skirt…not the best idea.

Tuesday On Tuesdays, I have a physics class (AP50B). This class is unusual because there are no lectures! The entire class is based on team project-based work. The class is actually held at the newly built Science and Engineering Complex , so I have to take a shuttle bus there in the mornings since it's not on the main campus. My physics class is from 9:45 am-12:30 pm (I know, pretty long), and afterward, I have Spanish at 1:30 pm. My Spanish class is based on acting and dramatic interpretation, so it’s been fun doing that. I usually have some meetings in the evening, but aside from that, I am in the library studying!

Five people posing for a selfie

My physics group!

Sometimes we spend too much time taking 0.5 selfies instead of doing actual physics work… Saddat Nazir

Wednesday My Wednesdays are usually the same as my Mondays! Physical Sciences 11 meets on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, and SCRB 120 meets only on Mondays and Wednesdays. The only difference for Wednesdays is that I have my SCRB 120 section in the afternoon, as well as a weekly workout with my CHAARG small group. Section is a small group of 10-12 students from the larger class that meets with a teaching fellow (TF) who leads discussion and review of the lecture content from that week. It is a great way to learn in a more intimate environment and get to know peers from your big classes better! And what's CHAARG? CHAARG is a group on campus for women's fitness! Every Wednesday, a small group of us will meet to work out, study, or just hang out together.

Group selfie on a bridge by the river

My CHAARG small group!!

This is after we did a run along the Charles River. Amy Lu

Thursday On Thursday, again, I follow a pretty similar schedule as my Tuesday, with the exception that I have a section for GOV 1759, a behavioral economics class I’m also taking this semester, and I spend time tutoring students in chemistry. My Thursdays are actually pretty light in terms of workload, so I like to check out events on or around campus. A few weeks ago, my younger sister actually visited from Texas, and we went to see SZA in concert at TD Garden. It was AMAZING!

Two people taking a selfie at a concert venue

SZA concert.

The SZA concert was an experience…I'm so glad I got to do it with my sister!

Friday On Friday I have no classes! Yes, that is right, I only have classes four days of the week. College does give you a lot of freedom to craft your schedule the way you want it to be. Even though I don’t have classes, I still try to get some work done. In the morning, I have a staff meeting for my job in the Admissions Office, where I work as a student coordinator for the Harvard First Generation Program. Afterward, I do some work and then head off to enjoy my day. The organization I mentioned earlier, CHAARG, has a weekly workout on Fridays with gyms all across the Boston/Cambridge area, so I usually hop on the T (our subway system) to explore new gyms. 

A group of people hanging and posing on a parkour gym

Weekly workouts with CHAARG.

One week, we went to a parkour studio and learned some cool new tricks! Parkour Generations Boston

Saturday & Sunday

My weekends are usually filled with club meetings, hanging out with friends around Boston, and relaxing from classes. I also host my office hours for Physical Sciences 11 on Sundays, so I'm helping students with the weekly homework assignment and answering any questions they may have from the lecture. Thanks for tuning into a week in my life!

A large group of students smiling for a photograph

A club meeting!

One of the clubs I'm in is called Latines in Health Careers! This was taken during a exec board dinner.

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Kathleen Class of '24

Hello! My name is Kathleen, and I’m a senior concentrating in Molecular and Cellular Biology on the pre-med track. I’m currently living in Mather House (the best house!), but growing up I lived in both the beautiful states of Montana and Texas

Kathleen, HFGP Coordinator

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Dear homesick international student at harvard college.

David Class of '25

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How I Chose to Study Abroad

Rafid Class of '25

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Harvard Through the Years: Reflections from my First Year to Senior Year

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  1. "Homework" in College

    harvard study on homework


    harvard study on homework

  3. Homework Support for Kids

    harvard study on homework

  4. How I Study as a Harvard Student 하버드생의 공부법

    harvard study on homework

  5. "Homework" in College

    harvard study on homework

  6. 2020 Summer Homework Questions

    harvard study on homework


  1. Are You Down With or Done With Homework?

    Some schools and districts have adapted time limits rather than nix homework completely, with the 10-minute per grade rule being the standard — 10 minutes a night for first-graders, 30 minutes for third-graders, and so on. (This remedy, however, is often met with mixed results since not all students work at the same pace.)

  2. "Homework" in College

    February 11, 2016. Share. Since coming to Harvard, I don't recall even once hearing the word "homework"—which is a pretty strange thing considering the role it played for the first 12 years of my education (spoiler alert: this doesn't mean that we don't have assignments and work to do). However, the type of work that's assigned in ...

  3. Study shows that students learn more when taking part ...

    And a new Harvard study suggests it may be important to let students know it. The study , published Sept. 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that, though students felt as if they learned more through traditional lectures, they actually learned more when taking part in classrooms that employed so-called active ...

  4. The Case for Homework

    The Case for Homework. Posted September 29, 2016. By Matt Weber. This fall, the start of the new school year seemingly brought with it a trend of teachers forgoing homework assignments in order to allow their students more time outside of school for family and play. A number of these announcements took off on social media, with many parents ...

  5. Homework Policy Still Going Strong

    Homework Policy Still Going Strong. Posted January 15, 2014. By Lory Hough. It's become one of those stories that has legs. Two years after we ran a feature story on whether schools should assign homework, we're still receiving letters to the editor and new tweets. On the Ed. site, the story has consistently been one of the most shared.

  6. PDF Online vs. Paper Homework: How Medium Affects Completion Rate

    Online homework presents many exciting opportunities for innovative assignment formats,4 increased student learning outcomes,1 greater targeted feedback,5 lower environmental impact,2 and more. However, before any of these benefits can be experienced, students must first actually be doing their homework. Previous studies in high school students ...

  7. Online vs. Paper: How Medium Affects Homework Completion Rate

    For students who struggle with paper organization, online platforms such as Google Classroom may provide a way to increase assignment turn-in rate. In this study, the homework completion rates of 170 9th grade students were measured over the course of two 6-week units in biology class: the first unit on paper, the second on Google Classroom.

  8. Virtual School: Tips and Tricks for Classes from Home

    Harvard College Admissions Office and Griffin Financial Aid Office. 86 Brattle Street ... Whether it be finishing that homework set or finally sending that email that you have been dreading for weeks, treat yourself! ... Although it looks a little different, recreating some of my favorite study spaces on campus has helped me get in the zone ...

  9. Homework At-A-Glance

    Determine whether students will complete homework individually or as a group . There are benefits to having individual assignments and group assignments. If you decide to have group work, encourage students to first work independently to test their own understanding before getting together with a study-group to work on the assignment.

  10. Peer Tutoring

    Peer Tutoring - Academic Resource Center. Peer Tutors can provide an extra layer of academic support for students by reviewing critical concepts and materials from class, clarifying points of confusion, and developing study strategies for upcoming exams. The Beverly J. Duran Peer Tutoring Program at the ARC is a limited resource, and the ...

  11. PDF Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research

    types of studies that help answer the general question of whether homework improves students' achievement. The first type of study compared achievement of students given homework assignments with students given no homework. In 20 studies conducted between 1962 and 1986, 14 produced effects favoring homework while 6 favored no homework.

  12. The Case for (Quality) Homework

    Harris M. Cooper of Duke University, the leading researcher on homework, has examined decades of study on what we know about the relationship between homework and scholastic achievement. He has proposed the "10-minute rule," suggesting that daily homework be limited to 10 minutes per grade level. ... Harvard Kennedy School 79 JFK Street ...

  13. Is Homework Good for Kids? Here's What the Research Says

    A TIME cover in 1999 read: "Too much homework! How it's hurting our kids, and what parents should do about it.". The accompanying story noted that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to a push ...

  14. The Problem with Grading

    Why? Because mathematically, with a -to-100 scale, failing a class is more likely than passing a class. Think about it. Each letter grade is 10 points — an A is 90-100, a B is 80- 89, a C is 70-79, and a D is 60-69 — but the scale's one failing grade, an F, spans not 10 points, but 60 (0 to 59).

  15. Harvard is Hard, but There's Support to Help

    During my first few weeks as a Harvard student, I came upon a realization - my preconceptions were true. Harvard is hard. This phrase became my new saying - with challenging multivariable calculus concepts, research papers and midterms coming up, my parents were asking how I was doing. Well, Harvard is hard, I would say with a smile.

  16. Research Trends: Why Homework Should Be Balanced

    Why Homework Should Be Balanced. Homework can boost learning, but doing too much can be detrimental. The National PTA and National Education Association support the "10-minute homework rule," which recommends 10 minutes of homework per grade level, per night (10 minutes for first grade, 20 minutes for second grade, and so on, up to two ...

  17. Harvard students put mental-health crisis in own words

    Harvard students put mental-health crisis in own words — Harvard Gazette. Spencer Carter (clockwise from top left), Emily Moore-Shrieves, Ottou Fouda, Campbell Rutherford, Helen Pang, Joey Bejjani, Josephine Elting, Sascha Pakravan, Madison Hussey, and Em Barnes. Photos by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer. Campus & Community.

  18. Homework Help for Reluctant Children

    In my experience, the theatricality of being timed helps relax children who would otherwise feel daunted by a mountain of homework. As each piece of work gets done, parents can add meaningful positive reinforcement. Exclaiming, "Another assignment done! And done well!" helps your child feel like what they are doing matters.

  19. PDF Homework Support for Kids

    Harvard Teaching and Learning Partnerships. SmartTALK Homework Support for Kids Authors Lisa Moellman, Ed.M. ... Homework Assistance & Out-of-School Time: Filling the Need, Finding the Balance (School-Age NOTES, 2001). ... • Have stronger study habits throughout their lives

  20. "Is Harvard Hard?" And Other Commonly Asked Work-Related Questions

    Yes, I believe that Harvard is a challenging academic environment. Of course some things will be easier for some students to grasp than others, but I think one of the great things about being here is that everyone pushes themselves to do their own personal best work. It is difficult but manageable, and there are tons of resources and support ...

  21. Student-AI Interaction: A Case Study of CS1 students

    The new capabilities of generative artificial intelligence tools Generative AI, such as ChatGPT, allow users to interact with the system in intuitive ways, such as simple conversations, and receive (mostly) good-quality answers. These systems can support students' learning objectives by providing accessible explanations and examples even with vague queries. At the same time, they can encourage ...

  22. Homework

    Determine whether students will complete homework individually or as a group There are benefits to having individual assignments and group assignments. If you decide to have group work, encourage students to first work independently to test their own understanding before getting together with a study-group to work on the assignment.

  23. Hidden Jewels: My Favorite Study Spots (Part 1)

    Study Spot View A gorgeous view to look at while doing homework There are a lot of great spaces on campus and these are just a few. At home, my favorite study spot has become the kitchen table because it provides enough space to spread out all my work but is also within easy reach of coffee and snacks - although I don't know if my roommates approve.

  24. Research: How Family Motivates People to Do Their Best Work

    Accelerate your career with Harvard ManageMentor®. HBR Learning's online leadership training helps you hone your skills with courses like Leading People. Earn badges to share on LinkedIn and ...

  25. A Week In The Life of a Harvard Student

    Classes at Harvard usually last an hour and 15 minutes, and they're typically held in the morning at 10:30 am and in the afternoon at 1:30 pm. From 12-1:30 pm, I usually am free for lunch, so I stop by my dorm or Annenberg to grab a quick bite. After classes, I usually head to Lamont Library to study for the rest of the evening!