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Student doing a math homework

Homework or school work (officially homework in Austria , colloquially also homework ) are tasks that the teacher gives to the students who should work on them during the non-teaching period. Homework has didactic, educational and social functions.

Depending on the culture, subject and university professor, homework is also given and checked in the tertiary education sector .

In a broader sense, homework also means other responsibilities that you have to do in the household .

Word history and word geography

Until the term homework became popular around 1880 , tasks that the teacher gave to do at home were mostly referred to as private work.

In many parts of Germany they say next to homework and chores , school assignment or homework . The latter two expressions have appeared in German since the middle of the 18th century, the former only since the early 19th century.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm understood schoolwork to be work that the pupil was given at school. At the end of the 19th century, the term school work was also used to denote the teacher's work. In Austria , school work is a written record of achievement (in Germany: class work ).

Similarly, in Bavaria , a school assignment is still not understood as homework, but as a written record of achievement.

Definition of terms

A distinction must be made between homework:

  • Theses such as B. Theses that are also produced outside of regular teaching hours; Another example is the extended essay that students write as part of the International Baccalaureate .
  • Personal projects ( personal projects ) as they are in the United States at many high schools for curriculum. The subject can be freely chosen by the student within the framework of the guidelines of the school. The course of the project is documented in writing by the student and at the end it is evaluated and presented to the school; the preparation usually takes a whole school year.
  • The inclusion of extracurricular learning locations in project teaching .
  • Compulsory hours of volunteer work ( community service ), as for example, students in the United States of certain presupposes privileges (admission to Honors -courses, membership Honors Societies are made, etc.).
  • Detention work , which serves more to discipline than a deeper engagement with the subject matter.

Homework in the light of various educational concepts

Many educational concepts are associated with explicit statements on homework. Different homework concepts are empirically tested in laboratory schools .


The Herbartianism was in the second half of the 19th century the first major educational flow, the longer term impact could win the school reality. Within this educational doctrine, there is a striking contrast between the founder Johann Friedrich Herbart , who was a school critic and never had the idea of ​​teaching a school class in accordance with his methodological suggestions, and some later representatives who wanted to meet the demands of their time and practiced stubborn formalisms, relying on Herbart. While leading theorists such as Tuiskon Ziller and Wilhelm Rein also attached importance to a flexible application of Herbart's principles, in practice there were often schemes and the division of the lessons into rigid formal levels. In this context, homework took on the function of mechanically practicing and memorizing the subject matter dealt with in class. Herbart himself had always refused extensive homework: "It is even more urgent that the students not be deprived of the necessary recovery time by giving up domestic work ."

Reform pedagogy

The progressive education which was aimed at a "pedagogy of the Child of" and wanted an independent activity of the child, leaning homework not generally down, looked at the usual tasks for practice and application of the learned material but very critical, in a decided distinction from Herbartianism, the she accused of "intellectualist drill". In their assessment of whether homework should be interpreted as a child's own activity or - on the contrary - as imposed from outside, various representatives of reform pedagogy disagreed:

Hugo Gaudig
Of all the reform pedagogues, Hugo Gaudig dealt with the subject in the most in-depth and detailed manner. Gaudig was convinced that homework gives pupils the chance to work without the regulatory supervision and influence of the teacher: “In free domestic work, we are faced with the most emancipated from the influence of the school and therefore extremely important for the culture of independence Form of work. ” For him, the student's self- employment naturally presupposed that all the necessary forms and techniques of work were practiced in school lessons.
Berthold Otto
There was no homework at the private tutoring school that Berthold Otto had founded in Berlin in 1906, unless the pupils requested it.
Montessori education
The Montessori pedagogy is based on voluntary and independent action by the students. A characteristic element that takes up a large part of the daily routine of the Montessori schools is free work . There is no regular compulsory homework that is the same for all students.
Dalton plan
The most radical rejection of homework can be found in the Dalton plan pedagogy developed by Helen Parkhurst . The individualization of lessons and methods such as working with written study instructions and in laboratories (subject-specific rooms in which subject teachers are present, but the students work in self-study ) should make homework completely superfluous.
Waldorf Education
Rudolf Steiner , the founder of anthroposophy and Waldorf education , did not reject homework as a matter of principle, but wanted to leave it up to the child to do homework or not. Nevertheless, compulsory homework is now given at most Waldorf schools .
Homework at the Cologne Rosenmaar School, a Jenaplan school, was abolished in 1972 at the request of the families. At Jenaplan schools, the timetable is replaced by a weekly schedule , which also includes times for working on tasks that would otherwise be given as homework.
Sudbury Education
At Sudbury Schools , students decide autonomously about their curriculum and how their learning time is structured. Homework is neither provided nor excluded.
Mehlhorn pedagogy
In Mehlhorn schools (also: "BIP schools", "BIP creativity schools") no daily homework is given. The students leave their satchel at school during the week because all schoolwork should be done in the school class. Only certain tasks, like memorizing a poem or preparing a presentation, need to be done at home.

Function and use

Function of homework according to educational literature

In the specialist literature, a basic distinction is made between two functions of homework:

  • didactic, d. H. functions aimed at teaching purposes,
  • educational functions.

Thirdly, Rudolf W. Keck also cites a social function, in the sense of a “social-communicative bridge between home and school”.

The theoretical discussion of homework in Germany took place mainly in the 1960s to 1980s.

The more recent specialist literature mainly presents empirical findings. The main topics are:

  • Parenting behavior
  • Scope of homework
  • Student motivation
  • Quality of preparation and integration of homework in subsequent lessons

Determination of the purpose of homework in the school laws of the German federal states

In Germany, the purpose of homework is partly expressly defined in the school laws of the federal states. Their function is therefore:

  • to secure and consolidate the knowledge imparted in the classroom ,
  • process the insights imparted in the classroom,
  • to practice the abilities , skills and techniques imparted in the classroom to solve various tasks ,
  • to deepen the abilities, skills and insights imparted in the classroom,
  • apply the skills, abilities and knowledge imparted in class,
  • to promote independent and responsible work using the methods taught in the classroom,
  • to offer students the opportunity to develop their own skills ,
  • to allow students to gain knowledge and insights beyond the classroom,
  • to prepare for work in the following lessons,
  • to support the learning process in general,
  • to encourage students' interest in the subject,
  • To give feedback on the level of performance achieved.

Assessment of the actual benefit

In surveys, teachers, schoolchildren and especially parents rate homework with a large majority as useful or even absolutely necessary.

Scientific pedagogy and teacher training pay comparatively little attention to the topic of homework, but if they do, then it is often criticized that homework does not receive the necessary attention in practice, which is why unreflected, unimaginative routines predominate. ( TIMMS studies from 1994 and 1999). There is a negative correlation between average student performance and average time spent on homework; In the meantime, homework is sometimes seen as nonsensical in education, as it is not able to convey understanding (cf. Education Week of September 6, 2006).

In an overall view of a large number of studies from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, predominantly positive effects of homework could be shown. Compared with students who received no further task or support, students with homework performed better in terms of grades or examination results, with this effect being greater for high school students than for those in the lower grades and no effect for elementary school students . Compared to students who were encouraged to do additional independent learning in school, high school students with homework performed slightly better, although this effect was also greater in higher grades, and primary school students with homework performed worse than those in school Primary school pupils who are encouraged to study independently.

Subject mathematics

In 2001 a research team from Tübingen presented the results of a study in which 2,123 seventh graders from three different federal states took part; The study found that in mathematics, frequent homework had a positive effect on performance development, while large amounts of homework tended to hinder performance development.

Importance of teaching homework theory and know-how in teacher training

In 2011, Jutta Standop ( University of Trier ) observed within the scope of a sample study that the systematic teaching of the ability to do high-quality (= sustainably effective) homework in the curricula of German teacher training institutions is more an exception than the rule. Even where such training takes place, it is more likely to take place randomly, on the basis of general didactic principles or on the basis of “transmission of subjective theories”.

In a previous study, only 34% of the teachers surveyed stated that they had dealt with the theory of homework during their studies. The question of whether they dealt with homework practice during their legal clerkship was only answered positively by 51% of those surveyed.

Didactics and resources

In the United States, homework in many subjects, especially in secondary school, is often given and done online rather than on paper. B. with the help of Google Classroom ; Google Classroom is used in more than two-thirds of all school districts in the United States. Very often homework is not given for the next day of class, but only for a certain deadline.


Parental involvement

Homework supervision by parents is widespread and, depending on the age of the students, may also be desirable. The teacher has to expect it in every age group, but must by no means rely on it. The forms of parental help range from pure control to content-related collaboration.

Contra homework, it is argued that help from parents, as well as the rest of the home conditions in which homework is done, increases inequality of opportunity.

Pro- homework is argued that it creates an important, often the only, connection between parents and school.

According to the Bavarian Parents' Association , only half of the students manage to complete their homework without parental help. This stress can seriously affect the coexistence of a family. In individual cases it can be observed that one parent (often the mother) foregoes professional advancement by reducing working hours in order to be able to help the child with the tasks.

Domestic situation

Homework is problematic if the domestic conditions for doing the homework are insufficient or not given. As a result, affected children are systematically disadvantaged.

Homework often gives rise to conflicts in school and family when parents complain about too much or too little homework, too difficult or too simple or ambiguous, teachers criticize the kind of support from parents or students do homework as a restriction of their free time or criticize as a cause of stress. On the other hand, well-done homework can motivate children and encourage independent thinking.

Internal differentiation

Differentiated learning arrangements (" internal differentiation "), in which the learning requirements of individual pupils or groups of pupils are addressed individually, are often required today, but are hardly widespread in everyday school life in Germany. So homework z. For example, it can be used to let those with learning difficulties prepare tasks at home that the stronger can cope with without preparation. In general, homework can be adapted to the level of performance of different students. This appears particularly useful in inclusive lessons .

In contrast to classroom instruction, a student can work individually at home at their own pace.

Integrative concepts

Study times instead of homework

In North Rhine-Westphalia , with the expansion of all-day schools in secondary level I from 2009, the concept of learning times , the aim of which is to individualize support, has spread.

Time-consuming practice units can, instead of being given as homework, basically also be accommodated in double lessons.

Homework done during class time

In the United States , the timetables in high schools and many middle schools - and in rare cases in elementary schools - contain a study hall (literally something like "study room"). These are study periods that can be used by the students at their own discretion for completing homework, reworking missed tasks or preparing for tests. The supervising teacher is available for questions that students have about their tasks, but is not necessarily related to the respective subject. Students are not required to deal with school-related content; some of them use the Study Hall for leisure activities.

Some high schools also have a learning lab (literally: “learning laboratory”), which is staffed with subject teachers and is often housed in a room in the school library . Students who would like the help of a subject teacher with homework or other school-related tasks can visit the Learning Lab during their Study Hall times.

Homework help

School homework support outside of class time

In Switzerland, the school services run their own homework support in some municipalities. Participation is chargeable; some providers expect registration for a whole semester.

Extra-curricular homework help

In after-school care centers , day-care centers and other forms of afternoon care , pupils are usually given a time frame for completing their homework and are given support if necessary.

Homework help elsewhere overlaps with tuition paid (by the parents) or is a classic honorary position , which is also called a learning sponsorship .

In the United States, high school students often use non-commercial Homework Help Services or commercial companies such as Sylvan Learning Centers or Kaplan, Inc. to help them complete their homework .

Voluntary homework and exemption from individual homework

In some schools, a new model is being tried out based on the homework discussion in recent years: homework is given regularly, but is not mandatory. In this way, the students' personal responsibility is strengthened and the pressure is relieved from the lessons. The teacher assumes in his / her lessons that the homework has been done. There is also the option of rewarding homework done. This increases motivation and is not destroyed by sanctions for not doing homework.

A special feature of primary education in the United States, which is to motivate students heavily on reward systems are homework vouchers ( homework passes , slips homework , oops slips ): Vouchers may get the students on everyday basis for special services and they place a forgotten or can submit homework that has not been done. The issuing of homework vouchers is not, however, a pure reward measure, but rather embedded in a whole network of measures designed to help students acquire good work habits.

Student strategies to simulate doing homework independently

When sanctions threaten, many students make do with copying homework from each other.

Homework exemption as a means of education

Many teachers give their students homework vouchers, for example as a reward, which entitle the student not to do a homework of their choice, or which they can present if they forget a homework.

Grading homework

In North Rhine-Westphalia, the NRW School Act expressly excludes grading of homework.

Amount of homework


In accordance with the cultural sovereignty of the federal states regulated in Art. 30 of the Basic Law , responsibility for the school system and thus also for requirements for the organization of homework lies with the federal states. In some federal states, the maximum amount and the distribution of homework are specified in the school law of the respective state; in others the school conferences of the individual schools decide .

The time burden of homework has been discussed since the end of the 18th century. The introduction of the eight-year high school with the lack of conversion to a meaningful all-day operation has increased the burden of homework. It is also stressful that homework is mostly done during the afternoon, which is ineffective for learning and biology.


In contrast, the reality in countries with nationwide all-day schools, such as France, is often such that the students come home after 5 p.m. and then perhaps do not do “homework”, but still work on school material and practice.

United States

There are no laws in the United States that limit homework. The school districts decide independently whether they want to set such limits in their schools. Even giving homework over public holidays and school vacations is not prohibited by law and is in fact practiced widely. The National Education Association (NEA) teachers' union and the National PTA teacher-parent organization recommend schools use the “10-minute rule,” according to which students should not spend more than 10 minutes per grade per evening on homework.

In fact, teachers give significantly more homework: elementary school teachers averaging 2.9 hours per week, middle school teachers 3.2 hours, and high school teachers 3.5 hours. High school students usually take 5 subjects related to homework; this results in an average amount of homework for her of 17.5 hours per week. Students who are aiming for the International Baccalaureate ( Full IB Diploma ) spend even more hours a week with homework . General education schools in the United States are all all-day schools that close between 2 and 3 p.m.


In common parlance, “having done your homework” means “being well prepared for a situation”; “Not doing your homework” means “being poorly prepared” or “having poorly prepared for something”.


Research literature

  • Ozkan Eren, Daniel J. Henderson: The impact of homework on student achievement . In: The Ecometrics Journal, Vol. 11 Issue 2, Royal Economic Society 2008, doi: 10.1111 / j.1368-423X.2008.00244.x (en)
  • Ulrich Trautwein, Olaf Köller, Jürgen Baumert: Better often than a lot: Homework and the development of performance and interest in mathematics lessons in the 7th grade . In: Journal for Pedagogy . tape 47 , no. 5 , 2001, p. 703-724 ( online [PDF]).

Web links

Wiktionary: homework  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Homework  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


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