Homework is not important for students

Early Education Online


The homework is unfair and completely out of date, says education journalist Armin Himmelrath, who studied teaching himself. If they are abolished, everyone benefits - even the teachers.

Early education online / didacta: Mr. Himmelrath, in your book “Homework - no thanks!” You advocate abolishing homework. Why?

Armin Himmelrath: I have a total of 36 years of homework experience with my three sons. They were different types of homework - one only did his homework every now and then, the other was hardworking and very reliable, and the third did next to nothing. However, these differences had no impact on performance. That's why I began to deal with the dogma of homework.

What do you mean by dogma?

There are things in the collective consciousness. This includes homework. In the first class, parents ask on the first day: “So, have you finished homework?” Sometimes they are disappointed when the children have not been given any on their first day of school. And even the children expect it as a matter of course. For me this is an indication of how naturally homework has been part of it for over half a millennium without being asked. The first homework ordinance I found is from 1448.

What did this regulation look like?

Students had to do work at home and learn Latin vocabulary. If they could do everything, they got sandwiches. If not, there was a beating. That's why I wonder how useful homework is. For 100 years now, we have been discussing in a scientifically sound manner about abolishing homework.

Does homework make sense?

Several scientific studies examined whether homework had a positive effect on learning

  • Tina Hascher and Franziska Bischof: Integrated and traditional homework in primary school - a comparison with regard to performance, workload and attitudes towards school
    Scientific evaluation of a multi-year trial in Switzerland in which one canton completely waived homework. In comparison with other students, it was found that students without homework felt less stressed and were more motivated than their peers who still have to do homework in the afternoon.
  • John Hatti: Making Education Visible
    Since its publication, Hattie's meta-study has been regarded as a textbook for evidence-based educational research. The author also takes into account studies on the learning effect of homework, the topic is only a marginal effect for him. Homework has only a very minor influence on learning success.
  • Jutta Standop: Homework at school: theory, research, didactic consequences
    A recent publication that sheds light on the role of homework in the context of the all-day school debate and raises the question of whether homework should not be better done in school.
  • Bernhard Wittmann: About the sense and nonsense of homework
    A 50-year-old study in which Wittmann examined the learning effect of homework and came to the conclusion that it does not exist.

What are the arguments in favor of it from a scientific point of view?

Children who do not have to do homework experience less stress in the family. And: you prefer to go to school. Studies in Switzerland have shown that the level of performance is not influenced by doing homework. Education researcher John Hattie, who determined the factors that determine the success of children in school, found that homework had a small, positive effect, but only in high school, where homework was done out of self-motivation. They don't do anything in elementary school. The only thing students learn through homework is to develop strategies not to get involved in homework control at the beginning of the lesson. So a kind of systemic intelligence.

In your opinion, what would be an alternative to follow up on the subject matter?

The trend is all day, schools are changing. This is where we can start: Tasks can be solved in class with the support of the teachers. This offers the opportunity to promote independent work, regardless of the home environment. In addition, peers can be formed from students and work collaboratively.

How do teachers react when they ask that homework be done away with?

Often times, teachers think at the beginning that teaching doesn't work without homework. But if I talk to them for three minutes, they'll agree with me. Correcting homework alone often takes up half the class time. In addition, the students do not receive any individual feedback that is due to them. When it comes to convincing, parents are the tougher.

Parents think they are incredibly competent when it comes to school. It's similar to the World Cup: There are 80 million national coaches and everyone thinks they know what line-up Germany will use to become world champions. In Switzerland it even went so far that parents in a canton where there was no more homework and the students were demonstrably just as successful at school as before, exerted public pressure to have homework reintroduced.

And what are their arguments?

The same things always come: Homework gives them the opportunity to see what children are doing, and it is important for the learning process. And: after all, homework is anchored in the curriculum and is internationally common.

But homework is not required.

No, teachers are free to choose whether or not to give homework. In a secondary school in Hanover, for example, teachers tried to give up homework on a volunteer basis. When homework was still compulsory, around half of the students did their work there. After they volunteered, no student did homework for the first two weeks. And then there was the big change: 75 percent of the students did it. This shows that it is good for students when the pressure is taken off them and homework is not perceived as a necessary evil.

First publication: didacta - the magazine for lifelong learning, issue 3/2018,
Pp. 60-67,

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From Early Education Online • 09/19/2018

Armin Himmelrath

Spiegel author Armin Himmelrath is a freelance education journalist and presenter. After completing his teaching degree, he works as a lecturer at several universities and has published books on educational topics.

Armin Himmelrath homework - no, thank you

Why we should say goodbye to homework as soon as possible, hep - the educational publisher, 2015, 147 pages, 16 euros

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