In a study led by Denise Pope, senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, researchers found that excessive homework proved detrimental to student well-being and engagement. The study cited previous research suggesting that after two hours, the benefits of homework diminish.
In surveying students' perceptions about homework, researchers found that too much of it was associated with greater stress, reductions in health (increase in headaches, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems), as well as less time for important social interactions and extracurricular activities.
Though researchers acknowledged the limitations of a study that relies on self-reporting, they said it was important to understand how students feel about homework.
"Young people are spending more time alone," the study's authors wrote, "which means less time for family and fewer opportunities to engage in their communities."
Many students, the study said, reported having to choose between doing homework and developing other skills.
The study focused on high-performing schools in well-to-do communities -- places where average household incomes are north of $90,000 annually, and where the vast majority of students go on to college. Students at these hyper-competitive high schools did an average of 3.1 hours of homework per night.
"The findings address how current homework practices in privileged, high-performing schools sustain students' advantage in competitive climates yet hinder learning, full engagement and well-being," Pope wrote.
Pope was helped by Mollie Galloway from Lewis and Clark College and Jerusha Conner from Villanova University in compiling the research paper. It was published this week in the Journal of Experimental Education.