History Cooperative

The Homework Dilemma: Who Invented Homework?

The inventor of homework may be unknown, but its evolution reflects contributions from educators, philosophers, and students. Homework reinforces learning, fosters discipline, and prepares students for the future, spanning from ancient civilizations to modern education. Ongoing debates probe its balance, efficacy, equity, and accessibility, prompting innovative alternatives like project-based and personalized learning. As education evolves, the enigma of homework endures.

Table of Contents

Who Invented Homework?

While historical records don’t provide a definitive answer regarding the inventor of homework in the modern sense, two prominent figures, Roberto Nevelis of Venice and Horace Mann, are often linked to the concept’s early development.

Roberto Nevelis of Venice: A Mythical Innovator?

Roberto Nevelis, a Venetian educator from the 16th century, is frequently credited with the invention of homework. The story goes that Nevelis assigned tasks to his students outside regular classroom hours to reinforce their learning—a practice that aligns with the essence of homework. However, the historical evidence supporting Nevelis as the inventor of homework is rather elusive, leaving room for skepticism.

While Nevelis’s role remains somewhat mythical, his association with homework highlights the early recognition of the concept’s educational value.

Horace Mann: Shaping the American Educational Landscape

Horace Mann, often regarded as the “Father of American Education,” made significant contributions to the American public school system in the 19th century. Though he may not have single-handedly invented homework, his educational reforms played a crucial role in its widespread adoption.

Mann’s vision for education emphasized discipline and rigor, which included assigning tasks to be completed outside of the classroom. While he did not create homework in the traditional sense, his influence on the American education system paved the way for its integration.

The invention of homework was driven by several educational objectives. It aimed to reinforce classroom learning, ensuring knowledge retention and skill development. Homework also served as a means to promote self-discipline and responsibility among students, fostering valuable study habits and time management skills.

Why Was Homework Invented?

The invention of homework was not a random educational practice but rather a deliberate strategy with several essential objectives in mind.

Reinforcing Classroom Learning

Foremost among these objectives was the need to reinforce classroom learning. When students leave the classroom, the goal is for them to retain and apply the knowledge they have acquired during their lessons. Homework emerged as a powerful tool for achieving this goal. It provided students with a structured platform to revisit the day’s lessons, practice what they had learned, and solidify their understanding.

Homework assignments often mirrored classroom activities, allowing students to extend their learning beyond the confines of school hours. Through the repetition of exercises and tasks related to the curriculum, students could deepen their comprehension and mastery of various subjects.

Fostering Self-Discipline and Responsibility

Another significant objective behind the creation of homework was the promotion of self-discipline and responsibility among students. Education has always been about more than just the acquisition of knowledge; it also involves the development of life skills and habits that prepare individuals for future challenges.

By assigning tasks to be completed independently at home, educators aimed to instill valuable study habits and time management skills. Students were expected to take ownership of their learning, manage their time effectively, and meet deadlines—a set of skills that have enduring relevance in contemporary education and beyond.

Homework encouraged students to become proactive in their educational journey. It taught them the importance of accountability and the satisfaction of completing tasks on their own. These life skills would prove invaluable in their future endeavors, both academically and in the broader context of their lives.

When Was Homework Invented?

The roots of homework stretch deep into the annals of history, tracing its origins to ancient civilizations and early educational practices. While it has undergone significant evolution over the centuries, the concept of extending learning beyond the classroom has always been an integral part of education.

Earliest Origins of Homework and Early Educational Practices

The idea of homework, in its most rudimentary form, can be traced back to the earliest human civilizations. In ancient Egypt , for instance, students were tasked with hieroglyphic writing exercises. These exercises served as a precursor to modern homework, as they required students to practice and reinforce their understanding of written language—an essential skill for communication and record-keeping in that era.

In ancient Greece , luminaries like Plato and Aristotle advocated for the use of written exercises as a tool for intellectual development. They recognized the value of practice in enhancing one’s knowledge and skills, laying the foundation for a more systematic approach to homework.

The ancient Romans also played a pivotal role in the early development of homework. Young Roman students were expected to complete assignments at home, with a particular focus on subjects like mathematics and literature. These assignments were designed to consolidate their classroom learning, emphasizing the importance of practice in mastering various disciplines.

READ MORE: Who Invented Math? The History of Mathematics

The practice of assigning work to be done outside of regular school hours continued to evolve through various historical periods. As societies advanced, so did the complexity and diversity of homework tasks, reflecting the changing needs and priorities of education.

The Influence of Educational Philosophers

While the roots of homework extend to ancient times, the ideas of renowned educational philosophers in later centuries further contributed to its development. John Locke, an influential thinker of the Enlightenment era, believed in a gradual and cumulative approach to learning. He emphasized the importance of students revisiting topics through repetition and practice, a concept that aligns with the principles of homework.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, another prominent philosopher, stressed the significance of self-directed learning. Rousseau’s ideas encouraged the development of independent study habits and a personalized approach to education—a philosophy that resonates with modern concepts of homework.

Homework in the American Public School System

The American public school system has played a pivotal role in the widespread adoption and popularization of homework. To understand the significance of homework in modern education, it’s essential to delve into its history and evolution within the United States.

History and Evolution of Homework in the United States

The late 19th century marked a significant turning point for homework in the United States. During this period, influenced by educational reforms and the growing need for standardized curricula, homework assignments began to gain prominence in American schools.

Educational reformers and policymakers recognized the value of homework as a tool for reinforcing classroom learning. They believed that assigning tasks for students to complete outside of regular school hours would help ensure that knowledge was retained and skills were honed. This approach aligned with the broader trends in education at the time, which aimed to provide a more structured and systematic approach to learning.

As the American public school system continued to evolve, homework assignments became a common practice in classrooms across the nation. The standardization of curricula and the formalization of education contributed to the integration of homework into the learning process. This marked a significant departure from earlier educational practices, reflecting a shift toward more structured and comprehensive learning experiences.

The incorporation of homework into the American education system not only reinforced classroom learning but also fostered self-discipline and responsibility among students. It encouraged them to take ownership of their educational journey and develop valuable study habits and time management skills—a legacy that continues to influence modern pedagogy.

Controversies Around Homework

Despite its longstanding presence in education, homework has not been immune to controversy and debate. While many view it as a valuable educational tool, others question its effectiveness and impact on students’ well-being.

The Homework Debate

One of the central controversies revolves around the amount of homework assigned to students. Critics argue that excessive homework loads can lead to stress, sleep deprivation, and a lack of free time for students. The debate often centers on striking the right balance between homework and other aspects of a student’s life, including extracurricular activities, family time, and rest.

Homework’s Efficacy

Another contentious issue pertains to the efficacy of homework in enhancing learning outcomes. Some studies suggest that moderate amounts of homework can reinforce classroom learning and improve academic performance. However, others question whether all homework assignments contribute equally to learning or whether some may be more beneficial than others. The effectiveness of homework can vary depending on factors such as the student’s grade level, the subject matter, and the quality of the assignment.

Equity and Accessibility

Homework can also raise concerns related to equity and accessibility. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds may have limited access to resources and support at home, potentially putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to completing homework assignments. This disparity has prompted discussions about the role of homework in perpetuating educational inequalities and how schools can address these disparities.

Alternative Approaches to Learning

In response to the controversies surrounding homework, educators and researchers have explored alternative approaches to learning. These approaches aim to strike a balance between reinforcing classroom learning and promoting holistic student well-being. Some alternatives include:

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning emphasizes hands-on, collaborative projects that allow students to apply their knowledge to real-world problems. This approach shifts the focus from traditional homework assignments to engaging, practical learning experiences.

Flipped Classrooms

Flipped classrooms reverse the traditional teaching model. Students learn new material at home through video lectures or readings and then use class time for interactive discussions and activities. This approach reduces the need for traditional homework while promoting active learning.

Personalized Learning

Personalized learning tailors instruction to individual students’ needs, allowing them to progress at their own pace. This approach minimizes the need for one-size-fits-all homework assignments and instead focuses on targeted learning experiences.

The Ongoing Conversation

The controversies surrounding homework highlight the need for an ongoing conversation about its role in education. Striking the right balance between reinforcing learning and addressing students’ well-being remains a complex challenge. As educators, parents, and researchers continue to explore innovative approaches to learning, the role of homework in the modern educational landscape continues to evolve. Ultimately, the goal is to provide students with the most effective and equitable learning experiences possible.

Unpacking the Homework Enigma

Homework, without a single inventor, has evolved through educators, philosophers, and students. It reinforces learning, fosters discipline and prepares students. From ancient times to modern education, it upholds timeless values. Yet, controversies arise—debates on balance, efficacy, equity, and accessibility persist. Innovative alternatives like project-based and personalized learning emerge. Homework’s role evolves with education.

How to Cite this Article

There are three different ways you can cite this article.

1. To cite this article in an academic-style article or paper , use:

<a href=" https://historycooperative.org/who-invented-homework/ ">The Homework Dilemma: Who Invented Homework?</a>

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Stack Exchange Network

Stack Exchange network consists of 183 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow , the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.

Q&A for work

Connect and share knowledge within a single location that is structured and easy to search.

Is Roberto Nevilis the inventor of homework?

There is a claim that Roberto Nevilis invented homework in 1905 (sic). And it doesn't seem to be a recent meme - there are tons of pics for this meme claiming:

who made homework not a punishment

The person who invented homework was an Italian teacher named Roberto Nevilis. He invented Howework (sic) in 1905 (sic) as a punishment for his sutdents. (sic)

To what extent is this claim true?

Brythan's user avatar

  • 3 Makes me sic just thinking about it. –  Daniel R Hicks Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 1:45

No. Homework was around before 1905 :

In 1901, the California legislature passed an act that effectively abolished homework

So homework was around in 1901, which is before 1905.

I think you mean 1095.

A lot of websites seem to claim this, but the only ones that actually reference their source direct to Wiki Answers .

Scientists believed that Roberto Nevilis from Italy started homework in 1095. He was a school teacher in Venice.

This seems a little dodgy for a few reasons:

"Scientists believed" - surely it would be Historians? What Science is being done to determine it here? And why is it believed not believe? It seems a little made up.

"Roberto Nevilis" - there is nothing online about him except for sources similar to Wiki Answers (which I wouldn't say counts as a source). Roberto is an Italian name, but Nevilis seems to be made up. I checked with a number of Last Name sites, and only one found this surname , from a single person in the USA.

This seems to be getting more and more terse.

Now, education in Italy in 1095 was probably very minimal. In 1095 the Pope was organising the first crusade , and an organised education system wasn't created untill 1859 . While it is likely that there was some schooling ( based on English History ) there was very little:

Education was still largely about vocational training and most pupils were still intending monks or priests, though 'there was probably an occasional extension, and there are certainly some recorded cases of the education of young members of royal and noble families'.

Note that the Romans did have schools, but by 1095, the Roman empire had well and truly fallen .

So it is likely that there was education, but probably not schools in the same way. Instead, nobility would have been taught in their homes, by tutors :

Henry VIII's education benefited from the instruction of many tutors

So there would have been little concept of homework from that time because all work was done at home.

The idea that homework was invented because of the expense of the presence of tutors also falls down here - royals typically have a lot of money .

Finally, there is a photograph attached to the quote. The image is of Burritt Haynes ( found on this reverse image search ), and he is from Winneshiek County, Iowa. So not even Italian. Also, it's a photograph. Not a painting.

So, I doubt the claim made here.

Tim's user avatar

  • 5 "but by 1095, the Roman empire had well and truly fallen" - however, the Byzantine empire was still alive (the eastern half of the Roman empire), although I'm not sure that they had schooling. Although, I would bet that the Middle East & Asia had proper schooling before Europe. –  hichris123 Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 0:41
  • 9 That's a pretty good photograph for 1095! –  GEdgar Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 20:19
  • 3 The last name site you linked isn't 100% reliable. I've looked up my own last name on it (It's uncommon, only around 30 people have it) and there was no results. Most likely because no kid of this name was born since 1995. So rare or "extinct" surnames may not appear on this kind of sites at all. –  Babika Babaka Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 7:35
  • 1 @Tim I don't see the connection between calling for a crusade and not having good education. Also note that Henry VIII's education happened about 400 years after 1095, so I don't really see the connection there. Also, there were both Cathedral Schools and Monastic Schools all over Europe, both of which would have been likely to contain Italians at pretty much any point in time. They weren't primary education, but that doesn't really conflict the idea of homework as punishment. –  sgf Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 9:17
  • 5 @Communisty Actually, the question is asking about 1905 (and it mentions it multiple times). Please be careful before you edit. –  Tim Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 15:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for browse other questions tagged education ..

  • Featured on Meta
  • Site maintenance - Tuesday, July 23rd 2024, 8 PM - Midnight EST (3 AM - 7 AM...
  • Announcing a change to the data-dump process
  • Upcoming initiatives on Stack Overflow and across the Stack Exchange network...

Hot Network Questions

  • Looking for title about time traveler finding empty cities and dying human civilization
  • Has D. Trump mentioned whether he'd be willing to debate K. Harris?
  • Integration of derivatives
  • Trump’s use of the term deportation
  • The shortest way from A1 to B1
  • Why are the categories of category theory called "category"?
  • Solving a generalised eigenvalue problem with non-square matrices
  • Whence comes the expression ‘’starve a cold, feed a fever?”
  • Sobolev spaces are smooth? Their dual is strictly convex?
  • Passphrase generator using German word list and Python's "secrets.choice()" to select from the list. Are those strong passphrases?
  • What is the maximum number of people who speak only 1 language?
  • On a trigonometric inequality by Huygens
  • Matrix multiplication notation in Hayashi Econometrics
  • How do I rotate curved text 90 degrees around the face of a coin?
  • What is equivalent of Peano axioms for Real numbers?
  • Diagonal ice tunneling rover to reach a safe pressure in Mars?
  • Tiny worms in blackberries
  • How can the diode conduct in negative half cycle of AC signal in clamper circuit?
  • Overflows and underflows in Python
  • Probability for a random variable to exceed its expectation
  • Particles and fields
  • Event viewer showing 'logon' events, even when I'm currently using that PC
  • ESTA and dual Canadian/ EU citizenship
  • What is this huge mosquito looking insect?

who made homework not a punishment

Market Business News

Busting the Myth of Roberto Nevilis – Who Actually Invented Homework?

Homework is an indispensable piece of the instructive procedure in the American education system. It makes learning simpler and progressively powerful. However, all of us who have attended classes in an educational institute remember the frustration of hearing the word homework from our teacher’s mouth. Before the end of the class, we would be instructed to write an essay or answer a few questions on what we had just been taught.

Roberto Nevilis - who many incorrectly say invented homework - image 4444

I am sure many students must have been curious enough to try and find out which genius came up with the idea of homework. A student would have probably looked it up while struggling with a particular homework assignment. Who was it who believed that homework would magically transform the educational system overnight?

The search would have come with a man named Roberto Nevellis who invented homework to punish his students who did not perform at par with the others. But like many other things on the internet, this isn’t a fact. Thankfully students looking to master a subject, or require online homework help can connect with online tutors and homework help services.

Who was Roberto Nevilis?

There isn’t a single credible website or a news article about this man who changed the educational system all over the world. According to a lot of websites, Nevilis was a teacher in Venice and allegedly invented homework as a means of punishing students who did not perform well in class. Some sites claim the year was 1095 while others claim it was 1905.

Neither of these can a possibility. In the year 1095, there was no formal system of education in and around Europe. It was a time when Pope Urban II had just started preaching the First Crusade after the Byzantium delegation asked for his help against the Turks. I am sure Mr. Nevilis would have found it very hard to teach a class during those times, let alone hand out homework. Even in the year 1500, private tutors were employed to teach the English nobility.

It could not have been 1905 either because 4 years before that, in 1901, the state of California passed an act to ban homework for any child studying below the 8th grade. The law was passed because during that period homework was frowned upon by parents. They felt that homework interfered with a child’s time for house chores. Sweet times, right? Anyway, Mr. Nevilis couldn’t have been spreading the idea of homework telepathically before he started practicing it himself.

Ancient Education

Historically homework existed in one form or another ever since the inception of education in the earliest civilizations. Singing, poetry, playing instruments, even the study of the bible required reading and practice at home. In ancient times only the wealthy were educated because all the teachers taught privately.

The rest of the society was busy with making a living. The earliest evidence of education in formal settings comes from the Sumerian civilization. In the Sumerian society, schools were called Edubas where scribes learned how to read and write on cuneiform or clay tablets. However archaeological evidence only found the exercises etched in the tablets. There are no inscriptions about the educational system.

Father of the Homework System

While the label of homework inventor cannot be pinned on one person, Johann Gottlieb Fichte can be called the father of the modern homework system. Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher and known to be the founding father of German nationalism. In the year 1814, the people of Prussia had lost their sense of nationalism. They are choosing to go back to their livelihood instead of serving the country after the war.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte came up with the concept of Volksschule and Realschule. Volksschule was a mandatory education system of nine years which was similar to primary and lower secondary school. Realschule was a secondary school system reserved for the aristocrats. Homework was a part of Volkschule to demonstrate the nation’s power on common people and stir up a sense of nationalism.

This system was slowly adopted all over Europe, although some countries like Finland continued with their system of education and refused to impose homework on the students. In 1843, Horace Mann , the secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education then, went to Europe and visited the schools in Prussia. On his return, he presented his findings in the seventh annual reports of the board. These reports were reprinted all over the United States and led to the reform of the American educational system.

_______________________________________________________________

Interesting related article: “ Top schools to study business .”

Share this:

  • Renewable Energy
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • 3D Printing
  • Financial Glossary

Get the Reddit app

A community for asking whether programs, products, or services are legitimate.

IsItBullshit: the concept of homework was originally created by a teacher as a method of punishing their students

Heard this from someone a while back.

By continuing, you agree to our User Agreement and acknowledge that you understand the Privacy Policy .

Enter the 6-digit code from your authenticator app

You’ve set up two-factor authentication for this account.

Enter a 6-digit backup code

Create your username and password.

Reddit is anonymous, so your username is what you’ll go by here. Choose wisely—because once you get a name, you can’t change it.

Reset your password

Enter your email address or username and we’ll send you a link to reset your password

Check your inbox

An email with a link to reset your password was sent to the email address associated with your account

Choose a Reddit account to continue

The Surprising History of Homework Reform

Really, kids, there was a time when lots of grownups thought homework was bad for you.

Boy sitting at desk with book

Homework causes a lot of fights. Between parents and kids, sure. But also, as education scholar Brian Gill and historian Steven Schlossman write, among U.S. educators. For more than a century, they’ve been debating how, and whether, kids should do schoolwork at home .

JSTOR Daily Membership Ad

At the dawn of the twentieth century, homework meant memorizing lists of facts which could then be recited to the teacher the next day. The rising progressive education movement despised that approach. These educators advocated classrooms free from recitation. Instead, they wanted students to learn by doing. To most, homework had no place in this sort of system.

Through the middle of the century, Gill and Schlossman write, this seemed like common sense to most progressives. And they got their way in many schools—at least at the elementary level. Many districts abolished homework for K–6 classes, and almost all of them eliminated it for students below fourth grade.

By the 1950s, many educators roundly condemned drills, like practicing spelling words and arithmetic problems. In 1963, Helen Heffernan, chief of California’s Bureau of Elementary Education, definitively stated that “No teacher aware of recent theories could advocate such meaningless homework assignments as pages of repetitive computation in arithmetic. Such an assignment not only kills time but kills the child’s creative urge to intellectual activity.”

But, the authors note, not all reformers wanted to eliminate homework entirely. Some educators reconfigured the concept, suggesting supplemental reading or having students do projects based in their own interests. One teacher proposed “homework” consisting of after-school “field trips to the woods, factories, museums, libraries, art galleries.” In 1937, Carleton Washburne, an influential educator who was the superintendent of the Winnetka, Illinois, schools, proposed a homework regimen of “cooking and sewing…meal planning…budgeting, home repairs, interior decorating, and family relationships.”

Another reformer explained that “at first homework had as its purpose one thing—to prepare the next day’s lessons. Its purpose now is to prepare the children for fuller living through a new type of creative and recreational homework.”

That idea didn’t necessarily appeal to all educators. But moderation in the use of traditional homework became the norm.

Weekly Newsletter

Get your fix of JSTOR Daily’s best stories in your inbox each Thursday.

Privacy Policy   Contact Us You may unsubscribe at any time by clicking on the provided link on any marketing message.

“Virtually all commentators on homework in the postwar years would have agreed with the sentiment expressed in the NEA Journal in 1952 that ‘it would be absurd to demand homework in the first grade or to denounce it as useless in the eighth grade and in high school,’” Gill and Schlossman write.

That remained more or less true until 1983, when publication of the landmark government report A Nation at Risk helped jump-start a conservative “back to basics” agenda, including an emphasis on drill-style homework. In the decades since, continuing “reforms” like high-stakes testing, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Common Core standards have kept pressure on schools. Which is why twenty-first-century first graders get spelling words and pages of arithmetic.

Support JSTOR Daily! Join our new membership program on Patreon today.

JSTOR logo

JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students. JSTOR Daily readers can access the original research behind our articles for free on JSTOR.

Get Our Newsletter

More stories.

Peer review illustration

  • The History of Peer Review Is More Interesting Than You Think

who made homework not a punishment

Brunei: A Tale of Soil and Oil

Digital generated image of futuristic cubes connecting.

Why Architects Need Philosophy to Guide the AI Design Revolution

An image of Sonya Pritzker beside the cover of her book, Learning to Love

Inside China’s Psychoboom

Recent posts.

  • How Keanu Reeves Radically Rescripts Race
  • Geishas for Enlightened Motherhood
  • Alexander Calder, Sculptor
  • Abraham Lincoln’s Labor Theory of Value

Support JSTOR Daily

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Study.com

In order to continue enjoying our site, we ask that you confirm your identity as a human. Thank you very much for your cooperation.

Who Invented Homework, and Why Was Homework Invented? Let’s Explore!

Janna Smith

If you are or have ever been a student, you have probably asked this question multiple times, and it hardly was to thank the person who invented homework personally. We all know that feeling all too well—the deadline is looming, you’re staring at a blank page, and there isn’t a single viable idea in your head.

Sounds familiar? Then you’re likely curious to investigate the history of homework and the cruel, cruel people who stand behind this centuries-old tradition. It’s quite fascinating, actually, and you will most certainly be surprised at how long and turbulent the history of giving learners homework is.

When, How, Why, and Who Invented Homework

To answer the question of who the title of the inventor of homework belongs to, we will have to go all the way back to the first century, then jump to eighteenth-century Europe, and finally move domestically to explore the trials and errors of the homework tradition in the U.S.

Some of the names we will address here include:

  • Pliny the Younger —The Roman lawyer and author credited with the “invention” of homework,
  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte —The German philosopher who developed the ideological justification of homework,
  • Horace Mann —The first known American educator who made homework the norm in the U.S., and more.

Let’s dive in.

Who Created Homework and Why—How Everything Started

So, who started homework? The simplistic answer would be the Roman lawyer Pliny the Younger, who we’ll discuss in more detail below. However, it’s not that simple. It never is when it comes to homework, a tradition that could have existed long before it was linked to any historical artifacts and, therefore, lost to history.

After all, as much as almost every student despises homework, its number one purpose (or, at least, what we perceive as its number one purpose today) is self-evident. Most teachers genuinely care about their learners’ progress and academic achievements, so it’s no wonder they give home assignments to help students improve their learning.

As a result, it’s no wonder students are looking for an EssayPro review or WritePapers review to find someone reputable who can help them cope with loads of homework.

However, as you will soon find out, making progress in learning is only one of the many homework goals. Historically, it hasn’t even always been the most important one. Societal events, dominant philosophical schools, and individual educational reformers have always affected the mainstream view of homework and its perceived functions.

We invite you to join us on a journey through centuries (and then back again), where we will try to understand the origins, evolution, and current state of the homework tradition. If nothing else, you might have a chance to impress your friends at a trivia night.

Pliny the Younger

Have you already thought of the Roman Empire this week? If not, now’s your chance. The first name historians come across when looking for the origins of homework is Pliny the Younger, a Roman magistrate, lawyer, and brilliant orator in the first century A.D.

Pliny the Younger had students like many other distinguished authors and public speakers in Rome. He taught rhetoric and public speaking and—you guessed it—tasked his students with practicing their speech composing and public speaking skills even outside his classes. Also, Pliny actively encouraged them to put their newly acquired skills to practice in appropriate settings.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Here comes a huge time jump—to eighteenth-century Germany. Sure, homework probably existed between the Roman times and the eighteenth century. However, nothing groundbreaking happened to it during all those centuries, so there’s no point in retelling every little step.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher in post-Napoleon Europe who advocated for a uniform national education system, similar to other voices of German idealism. He emphasized that teaching the youth was as much about instilling a sense of national identity in them as teaching them traditional disciplines. For Fichte, homework was one of the strategies for achieving that.

Horace Mann

At this point, you might wonder, “What about the U.S.?” Well, the title of the pioneer of homework in the New World belongs to Horace Mann, otherwise known as “the father of the American public school system.” In the nineteenth century, education for children was still not compulsory, and Mann advocated for changing that.

Mann was the first educator to emphasize the role of parents in every child’s learning journey. He believed homework could reinforce the lessons taught in school, teach the youth self-discipline and improve their relationships with parents. He added a new layer to why homework was invented and made mainstream.

Roberto Nevilis: What Was His Role in the Origins of Homework?

The first thing you need to know about Roberto Nevilis is that he didn’t exist. A popular myth suggests that Nevilis invented homework at the beginning of the twentieth century as a form of punishment for students who didn’t work hard enough in class. That’s completely untrue.

Here are a few facts about Roberto Nevilis. According to the legend, Roberto Nevilis was an Italian teacher who lived at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century in Venice, Italy. He was supposedly the first educator to give homework to his students, which allegedly happened in 1905. If you look up his (more or less fictional) “story” online, you will find that he initially only gave home assignments to students who failed to understand the material in class or weren’t diligent enough.

Why did Roberto Nevilis create homework? As you can probably guess by now, the more accurate question would be, “Why would someone bother to invent the person named Roberto Nevilis and credit this semi-fictional character with inventing homework?” Sadly, though, there’s no clear answer. Whoever did this wanted students or the general public to believe that the number one purpose of homework was punishment for poor performance. That’s not the case.

Was the History of Homework in the United States Any Different?

Now, let’s move beyond Horace Mann’s name and explore homework history in the Americas or, more specifically, the U.S. One of the first questions people curious about the topic ask is, “What year was homework invented in the United States?” There’s no straightforward answer to this, either. All we know is that homework started becoming a standard practice somewhere on the cusp of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—largely thanks to Mann’s effort.

The U.S. wasn’t any different from other countries in that the mainstream views on homework evolved with societal norms (which, in turn, shaped educational priorities). For example, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the idea became more or less universal: homework promoted students’ growth beyond learning the material taught in class. Educators believed it was also helpful for building character and applying the knowledge gained in practical contexts.

However, the beginning of the twentieth century was also when the progressive education movement grew increasingly popular. Among other things, its proponents advocated against homework because they believed that it contracted the fundamentals of child-centered learning. The opposing views on giving home assignments coexisted side by side; to an extent, they still do.

The Ban on Homework in the 1900s

The 1900s was the first time in American history since homework origin when it became very popular to reject the need for homework. The progressive movement grew more influential by the day, eventually culminating in the homework ban.

From being the underdogs of sorts, homework’s progressive critics turned into the loudest voice in the education system, and their demands were eventually met, albeit not everywhere.

Their arguments were straightforward and understandable, at least to an extent. They claimed that homework got in the way of students’ socializing after school hours, interfered with the family dynamics, and strained students’ physical and mental health.

The Need for Children’s Domestic Labor in the 1930s

The 1930s wasn’t a good time for the first homework advocates. This was when the Great Depression hit the U.S. severely and put the economic crisis at the forefront of basically everything happening in the country, including education.

More and more parents came forward demanding the end of homework because they needed their children to help at home—be it with domestic labor, farming, or anything else.

Parents’ demands were fruitful. The educational practices of the 1930s stemmed from the idea that outside of school hours, students should be able to focus on their lives at home without the additional burden of homework.

The Post-World War II Shift in the Views on Homework

The situation changed drastically after World War II. If you’re wondering how old is homework the way we know it today, that’s when it started.

First, the nation was thriving economically, which made it possible to focus on the importance of education. Also, as the Cold War started, the value of education became more apparent than ever. The U.S. needed well-educated citizens who could contribute to technological advancements and effectively protect the nation’s security.

For example, when the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, one of the main debates in the American media was about young people’s readiness to remain competitive on a global scale.

How Homework Looks for American Children in the 21st Century

who made homework not a punishment

Today, we can still see some of the dilemmas surrounding the topic over a century ago. For example, there are two clear camps: educators who believe homework is necessary for academic achievement and their colleagues who don’t think that to become a well-rounded and successful individual, a child must spend hours daily completing home assignments.

Still, the most popular view is quite well-balanced. The main idea behind that is maximizing the educational benefits of homework while minimizing its potential drawbacks. This implies setting reasonable limits on the amount of homework, designing meaningful assignments, and prioritizing students’ holistic development.

Otherwise, being overloaded with homework often leads students to search for an EssayPro promo code to hire expert academic helpers without breaking the bank. Many view it as the only way to have proper rest.

What’s the Purpose of Homework?

Even a child knows the number one reason they must do their homework (even if they don’t necessarily agree). Obviously, the main purpose of homework is to help students better digest the material they learn in class.

But that’s not the only one. Other goals of homework include:

  • To teach students how to work independently and think critically;
  • To motivate students to prepare for upcoming lessons (thus making the teacher’s job a little easier);
  • To encourage responsibility and organization;
  • To cultivate collaboration skills (via group assignments);
  • To strengthen the child-parent bond, and more.

What’s the Impact of Homework on the Quality of Education

So, how does homework improve the quality of education?

  • Promotes understanding and reflection.
  • Improves study habits and time management.
  • Makes it possible for teachers to give anonymous and personalized feedback to each student.
  • Prepares students for standardized assessments (such as SATs).
  • Supports diverse learning needs.

The Pros of Homework

The complete list of the advantages of homework would be too long to include here, but here are some of the undeniable benefits of giving the students at least some work to do at home:

✅ Reinforces learning

✅ Promotes independent learning

✅ Develops positive study habits

✅ Increases retention

✅ Facilitates parental involvement

✅ Enables customized learning, and so on.

who made homework not a punishment

The Cons of Homework

At the same time, even the most adamant proponents of homework recognize that the tradition does have its flaws. The drawbacks of homework include the following:

❌ Causes extra stress and anxiety

❌ Gets in the way of students’ relationships with family members and social lives

❌ Might get in the way of healthy extracurricular activities, such as sports

❌ Creates additional pressure on teachers.

Who made homework a thing?

Why was homework invented have the reasons changed since then, is homework really necessary for effective learning, when was homework first invented did it look the same, how does homework look today who writes the rules.

As you can see, homework history—both in the U.S. and worldwide—has been quite turbulent. Much to today’s students’ envy, there were times when it was illegal, at least in some places.

However, now is not one of those periods. While some non-mainstream educational systems and paradigms deny the need for homework, most educators believe that the benefits of homework outweigh its flaws. The key is to design genuinely stimulating and engaging assignments and avoid overdoing things. Students should be able to relax after school hours without the risk of falling behind.

If you ask an average teacher these days, they will probably tell you that the optimal amount of homework per week is roughly 7-10 hours. That’s enough to practice what was learned in class and engage with the material critically. At the same time, it’s not too much, so the risks of causing students extra stress and harming their social lives are very unlikely.

What matters the most is not how much homework a teacher gives but how creative and stimulating the assignments are. Ideally, students should be excited to complete them.

who made homework not a punishment

You Might Also Be Interested In

who made homework not a punishment

CLJ

Home » College Of William & Mary » Why Was Homework Invented?

Why Was Homework Invented?

Table of Contents

In 1905, an Italian teacher named Roberto Nevilis invented the concept of “homework.” Originally, its purpose was to be used as a punishment for students who were lazy in class or for those who were disobedient or rude to their teacher . This practice became popular and became more frequently used around the world.

Who came up with homework and why?

An Italian pedagog Roberto Nevilis is considered the real “inventor” of homework. He was the person who invented homework in far 1905 and made it a punishment to his students. Since time when was homework invented, this practice has become popular around the world.

Who was the first person to get homework?

Roberto Nevelis of Venice, Italy, is often credited with having invented homework in 1095—or 1905, depending on your sources.

Is homework a waste of time?

Homework is taking up a large chunk of their time, too — around 15-plus hours a week, with about one-third of teens reporting that it’s closer to 20-plus hours. The stress and excessive homework adds up to lost sleep , the BSC says.

Was homework meant to be a punishment?

Does homework actually help.

Homework helps to reinforce classroom learning, while developing good study habits and life skills . Students typically retain only 50% of the information teachers provide in class, and they need to apply that information in order to truly learn it.

Is California banning homework?

In the early 1900s, Ladies’ Home Journal took up a crusade against homework, enlisting doctors and parents who say it damages children’s health. In 1901 California passed a law abolishing homework !

What does homework stand for?

Half Of My energy Wasted On Random Knowledge Product Description. Homework stands for “ Half Of My energy Wasted On Random Knowledge “.

How do I stop stressing my grades?

Stop stressing about your college grades and do these fun things instead

  • Set milestones and rewards. Source: Giphy.
  • Sleep more. Snuggle in.
  • Play sports. Sweat out those frustrations!
  • Join a club or fraternity. Your stress could be owed to a lack of outlets to unload.
  • Hang out with your friends. An alternative form of therapy.

Should homework be banned?

Homework in elementary school has not been shown to lead to better achievement in school . And too much homework in the higher grades can lead to worsening grades and increased mental and physical issues. So it’s important to be mindful of how much time your child is spending on it each day.

Is 3 hours of homework too much?

That study, published in The Journal of Experimental Education, suggested that any more than two hours of homework per night is counterproductive. However, students who participated in the study reported doing slightly more than three hours of homework each night, on average .

What country gives no homework?

The truth is that there is nearly no homework in the country with one of the top education systems in the world. Finnish people believe that besides homework, there are many more things that can improve child’s performance in school, such as having dinner with their families, exercising or getting a good night’s sleep.

Who created school?

Horace Mann Horace Mann is considered as the inventor of the concept of school. He was born in 1796 and later became Secretary of Education in Massachusetts. He was a pioneer in bringing educational reforms into society.

Does homework cause depression?

However, when homework exceeds, it affects their emotional well-being making them sad and unproductive students who would rather cheat their way through school . Studies documented in the Journal of Experimental Education conclude that homework that exceeds two hours is counterproductive to the health of students.

Who made homework a daily thing?

Going back in time, we see that homework was invented by Roberto Nevilis , an Italian pedagog. The idea behind homework was simple. As a teacher, Nevilis felt that his teachings lost essence when they left the class.

How much homework is too much?

How much is too much? According to the National PTA and the National Education Association, students should only be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level . But teens are doing a lot more than that, according to a poll of high school students by the organization Statistic Brain.

Does homework affect sleep?

Too much homework can result in lack of sleep , headaches, exhaustion, and weight loss”. Similarly, Stanford Medicine News Center reports that the founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic stated, “’I think high school is the real danger spot in terms of sleep deprivation,’ said William Dement, MD, Ph.

Why should teachers not give homework?

Studies have also shown that too much homework can be very unhealthy, making students feel stressed and burnt out . Most teachers give about 1-2 pages of homework which may not seem like a lot but when you add them up it can easily overwhelm a student.

Is homework illegal in the UK?

There have even been subsequent questions about its legal status. Just to be clear: schools are not obliged to set homework, and some don’t . But when schools do set homework, children do need to do it.

Is homework illegal in Canada?

In Canada, some teachers have no-homework policies and a few schools have banned it outright .

Is a homework illegal?

Homework is legal in all US states as there are no state laws banning them . However, schools in different states are free to have their own rules about homework. Some states where some schools (or districts) have banned or limited homework include: Utah.

Avatar photo

By Edmund Duncan

Edmund Duncan is an education expert and thought leader in the field of learning. He has dedicated his life to helping students achieve their full potential in the classroom and beyond.

Edmund's work as a teacher, administrator, and researcher has given him a unique perspective on how students learn and what educators can do to foster a love of learning in their students. He is passionate about sharing this knowledge with others, and he frequently speaks at education conferences around the world.

When Edmund isn't working or speaking, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends. He loves traveling and exploring new places, and he is an avid reader who loves learning about new cultures and customs.

You might also like:

Is william and mary a dry campus, is william and mary for rich kids, is william and mary the oldest college in america.

  • Best Essay Writing Services

Posted by Diana B.

The History of Homework

Is homework a punishment? It sure seems like it at times! When you consider the facts, you’ll understand why. If you’re interested in learning more about the origin of home assignments along with other interesting facts, keep reading!

When and Why Was Homework Invented

You may wonder who was the first person to give homework. It turns out those are two different people. If you live in the United States, you can thank Horace Mann for your school system. Of course, education goes back much further than that. In fact, school systems existed in Ancient Europe, The Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, in Africa, the Far East, etc. Essentially, as long as there have been people living communally, education has happened.

Now, when it comes to who invented school homework, that credit goes to an Italian teacher Roberto Nevilis. He assigned work for his students to take home as a punishment. So, the answer to the question, ‘was homework invented as a punishment?’ is yes! Although the true story is probably a bit more complex. The idea of sending work home for students is something that teachers likely did out of necessity even before Roberto Nevilis. However, he may have been the first one to make it punitive.

Homework and Schools

Now that you know who invented homework and school let’s consider its pros and cons. Schools give information about homework for a variety of reasons. Some of these are more valid than others. Let’s start with the good reasons first!

  • It helps students further their mastery of topics.
  • Some schoolwork is about memorization. Home practice helps with this.
  • It keeps parents in tune with their child’s progress and struggles.
  • Kids benefit from spending a small amount of time at home, engaging in a task that is productive and requires self-discipline.
  • Home assignments help kids take ownership of their education.
  • When school tasks are tied to completion points, kids have the opportunity to boost their grades.
  • Students may be able to explore topics of interest to them through additional tasks at home.

After this list, it seems reasonable why do schools give homework, doesn’t it? Well, the negatives about homework tend to be reflected in the ways in which schools use homework, not that they assign it in the first place. Here are some of the most common issues:

  • When teachers fail to coordinate homework loads with one another, students can end up with more than they can handle.
  • Not all students have equal access to the internet, school supplies at home, parental support, or time.
  • Excessive studying causes stress, even physical symptoms.
  • When a student doesn’t understand the work at school, having them an attempt at home can simply lead to frustration and feelings of failure.
  • Too many assignments can interfere with family time and activities.
  • Kids benefit more from playtime, exercise, and other activities than doing schoolwork.
  • Assigning homework in the early grades has no benefit and can be detrimental.
  • High school students often suffer from anxiety and sleep deprivation because of excessive homework.
  • For students struggling to bond with the school environment, punitive or excess homework can give them one more reason to dislike school.

Read also: How a reliable essay review service can help you boost your academic performance.

Homework Statistics and Facts

While it’s interesting to learn about the origin of homework, it’s even more important that schools use homework as a way to benefit students. If homework frustrates students, highlights disparities in privilege, or causes other issues, it doesn’t matter who started homework originally. The only important thing is to implement policies that make homework fair. Here are some best practices:

  • Provide students with devices and hotspots if a home task requires connectivity.
  • Work with low income families to ensure there are supplies for home.
  • Consider keeping school libraries open later and providing homework support for students.
  • Avoid assigning additional tasks in the early grades.
  • Give no more than 10 minutes of homework for each grade level.
  • Students in high school should have no more than one hour of homework unless they are participating in AP or other challenging programs.
  • Teach older kids time management by giving them long term assignments that they manage themselves.
  • Answer the question, “why is homework important?”. Students will be more motivated if they understand the reasoning behind an assignment.
Useful information: Expert Grab My Essay review to help you choose the best writing service.

Student Best Practices for Homework

You can find all the statistics against the homework that you want. The truth is that most students will have to deal with homework. Here are some tips you can use to make it more manageable.

  • Use a bulletin board or calendar to store information about homework. This is especially helpful for long term assignments.
  • Bookmark acceptable research sources on your computer. Be careful of Wikipedia. It’s okay for basic info and locating other sources, but it isn’t original source material.
  • Try to create a workspace that works for you.
  • Prioritize studying each day even if you don’t have extra assignments.
  • Be proactive and talk to your instructors if you are having difficulty with home tasks.

Finally, know when it’s time to get help. Even better, know where to get the help you need. We can assist you in finding an online homework assistance provider.

Posted by Diana B., November 23, 2020

Similar Posts

Best homework help websites review for college students: experts are nearby.

Most college students use online academic services at least once during their studies. With this best homework help websites review, you'll know wh...

How to Write a Dissertation Proposal: Ultimate Guide

Do you want to learn how to write a dissertation proposal? Just follow the 6 simple steps from our ultimate guide.

Thank you for sharing your comment!

Your opinion means a lot!

who made homework not a punishment

The History of Homework: Why Was it Invented and Who Was Behind It?

  • By Emily Summers
  • February 14, 2020

Homework is long-standing education staple, one that many students hate with a fiery passion. We can’t really blame them, especially if it’s a primary source of stress that can result in headaches, exhaustion, and lack of sleep.

It’s not uncommon for students, parents, and even some teachers to complain about bringing assignments home. Yet, for millions of children around the world, homework is still a huge part of their daily lives as students — even if it continues to be one of their biggest causes of stress and unrest.

It makes one wonder, who in their right mind would invent such a thing as homework?

Who Invented Homework?

Pliny the younger: when in ancient rome, horace mann: the father of modern homework, the history of homework in america, 1900s: anti-homework sentiment & homework bans, 1930: homework as child labor, early-to-mid 20th century: homework and the progressive era, the cold war: homework starts heating up, 1980s: homework in a nation at risk, early 21 st century, state of homework today: why is it being questioned, should students get homework pros of cons of bringing school work home.

Guy stressed with homework

Online, there are many articles that point to Roberto Nevilis as the first educator to give his students homework. He created it as a way to punish his lazy students and ensure that they fully learned their lessons. However, these pieces of information mostly come from obscure educational blogs or forum websites with questionable claims. No credible news source or website has ever mentioned the name Roberto Nevilis as the person who invented homework . In fact, it’s possible that Nevilis never even existed.

As we’re not entirely sure who to credit for creating the bane of students’ existence and the reasons why homework was invented, we can use a few historical trivia to help narrow down our search.

Mentions of the term “homework” date back to as early as ancient Rome. In I century AD, Pliny the Younger , an oratory teacher, supposedly invented homework by asking his followers to practice public speaking at home. It was to help them become more confident and fluent in their speeches. But some would argue that the assignment wasn’t exactly the type of written work that students have to do at home nowadays. Only introverted individuals with a fear of public speaking would find it difficult and stressful.

It’s also safe to argue that since homework is an integral part of education, it’s probable that it has existed since the dawn of learning, like a beacon of light to all those helpless and lost (or to cast darkness on those who despise it). This means that Romans, Enlightenment philosophers, and Middle Age monks all read, memorized, and sang pieces well before homework was given any definition. It’s harder to play the blame game this way unless you want to point your finger at Horace Mann.

In the 19 th century, Horace Mann , a politician and educational reformer had a strong interest in the compulsory public education system of Germany as a newly unified nation-state. Pupils attending the Volksschulen or “People’s Schools” were given mandatory assignments that they needed to complete at home during their own time. This requirement emphasized the state’s power over individuals at a time when nationalists such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte were rallying support for a unified German state. Basically, the state used homework as an element of power play.

Despite its political origins, the system of bringing school assignments home spread across Europe and eventually found their way to Horace Mann, who was in Prussia at that time. He brought the system home with him to America where homework became a daily activity in the lives of students.

Despite homework being a near-universal part of the American educational experience today, it hasn’t always been universally accepted. Take a look at its turbulent history in America.

In 1901, just a few decades after Horace Mann introduced the concept to Americans, homework was banned in the Pacific state of California . The ban affected students younger than 15 years old and stayed in effect until 1917.

Around the same time, prominent publications such as The New York Times and Ladies’ Home Journal published statements from medical professionals and parents who stated that homework was detrimental to children’s health.

In 1930, the American Child Health Association declared homework as a type of child labor . Since laws against child labor had been passed recently during that time, the proclamation painted homework as unacceptable educational practice, making everyone wonder why homework was invented in the first place.

However, it’s keen to note that one of the reasons why homework was so frowned upon was because children were needed to help out with household chores (a.k.a. a less intensive and more socially acceptable form of child labor).

During the progressive education reforms of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, educators started looking for ways to make homework assignments more personal and relevant to the interests of individual students. Maybe this was how immortal essay topics such as “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” and “What I Did During My Summer Vacation” were born.

After World War II, the Cold War heated up rivalries between the U.S. and Russia. Sputnik 1’s launch in 1957 intensified the competition between Americans and Russians – including their youth.

Education authorities in the U.S. decided that implementing rigorous homework to American students of all ages was the best way to ensure that they were always one step ahead of their Russian counterparts, especially in the competitive fields of Math and Science.

In 1986, the U.S. Department of Education’s pamphlet, “What Works,” included homework as one of the effective strategies to boost the quality of education. This came three years after the National Commission on Excellence in Education published “ Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform .” The landmark report lambasted the state of America’s schools, calling for reforms to right the alarming direction that public education was headed.

Today, many educators, students, parents, and other concerned citizens have once again started questioning why homework was invented and if it’s still valuable.

Homework now is facing major backlash around the world. With more than 60% of high school and college students seeking counselling for conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety, all of which are brought about by school, it’s safe to say that American students are more stressed out than they should be.

After sitting through hours at school, they leave only to start on a mountain pile of homework. Not only does it take up a large chunk of time that they can otherwise spend on their hobbies and interests, it also stops them from getting enough sleep. This can lead to students experiencing physical health problems, a lack of balance in their lives, and alienation from their peers and society in general.

Is homework important and necessary ? Or is it doing more harm than good? Here some key advantages and disadvantages to consider.

  • It encourages the discipline of practice

Using the same formula or memorizing the same information over and over can be difficult and boring, but it reinforces the practice of discipline. To master a skill, repetition is often needed. By completing homework every night, specifically with difficult subjects, the concepts become easier to understand, helping students polish their skills and achieve their life goals.

  • It teaches students to manage their time

Homework goes beyond just completing tasks. It encourages children to develop their skills in time management as schedules need to be organized to ensure that all tasks can be completed within the day.

  • It provides more time for students to complete their learning process

The time allotted for each subject in school is often limited to 1 hour or less per day. That’s not enough time for students to grasp the material and core concepts of each subject. By creating specific homework assignments, it becomes possible for students to make up for the deficiencies in time.

  • It discourages creative endeavors

If a student spends 3-5 hours a day on homework, those are 3-5 hours that they can’t use to pursue creative passions. Students might like to read leisurely or take up new hobbies but homework takes away their time from painting, learning an instrument, or developing new skills.

  • Homework is typically geared toward benchmarks

Teachers often assign homework to improve students’ test scores. Although this can result in positive outcomes such as better study habits, the fact is that when students feel tired, they won’t likely absorb as much information. Their stress levels will go up and they’ll feel the curriculum burnout.

  • No evidence that homework creates improvements

Research shows that homework doesn’t improve academic performance ; it can even make it worse. Homework creates a negative attitude towards schooling and education, making students dread going to their classes. If they don’t like attending their lessons, they will be unmotivated to listen to the discussions.

With all of the struggles that students face each day due to homework, it’s puzzling to understand why it was even invented. However, whether you think it’s helpful or not, just because the concept has survived for centuries doesn’t mean that it has to stay within the educational system.

Not all students care about the history of homework, but they all do care about the future of their educational pursuits. Maybe one day, homework will be fully removed from the curriculum of schools all over the world but until that day comes, students will have to burn the midnight oil to pass their requirements on time and hopefully achieve their own versions of success.

About the Author

Emily summers.

who made homework not a punishment

Roofing 101 Essential Education for Future Industry Professionals

who made homework not a punishment

Educational Insights on Molecular Sieve Adsorbents Selectivity and Industrial Applications

who made homework not a punishment

What is the Difference Between Reverse Osmosis and Ultrafiltration

who made homework not a punishment

9 Subjects You Can Study in College

who made homework not a punishment

Debunking the Myth of Roberto Nevilis: Who Really Invented Homework?

graduate

Is the D Important in Pharmacy? Why Pharm.D or RPh Degrees Shouldn’t Matter

who made homework not a punishment

How to Email a Professor: Guide on How to Start and End an Email Conversation

who made homework not a punishment

Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Post-Secondary Education

who made homework not a punishment

Grammar Corner: What’s The Difference Between Analysis vs Analyses?

Who Really Invented Homework

Homework – Top 3 Pros and Cons

Cite this page using APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian style guides

Pro/Con Arguments | Discussion Questions | Take Action | Sources | More Debates

who made homework not a punishment

From dioramas to book reports, from algebraic word problems to research projects, whether students should be given homework, as well as the type and amount of homework, has been debated for over a century. [ 1 ]

While we are unsure who invented homework, we do know that the word “homework” dates back to ancient Rome. Pliny the Younger asked his followers to practice their speeches at home. Memorization exercises as homework continued through the Middle Ages and Enlightenment by monks and other scholars. [ 45 ]

In the 19th century, German students of the Volksschulen or “People’s Schools” were given assignments to complete outside of the school day. This concept of homework quickly spread across Europe and was brought to the United States by Horace Mann , who encountered the idea in Prussia. [ 45 ]

In the early 1900s, progressive education theorists, championed by the magazine Ladies’ Home Journal , decried homework’s negative impact on children’s physical and mental health, leading California to ban homework for students under 15 from 1901 until 1917. In the 1930s, homework was portrayed as child labor, which was newly illegal, but the prevailing argument was that kids needed time to do household chores. [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 45 ] [ 46 ]

Public opinion swayed again in favor of homework in the 1950s due to concerns about keeping up with the Soviet Union’s technological advances during the Cold War . And, in 1986, the US government included homework as an educational quality boosting tool. [ 3 ] [ 45 ]

A 2014 study found kindergarteners to fifth graders averaged 2.9 hours of homework per week, sixth to eighth graders 3.2 hours per teacher, and ninth to twelfth graders 3.5 hours per teacher. A 2014-2019 study found that teens spent about an hour a day on homework. [ 4 ] [ 44 ]

Beginning in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic complicated the very idea of homework as students were schooling remotely and many were doing all school work from home. Washington Post journalist Valerie Strauss asked, “Does homework work when kids are learning all day at home?” While students were mostly back in school buildings in fall 2021, the question remains of how effective homework is as an educational tool. [ 47 ]

Is Homework Beneficial?

Pro 1 Homework improves student achievement. Studies have shown that homework improved student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results, and the likelihood to attend college. Research published in the High School Journal indicated that students who spent between 31 and 90 minutes each day on homework “scored about 40 points higher on the SAT-Mathematics subtest than their peers, who reported spending no time on homework each day, on average.” [ 6 ] Students in classes that were assigned homework outperformed 69% of students who didn’t have homework on both standardized tests and grades. A majority of studies on homework’s impact – 64% in one meta-study and 72% in another – showed that take-home assignments were effective at improving academic achievement. [ 7 ] [ 8 ] Research by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) concluded that increased homework led to better GPAs and higher probability of college attendance for high school boys. In fact, boys who attended college did more than three hours of additional homework per week in high school. [ 10 ] Read More
Pro 2 Homework helps to reinforce classroom learning, while developing good study habits and life skills. Students typically retain only 50% of the information teachers provide in class, and they need to apply that information in order to truly learn it. Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer, co-founders of Teachers Who Tutor NYC, explained, “at-home assignments help students learn the material taught in class. Students require independent practice to internalize new concepts… [And] these assignments can provide valuable data for teachers about how well students understand the curriculum.” [ 11 ] [ 49 ] Elementary school students who were taught “strategies to organize and complete homework,” such as prioritizing homework activities, collecting study materials, note-taking, and following directions, showed increased grades and more positive comments on report cards. [ 17 ] Research by the City University of New York noted that “students who engage in self-regulatory processes while completing homework,” such as goal-setting, time management, and remaining focused, “are generally more motivated and are higher achievers than those who do not use these processes.” [ 18 ] Homework also helps students develop key skills that they’ll use throughout their lives: accountability, autonomy, discipline, time management, self-direction, critical thinking, and independent problem-solving. Freireich and Platzer noted that “homework helps students acquire the skills needed to plan, organize, and complete their work.” [ 12 ] [ 13 ] [ 14 ] [ 15 ] [ 49 ] Read More
Pro 3 Homework allows parents to be involved with children’s learning. Thanks to take-home assignments, parents are able to track what their children are learning at school as well as their academic strengths and weaknesses. [ 12 ] Data from a nationwide sample of elementary school students show that parental involvement in homework can improve class performance, especially among economically disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic students. [ 20 ] Research from Johns Hopkins University found that an interactive homework process known as TIPS (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork) improves student achievement: “Students in the TIPS group earned significantly higher report card grades after 18 weeks (1 TIPS assignment per week) than did non-TIPS students.” [ 21 ] Homework can also help clue parents in to the existence of any learning disabilities their children may have, allowing them to get help and adjust learning strategies as needed. Duke University Professor Harris Cooper noted, “Two parents once told me they refused to believe their child had a learning disability until homework revealed it to them.” [ 12 ] Read More
Con 1 Too much homework can be harmful. A poll of California high school students found that 59% thought they had too much homework. 82% of respondents said that they were “often or always stressed by schoolwork.” High-achieving high school students said too much homework leads to sleep deprivation and other health problems such as headaches, exhaustion, weight loss, and stomach problems. [ 24 ] [ 28 ] [ 29 ] Alfie Kohn, an education and parenting expert, said, “Kids should have a chance to just be kids… it’s absurd to insist that children must be engaged in constructive activities right up until their heads hit the pillow.” [ 27 ] Emmy Kang, a mental health counselor, explained, “More than half of students say that homework is their primary source of stress, and we know what stress can do on our bodies.” [ 48 ] Excessive homework can also lead to cheating: 90% of middle school students and 67% of high school students admit to copying someone else’s homework, and 43% of college students engaged in “unauthorized collaboration” on out-of-class assignments. Even parents take shortcuts on homework: 43% of those surveyed admitted to having completed a child’s assignment for them. [ 30 ] [ 31 ] [ 32 ] Read More
Con 2 Homework exacerbates the digital divide or homework gap. Kiara Taylor, financial expert, defined the digital divide as “the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology and those that don’t. Though the term now encompasses the technical and financial ability to utilize available technology—along with access (or a lack of access) to the Internet—the gap it refers to is constantly shifting with the development of technology.” For students, this is often called the homework gap. [ 50 ] [ 51 ] 30% (about 15 to 16 million) public school students either did not have an adequate internet connection or an appropriate device, or both, for distance learning. Completing homework for these students is more complicated (having to find a safe place with an internet connection, or borrowing a laptop, for example) or impossible. [ 51 ] A Hispanic Heritage Foundation study found that 96.5% of students across the country needed to use the internet for homework, and nearly half reported they were sometimes unable to complete their homework due to lack of access to the internet or a computer, which often resulted in lower grades. [ 37 ] [ 38 ] One study concluded that homework increases social inequality because it “potentially serves as a mechanism to further advantage those students who already experience some privilege in the school system while further disadvantaging those who may already be in a marginalized position.” [ 39 ] Read More
Con 3 Homework does not help younger students, and may not help high school students. We’ve known for a while that homework does not help elementary students. A 2006 study found that “homework had no association with achievement gains” when measured by standardized tests results or grades. [ 7 ] Fourth grade students who did no homework got roughly the same score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math exam as those who did 30 minutes of homework a night. Students who did 45 minutes or more of homework a night actually did worse. [ 41 ] Temple University professor Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek said that homework is not the most effective tool for young learners to apply new information: “They’re learning way more important skills when they’re not doing their homework.” [ 42 ] In fact, homework may not be helpful at the high school level either. Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth, stated, “I interviewed high school teachers who completely stopped giving homework and there was no downside, it was all upside.” He explains, “just because the same kids who get more homework do a little better on tests, doesn’t mean the homework made that happen.” [ 52 ] Read More

Discussion Questions

1. Is homework beneficial? Consider the study data, your personal experience, and other types of information. Explain your answer(s).

2. If homework were banned, what other educational strategies would help students learn classroom material? Explain your answer(s).

3. How has homework been helpful to you personally? How has homework been unhelpful to you personally? Make carefully considered lists for both sides.

Take Action

1. Examine an argument in favor of quality homework assignments from Janine Bempechat.

2. Explore Oxford Learning’s infographic on the effects of homework on students.

3. Consider Joseph Lathan’s argument that homework promotes inequality .

4. Consider how you felt about the issue before reading this article. After reading the pros and cons on this topic, has your thinking changed? If so, how? List two to three ways. If your thoughts have not changed, list two to three ways your better understanding of the “other side of the issue” now helps you better argue your position.

5. Push for the position and policies you support by writing US national senators and representatives .

1.Tom Loveless, “Homework in America: Part II of the 2014 Brown Center Report of American Education,” brookings.edu, Mar. 18, 2014
2.Edward Bok, “A National Crime at the Feet of American Parents,”  , Jan. 1900
3.Tim Walker, “The Great Homework Debate: What’s Getting Lost in the Hype,” neatoday.org, Sep. 23, 2015
4.University of Phoenix College of Education, “Homework Anxiety: Survey Reveals How Much Homework K-12 Students Are Assigned and Why Teachers Deem It Beneficial,” phoenix.edu, Feb. 24, 2014
5.Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “PISA in Focus No. 46: Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education?,” oecd.org, Dec. 2014
6.Adam V. Maltese, Robert H. Tai, and Xitao Fan, “When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math,”  , 2012
7.Harris Cooper, Jorgianne Civey Robinson, and Erika A. Patall, “Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Researcher, 1987-2003,”  , 2006
8.Gökhan Bas, Cihad Sentürk, and Fatih Mehmet Cigerci, “Homework and Academic Achievement: A Meta-Analytic Review of Research,”  , 2017
9.Huiyong Fan, Jianzhong Xu, Zhihui Cai, Jinbo He, and Xitao Fan, “Homework and Students’ Achievement in Math and Science: A 30-Year Meta-Analysis, 1986-2015,”  , 2017
10.Charlene Marie Kalenkoski and Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia, “Does High School Homework Increase Academic Achievement?,” iza.og, Apr. 2014
11.Ron Kurtus, “Purpose of Homework,” school-for-champions.com, July 8, 2012
12.Harris Cooper, “Yes, Teachers Should Give Homework – The Benefits Are Many,” newsobserver.com, Sep. 2, 2016
13.Tammi A. Minke, “Types of Homework and Their Effect on Student Achievement,” repository.stcloudstate.edu, 2017
14.LakkshyaEducation.com, “How Does Homework Help Students: Suggestions From Experts,” LakkshyaEducation.com (accessed Aug. 29, 2018)
15.University of Montreal, “Do Kids Benefit from Homework?,” teaching.monster.com (accessed Aug. 30, 2018)
16.Glenda Faye Pryor-Johnson, “Why Homework Is Actually Good for Kids,” memphisparent.com, Feb. 1, 2012
17.Joan M. Shepard, “Developing Responsibility for Completing and Handing in Daily Homework Assignments for Students in Grades Three, Four, and Five,” eric.ed.gov, 1999
18.Darshanand Ramdass and Barry J. Zimmerman, “Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework,”  , 2011
19.US Department of Education, “Let’s Do Homework!,” ed.gov (accessed Aug. 29, 2018)
20.Loretta Waldman, “Sociologist Upends Notions about Parental Help with Homework,” phys.org, Apr. 12, 2014
21.Frances L. Van Voorhis, “Reflecting on the Homework Ritual: Assignments and Designs,”  , June 2010
22.Roel J. F. J. Aries and Sofie J. Cabus, “Parental Homework Involvement Improves Test Scores? A Review of the Literature,”  , June 2015
23.Jamie Ballard, “40% of People Say Elementary School Students Have Too Much Homework,” yougov.com, July 31, 2018
24.Stanford University, “Stanford Survey of Adolescent School Experiences Report: Mira Costa High School, Winter 2017,” stanford.edu, 2017
25.Cathy Vatterott, “Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs,” ascd.org, 2009
26.End the Race, “Homework: You Can Make a Difference,” racetonowhere.com (accessed Aug. 24, 2018)
27.Elissa Strauss, “Opinion: Your Kid Is Right, Homework Is Pointless. Here’s What You Should Do Instead.,” cnn.com, Jan. 28, 2020
28.Jeanne Fratello, “Survey: Homework Is Biggest Source of Stress for Mira Costa Students,” digmb.com, Dec. 15, 2017
29.Clifton B. Parker, “Stanford Research Shows Pitfalls of Homework,” stanford.edu, Mar. 10, 2014
30.AdCouncil, “Cheating Is a Personal Foul: Academic Cheating Background,” glass-castle.com (accessed Aug. 16, 2018)
31.Jeffrey R. Young, “High-Tech Cheating Abounds, and Professors Bear Some Blame,” chronicle.com, Mar. 28, 2010
32.Robin McClure, “Do You Do Your Child’s Homework?,” verywellfamily.com, Mar. 14, 2018
33.Robert M. Pressman, David B. Sugarman, Melissa L. Nemon, Jennifer, Desjarlais, Judith A. Owens, and Allison Schettini-Evans, “Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background,”  , 2015
34.Heather Koball and Yang Jiang, “Basic Facts about Low-Income Children,” nccp.org, Jan. 2018
35.Meagan McGovern, “Homework Is for Rich Kids,” huffingtonpost.com, Sep. 2, 2016
36.H. Richard Milner IV, “Not All Students Have Access to Homework Help,” nytimes.com, Nov. 13, 2014
37.Claire McLaughlin, “The Homework Gap: The ‘Cruelest Part of the Digital Divide’,” neatoday.org, Apr. 20, 2016
38.Doug Levin, “This Evening’s Homework Requires the Use of the Internet,” edtechstrategies.com, May 1, 2015
39.Amy Lutz and Lakshmi Jayaram, “Getting the Homework Done: Social Class and Parents’ Relationship to Homework,”  , June 2015
40.Sandra L. Hofferth and John F. Sandberg, “How American Children Spend Their Time,” psc.isr.umich.edu, Apr. 17, 2000
41.Alfie Kohn, “Does Homework Improve Learning?,” alfiekohn.org, 2006
42.Patrick A. Coleman, “Elementary School Homework Probably Isn’t Good for Kids,” fatherly.com, Feb. 8, 2018
43.Valerie Strauss, “Why This Superintendent Is Banning Homework – and Asking Kids to Read Instead,” washingtonpost.com, July 17, 2017
44.Pew Research Center, “The Way U.S. Teens Spend Their Time Is Changing, but Differences between Boys and Girls Persist,” pewresearch.org, Feb. 20, 2019
45.ThroughEducation, “The History of Homework: Why Was It Invented and Who Was behind It?,” , Feb. 14, 2020
46.History, “Why Homework Was Banned,” (accessed Feb. 24, 2022)
47.Valerie Strauss, “Does Homework Work When Kids Are Learning All Day at Home?,” , Sep. 2, 2020
48.Sara M Moniuszko, “Is It Time to Get Rid of Homework? Mental Health Experts Weigh In,” , Aug. 17, 2021
49.Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer, “The Worsening Homework Problem,” , Apr. 13, 2021
50.Kiara Taylor, “Digital Divide,” , Feb. 12, 2022
51.Marguerite Reardon, “The Digital Divide Has Left Millions of School Kids Behind,” , May 5, 2021
52.Rachel Paula Abrahamson, “Why More and More Teachers Are Joining the Anti-Homework Movement,” , Sep. 10, 2021

More School Debate Topics

Should K-12 Students Dissect Animals in Science Classrooms? – Proponents say dissecting real animals is a better learning experience. Opponents say the practice is bad for the environment.

Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms? – Proponents say uniforms may increase student safety. Opponents say uniforms restrict expression.

Should Corporal Punishment Be Used in K-12 Schools? – Proponents say corporal punishment is an appropriate discipline. Opponents say it inflicts long-lasting physical and mental harm on students.

ProCon/Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. 325 N. LaSalle Street, Suite 200 Chicago, Illinois 60654 USA

Natalie Leppard Managing Editor [email protected]

© 2023 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. All rights reserved

New Topic

  • Social Media
  • Death Penalty
  • School Uniforms
  • Video Games
  • Animal Testing
  • Gun Control
  • Banned Books
  • Teachers’ Corner

Cite This Page

ProCon.org is the institutional or organization author for all ProCon.org pages. Proper citation depends on your preferred or required style manual. Below are the proper citations for this page according to four style manuals (in alphabetical order): the Modern Language Association Style Manual (MLA), the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago), the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), and Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Turabian). Here are the proper bibliographic citations for this page according to four style manuals (in alphabetical order):

[Editor's Note: The APA citation style requires double spacing within entries.]

[Editor’s Note: The MLA citation style requires double spacing within entries.]

who made homework not a punishment

Who Invented Homework and Why

who made homework not a punishment

Who Invented Homework

Italian pedagog, Roberto Nevilis, was believed to have invented homework back in 1905 to help his students foster productive studying habits outside of school. However, we'll sound find out that the concept of homework has been around for much longer.                                                                                                                                                              

Homework, which most likely didn't have a specific term back then, already existed even in ancient civilizations. Think Greece, Rome, and even ancient Egypt. Over time, homework became standardized in our educational systems. This happened naturally over time, as the development of the formal education system continued.                                                        

In this article, we're going to attempt to find out who invented homework, and when was homework invented, and we're going to uncover if the creator of homework is a single person or a group of them. Read this article through to the end to find out.

Who Created Homework and When?

The concept of homework predates modern educational systems, with roots in ancient Rome. However, Roberto Nevilis is often, yet inaccurately, credited with inventing homework in 1905.Depending on various sources, this invention is dated either in the year 1095 or 1905.

The invention of homework is commonly attributed to Roberto Nevilis, an Italian pedagog who is said to have introduced it as a form of punishment for his students in 1905. However, the concept of homework predates Nevilis and has roots that go back much further in history.

The practice of assigning students work to be done outside of class time can be traced back to ancient civilizations, such as Rome, where Pliny the Younger (AD 61–113) encouraged his students to practice public speaking at home to improve their oratory skills.

It's important to note that the idea of formalized homework has evolved significantly over centuries, influenced by educational theories and pedagogical developments. The purpose and nature of homework have been subjects of debate among educators, with opinions varying on its effectiveness and impact on student learning and well-being.

It might be impossible to answer when was homework invented. A simpler question to ask is ‘what exactly is homework?’.

If you define it as work assigned to do outside of a formal educational setup, then homework might be as old as humanity itself. When most of what people studied were crafts and skills, practicing them outside of dedicated learning times may as well have been considered homework.

Let’s look at a few people who have been credited with formalizing homework over the past few thousand years. 

Roberto Nevilis

Stories and speculations on the internet claim Roberto Nevilis is the one who invented school homework, or at least was the first person to assign homework back in 1905.

Who was he? He was an Italian educator who lived in Venice. He wanted to discipline and motivate his class of lackluster students. Unfortunately, claims online lack factual basis and strong proof that Roberto did invent homework.                                                                                                        

Homework, as a concept, predates Roberto, and can't truly be assigned to a sole inventor. Moreover, it's hard to quantify where an idea truly emerges, because many ideas emerge from different parts of the world simultaneously or at similar times, therefore it's hard to truly pinpoint who invented this idea.

Pliny the Younger

Another culprit according to the internet lived a thousand years before Roberto Nevilis. Pliny the Younger was an oratory teacher in the first century AD in the Roman Empire.

He apparently asked his students to practice their oratory skills at home, which some people consider one of the first official versions of homework.

It is difficult to say with any certainty if this is the first time homework was assigned though because the idea of asking students to practice something outside classes probably existed in every human civilization for millennia. 

Horace Mann

To answer the question of who invented homework and why, at least in the modern sense, we have to talk about Horace Mann. Horace Mann was an American educator and politician in the 19th century who was heavily influenced by movements in the newly-formed German state.

He is credited for bringing massive educational reform to America, and can definitely be considered the father of modern homework in the United States. However, his ideas were heavily influenced by the founding father of German nationalism Johann Gottlieb Fichte. 

After the defeat of Napoleon and the liberation of Prussia in 1814, citizens went back to their own lives, there was no sense of national pride or German identity. Johann Gottlieb Fichte came up with the idea of Volkschule, a mandatory 9-year educational system provided by the government to combat this.

Homework already existed in Germany at this point in time but it became a requirement in Volkschule. Fichte wasn't motivated purely by educational reform, he wanted to demonstrate the positive impact and power of a centralized government, and assigning homework was a way of showing the state's power to influence personal and public life.

This effort to make citizens more patriotic worked and the system of education and homework slowly spread through Europe.

Horace Mann saw the system at work during a trip to Prussia in the 1840s and brought many of the concepts to America, including homework.   

Who Invented Homework and Why?

Homework's history and objectives have evolved significantly over time, reflecting changing educational goals. Now, that we've gone through its history a bit, let's try to understand the "why". The people or people who made homework understood the advantages of it. Let's consider the following:                                                  

  • Repetition, a key factor in long-term memory retention, is a primary goal of homework. It helps students solidify class-learned information. This is especially true in complex subjects like physics, where physics homework help can prove invaluable to learning effectively.
  • Homework bridges classroom learning with real-world applications, enhancing memory and understanding.
  • It identifies individual student weaknesses, allowing focused efforts to address them.
  • Working independently at their own pace, students can overcome the distractions and constraints of a classroom setting through homework.
  • By creating a continuous learning flow, homework shifts the perspective from viewing each school day as isolated to seeing education as an ongoing process.
  • Homework is crucial for subjects like mathematics and sciences, where repetition is necessary to internalize complex processes.
  • It's a tool for teachers to maximize classroom time, focusing on expanding understanding rather than just drilling fundamentals.
  • Responsibility is a key lesson from homework. Students learn to manage time and prioritize tasks to meet deadlines.
  • Research skills get honed through homework as students gather information from various sources.
  • Students' creative potential is unleashed in homework, free from classroom constraints.

Struggling with your Homework?

Get your assignments done by real pros. Save your precious time and boost your marks with ease.

Who Invented Homework: Development in the 1900s

Thanks to Horace Mann, homework had become widespread in the American schooling system by 1900, but it wasn't universally popular amongst either students or parents. 

The early 1900s homework bans

In 1901, California became the first state to ban homework. Since homework had made its way into the American educational system there had always been people who were against it for some surprising reasons.

Back then, children were expected to help on farms and family businesses, so homework was unpopular amongst parents who expected their children to help out at home. Many students also dropped out of school early because they found homework tedious and difficult.

Publications like Ladies' Home Journal and The New York Times printed statements and articles about the detrimental effects of homework on children's health. 

The 1930 child labor laws

Homework became more common in the U.S. around the early 1900s. As to who made homework mandatory, the question remains open, but its emergence in the mainstream sure proved beneficial. Why is this?

Well, in 1930, child labor laws were created. It aimed to protect children from being exploited for labor and it made sure to enable children to have access to education and schooling. The timing was just right.

Speaking of homework, if you’re reading this article and have homework you need to attend to, send a “ do my homework ” request on Studyfy and instantly get the help of a professional right now.

Progressive reforms of the 1940s and 50s

With more research into education, psychology and memory, the importance of education became clear. Homework was understood as an important part of education and it evolved to become more useful and interesting to students. 

Homework during the Cold War

Competition with the Soviet Union fueled many aspects of American life and politics. In a post-nuclear world, the importance of Science and Technology was evident.

The government believed that students had to be well-educated to compete with Soviet education systems. This is the time when homework became formalized, accepted, and a fundamental part of the American educational system. 

1980s Nation at Risk

In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education published Nation at Risk:

The Imperative for Educational Reform, a report about the poor condition of education in America.  Still in the Cold War, this motivated the government in 1986 to talk about the benefits of homework in a pamphlet called “What Works” which highlighted the importance of homework. 

Did you like our Homework Post?

For more help, tap into our pool of professional writers and get expert essay editing services!

Who Invented Homework: The Modern Homework Debate

Like it or not, homework has stuck through the times, remaining a central aspect in education since the end of the Cold War in 1991. So, who invented homework 😡 and when was homework invented?

We’ve tried to pinpoint different sources, and we’ve understood that many historical figures have contributed to its conception.

Horace Mann, in particular, was the man who apparently introduced homework in the U.S. But let’s reframe our perspective a bit. Instead of focusing on who invented homework, let’s ask ourselves why homework is beneficial in the first place. Let’s consider the pros and cons:

  • Homework potentially enhances memory.
  • Homework helps cultivate time management, self-learning, discipline, and cognitive skills.
  • An excessive amount of work can cause mental health issues and burnout.
  • Rigid homework tasks can take away time for productive and leisurely activities like arts and sports.

Meaningful homework tasks can challenge us and enrich our knowledge on certain topics, but too much homework can actually be detrimental. This is where Studyfy can be invaluable. Studyfy offers homework help.

All you need to do is click the “ do my assignment ” button and send us a request. Need instant professional help? You know where to go now.

Frequently asked questions

Who made homework.

As stated throughout the article, there was no sole "inventor of homework." We've established that homework has already existed in ancient civilizations, where people were assigned educational tasks to be done at home. 

Let's look at ancient Greece; for example, students at the Academy of Athens were expected to recite and remember epic poems outside of their institutions. Similar practices were going on in ancient Egypt, China and Rome. 

This is why we can't ascertain the sole inventor of homework. While history can give us hints that homework was practiced in different civilizations, it's not far-fetched to believe that there have been many undocumented events all across the globe that happened simultaneously where homework emerged. 

Why was homework invented? 

We've answered the question of "who invented homework 😡" and we've recognized that we cannot pinpoint it to one sole inventor. So, let's get back to the question of why homework was invented. 

Homework arose from educational institutions, remained, and probably was invented because teachers and educators wanted to help students reinforce what they learned during class. They also believed that homework could improve memory and cognitive skills over time, as well as instill a sense of discipline. 

In other words, homework's origins can be linked to academic performance and regular students practice. Academic life has replaced the anti-homework sentiment as homework bans proved to cause partial learning and a struggle to achieve conceptual clarity.

Speaking of, don't forget that Studyfy can help you with your homework, whether it's Python homework help or another topic. Don't wait too long to take advantage of expert help when you can do it now. 

Is homework important for my learning journey?

Now that we've answered questions on who created homework and why it was invented, we can ask ourselves if homework is crucial in our learning journey. 

At the end of the day, homework can be a crucial step to becoming more knowledgeable and disciplined over time. 

Exercising our memory skills, learning independently without a teacher obliging us, and processing new information are all beneficial to our growth and evolution. However, whether a homework task is enriching or simply a filler depends on the quality of education you're getting. 

Was Homework Created As a Punishment?

fear of homework

Homework was not created to punish the students . Roberto Nevilis, an Italian teacher, invented it in 1905. The motivation behind Homework was quite simple. 

Saddened that the students could not perform better than themselves, he decided to adopt different strategies despite his efforts. This led to Homework being invented . 

Homework is essential to learning in school and is here to stay. But sometimes, kids need extra help to complete assignments, and schools and teachers should understand that every child is unique and should create homework assignments for each student versus generally for the whole class.

Table of Contents

History of Homework in the United States

Students dropped out of school because they couldn’t keep up with Homework. This was due to them mainly memorizing a text at home.

United Kingdom

The significant difference in UK homework is that middle-class teenagers get more Homework than those from Europe and Asia.

Here are some things that might help your child learn better

1. here are some tips to make it easier.

Homework tips

2. Set aside time every day to complete assignments.

3. doing some research will help.

If you’re having trouble with your Homework, try doing some research first. Find out what topics you’ll cover in class and what assignments will be due. Then, make a plan to tackle your Homework. You might even want to set up an automatic reminder so you won’t forget.

4. Do your best assignment first thing in the morning

5. write down what you need to remember..

If you’re having trouble remembering things, write them down. You might also use sticky or post-it notes to remind yourself of important facts.

Homework tips

Final Word – Was homework created as a punishment?

Homework is here to stay, regardless of who came up with the Homework or if you think it’s a punishment.

Students required to do too many homework assignments experience anxiety, depression, and anger. Therefore, teachers and schools should ensure to keep Homework to the minimum.

It isn’t always helpful for students as it could hinder their ability to learn or play outdoors, which is vital to ensure the development of children. Therefore, Homework should not be treated as a punishment but as a tool to improve our child’s learning skills.

FAQ – Was Homework Created As a Punishment

How does homework benefit students, how much homework is considered appropriate for students.

The amount of Homework considered appropriate varies by age and subject, but it is generally recommended that students receive 10-30 minutes per night per grade level.

Are there any drawbacks to Homework?

Who created homework and why.

According to this story, Nevilis was frustrated with students not completing their classwork, so he punished them with additional work to complete at home.

Share this:

  • May 23 Classical Academy says goodbye to first-ever Saudi Arabian foreign exchange student
  • May 23 Senior Brady Goe receives lucrative baseball scholarship
  • May 10 Chess World Championship Tournament Ends in a Victory for Chinese Grandmaster
  • January 31 Did Knives Out Age Like Milk?
  • January 25 See How They Run: An Wall-Breaking Whodunnit

Classical Academy High School's Online News Site

Entertainment

Homework: The True Reality Behind It

Sophia Wecker , Editor | March 16, 2021

Photo+provided+by+Sigmund

Photo provided by Sigmund

Homework. Something almost everyone in school—  no matter what age, grade or where they live—  all dread. But, why do we have homework?

In 1905, an Italian teacher named Roberto Nevilis invented the concept of “homework.” Originally, its purpose was to be used as a punishment for students who were lazy in class or for those who were disobedient or rude to their teacher. This practice became popular and became more frequently used around the world. A few years after it was invented, it became a standard thing that almost all teachers worldwide began regularly giving out to students after school every day or most days. 

Students are usually mentally and physically drained when they come home from school, sports, or after they go somewhere after school and having homework assigned to them puts more even stress onto their plates. Whereas other students might like homework or enjoy doing it because it can benefit them academically or might help with avoiding boredom. Either way, there are both positive and negative sides to homework. 

Nowadays, teachers assign homework for either what was left over from class or for extra work to help expand upon the topics taught while in school. But, is that really a smart and good reason to assign homework? Like what was mentioned earlier, students like to come home after a long day of school and relax and have some downtime or possibly hang out with their friends and/or family. But if they have assignments that could take them multiple hours to do that are all due by midnight, this erases this precious free time for students. 

Though we may hate to admit it, there are some upsides to homework. Students who need extra help or practice on a topic or subject may benefit from additional work through their homework. Others might like some extra practice to better their understanding or to possibly get ahead in a subject to get higher test and quiz scores. 

Despite the extra help homework gives, it’s not always necessary. Like mentioned earlier, some students may have a hard time completing homework because of time, their own individual lives and it just might not be needed for some students so it shouldn’t be necessary for them. 

Although homework is annoying and isn’t always necessary, we need to continue to do our best and complete this task because it will benefit us later in life. But I do ask teachers to give students a break or to give them time to rest up after long and hard days. On a personal note, homework has always been a struggle for me to get done because of my busy schedule, but as mentioned before, I do ask teachers to give less or no homework, out of the courtesy of students’ time. Although we might need homework for extra help, those who do excel and are carrying good grades in a class do not need extra work. Teachers, please take from this article and help the students in your classrooms to do their best, not by giving them homework, but by understanding their circumstances and their own individual lives. 

Korean Girl Group Red Velvet on the red carpet of an awards show

Red Velvet – Your Sweet New Obsession

Spotifys Newest Non-Genre

Spotify’s Newest Non-Genre

Photo by Sebbi Strauch on Unsplash.

Rating Halloween Candy as Someone Who Hates Food

Grab a book, make some cocoa, and snuggle under a blanket! Time to relax! Photo by Elly Hamilton.

Mental, Physical, and Emotional: Keep Yourself Healthy

Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

Dear Discouraged Student

2023s world chess champion, Ding Liren, studies the board.

Chess World Championship Tournament Ends in a Victory for Chinese Grandmaster

The movie poster for Knives Out

Did Knives Out Age Like Milk?

The movie poster for See How They Run (2022)

See How They Run: An Wall-Breaking Whodunnit

Decision To Leave - An Impressive Waste Of Time?

Decision To Leave – An Impressive Waste Of Time?

From an Irate Senior to CAHS Administration: A Letter Concerning the 2022-2023 Phone Policy

From an Irate Senior to CAHS Administration: A Letter Concerning the 2022-2023 Phone Policy

Photo Credit: Innersloth

Among Us Update: And All the Things You Need to Know About It

Photo provided by Zichuan Han

What happened to Disneyland?

Photo provided by Rachel Jay

How to Keep Yourself Occupied and Electronic Free

Photo by Danica Jordan

Fighting for Womens’ Rights

Me Tight Pirate Pants: A voyage into a cryptic song from my childhood

Me Tight Pirate Pants: A voyage into a cryptic song from my childhood

Classical Academy High School's Online News Site

Comments (10)

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Logan • Oct 20, 2022 at 11:28 am

if you are doing an essay on homework here are some more websites for 6-8th grade: Johnson, Geoff. “Piling Homework on Kids Is a Mistake That Undermines Work/Life Balance.” Times-Colonist, 09/05 2021. ProQuest; SIRS Issues Researcher, https://explore.proquest.com/sirsissuesresearcher/document/2578243016?accountid=65482 .

Moniuszko, S. M. (2021, 08/23). Heavy Homework Load May Be Detrimental to Health. USA TODAY https://explore.proquest.com/sirsissuesresearcher/document/2564234859?accountid=65482

Patterson, K. (2021, 11/09). Homework Isn’’t Helpful in First Grade Or in College. University Wire https://explore.proquest.com/sirsissuesresearcher/document/2617064023?accountid=65482

Logan • Oct 20, 2022 at 11:31 am

also the cites are in APA 7

ethan • Oct 17, 2022 at 7:07 am

you helped my essay

FreezingZozi • Oct 4, 2022 at 8:59 am

why don’t they give homework to students that want or need homework not everyone in a class

Ece • Oct 1, 2022 at 1:43 pm

tysm good story

Ali Syed Karim • Sep 25, 2022 at 6:43 pm

The fact that homework is for all students is annoying, and its original use was just for students who were lazy or who were being disrespectful and disobedient in class. I hate homework.

James • Jun 7, 2022 at 6:02 am

this is relay helpful

Matthew • Apr 7, 2022 at 12:27 pm

James • Jun 7, 2022 at 6:17 am

Karen • Aug 3, 2022 at 6:42 pm

Great story

banner

Who Invented Homework? A Big Question Answered with Facts

who made homework not a punishment

Crystal Bourque

who made homework not a punishment

Delving into the intriguing history of education, one of the most pondered questions arises: Who invented homework?

Love it or hate it, homework is part of student life.

But what’s the purpose of completing these tasks and assignments? And who would create an education system that makes students complete work outside the classroom?

This post contains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about homework. So keep reading! You’ll discover the answer to the big question: who invented homework?

Who Invented Homework?

The myth of roberto nevilis: who is he, the origins of homework, a history of homework in the united states, 5 facts about homework, types of homework.

  • What’s the Purpose of Homework? 
  • Homework Pros
  • Homework Cons

When, How, and Why was Homework Invented?

who invented homework

Daniel Jedzura/Shutterstock.com

To ensure we cover the basics (and more), let’s explore when, how, and why was homework invented.

As a bonus, we’ll also cover who invented homework. So get ready because the answer might surprise you!

It’s challenging to pinpoint the exact person responsible for the invention of homework.

For example, Medieval Monks would work on memorization and practice singing. Ancient philosophers would read and develop their teachings outside the classroom. While this might not sound like homework in the traditional form we know today, one could argue that these methods helped to form the basic structure and format.

So let’s turn to recorded history to try and identify who invented homework and when homework was invented.

Pliny the Younger

who made homework

Credit: laphamsquarterly.org

Mention of homework appears in the writings of Pliny the Younger, meaning we can trace the term ‘homework’ back to ancient Rome. Pliny the Younger (61—112 CE) was an oratory teacher, and often told his students to practice their public speaking outside class.

Pliny believed that the repetition and practice of speech would help students gain confidence in their speaking abilities.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte

who made homework not a punishment

Credit: inlibris.com

Before the idea of homework came to the United States, Germany’s newly formed nation-state had been giving students homework for years.

The roots of homework extend to ancient times, but it wasn’t until German Philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762—1814) helped to develop the Volksschulen (People’s Schools) that homework became mandatory.

Fichte believed that the state needed to hold power over individuals to create a unified Germany. A way to assert control over people meant that students attending the Volksshulen were required to complete assignments at home on their own time.

As a result, some people credit Fichte for being the inventor of homework.

Horace Mann

roberto nevilis

Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

The idea of homework spread across Europe throughout the 19th century.

So who created homework in the United States?

The history of education and homework now moves to Horace Mann (1796—1859), an American educational reformer, spent some time in Prussia. There, he learned more about Germany’s Volksshulen, forms of education , and homework practices.

Mann liked what he saw and brought this system back to America. As a result, homework rapidly became a common factor in students’ lives across the country.

who made homework not a punishment

Credit: medium.com

If you’ve ever felt curious about who invented homework, a quick online search might direct you to a man named Roberto Nevilis, a teacher in Venice, Italy.

As the story goes, Nevilis invented homework in 1905 (or 1095) to punish students who didn’t demonstrate a good understanding of the lessons taught during class.

This teaching technique supposedly spread to the rest of Europe before reaching North America.

Unfortunately, there’s little truth to this story. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that these online sources lack credible sources to back up this myth as fact.

In 1905, the Roman Empire turned its attention to the First Crusade. No one had time to spare on formalizing education, and classrooms didn’t even exist. So how could Nevilis spread the idea of homework when education remained so informal?

And when you jump to 1901, you’ll discover that the government of California passed a law banning homework for children under fifteen. Nevilis couldn’t have invented homework in 1905 if this law had already reached the United States in 1901.

what is homework

Inside Creative House/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to the origins of homework, looking at the past shows us that there isn’t one person who created homework. Instead, examining the facts shows us that several people helped to bring the idea of homework into Europe and then the United States.

In addition, the idea of homework extends beyond what historians have discovered. After all, the concept of learning the necessary skills human beings need to survive has existed since the dawn of man.

More than 100 years have come and gone since Horace Mann introduced homework to the school system in the United States.

Therefore, it’s not strange to think that the concept of homework has changed, along with our people and culture.

In short, homework hasn’t always been considered acceptable. Let’s dive into the history or background of homework to learn why.

Homework is Banned! (The 1900s)

Important publications of the time, including the Ladies’ Home Journal and The New York Times, published articles on the negative impacts homework had on American children’s health and well-being.

As a result, California banned homework for children under fifteen in 1901. This law, however, changed again about a decade later (1917).

Children Needed at Home (The 1930s)

Formed in 1923, The American Child Health Association (ACHA) aimed to decrease the infant mortality rate and better support the health and development of the American child.

By the 1930s, ACHA deemed homework a form of child labor. Since the government recently passed laws against child labor , it became difficult to justify homework assignments. College students, however, could still receive homework tasks as part of their formal schooling.

who invented homework and why

Studio Romantic/Shutterstock.com

A Shift in Ideas (The 1940s—1950s)

During the early to mid-1900s, the United States entered the Progressive Era. As a result, the country reformed its public education system to help improve students’ learning.

Homework became a part of everyday life again. However, this time, the reformed curriculum required teachers to make the assignments more personal.

As a result, American students would write essays on summer vacations and winter breaks, participate in ‘show and tell,’ and more.

These types of assignments still exist today!

Homework Today (The 2000s)

The focus of American education shifted again when the US Department of Education was founded in 1979, aiming to uplevel education in the country by, among other things, prohibiting discrimination ensuring equal access, and highlighting important educational issues.

In 2022, the controversial nature of homework in public schools and formal education is once again a hot topic of discussion in many classrooms.

According to one study , more than 60% of college and high school students deal with mental health issues like depression and anxiety due to homework. In addition, the large number of assignments given to students takes away the time students spend on other interests and hobbies. Homework also negatively impacts sleep.

As a result, some schools have implemented a ban or limit on the amount of homework assigned to students.

Test your knowledge and check out these other facts about homework:

  • Horace Mann is also known as the ‘father’ of the modern school system and the educational process that we know today (read more about Who Invented School ).
  • With a bit of practice, homework can improve oratory and writing skills. Both are important in a student’s life at all stages.
  • Homework can replace studying. Completing regular assignments reduces the time needed to prepare for tests.
  • Homework is here to stay. It doesn’t look like teachers will stop assigning homework any time soon. However, the type and quantity of homework given seem to be shifting to accommodate the modern student’s needs.
  • The optimal length of time students should spend on homework is one to two hours. Students who spent one to two hours on homework per day scored higher test results.
  •   So, while completing assignments outside of school hours may be beneficial, spending, for example, a day on homework is not ideal.

Explore how the Findmykids app can complement your child’s school routine. With features designed to ensure their safety and provide peace of mind, it’s a valuable tool for parents looking to stay connected with their children throughout the day. Download now and stay informed about your child’s whereabouts during their academic journey.

who created homework

Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

The U.S. Department of Education provides teachers with plenty of information and resources to help students with homework.

In general, teachers give students homework that requires them to employ four strategies. The four types of homework types include:

  • Practice: To help students master a specific skill, teachers will assign homework that requires them to repeat the particular skill. For example, students must solve a series of math problems.
  • Preparation: This type of homework introduces students to the material they will learn in the future. An example of preparatory homework is assigning students a chapter to read before discussing the contents in class the next day.
  • Extension: When a teacher wants to get students to apply what they’ve learned but create a challenge, this type of homework is assigned. It helps to boost problem-solving skills. For example, using a textbook to find the answer to a question gets students to problem-solve differently.
  • Integration: To solidify the student learning experience , teachers will create a task that requires the use of many different skills. An example of integration is a book report. Completing integration homework assignments helps students learn how to be organized, plan, strategize, and solve problems on their own. Encouraging effective study habits is a key idea behind homework, too.

Ultimately, the type of homework students receive should have a purpose, be focused and clear, and challenge students to problem solve while integrating lessons learned.

What’s the Purpose of Homework?

who invented school homework

LightField Studios/Shutterstock.com

Homework aims to ensure individual students understand the information they learn in class. It also helps teachers to assess a student’s progress and identify strengths and weaknesses.

For example, school teachers use different types of homework like book reports, essays, math problems, and more to help students demonstrate their understanding of the lessons learned.

Does Homework Improve the Quality of Education?

Homework is a controversial topic today. Educators, parents, and even students often question whether homework is beneficial in improving the quality of education.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of homework to try and determine whether homework improves the quality of education in schools.

Homework Pros:

  • Time Management Skills : Assigning homework with a due date helps students to develop a schedule to ensure they complete tasks on time. Personal responsibility amongst students is thereby promoted.
  • More Time to Learn : Students encounter plenty of distractions at school. It’s also challenging for students to grasp the material in an hour or less. Assigning homework provides the student with the opportunity to understand the material.
  • Improves Research Skills : Some homework assignments require students to seek out information. Through homework, students learn where to seek out good, reliable sources.

Homework Cons:

  • Reduced Physical Activity : Homework requires students to sit at a desk for long periods. Lack of movement decreases the amount of physical activity, often because teachers assign students so much homework that they don’t have time for anything else. Time for students can get almost totally taken up with out-of-school assignments.
  • Stuck on an Assignment: A student often gets stuck on an assignment. Whether they can’t find information or the correct solution, students often don’t have help from parents and require further support from a teacher. For underperforming students, especially, this can have a negative impact on their confidence and overall educational experience.
  • Increases Stress : One of the results of getting stuck on an assignment is that it increases stress and anxiety. Too much homework hurts a child’s mental health, preventing them from learning and understanding the material.

Some research shows that homework doesn’t provide educational benefits or improve performance, and can lead to a decline in physical activities. These studies counter that the potential effectiveness of homework is undermined by its negative impact on students.

However, research also shows that homework benefits students—provided teachers don’t give them too much. Here’s a video from Duke Today that highlights a study on the very topic.

Homework Today

The question of “Who Invented Homework?” delves into the historical evolution of academic practices, shedding light on its significance in fostering responsibility among students and contributing to academic progress. While supported by education experts, homework’s role as a pivotal aspect of academic life remains a subject of debate, often criticized as a significant source of stress. Nonetheless, when balanced with extracurricular activities and integrated seamlessly into the learning process, homework continues to shape and refine students’ educational journeys.

Maybe one day, students won’t need to submit assignments or complete tasks at home. But until then, many students understand the benefits of completing homework as it helps them further their education and achieve future career goals.

Before you go, here’s one more question: how do you feel about homework? Do you think teachers assign too little or too much? Get involved and start a discussion in the comments!

who made homework not a punishment

Elena Kharichkina/Shutterstock.com

Who invented homework and why?

The creation of homework can be traced back to the Ancient Roman Pliny the Younger, a teacher of oratory—he is generally credited as being the father of homework! Pliny the Younger asked his students to practice outside of class to help them build confidence in their speaking skills.

Who invented homework as a punishment?

There’s a myth that the Italian educator Roberto Nevilis first used homework as a means of punishing his students in the early 20th century—although this has now been widely discredited, and the story of the Italian teacher is regarded as a myth.

Why did homework stop being a punishment?

There are several reasons that homework ceased being a form of punishment. For example, the introduction of child labor laws in the early twentieth century meant that the California education department banned giving homework to children under the age of fifteen for a time. Further, throughout the 1940s and 1950s, there was a growing emphasis on enhancing students’ learning, making homework assignments more personal, and nurturing growth, rather than being used as a form of punishment.

The picture on the front page: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.com

who made homework not a punishment

An aggressive child is not uncommon in the modern world. Unfortunately, for many parents this…

who made homework not a punishment

Every parent wants to see their child happy and successful in their life. However, are…

how to talk to kids about sex

Today, sex education has become a crucial factor to ensuring the safety of our children….

subscription

Subscribe now!

Glad you've joined us🎉🎉.

avatar

How Homework Became A Thing In The US

Homework

For many U.S. students, homework is an unfortunate certainty — the childhood equivalent of death and taxes. But the truth is that it has been controversial since it was introduced. A major player in the initial spread of homework in the U.S. was 19th-century education reformer Horace Mann, Study  explained. Mann was inspired by the developing public education system in Germany, which had recently become unified as a single nation-state. The Volksschulen , or "People's Schools," assigned students work to be completed at home. Mann, who helped develop a state-funded public school system in the U.S., adopted the homework concept from the German system. 

As school attendance became mandatory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, homework became a reality for more U.S. families, Slate explained. This led to a rising backlash against it. In 1900, Edward Bok wrote in the Ladies' Home Journal that forcing children to complete homework rather than play was a "rank injustice." His editorial received support from parents and teachers and, by 1901, 2/3 of U.S. city school districts had limited homework. California went so far as to ban homework for any child under 15. In the 1930s, the American Child Health Association listed homework with child labor as a cause of tuberculosis and heart disease in children, according to The Washington Post .

The rise of homework

Teenagers do homework in 1955

Attitudes toward homework shifted in a big way during the Cold War , according to History . The Russian launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to concerns that U.S. students were falling behind their Russian counterparts, and homework became an important part of revamping the high school curriculum. In 1948, only 8% of U.S. students studied for two or more hours a night. By 1962, 23% of high-school juniors studied that long.

Since then, feelings about homework have gone in roughly 15-year cycles, Slate explained. There was another backlash during the counter-cultural 1960s and 1970s, followed by another pro-homework push in the 1980s. The 1983 government report "A Nation at Risk" argued that high schoolers should be doing more homework to compete with students in South Korea, Japan, and Germany. The 1990s saw another period of anti-homework sentiment, with articles like "The Homework Ate My Family" appearing in Time . Today, homework is being assigned to children as young as kindergarten. Yet other schools are experimenting with homework bans, according to The Washington Post . The future of homework in the U.S. is as controversial as its past.

The Cult of Homework

America’s devotion to the practice stems in part from the fact that it’s what today’s parents and teachers grew up with themselves.

who made homework not a punishment

America has long had a fickle relationship with homework. A century or so ago, progressive reformers argued that it made kids unduly stressed , which later led in some cases to district-level bans on it for all grades under seventh. This anti-homework sentiment faded, though, amid mid-century fears that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union (which led to more homework), only to resurface in the 1960s and ’70s, when a more open culture came to see homework as stifling play and creativity (which led to less). But this didn’t last either: In the ’80s, government researchers blamed America’s schools for its economic troubles and recommended ramping homework up once more.

The 21st century has so far been a homework-heavy era, with American teenagers now averaging about twice as much time spent on homework each day as their predecessors did in the 1990s . Even little kids are asked to bring school home with them. A 2015 study , for instance, found that kindergarteners, who researchers tend to agree shouldn’t have any take-home work, were spending about 25 minutes a night on it.

But not without pushback. As many children, not to mention their parents and teachers, are drained by their daily workload, some schools and districts are rethinking how homework should work—and some teachers are doing away with it entirely. They’re reviewing the research on homework (which, it should be noted, is contested) and concluding that it’s time to revisit the subject.

Read: My daughter’s homework is killing me

Hillsborough, California, an affluent suburb of San Francisco, is one district that has changed its ways. The district, which includes three elementary schools and a middle school, worked with teachers and convened panels of parents in order to come up with a homework policy that would allow students more unscheduled time to spend with their families or to play. In August 2017, it rolled out an updated policy, which emphasized that homework should be “meaningful” and banned due dates that fell on the day after a weekend or a break.

“The first year was a bit bumpy,” says Louann Carlomagno, the district’s superintendent. She says the adjustment was at times hard for the teachers, some of whom had been doing their job in a similar fashion for a quarter of a century. Parents’ expectations were also an issue. Carlomagno says they took some time to “realize that it was okay not to have an hour of homework for a second grader—that was new.”

Most of the way through year two, though, the policy appears to be working more smoothly. “The students do seem to be less stressed based on conversations I’ve had with parents,” Carlomagno says. It also helps that the students performed just as well on the state standardized test last year as they have in the past.

Earlier this year, the district of Somerville, Massachusetts, also rewrote its homework policy, reducing the amount of homework its elementary and middle schoolers may receive. In grades six through eight, for example, homework is capped at an hour a night and can only be assigned two to three nights a week.

Jack Schneider, an education professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell whose daughter attends school in Somerville, is generally pleased with the new policy. But, he says, it’s part of a bigger, worrisome pattern. “The origin for this was general parental dissatisfaction, which not surprisingly was coming from a particular demographic,” Schneider says. “Middle-class white parents tend to be more vocal about concerns about homework … They feel entitled enough to voice their opinions.”

Schneider is all for revisiting taken-for-granted practices like homework, but thinks districts need to take care to be inclusive in that process. “I hear approximately zero middle-class white parents talking about how homework done best in grades K through two actually strengthens the connection between home and school for young people and their families,” he says. Because many of these parents already feel connected to their school community, this benefit of homework can seem redundant. “They don’t need it,” Schneider says, “so they’re not advocating for it.”

That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that homework is more vital in low-income districts. In fact, there are different, but just as compelling, reasons it can be burdensome in these communities as well. Allison Wienhold, who teaches high-school Spanish in the small town of Dunkerton, Iowa, has phased out homework assignments over the past three years. Her thinking: Some of her students, she says, have little time for homework because they’re working 30 hours a week or responsible for looking after younger siblings.

As educators reduce or eliminate the homework they assign, it’s worth asking what amount and what kind of homework is best for students. It turns out that there’s some disagreement about this among researchers, who tend to fall in one of two camps.

In the first camp is Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Cooper conducted a review of the existing research on homework in the mid-2000s , and found that, up to a point, the amount of homework students reported doing correlates with their performance on in-class tests. This correlation, the review found, was stronger for older students than for younger ones.

This conclusion is generally accepted among educators, in part because it’s compatible with “the 10-minute rule,” a rule of thumb popular among teachers suggesting that the proper amount of homework is approximately 10 minutes per night, per grade level—that is, 10 minutes a night for first graders, 20 minutes a night for second graders, and so on, up to two hours a night for high schoolers.

In Cooper’s eyes, homework isn’t overly burdensome for the typical American kid. He points to a 2014 Brookings Institution report that found “little evidence that the homework load has increased for the average student”; onerous amounts of homework, it determined, are indeed out there, but relatively rare. Moreover, the report noted that most parents think their children get the right amount of homework, and that parents who are worried about under-assigning outnumber those who are worried about over-assigning. Cooper says that those latter worries tend to come from a small number of communities with “concerns about being competitive for the most selective colleges and universities.”

According to Alfie Kohn, squarely in camp two, most of the conclusions listed in the previous three paragraphs are questionable. Kohn, the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing , considers homework to be a “reliable extinguisher of curiosity,” and has several complaints with the evidence that Cooper and others cite in favor of it. Kohn notes, among other things, that Cooper’s 2006 meta-analysis doesn’t establish causation, and that its central correlation is based on children’s (potentially unreliable) self-reporting of how much time they spend doing homework. (Kohn’s prolific writing on the subject alleges numerous other methodological faults.)

In fact, other correlations make a compelling case that homework doesn’t help. Some countries whose students regularly outperform American kids on standardized tests, such as Japan and Denmark, send their kids home with less schoolwork , while students from some countries with higher homework loads than the U.S., such as Thailand and Greece, fare worse on tests. (Of course, international comparisons can be fraught because so many factors, in education systems and in societies at large, might shape students’ success.)

Kohn also takes issue with the way achievement is commonly assessed. “If all you want is to cram kids’ heads with facts for tomorrow’s tests that they’re going to forget by next week, yeah, if you give them more time and make them do the cramming at night, that could raise the scores,” he says. “But if you’re interested in kids who know how to think or enjoy learning, then homework isn’t merely ineffective, but counterproductive.”

His concern is, in a way, a philosophical one. “The practice of homework assumes that only academic growth matters, to the point that having kids work on that most of the school day isn’t enough,” Kohn says. What about homework’s effect on quality time spent with family? On long-term information retention? On critical-thinking skills? On social development? On success later in life? On happiness? The research is quiet on these questions.

Another problem is that research tends to focus on homework’s quantity rather than its quality, because the former is much easier to measure than the latter. While experts generally agree that the substance of an assignment matters greatly (and that a lot of homework is uninspiring busywork), there isn’t a catchall rule for what’s best—the answer is often specific to a certain curriculum or even an individual student.

Given that homework’s benefits are so narrowly defined (and even then, contested), it’s a bit surprising that assigning so much of it is often a classroom default, and that more isn’t done to make the homework that is assigned more enriching. A number of things are preserving this state of affairs—things that have little to do with whether homework helps students learn.

Jack Schneider, the Massachusetts parent and professor, thinks it’s important to consider the generational inertia of the practice. “The vast majority of parents of public-school students themselves are graduates of the public education system,” he says. “Therefore, their views of what is legitimate have been shaped already by the system that they would ostensibly be critiquing.” In other words, many parents’ own history with homework might lead them to expect the same for their children, and anything less is often taken as an indicator that a school or a teacher isn’t rigorous enough. (This dovetails with—and complicates—the finding that most parents think their children have the right amount of homework.)

Barbara Stengel, an education professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, brought up two developments in the educational system that might be keeping homework rote and unexciting. The first is the importance placed in the past few decades on standardized testing, which looms over many public-school classroom decisions and frequently discourages teachers from trying out more creative homework assignments. “They could do it, but they’re afraid to do it, because they’re getting pressure every day about test scores,” Stengel says.

Second, she notes that the profession of teaching, with its relatively low wages and lack of autonomy, struggles to attract and support some of the people who might reimagine homework, as well as other aspects of education. “Part of why we get less interesting homework is because some of the people who would really have pushed the limits of that are no longer in teaching,” she says.

“In general, we have no imagination when it comes to homework,” Stengel says. She wishes teachers had the time and resources to remake homework into something that actually engages students. “If we had kids reading—anything, the sports page, anything that they’re able to read—that’s the best single thing. If we had kids going to the zoo, if we had kids going to parks after school, if we had them doing all of those things, their test scores would improve. But they’re not. They’re going home and doing homework that is not expanding what they think about.”

“Exploratory” is one word Mike Simpson used when describing the types of homework he’d like his students to undertake. Simpson is the head of the Stone Independent School, a tiny private high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that opened in 2017. “We were lucky to start a school a year and a half ago,” Simpson says, “so it’s been easy to say we aren’t going to assign worksheets, we aren’t going assign regurgitative problem sets.” For instance, a half-dozen students recently built a 25-foot trebuchet on campus.

Simpson says he thinks it’s a shame that the things students have to do at home are often the least fulfilling parts of schooling: “When our students can’t make the connection between the work they’re doing at 11 o’clock at night on a Tuesday to the way they want their lives to be, I think we begin to lose the plot.”

When I talked with other teachers who did homework makeovers in their classrooms, I heard few regrets. Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Joshua, Texas, stopped assigning take-home packets of worksheets three years ago, and instead started asking her students to do 20 minutes of pleasure reading a night. She says she’s pleased with the results, but she’s noticed something funny. “Some kids,” she says, “really do like homework.” She’s started putting out a bucket of it for students to draw from voluntarily—whether because they want an additional challenge or something to pass the time at home.

Chris Bronke, a high-school English teacher in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, told me something similar. This school year, he eliminated homework for his class of freshmen, and now mostly lets students study on their own or in small groups during class time. It’s usually up to them what they work on each day, and Bronke has been impressed by how they’ve managed their time.

In fact, some of them willingly spend time on assignments at home, whether because they’re particularly engaged, because they prefer to do some deeper thinking outside school, or because they needed to spend time in class that day preparing for, say, a biology test the following period. “They’re making meaningful decisions about their time that I don’t think education really ever gives students the experience, nor the practice, of doing,” Bronke said.

The typical prescription offered by those overwhelmed with homework is to assign less of it—to subtract. But perhaps a more useful approach, for many classrooms, would be to create homework only when teachers and students believe it’s actually needed to further the learning that takes place in class—to start with nothing, and add as necessary.

About the Author

who made homework not a punishment

More Stories

Reporting on Parenthood Has Made Me Nervous About Having Kids

The Economic Principle That Helps Me Order at Restaurants

  • Share full article

Advertisement

Supported by

Student Opinion

Should We Get Rid of Homework?

Some educators are pushing to get rid of homework. Would that be a good thing?

who made homework not a punishment

By Jeremy Engle and Michael Gonchar

Do you like doing homework? Do you think it has benefited you educationally?

Has homework ever helped you practice a difficult skill — in math, for example — until you mastered it? Has it helped you learn new concepts in history or science? Has it helped to teach you life skills, such as independence and responsibility? Or, have you had a more negative experience with homework? Does it stress you out, numb your brain from busywork or actually make you fall behind in your classes?

Should we get rid of homework?

In “ The Movement to End Homework Is Wrong, ” published in July, the Times Opinion writer Jay Caspian Kang argues that homework may be imperfect, but it still serves an important purpose in school. The essay begins:

Do students really need to do their homework? As a parent and a former teacher, I have been pondering this question for quite a long time. The teacher side of me can acknowledge that there were assignments I gave out to my students that probably had little to no academic value. But I also imagine that some of my students never would have done their basic reading if they hadn’t been trained to complete expected assignments, which would have made the task of teaching an English class nearly impossible. As a parent, I would rather my daughter not get stuck doing the sort of pointless homework I would occasionally assign, but I also think there’s a lot of value in saying, “Hey, a lot of work you’re going to end up doing in your life is pointless, so why not just get used to it?” I certainly am not the only person wondering about the value of homework. Recently, the sociologist Jessica McCrory Calarco and the mathematics education scholars Ilana Horn and Grace Chen published a paper, “ You Need to Be More Responsible: The Myth of Meritocracy and Teachers’ Accounts of Homework Inequalities .” They argued that while there’s some evidence that homework might help students learn, it also exacerbates inequalities and reinforces what they call the “meritocratic” narrative that says kids who do well in school do so because of “individual competence, effort and responsibility.” The authors believe this meritocratic narrative is a myth and that homework — math homework in particular — further entrenches the myth in the minds of teachers and their students. Calarco, Horn and Chen write, “Research has highlighted inequalities in students’ homework production and linked those inequalities to differences in students’ home lives and in the support students’ families can provide.”

Mr. Kang argues:

But there’s a defense of homework that doesn’t really have much to do with class mobility, equality or any sense of reinforcing the notion of meritocracy. It’s one that became quite clear to me when I was a teacher: Kids need to learn how to practice things. Homework, in many cases, is the only ritualized thing they have to do every day. Even if we could perfectly equalize opportunity in school and empower all students not to be encumbered by the weight of their socioeconomic status or ethnicity, I’m not sure what good it would do if the kids didn’t know how to do something relentlessly, over and over again, until they perfected it. Most teachers know that type of progress is very difficult to achieve inside the classroom, regardless of a student’s background, which is why, I imagine, Calarco, Horn and Chen found that most teachers weren’t thinking in a structural inequalities frame. Holistic ideas of education, in which learning is emphasized and students can explore concepts and ideas, are largely for the types of kids who don’t need to worry about class mobility. A defense of rote practice through homework might seem revanchist at this moment, but if we truly believe that schools should teach children lessons that fall outside the meritocracy, I can’t think of one that matters more than the simple satisfaction of mastering something that you were once bad at. That takes homework and the acknowledgment that sometimes a student can get a question wrong and, with proper instruction, eventually get it right.

We are having trouble retrieving the article content.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and  log into  your Times account, or  subscribe  for all of The Times.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber?  Log in .

Want all of The Times?  Subscribe .

American Psychological Association Logo

Is homework a necessary evil?

After decades of debate, researchers are still sorting out the truth about homework’s pros and cons. One point they can agree on: Quality assignments matter.

By Kirsten Weir

March 2016, Vol 47, No. 3

Print version: page 36

After decades of debate, researchers are still sorting out the truth about homework’s pros and cons. One point they can agree on: Quality assignments matter.

  • Schools and Classrooms

Homework battles have raged for decades. For as long as kids have been whining about doing their homework, parents and education reformers have complained that homework's benefits are dubious. Meanwhile many teachers argue that take-home lessons are key to helping students learn. Now, as schools are shifting to the new (and hotly debated) Common Core curriculum standards, educators, administrators and researchers are turning a fresh eye toward the question of homework's value.

But when it comes to deciphering the research literature on the subject, homework is anything but an open book.

The 10-minute rule

In many ways, homework seems like common sense. Spend more time practicing multiplication or studying Spanish vocabulary and you should get better at math or Spanish. But it may not be that simple.

Homework can indeed produce academic benefits, such as increased understanding and retention of the material, says Duke University social psychologist Harris Cooper, PhD, one of the nation's leading homework researchers. But not all students benefit. In a review of studies published from 1987 to 2003, Cooper and his colleagues found that homework was linked to better test scores in high school and, to a lesser degree, in middle school. Yet they found only faint evidence that homework provided academic benefit in elementary school ( Review of Educational Research , 2006).

Then again, test scores aren't everything. Homework proponents also cite the nonacademic advantages it might confer, such as the development of personal responsibility, good study habits and time-management skills. But as to hard evidence of those benefits, "the jury is still out," says Mollie Galloway, PhD, associate professor of educational leadership at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. "I think there's a focus on assigning homework because [teachers] think it has these positive outcomes for study skills and habits. But we don't know for sure that's the case."

Even when homework is helpful, there can be too much of a good thing. "There is a limit to how much kids can benefit from home study," Cooper says. He agrees with an oft-cited rule of thumb that students should do no more than 10 minutes a night per grade level — from about 10 minutes in first grade up to a maximum of about two hours in high school. Both the National Education Association and National Parent Teacher Association support that limit.

Beyond that point, kids don't absorb much useful information, Cooper says. In fact, too much homework can do more harm than good. Researchers have cited drawbacks, including boredom and burnout toward academic material, less time for family and extracurricular activities, lack of sleep and increased stress.

In a recent study of Spanish students, Rubén Fernández-Alonso, PhD, and colleagues found that students who were regularly assigned math and science homework scored higher on standardized tests. But when kids reported having more than 90 to 100 minutes of homework per day, scores declined ( Journal of Educational Psychology , 2015).

"At all grade levels, doing other things after school can have positive effects," Cooper says. "To the extent that homework denies access to other leisure and community activities, it's not serving the child's best interest."

Children of all ages need down time in order to thrive, says Denise Pope, PhD, a professor of education at Stanford University and a co-founder of Challenge Success, a program that partners with secondary schools to implement policies that improve students' academic engagement and well-being.

"Little kids and big kids need unstructured time for play each day," she says. Certainly, time for physical activity is important for kids' health and well-being. But even time spent on social media can help give busy kids' brains a break, she says.

All over the map

But are teachers sticking to the 10-minute rule? Studies attempting to quantify time spent on homework are all over the map, in part because of wide variations in methodology, Pope says.

A 2014 report by the Brookings Institution examined the question of homework, comparing data from a variety of sources. That report cited findings from a 2012 survey of first-year college students in which 38.4 percent reported spending six hours or more per week on homework during their last year of high school. That was down from 49.5 percent in 1986 ( The Brown Center Report on American Education , 2014).

The Brookings report also explored survey data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which asked 9-, 13- and 17-year-old students how much homework they'd done the previous night. They found that between 1984 and 2012, there was a slight increase in homework for 9-year-olds, but homework amounts for 13- and 17-year-olds stayed roughly the same, or even decreased slightly.

Yet other evidence suggests that some kids might be taking home much more work than they can handle. Robert Pressman, PhD, and colleagues recently investigated the 10-minute rule among more than 1,100 students, and found that elementary-school kids were receiving up to three times as much homework as recommended. As homework load increased, so did family stress, the researchers found ( American Journal of Family Therapy , 2015).

Many high school students also seem to be exceeding the recommended amounts of homework. Pope and Galloway recently surveyed more than 4,300 students from 10 high-achieving high schools. Students reported bringing home an average of just over three hours of homework nightly ( Journal of Experiential Education , 2013).

On the positive side, students who spent more time on homework in that study did report being more behaviorally engaged in school — for instance, giving more effort and paying more attention in class, Galloway says. But they were not more invested in the homework itself. They also reported greater academic stress and less time to balance family, friends and extracurricular activities. They experienced more physical health problems as well, such as headaches, stomach troubles and sleep deprivation. "Three hours per night is too much," Galloway says.

In the high-achieving schools Pope and Galloway studied, more than 90 percent of the students go on to college. There's often intense pressure to succeed academically, from both parents and peers. On top of that, kids in these communities are often overloaded with extracurricular activities, including sports and clubs. "They're very busy," Pope says. "Some kids have up to 40 hours a week — a full-time job's worth — of extracurricular activities." And homework is yet one more commitment on top of all the others.

"Homework has perennially acted as a source of stress for students, so that piece of it is not new," Galloway says. "But especially in upper-middle-class communities, where the focus is on getting ahead, I think the pressure on students has been ratcheted up."

Yet homework can be a problem at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum as well. Kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, Internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at afterschool jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs, says Lea Theodore, PhD, a professor of school psychology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. They are less likely to have computers or a quiet place to do homework in peace.

"Homework can highlight those inequities," she says.

Quantity vs. quality

One point researchers agree on is that for all students, homework quality matters. But too many kids are feeling a lack of engagement with their take-home assignments, many experts say. In Pope and Galloway's research, only 20 percent to 30 percent of students said they felt their homework was useful or meaningful.

"Students are assigned a lot of busywork. They're naming it as a primary stressor, but they don't feel it's supporting their learning," Galloway says.

"Homework that's busywork is not good for anyone," Cooper agrees. Still, he says, different subjects call for different kinds of assignments. "Things like vocabulary and spelling are learned through practice. Other kinds of courses require more integration of material and drawing on different skills."

But critics say those skills can be developed with many fewer hours of homework each week. Why assign 50 math problems, Pope asks, when 10 would be just as constructive? One Advanced Placement biology teacher she worked with through Challenge Success experimented with cutting his homework assignments by a third, and then by half. "Test scores didn't go down," she says. "You can have a rigorous course and not have a crazy homework load."

Still, changing the culture of homework won't be easy. Teachers-to-be get little instruction in homework during their training, Pope says. And despite some vocal parents arguing that kids bring home too much homework, many others get nervous if they think their child doesn't have enough. "Teachers feel pressured to give homework because parents expect it to come home," says Galloway. "When it doesn't, there's this idea that the school might not be doing its job."

Galloway argues teachers and school administrators need to set clear goals when it comes to homework — and parents and students should be in on the discussion, too. "It should be a broader conversation within the community, asking what's the purpose of homework? Why are we giving it? Who is it serving? Who is it not serving?"

Until schools and communities agree to take a hard look at those questions, those backpacks full of take-home assignments will probably keep stirring up more feelings than facts.

Further reading

  • 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. doi: 10.3102/00346543076001001
  • Galloway, M., Connor, J., & Pope, D. (2013). Nonacademic effects of homework in privileged, high-performing high schools. The Journal of Experimental Education, 81 (4), 490–510. doi: 10.1080/00220973.2012.745469
  • Pope, D., Brown, M., & Miles, S. (2015). Overloaded and underprepared: Strategies for stronger schools and healthy, successful kids . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Letters to the Editor

  • Send us a letter
  • The Highlight

Nobody knows what the point of homework is

The homework wars are back.

by Jacob Sweet

An illustration shows an open math workbook and a pencil writing numbers in it, while the previous page disintegrates and floats away.

As the Covid-19 pandemic began and students logged into their remote classrooms, all work, in effect, became homework. But whether or not students could complete it at home varied. For some, schoolwork became public-library work or McDonald’s-parking-lot work.

Luis Torres, the principal of PS 55, a predominantly low-income community elementary school in the south Bronx, told me that his school secured Chromebooks for students early in the pandemic only to learn that some lived in shelters that blocked wifi for security reasons. Others, who lived in housing projects with poor internet reception, did their schoolwork in laundromats.

According to a 2021 Pew survey , 25 percent of lower-income parents said their children, at some point, were unable to complete their schoolwork because they couldn’t access a computer at home; that number for upper-income parents was 2 percent.

The issues with remote learning in March 2020 were new. But they highlighted a divide that had been there all along in another form: homework. And even long after schools have resumed in-person classes, the pandemic’s effects on homework have lingered.

Over the past three years, in response to concerns about equity, schools across the country, including in Sacramento, Los Angeles , San Diego , and Clark County, Nevada , made permanent changes to their homework policies that restricted how much homework could be given and how it could be graded after in-person learning resumed.

Three years into the pandemic, as districts and teachers reckon with Covid-era overhauls of teaching and learning, schools are still reconsidering the purpose and place of homework. Whether relaxing homework expectations helps level the playing field between students or harms them by decreasing rigor is a divisive issue without conclusive evidence on either side, echoing other debates in education like the elimination of standardized test scores from some colleges’ admissions processes.

I first began to wonder if the homework abolition movement made sense after speaking with teachers in some Massachusetts public schools, who argued that rather than help disadvantaged kids, stringent homework restrictions communicated an attitude of low expectations. One, an English teacher, said she felt the school had “just given up” on trying to get the students to do work; another argued that restrictions that prohibit teachers from assigning take-home work that doesn’t begin in class made it difficult to get through the foreign-language curriculum. Teachers in other districts have raised formal concerns about homework abolition’s ability to close gaps among students rather than widening them.

Many education experts share this view. Harris Cooper, a professor emeritus of psychology at Duke who has studied homework efficacy, likened homework abolition to “playing to the lowest common denominator.”

But as I learned after talking to a variety of stakeholders — from homework researchers to policymakers to parents of schoolchildren — whether to abolish homework probably isn’t the right question. More important is what kind of work students are sent home with and where they can complete it. Chances are, if schools think more deeply about giving constructive work, time spent on homework will come down regardless.

There’s no consensus on whether homework works

The rise of the no-homework movement during the Covid-19 pandemic tapped into long-running disagreements over homework’s impact on students. The purpose and effectiveness of homework have been disputed for well over a century. In 1901, for instance, California banned homework for students up to age 15, and limited it for older students, over concerns that it endangered children’s mental and physical health. The newest iteration of the anti-homework argument contends that the current practice punishes students who lack support and rewards those with more resources, reinforcing the “myth of meritocracy.”

But there is still no research consensus on homework’s effectiveness; no one can seem to agree on what the right metrics are. Much of the debate relies on anecdotes, intuition, or speculation.

Researchers disagree even on how much research exists on the value of homework. Kathleen Budge, the co-author of Turning High-Poverty Schools Into High-Performing Schools and a professor at Boise State, told me that homework “has been greatly researched.” Denise Pope, a Stanford lecturer and leader of the education nonprofit Challenge Success, said, “It’s not a highly researched area because of some of the methodological problems.”

Experts who are more sympathetic to take-home assignments generally support the “10-minute rule,” a framework that estimates the ideal amount of homework on any given night by multiplying the student’s grade by 10 minutes. (A ninth grader, for example, would have about 90 minutes of work a night.) Homework proponents argue that while it is difficult to design randomized control studies to test homework’s effectiveness, the vast majority of existing studies show a strong positive correlation between homework and high academic achievement for middle and high school students. Prominent critics of homework argue that these correlational studies are unreliable and point to studies that suggest a neutral or negative effect on student performance. Both agree there is little to no evidence for homework’s effectiveness at an elementary school level, though proponents often argue that it builds constructive habits for the future.

For anyone who remembers homework assignments from both good and bad teachers, this fundamental disagreement might not be surprising. Some homework is pointless and frustrating to complete. Every week during my senior year of high school, I had to analyze a poem for English and decorate it with images found on Google; my most distinct memory from that class is receiving a demoralizing 25-point deduction because I failed to present my analysis on a poster board. Other assignments really do help students learn: After making an adapted version of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book for a ninth grade history project, I was inspired to check out from the library and read a biography of the Chinese ruler.

For homework opponents, the first example is more likely to resonate. “We’re all familiar with the negative effects of homework: stress, exhaustion, family conflict, less time for other activities, diminished interest in learning,” Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth, which challenges common justifications for homework, told me in an email. “And these effects may be most pronounced among low-income students.” Kohn believes that schools should make permanent any moratoria implemented during the pandemic, arguing that there are no positives at all to outweigh homework’s downsides. Recent studies , he argues , show the benefits may not even materialize during high school.

In the Marlborough Public Schools, a suburban district 45 minutes west of Boston, school policy committee chair Katherine Hennessy described getting kids to complete their homework during remote education as “a challenge, to say the least.” Teachers found that students who spent all day on their computers didn’t want to spend more time online when the day was over. So, for a few months, the school relaxed the usual practice and teachers slashed the quantity of nightly homework.

Online learning made the preexisting divides between students more apparent, she said. Many students, even during normal circumstances, lacked resources to keep them on track and focused on completing take-home assignments. Though Marlborough Schools is more affluent than PS 55, Hennessy said many students had parents whose work schedules left them unable to provide homework help in the evenings. The experience tracked with a common divide in the country between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

So in October 2021, months after the homework reduction began, the Marlborough committee made a change to the district’s policy. While teachers could still give homework, the assignments had to begin as classwork. And though teachers could acknowledge homework completion in a student’s participation grade, they couldn’t count homework as its own grading category. “Rigorous learning in the classroom does not mean that that classwork must be assigned every night,” the policy stated . “Extensions of class work is not to be used to teach new content or as a form of punishment.”

Canceling homework might not do anything for the achievement gap

The critiques of homework are valid as far as they go, but at a certain point, arguments against homework can defy the commonsense idea that to retain what they’re learning, students need to practice it.

“Doesn’t a kid become a better reader if he reads more? Doesn’t a kid learn his math facts better if he practices them?” said Cathy Vatterott, an education researcher and professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. After decades of research, she said it’s still hard to isolate the value of homework, but that doesn’t mean it should be abandoned.

Blanket vilification of homework can also conflate the unique challenges facing disadvantaged students as compared to affluent ones, which could have different solutions. “The kids in the low-income schools are being hurt because they’re being graded, unfairly, on time they just don’t have to do this stuff,” Pope told me. “And they’re still being held accountable for turning in assignments, whether they’re meaningful or not.” On the other side, “Palo Alto kids” — students in Silicon Valley’s stereotypically pressure-cooker public schools — “are just bombarded and overloaded and trying to stay above water.”

Merely getting rid of homework doesn’t solve either problem. The United States already has the second-highest disparity among OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations between time spent on homework by students of high and low socioeconomic status — a difference of more than three hours, said Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University and author of No More Mindless Homework .

When she interviewed teachers in Boston-area schools that had cut homework before the pandemic, Bempechat told me, “What they saw immediately was parents who could afford it immediately enrolled their children in the Russian School of Mathematics,” a math-enrichment program whose tuition ranges from $140 to about $400 a month. Getting rid of homework “does nothing for equity; it increases the opportunity gap between wealthier and less wealthy families,” she said. “That solution troubles me because it’s no solution at all.”

A group of teachers at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, made the same point after the school district proposed an overhaul of its homework policies, including removing penalties for missing homework deadlines, allowing unlimited retakes, and prohibiting grading of homework.

“Given the emphasis on equity in today’s education systems,” they wrote in a letter to the school board, “we believe that some of the proposed changes will actually have a detrimental impact towards achieving this goal. Families that have means could still provide challenging and engaging academic experiences for their children and will continue to do so, especially if their children are not experiencing expected rigor in the classroom.” At a school where more than a third of students are low-income, the teachers argued, the policies would prompt students “to expect the least of themselves in terms of effort, results, and responsibility.”

Not all homework is created equal

Despite their opposing sides in the homework wars, most of the researchers I spoke to made a lot of the same points. Both Bempechat and Pope were quick to bring up how parents and schools confuse rigor with workload, treating the volume of assignments as a proxy for quality of learning. Bempechat, who is known for defending homework, has written extensively about how plenty of it lacks clear purpose, requires the purchasing of unnecessary supplies, and takes longer than it needs to. Likewise, when Pope instructs graduate-level classes on curriculum, she asks her students to think about the larger purpose they’re trying to achieve with homework: If they can get the job done in the classroom, there’s no point in sending home more work.

At its best, pandemic-era teaching facilitated that last approach. Honolulu-based teacher Christina Torres Cawdery told me that, early in the pandemic, she often had a cohort of kids in her classroom for four hours straight, as her school tried to avoid too much commingling. She couldn’t lecture for four hours, so she gave the students plenty of time to complete independent and project-based work. At the end of most school days, she didn’t feel the need to send them home with more to do.

A similar limited-homework philosophy worked at a public middle school in Chelsea, Massachusetts. A couple of teachers there turned as much class as possible into an opportunity for small-group practice, allowing kids to work on problems that traditionally would be assigned for homework, Jessica Flick, a math coach who leads department meetings at the school, told me. It was inspired by a philosophy pioneered by Simon Fraser University professor Peter Liljedahl, whose influential book Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics reframes homework as “check-your-understanding questions” rather than as compulsory work. Last year, Flick found that the two eighth grade classes whose teachers adopted this strategy performed the best on state tests, and this year, she has encouraged other teachers to implement it.

Teachers know that plenty of homework is tedious and unproductive. Jeannemarie Dawson De Quiroz, who has taught for more than 20 years in low-income Boston and Los Angeles pilot and charter schools, says that in her first years on the job she frequently assigned “drill and kill” tasks and questions that she now feels unfairly stumped students. She said designing good homework wasn’t part of her teaching programs, nor was it meaningfully discussed in professional development. With more experience, she turned as much class time as she could into practice time and limited what she sent home.

“The thing about homework that’s sticky is that not all homework is created equal,” says Jill Harrison Berg, a former teacher and the author of Uprooting Instructional Inequity . “Some homework is a genuine waste of time and requires lots of resources for no good reason. And other homework is really useful.”

Cutting homework has to be part of a larger strategy

The takeaways are clear: Schools can make cuts to homework, but those cuts should be part of a strategy to improve the quality of education for all students. If the point of homework was to provide more practice, districts should think about how students can make it up during class — or offer time during or after school for students to seek help from teachers. If it was to move the curriculum along, it’s worth considering whether strategies like Liljedahl’s can get more done in less time.

Some of the best thinking around effective assignments comes from those most critical of the current practice. Denise Pope proposes that, before assigning homework, teachers should consider whether students understand the purpose of the work and whether they can do it without help. If teachers think it’s something that can’t be done in class, they should be mindful of how much time it should take and the feedback they should provide. It’s questions like these that De Quiroz considered before reducing the volume of work she sent home.

More than a year after the new homework policy began in Marlborough, Hennessy still hears from parents who incorrectly “think homework isn’t happening” despite repeated assurances that kids still can receive work. She thinks part of the reason is that education has changed over the years. “I think what we’re trying to do is establish that homework may be an element of educating students,” she told me. “But it may not be what parents think of as what they grew up with. ... It’s going to need to adapt, per the teaching and the curriculum, and how it’s being delivered in each classroom.”

For the policy to work, faculty, parents, and students will all have to buy into a shared vision of what school ought to look like. The district is working on it — in November, it hosted and uploaded to YouTube a round-table discussion on homework between district administrators — but considering the sustained confusion, the path ahead seems difficult.

When I asked Luis Torres about whether he thought homework serves a useful part in PS 55’s curriculum, he said yes, of course it was — despite the effort and money it takes to keep the school open after hours to help them do it. “The children need the opportunity to practice,” he said. “If you don’t give them opportunities to practice what they learn, they’re going to forget.” But Torres doesn’t care if the work is done at home. The school stays open until around 6 pm on weekdays, even during breaks. Tutors through New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development programs help kids with work after school so they don’t need to take it with them.

As schools weigh the purpose of homework in an unequal world, it’s tempting to dispose of a practice that presents real, practical problems to students across the country. But getting rid of homework is unlikely to do much good on its own. Before cutting it, it’s worth thinking about what good assignments are meant to do in the first place. It’s crucial that students from all socioeconomic backgrounds tackle complex quantitative problems and hone their reading and writing skills. It’s less important that the work comes home with them.

Jacob Sweet is a freelance writer in Somerville, Massachusetts. He is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, among other publications.

Most Popular

Does kamala harris give democrats a better chance to win, who could be kamala harris’s vp the potential list, briefly explained., could republicans sue to keep biden on the ballot, why is everyone talking about kamala harris and coconut trees, harris isn’t her party’s best candidate. biden was still right to endorse her., today, explained.

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.

More in The Highlight

America’s obsession with hot dogs, explained

America’s obsession with hot dogs, explained

The death of the summer job is a good thing

The death of the summer job is a good thing

The case against summer

The case against summer

Mothers and daughters fight— but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world

Mothers and daughters fight— but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world

What if absolutely everything is conscious?

What if absolutely everything is conscious?

The Highlight — The Summer Issue

The Highlight — The Summer Issue

America’s obsession with hot dogs, explained

The strange ways we do (and don’t) consume glizzies.

The death of the summer job is a good thing

Teen jobs aren’t what they used to be. They’re worse.

The case against summer

Your summer won’t be as good as you think it will be. It never is.

Mothers and daughters fight— but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world

How to handle tension in the teen years without ruining your relationship.

What if absolutely everything is conscious?

Scientists spent ages mocking panpsychism. Now, some are warming to the idea that plants, cells, and even atoms are conscious.

The Highlight — The Summer Issue

The quest for the timeless wedding; how we buy hot dogs; the changing summer job; the case against summer and more!

Kamala Harris is the underdog 

Kamala Harris is the underdog 

Will Harris automatically replace Biden? Plus six other questions about the next steps, answered.

Will Harris automatically replace Biden? Plus six other questions about the next steps, answered.

The baffling case of Karen Read

The baffling case of Karen Read

Why is everyone talking about Kamala Harris and coconut trees?

IMAGES

  1. Who Invented Homework ️ Why & When Was it Invented? History and Facts

    who made homework not a punishment

  2. Who invented homework and why homework was invented?

    who made homework not a punishment

  3. Who Invented Homework and When?

    who made homework not a punishment

  4. Who Invented Homework?

    who made homework not a punishment

  5. The person who invented Homework was an Italian teacher named Roberto

    who made homework not a punishment

  6. The person who invented homework was an Italian teacher named Roberto

    who made homework not a punishment

VIDEO

  1. Punishment for not doing homework # Suruchi tuition classes Nadiad. # apexa panchal

  2. Room Essentials Desk Fan

  3. Homework......... and punishment....... #homework #punishment #youtube #comedy

  4. Punishment for not doing homework

  5. Who ever made homework

  6. Tution teacher,homework & punishment #comedy #funny

COMMENTS

  1. Debunking Myths: No, "Roberto Nevilis" Didn't Invent Homework

    Source: twitter.com. Nevilis was supposedly a teacher based in Venice, Italy when he invented homework. Some claim that he invented it in 1095, while others claim he invented it in 1905 before it spread to Europe and to the rest of the world. It was said to be a form of punishment for students who underperformed in class.

  2. The Homework Dilemma: Who Invented Homework?

    Horace Mann, often regarded as the "Father of American Education," made significant contributions to the American public school system in the 19th century. Though he may not have single-handedly invented homework, his educational reforms played a crucial role in its widespread adoption. Mann's vision for education emphasized discipline ...

  3. education

    19. There is a claim that Roberto Nevilis invented homework in 1905 (sic). And it doesn't seem to be a recent meme - there are tons of pics for this meme claiming: The person who invented homework was an Italian teacher named Roberto Nevilis. He invented Howework (sic) in 1905 (sic) as a punishment for his sutdents. (sic)

  4. Busting the Myth of Roberto Nevilis

    According to a lot of websites, Nevilis was a teacher in Venice and allegedly invented homework as a means of punishing students who did not perform well in class. Some sites claim the year was 1095 while others claim it was 1905. Neither of these can a possibility. In the year 1095, there was no formal system of education in and around Europe.

  5. IsItBullshit: the concept of homework was originally created by a

    It was being beaten until bloody. And the punishment for disobeying or failing to learn the work was identical. I hope that puts things in perspective for people with the gall to liken homework to punishment today. So homework is as old as writing itself, in a sense, and it most definitely wasn't punishment.

  6. The Surprising History of Homework Reform

    One teacher proposed "homework" consisting of after-school "field trips to the woods, factories, museums, libraries, art galleries.". In 1937, Carleton Washburne, an influential educator who was the superintendent of the Winnetka, Illinois, schools, proposed a homework regimen of "cooking and sewing…meal planning…budgeting, home ...

  7. Homework

    In the 1950s, with increasing pressure on the United States to stay ahead in the Cold War, homework made a resurgence, and children were encouraged to keep up with their Russian counterparts. ... Even if it is generally not wanted by homework distributors (unless homework is given as a punishment), completing homework may take up a large part ...

  8. The Story Behind The Myth That An Italian Teacher Roberto ...

    Yingna Cai/Shutterstock. As both Through Education and The Ed Advocate report, somehow a myth entered the world's collective consciousness that an Italian man named Roberto Nevilis invented homework. Some versions of the myth even add some context: It was intended to punish underperforming students and to reward those who excelled at their lessons.

  9. Who Invented Homework? The History of a School Staple

    In 1901—just a few decades after the concept of homework made its way across the Atlantic—it was dispensed with in the Pacific state of California by a homework ban. The ban affected all ...

  10. Who Invented Homework? How, When, and Why Was It Invented?

    Mann was the first educator to emphasize the role of parents in every child's learning journey. He believed homework could reinforce the lessons taught in school, teach the youth self-discipline and improve their relationships with parents. He added a new layer to why homework was invented and made mainstream.

  11. Why Was Homework Invented?

    Table of Contents. In 1905, an Italian teacher named Roberto Nevilis invented the concept of "homework.". Originally, its purpose was to be used as a punishment for students who were lazy in class or for those who were disobedient or rude to their teacher. This practice became popular and became more frequently used around the world.

  12. Historical facts about homework, who invented it, why and when

    When and Why Was Homework Invented. You may wonder who was the first person to give homework. It turns out those are two different people. If you live in the United States, you can thank Horace Mann for your school system. Of course, education goes back much further than that. In fact, school systems existed in Ancient Europe, The Middle East ...

  13. Who Invented Homework and Why Was It Invented?

    Mentions of the term "homework" date back to as early as ancient Rome. In I century AD, Pliny the Younger, an oratory teacher, supposedly invented homework by asking his followers to practice public speaking at home. It was to help them become more confident and fluent in their speeches.

  14. Homework Pros and Cons

    Homework does not help younger students, and may not help high school students. We've known for a while that homework does not help elementary students. A 2006 study found that "homework had no association with achievement gains" when measured by standardized tests results or grades. [ 7]

  15. Who Invented Homework and Why

    The people or people who made homework understood the advantages of it. Let's consider the following: Repetition, a key factor in long-term memory retention, is a primary goal of homework. ... as well as instill a sense of discipline. ‍ In other words, homework's origins can be linked to academic performance and regular students practice ...

  16. Was Homework Created As a Punishment?

    Homework was not created to punish the students. Roberto Nevilis, an Italian teacher, invented it in 1905. The motivation behind Homework was quite simple. As a teacher, Nevilis believed that his lessons had lost meaning when they quit the classroom and went back to the comfort of their homes. Saddened that the students could not perform better ...

  17. Homework: The True Reality Behind It

    In 1905, an Italian teacher named Roberto Nevilis invented the concept of "homework.". Originally, its purpose was to be used as a punishment for students who were lazy in class or for those who were disobedient or rude to their teacher. This practice became popular and became more frequently used around the world.

  18. Who Invented Homework ️ Why & When Was it Invented? History and Facts

    If you've ever felt curious about who invented homework, a quick online search might direct you to a man named Roberto Nevilis, a teacher in Venice, Italy. As the story goes, Nevilis invented homework in 1905 (or 1095) to punish students who didn't demonstrate a good understanding of the lessons taught during class.

  19. How Homework Became A Thing In The US

    In 1948, only 8% of U.S. students studied for two or more hours a night. By 1962, 23% of high-school juniors studied that long. Since then, feelings about homework have gone in roughly 15-year cycles, Slate explained. There was another backlash during the counter-cultural 1960s and 1970s, followed by another pro-homework push in the 1980s.

  20. Does Homework Work?

    Africa Studio / Shutterstock / The Atlantic. March 28, 2019. America has long had a fickle relationship with homework. A century or so ago, progressive reformers argued that it made kids unduly ...

  21. Should We Get Rid of Homework?

    The authors believe this meritocratic narrative is a myth and that homework — math homework in particular — further entrenches the myth in the minds of teachers and their students.

  22. Is homework a necessary evil?

    Beyond that point, kids don't absorb much useful information, Cooper says. In fact, too much homework can do more harm than good. Researchers have cited drawbacks, including boredom and burnout toward academic material, less time for family and extracurricular activities, lack of sleep and increased stress.

  23. Why does homework exist?

    Feb 23, 2023, 11:04 AM UTC. Jiayue Li for Vox. As the Covid-19 pandemic began and students logged into their remote classrooms, all work, in effect, became homework. But whether or not students ...