School Work: How Much is Too Much?

By Emily Weikel, Staff Writer

The amount of homework students in grade school get, compared to those in succeeding grades is comparing mountains to molehills. With each grade you are expected to do more and be responsible in getting the work you are given done.

Homework should serve the sole purpose of reinforcing what was learned in the classroom.  Assigning homework just for the sake of assigning does not serve that purpose due to the amount students are already assigned.

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer in Stanford University’s School of Education, said in a co-authored research paper called “Hazardous Homework?” the following: “Any student who is doing more than 3 1/2 hours of homework a night is actually at risk for higher stress levels and poor mental and physical health.”

Having more than three hours of homework is a very real possibility for college students, and can result in a condition known as burnout – a state of chronic stress that causes physical and emotional exhaustion that  feelings of detachment, cynicism and ineffectiveness, according to an article in Psychology Today.

For example, anxiety in its early stages can manifest as slight tension. And one burnout symptom can lead to another.  A loss of appetite can lead to increased vulnerability for illnesses, and as apathetic feelings worsen it is likely they develop into severe depression.

On the flip side, little amounts of homework are also detrimental. When there is no homework at all there is a lack of retention among students.

Both of these are not ideal, so where is the right amount of homework? The National Education Organization,, says that “The National PTA recommendations fall in line with general guidelines suggested by researcher Harris Cooper: 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter.”

At the college level it can reach up to 150 minutes.  Two and half hours of work a night seems reasonable until other activities that need to be done by the student are considered.

For students who commute home, driving time is part of the equation. If a student takes more than one class with two and a half hours of work expected each, it can be a challenge to get that work done. For college students this can be even more so.

A National Survey of Student Engagement found that the average student spends about 17 hours each week preparing for classes.

In addition, many students have part time or full time jobs to handle along with school work, with more than half of 71 percent of college undergraduates working more than 20 hours a week as reported by With a job and extracurriculars, homework can seem near impossible to get done.

Elementary education major Akua Addo said “I took a history class on ancient civilizations last year and there were ridiculous amounts of readings. Over the course of the class we read about 7 books, and we were expected to read about 70 to 80 pages a night. On top of that class I had reading and other assignments for other classes.”

Studying for tests and quizzes can take a toll on students as well. “I get stressed out on the studying the most,” Bergen Community College student and radio major Alana Navarro said.

A mental break from studying or assignments can be beneficial for students even if they might feel guilt for taking one.

“There are a lot of surprising benefits to this rest time. First and foremost to your levels of productivity, working for long periods of time can be detrimental to your level of engagement with a certain task,” said Julia Gifford in an article for The Muse.

“Repeating tasks leads to cognitive boredom, which in turn halts your ability to thrive at whatever you’re doing,” she said.