Evidence for Learning: Homework


A summary of the research evidence on homework in the Australasian context.

The Teaching & Learning Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of homework on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.

This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on homework in primary and secondary schools. In contrast to the Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by school leaders, teachers and students. This information is valuable for school leaders and teachers interested in finding out more about particular examples of homework interventions that have been delivered in Australia and New Zealand.

Two Australasian Research Summaries were generated by Melbourne Graduate School of Education in 2016 exploring feedback in primary and secondary schools and this page reflects the synopsis of the two original summaries. 

There remains a dearth of research literature on the impact of homework on students’ learning and outcomes specifically in an Australian or New Zealand context.

Publications by Australian-based authors have examined the effect of homework on secondary student achievement globally, based on global studies (Hattie, 2008; Horsley & Walker, 2013). Nevertheless, the findings are broadly applicable and help inform the determination of impact for homework as a teaching and learning intervention. 

One study by Falch and Rønning (2012) examined homework in OECD countries more broadly but included data for Australia and New Zealand. The study showed that homework was more extensive for mathematics than science. Schools in both Australia and New Zealand, on average, gave homework 50 per cent of the time.

An Australian case study of young children’s experiences of homework (Farrell & Danby, 2015) found that participating children were very proactive with their homework and their parents had little to no involvement in that process. The children viewed homework as a part of their daily routine, which is suggestive of the roles of parents and teachers in facilitating the children’s perceptions of homework.

Hattie’s (2009) synthesis of five meta-analyses on primary and secondary homework (161 global studies) are detailed within the Australasian Research Summary for secondary homework. Sixty-five percent of studies found positive effects, while 35 percent had no effect. Overall, the effect size for homework across primary and secondary was 0.29 but not significant.

In their book, Horsley and Walker (2013) included a systematic review of global studies on effective homework practices, most of which are American. They concluded that homework has a positive but minor effect on student achievement overall. There is no support for positive outcomes for students in the early years of primary school and very weak support for students in the higher grades of primary school (citing Cooper, 1989, ES=0.15). As students grow older, homework has a growing effect on achievement outcomes (ES=0.31 for the early years of high school, and moderately high benefits [ES=0.64] for students in upper high school). Homework in science and social studies had the highest effects while maths had the lowest. The authors also discussed motivation as a contributing factor in engaging students in homework activities. Student self-concept and beliefs around competence can also affect student effort in relation to homework. They highlight that homework activities need to be matched with individual levels of engagement and understanding.

This review excludes articles based in an Australasian context already cited in the current version of the Toolkit.

Cooper, H. (1989). Homework versus no-treatment. Longman.

Falch, T., & Rønning, M. (2012). Homework assignment and student achievement in OECD countries(Discussion Papers, 771). Oslo, Norway: Statistics Norway Research Department.

Farrell, A., & Danby, S. (2015). How Does Homework Work” for Young Children? Children’s Accounts of Homework in Their Everyday Lives. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 36(2), 250 – 269.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London; New York: Routledge.

Horsley, M., & Walker, R. (2013). Reforming homework: practices, learning and policy. South Yarra, VIC: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Homework; Primary education; Primary school; after school study; Secondary: Homework Secondary or High School; homework and achievement; Australia; New Zealand.