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Excess studying could harm middle-school academic performance, study shows

Researchers have found it is better for children to perform moderate amounts of homework every night instead of more intense homework less frequently. The study also found students perform better when they are able to complete their homework without parental assistance, reported Education News.

The University of Oviedo researchers surveyed 7,725 Spanish secondary-school students about the length of time spent on homework, how many days they spent doing homework, the effort they exerted in completing homework and how much adult assistance they required.

The study did find that students who spent more time on homework performed better than those who spent less time studying; however, researchers say the difference is not significant enough to be worth students' time, wrote Kristin Decarr for Education News.

“That small gain requires two hours more homework per week, which is a large time investment for such small gains,” the authors wrote.

Researchers also found the relationship between time spent on homework and test scores followed a curved pattern. Once students spent more than 90 minutes on homework, their test scores began to decline instead of improving, reported Education Week.

Researchers believe this study can assist middle-school teachers in assessing how much homework to assign. “Our data indicate that it is not necessary to assign huge quantities of homework, but it is important that assignments are systematic and regular, with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-directed learning,” researchers wrote.

Javier Suarez-Alvarez, a lead researcher on the study, said regular homework that requires little parental assistance results in the best test scores by allowing students to develop independent learning skills, according to Vox.

The study does have limitations. Although it proves correlation between test scores and time spent on homework, it does not prove causation. There was also no distinction made between scores on different subjects, such as math and science, reported Vox.

Despite these limitations, Suarez-Alvarez said the study does raise important questions about how “academic intelligence, self-concept and self-esteem” impact the academic performance of children.

“The conclusion is that when it comes to homework, how is more important than how much. Once individual effort and autonomous working is considered, the time spent becomes irrelevant,” she said.

lcorbly@deseretnews.com