Setting youngsters more than an hour of homework every day could be counterproductive, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Oviedo in Spain have published evidence that suggests doing any more than 60 minutes of homework in the evenings will have little effect on attainment - and could even prove detrimental to learning.
They analysed the maths and science performance of 7,725 teenage pupils from state and private schools in northern Spain. Students were given questionnaires relating to homework, asking them how often they did it and how much time was spent on different subjects.
In addition, they were asked whether they did their homework alone or whether they had help and, if so, how often.
On average, the total amount of homework assigned by teachers was a little more than 70 minutes per day, the researchers found.
A standardised test was used to measure the pupils' maths and science results, with adjustments made to account for gender and socioeconomic background.
Although some were assigned 90-100 minutes per day, students' maths and science results were found to decline at that point.
In addition, while small gains were obtained with between 70 and 90 minutes' study, the extra two hours of homework that would be necessary for these to be realised was considered a high price to pay by the researchers.
"Our data indicate that it is not necessary to assign huge quantities of homework, but it is important that assignment is systematic and regular, with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-regulated learning," said Javier Suarez-Alvarez, co-lead author with Dr Ruben Fernandez-Alonso and Professor Jose Muniz.
"The data suggest that spending 60 minutes a day doing homework is a reasonable and effective time."
Pupils who studied on their own were found to score better than those who required help with their work. The researchers said one possible explanation is that self-regulated learning is strongly connected to academic attainment.
Posted by Theo Foulds