The Case For And Against Holiday Homework


The holidays: A time for eating, travel, fun with family, relaxation and, potentially, homework.

It’s a debate that’s been going on for years: Does study time have any place during school vacations?

The Case For Homework Over The Holidays

The pro-homework contingent has done their research (unsurprisingly). Two meta-analyses by Cooper et al (Cooper, 1989a; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006) examined the causal relationship between homework and student achievement.

They concluded that the amount of homework a student completes coincides directly with their success rates. Their research further found that students that were assigned homework scored 23 percentile points higher on tests than learners in a class where homework wasn’t assigned.

It turns out learning is a lot like exercise – it’s good to rest, but not to live on the couch for a month. The less you use the skills you have and the learning you’ve gained, the worse shape it’s going to be in when students come back to class.

The Case Against Homework Over The Holidays

So what’s the other side saying?

Let’s start with family time. It’d be crazy to argue that family time isn’t important, and the holidays provide a special opportunity for everyone to get together without the usual distractions. In an odd twist, studies show that uninterrupted family time can also have learning benefits.

Family studies at the University of Michigan found that family time correlates closely to achievement and behaviour. Studies on family meals suggest that students who have dinner with their family have better academic scores and behavioural outcomes.

There’s another thing to consider: learning can happen without homework. With access to learning software and educational programs and websites, our schools and classes no longer have to be the beginning and end of learning for students.

The Verdict

Find a good balance.

Create small, relevant and purposeful assignments as homework over the holidays. Ultimately, you want to keep your students’ minds fit while they’re on break – but remember this is your break too!

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