About Homework

When we ask students to tell us how much homework they were assigned in high school, the majority tell us “not that much,” or “not more than I could finish in study hall,” or “not more than an hour each night.” 

One thing this tells us is that the majority of the learning that they do in high school takes place in the classroom. Not so in college. In a college class, there is often so much material to cover that the professor cannot possibly cover it all in class. So students cannot expect to learn everything they need to learn simply by attending class.

The most important thing about homework is that it gets done. And maybe not for the reason students were taught to think in high school. It was very likely that students’ teachers regularly graded homework assignments, or at the very least collected them to make sure that they were completed. Many students tell us that the homework that they were typically given in high school consisted of short and relatively unchallenging tasks. It is not uncommon for students to report that grades earned for homework contributed substantially to the grades they earned in their classes.

Often in college, assigned homework is not collected. If it is collected, it is frequently not graded. And if it is graded, those grades rarely play a major role in determining a student’s final grade for a course. The reason many if not most professors assign homework is to give students the opportunity to identify what information they will need to know, and to find out what they don’t understand or cannot do so they can better prepare for exams.