As a teacher (of over 30 years) and a parent (for nearly 17) I have spent a lot of time setting, supervising, helping with and marking homework of varied types. I’m sure we have all groaned at the ‘project’ coming home and no doubt I am not the only person who has made last minute dashes to Spotlight or Officeworks for card, glue, paper and other ‘stuff’ my children have deemed absolutely crucial to the task at hand! There have been times I have questioned the validity of some tasks and others when I have been able to see immediately how useful the homework is. Teachers, parents and students all have their own opinions about homework (not necessarily based on fact), but what does the neuroscience say?

When students are learning in the classroom, they are using their short term or working memory. The information is constantly being updated during the lesson but when they leave the classroom the information in their working memory is replaced by the topic in the next class. Learning is more than just memorising facts though and students need to be able to apply and transfer their learning in different contexts. Key facts have to be transferred into long-term memory to be accessible for the student to use and apply elsewhere. Revising the key points from a lesson increases the likelihood of a student remembering and being able to use those skills in a variety of situations in the future, contributing to their overall education.

The link between homework and educational achievement is supported by research: a meta-analysis of studies between 1987 and 2003 found that: “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant.”

Six ways to maximise the benefit from homework:

  1. Have a clear and consistent homework schedule or routine
  2. Set up a quiet, homework friendly area with supplies readily available
  3. Keep distractions to a minimum – no phones, TV or other electronics
  4. Help your child forward plan: keep an eye on deadlines and backwards map their work with them, just one step at a time.
  5. If there are continuing problems with homework contact your child’s teacher and get help.
  6. If your child (especially in the earlier years of high school) says they have no homework, encourage a continuation of those good habits from primary school of reading, spelling practice and consolidation of maths facts. Encourage revision of key concepts across the subjects.


Oh and bulk buy card at Spotlight! Happy homework!

by Tracey Richmond, Head of Learning Support