Effective Homework Practices During COVID and Beyond

During this unique school year, students, educators, and families across the country are grappling with the challenges and stressors of doing school in a whole new, and largely unfamiliar way. Whether adapting to in-person school that looks wildly different, adjusting to a hybrid model that combines in-person with online learning, or settling in at home for an entirely remote experience, the definition of “homework” has likely shifted over the last six months. For the majority of kids, pretty much everything is homework right now.

Long before the pandemic hit, Challenge Success was hard at work updating our homework white paper, Quality Over Quantity: Elements of Effective Homework, to reflect the new peer-reviewed research that has emerged since the publication of our original paper in 2012. We were initially tempted to hold back these updated findings given the unprecedented and fluid educational landscape we are currently facing; but we realized it’s more important than ever to think critically and thoughtfully about the purpose of homework, especially given the blur between home and school and the educational inequities facing so many kids right now. Based on the research, we know that it is essential for student well-being that time spent doing work outside of a teacher-directed “classroom” is experienced by students as purposeful, meaningful, and engaging. 

The good news is that our original findings about homework continue to hold true based on the most recent research – especially in the current context. We know that:

  1. The amount of time spent on homework is not necessarily related to increased academic achievement in middle and high school, and there is no correlation at all between homework and achievement in elementary school (except for self-directed reading).


  2. When assigned, homework should be high quality and engaging.


  3. Too much homework may increase stress and interfere with sleep, downtime, family time, and other important activities that are critical to student well-being. Maintaining these protective activities is essential in a time when a variety of in-person social interactions are missing for kids.  

This new paper reviews the most current research on homework, highlights the elements of effective homework, and offers essential questions for both parents and educators to ask about how homework can be improved. We invite you to share Quality Over Quantity: Elements of Effective Homework with your school and professional communities and engage in dialogue about how homework practices can better support all students equitably during this time of online learning. Read recent coverage of our white paper in The Washington Post.  

Denise Pope, Ph.D., is a Co-Founder of Challenge Success and a Senior Lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, where she specializes in student engagement, curriculum studies, qualitative research methods, and service learning. She is the author of, “Doing School”: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students, and co-author of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids. Dr. Pope lectures nationally on parenting techniques and pedagogical strategies to increase student health, engagement with learning, and integrity.