The Ineffective Homework Policy

by Aditi Deokar


December 1, 2019

BUA’s homework policy of 45 minutes of homework per class would be effective if it were strictly followed. The reasoning behind the policy is that since one class drops per day and there is one academic block per day (except Wednesday, but there are two classes which drop on Thursday), there will be four homework assignments due each day and one will be completed in academic block, so only three homework assignments, adding up to two hours and fifteen minutes of homework, will be left to do at home. That seems pretty reasonable, but BUA homework ends up consuming a lot more time.

Some ninth and tenth grade teachers greatly underestimate how much time it takes students to finish homework. Homework assignments are intended to take on average 45 minutes per class per night.¹ Since students may take different amounts of time to finish homework, the 45 minute rule seems to imply that students will take longer than 45 minutes to finish homework from some subjects, but that extra time will be made up by the reduced time they spend on the subjects they find easier. From my experience, however, even the subjects I found easier as an underclassman generally took me about 45 minutes. So while a 45 minute per class expectation is reasonable, a teacher’s definition of 45 minutes of homework sometimes seems to be the amount of homework that a student at the top of that class would take 45 minutes to finish. For some classes, students take 45 minutes, and for others, they take much more. Teachers need to understand what is the average time that students take to finish homework and assign homework based on that.

In my experience, another reason that the homework load often exceeds 45 minutes is that in some classes, teachers expect students to complete long-term assignments, like essays, outside of the allotted 45 minutes. I have also had some teachers who provided time during class to work on problem sets, essays, or projects and gave us no homework for that day except to work on the long term-assignment. Setting aside one class and one block of homework time for working on a long-term project greatly helps reduce the amount of homework outside of the allotted 45 minutes per class that students need to do.

This year, some of my teachers have adopted the approach of having their students set a timer for 45 minutes every few weeks and stop work when the timer runs out. They then ask us in class how far we got. I think doing that in all classes would really help teachers get an idea of how long it takes students to finish homework. Strategies like this would limit homework to a reasonable amount and greatly reduce student stress. Even if only a few more teachers adopt a “set a timer” approach every so often, the homework load and stress would be reduced significantly. The 45 minute per class policy would be much more effective if it were properly followed.