The Importance of Homework … How a Teenager Learns Responsibility through Homework (Part 02)

The importance of homework should not be understated. Students who receive more homework, and do it, experience greater academic success. Why?

~ Homework Supplies Vital Review:

Review is a key ingredient of homework. Studies have shown repeatedly that review is essential for remembering material. Memory of material learned through lectures as well as textbooks fades fast in the following days and weeks:

After 1 day              54% was remembered.
After 7 days            35% was remembered.
After 14 days          21% was remembered.
After 21 days          18% was remembered.
After 28 days          19% was remembered.
After 63 days          17% was remembered.

Suppose you give teenagers a test four weeks after covering the information. If the teens wait until the night before the test to review, they will have forgotten an astounding 81% of the material! They will have to study far into the night if they are going to be ready for the test.

Think of it this way. Picture your teenager walking through a wilderness forest one sunny day. Shoes tramp the grass and twigs underfoot, leaving a faint trail. The trail does not remain long, though. If your teen does not return that way soon, it will become overgrown and indiscernible. Your teenager’s brain works that way when learning academic concepts, content, and skills. The teen’s memory is marked by the material, etching a faint path in the “woods” of the brain, but the path soon fades away. If the teen returns an hour or two later and retraces the path, it will last longer. The more times the path is traveled, the longer it will remain.

Homework takes the first faint “path” of facts from the classroom and walks the student back over them. Succeeding assignments tread the path until they fix it firmly in memory. Review done in the course of regular homework assignments is the best way to trample a lasting “cow path” through the brain’s forest.

Investing in teenagers’ homework pays big dividends in their ability to remember lessons, but your investment’s value does not end there.

~ Homework Helps Build Character

You will want to access the non-academic reasons for assigning homework also. Corno and Xu (2004) determined that homework helps teenagers develop independence. All teenagers want independence, of course. They struggle to attain it, so we do well to help them reach it properly. Homework draws students into an area of personal study they must do independent of teacher or parents. Be sure neither a study hall teacher nor parent assists with homework, and you will see teens grow in their independence.

Corno and Xu (2004) learned also that homework helps students acquire time-management skills. Without homework, many teenagers have nothing to do with out-of-school time but play video games, text friends, and (for many) get into trouble. Such activities put few demands on their ability to handle time wisely. Completion of homework requires the planning of hours between school dismissal and bedtime.

Finally, the study found that homework builds specific character traits. In the first article of this series, we posed the question:

Can you explain how a teenager learns responsibility through homework…?

One of the greatest character trait needs in the life of a teenaged boy or girl is responsibility. Teenagers will build that trait consistently through required homework.

~ Homework Builds Responsibility

Repeated studies tell us that teens who learn to shoulder family and personal responsibilities experience greater happiness. They build and maintain higher moral values. They mature into productive citizens. Conversely, teenagers readily go along with adults that make excuses for their teens instead of helping them build responsibility.

Young adults must build strong responsibility into their lives if they are to become productive adults. That is your goal – preparing young people for adulthood, right? If so, you will want to permeate their character with responsibility.

“Responsibility begins by determining what task or duty is mine, gaining knowledge of what is involved in its completion, and then acts to complete that task or duty to the best of my ability.” ~Elizabeth Hamilton

  • Teach students that the task of homework belongs to them, not their parents, friends, siblings, or an Internet help desk. The duty belongs to the teenager alone.
  • Instruct students in ways to gain knowledge of what is involved in completing the homework. You may ask them to write out this determination at the beginning of an assignment. What must they do in order to declare the task complete?
  • Be sure students understand that they must invest time and effort to be sure they complete the homework to the best of their personal ability. Joshua is not responsible to do his homework as well as Emma can do it. Emma will not be showing responsibility if she settling for less than her personal best.

You are not off the educator hook, however, until you check the homework to the best of your personal ability. Responsibility requires accountability. You must make students answer for their work – account for their actions in completing the task.

Far too many educators shun homework simply because they do not want the personal responsibility of grading the homework. They themselves would rather not be responsible for making students answer for their homework activity. If this is you, you are short-changing your students.

Homework builds responsibility – use it wisely.


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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