The Importance of Homework … How a Teenager Learns Responsibility through Homework (Part 01)

The importance of homework jumps to the fore each new school year, especially for those who parent or teach teenagers.

“Are you gonna make us do a lot of homework?” a teenager asks each teacher.

“How much homework will my student have?” parents ask teachers.

As U.S. schools began the 2016 school year, some teachers stated publicly that they would use a “no-homework policy”. In place of homework, one would encourage student participation in cooking, music, or reading. Another intended to substitute outdoor activities for homework.

Elementary school teachers seemed more likely than secondary school colleagues to set such policies. Nevertheless, many at upper levels questioned the value of homework.

You may have strong feelings about homework, but consider two questions:

  • What is the importance of homework, if any?
  • Can you explain how a teenager learns responsibility through homework, or offer something else as an adequate substitute?

In this part of the article series, we will begin to answer the first of those questions.

The Importance of Homework

~ Who Says Homework is Important?

“Back in 2009, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development looked at homework hours around the world and found that there wasn’t much of a connection between how much homework students of a particular country do and how well their students score on tests…

(BUT five years later) they’re finding that homework does play an important role in student achievement within each country.” The Hechinger Report. (January 5, 2015) Study: Homework Matters More in Certain Countries. Jill Barshay.

You might suggest arguments about the schools’ identity, students’ home life, family financial status, etc. The researchers did — and what did they find?

When they looked at students who studied in the same educational system, with some doing more homework and some doing less homework, there was a big difference. Students who had to do more homework and did it were more successful.

The importance of homework leaped out on the study’s pages. Students who did homework gained a definite advantage over students who did not do homework.

~ Why is homework important?

Classroom distractions: “What are common distractions for high school students during class?” asked’s forum. (

A teenager describing himself as “Student who loves to Learn” responded on Nov 14, 2015, “There are a lot of things that distract us students in school now, especially with technology and the school giving us all MacBook Airs. Here is the list of things that I see distract people:

  • Social Media: Quora, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and the biggest one, Snapchat. Everyone is always on them.
  • Games: Specifically a game called octagon. Teachers hate it, so kids keep playing it.
  • Music: Students always say that it helps them focus, but it doesn’t.
  • Food/Snacks: Everyone always is eating something or chewing gum, this can really distract you, or you could be asking someone else for food or gum.

The teenager went on to admit that there are still distractions such as “Girls, Friends, etc.”, but classified them as lesser distractions.

Since you can never eliminate every classroom distraction that interrupts the mind at work, what will your teaching produce? A difficult mathematics concept will remain only half understood because of an intervening distraction. The same will be true in a science, history, or language class – vital material will be lost. You will not re-teach the material the next day. Rather, you will take up the next lesson, not knowing that a distraction rendered the previous day’s material ineffective.

What would change if you gave homework at the end of the lesson? Carefully assigned homework would clarify and reinforce important material. Quality homework completed in a less distracting environment would lead those students back through the material to cement learning firmly in place.

“We remember what we understand; we understand only what we pay attention to; we pay attention to what we want.” – Edward Bolles

The importance of homework shows up in higher academic success as students overcome the results of unavoidable distractions.


Elizabeth Hamilton is a career educator, freelance writer, editor, and Character Education consultant. She translates her 40+ years of education experience into helping others become effective teachers in the school and at home. Need help with your efforts at character building? Contact Elizabeth.

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