Why Students Don’t Do Homework (And What You Can Do About It)

Homework provides supplementary learning opportunities for students, helping to reinforce topics and concepts covered in the classroom. However, many students fail to complete the homework assigned to them. And that raises the question: why don’t students do their homework?

Some of the most common reasons why students don’t complete homework include not understanding the assignment’s instructions, an overabundance of homework, and feelings of disinterest and apathy toward the homework’s importance. After-school activities can also impact homework completion.

This article will explore why students fail to complete their homework and discuss ways teachers can increase homework completion rates.

What Happens When Students Don’t Do Homework?

Students face multiple consequences when they fail to complete homework. The most common ones being an adverse effect on academic performance, a lack of understanding of future topics, and a worsening student-teacher relationship.

Academic Performance Suffers

Depending on your classroom grading policies, homework can account for as little as 1% or as much as 25% of a student’s overall grade. School districts can impose some control over these grading policies, but many public schools allow teachers to set the percentage.

Educators who prefer to assign more worth to homework can find that students’ grades and overall academic performance quickly suffer when their students fail to submit at-home assignments.

Decreasing grades can be highly discouraging for students and contribute to a lack of self-confidence. The situation can also become problematic for teachers.

Teachers Can Lose Their Jobs

School administrators can fire or decide not to renew the contracts for teachers whose students aren’t succeeding academically. For example, in 2019, a teacher in Port St. Lucie, Florida, was fired for giving her students zeros after they failed to complete homework assignments, which went against the school’s “no zero” policy.

School board members and administrators often judge a teacher’s performance by their students’ grades and academic performance. When grades and test scores plummet, some schools resort to dismissing the teacher, often without exploring the factors contributing to the lower-than-expected attainment to which homework can be linked to.

Future Course Topics Become More Challenging

School subjects become increasingly more complex over time.

For example, once elementary students have mastered the alphabet, they’re taught how to spell simple words. After that, they advance to writing basic sentences and reading aloud.

But if students never master the first phase (learning the alphabet), future learning related to writing and reading becomes harder to grasp. Similarly, students who fail to complete assigned homework will struggle to cope with future course topics and learning objectives.

Without immediate intervention to help students catch up with the course material and remain on pace with their peers, students can begin to fail their classes. They can also become reluctant to attend school and may even develop a dislike or distrust of educators.

Student-Teacher Relationships Worsen

When teachers chastise their students for underperforming on homework assignments or failing to submit completed homework, the relationship between students and teachers suffers.

Students can begin to resent homework and the teachers that assign at-home assignments. As a consequence, students’ in-class performance suffers because students have a negative emotional response to a teacher’s presence or teaching style.

Some students may also purposely disengage during lessons or act out in retaliation, causing classroom disruptions.

Naturally, this behavior only degrades teacher-student relationships further, making it more challenging for instructors to help their students achieve their fullest academic potential.

Reasons Why Students Don’t Do Homework

Failing to complete and turn in homework can have long-lasting implications for students and teachers. This begs the question: Why don’t students do their homework?

There’s no easy answer to this question because there are many reasons why students are unable to or choose not to do homework.

But it’s crucial that educators explore the potential reasons why students don’t complete homework assignments. Doing so offers insight that can help teachers improve the homework completion rate and provides a glimpse into the challenges many students face when attempting to complete at-home assignments.

Let’s discuss the most prevalent reasons why students don’t do homework.

The Assignment’s Instructions Are Unclear or Overly Complicated

Sometimes, students don’t do homework because they don’t know how to. The assignment’s instructions may be vague, or students might need more time and instruction to grasp the concepts being tested.

When faced with an assignment that seems undoable due to a lack of information or confusing guidelines, many students will simply opt to ignore the task and move on.

After all, students often have multiple homework assignments each school day, resulting in an at-home workload that can feel extremely overwhelming, bringing us to the next item on the list.

Students Feel Overwhelmed With the Amount of Homework

The average amount of time that students spend completing homework each night varies depending on their grade level and teachers’ preferences.

Some studies report that students spend as little as one hour per night on homework, while others maintain that the average is just under three hours. But some students report spending up to nine hours working on at-home assignments each night!

Regardless, stress related to homework is a common issue among students, and it’s often associated with the amount of homework assigned.

Suppose we consider it like this: the average school day spans six to seven hours. Spending several more hours working on assignments at home can make students feel stressed, mentally exhausted, and unable to pursue their favorite after-school hobbies and activities.

Students Lack the Resources Required to Complete Homework

Not all schools and school districts receive the same level of financial support, leaving some students with few resources.

For example, some students might be prohibited from bringing home textbooks because the school cannot afford to provide one to each student. Others might have limited access to the internet at home or school.

This comparative lack of resources (called education inequity) can significantly impact a child’s ability to complete homework, especially when take-home assignments are based on textbook questions or require reference material only accessible online or from local library books.

Assignments Are Repetitive and Time-Consuming

One of the primary benefits of homework is that it can help reinforce concepts learned in the classroom. Homework can also offer an opportunity for students to practice the new skills and concepts they’ve learned, keeping them fresh in their minds.

But imagine this: you’ve just learned how to solve basic single-variable algebraic equations, and you’re now given a set of 50 such equations to complete at home.

While you may complete the first few problems without complaint, by the time you’ve finished a few dozen, you’re probably ready to move on to other topics and equations.

Students may only partially complete their homework when assignments are repetitive. Tasks that are both repetitive and time-consuming might get neglected altogether, as students’ after-school time is precious and often limited.

After-School Activities Are Restricting Students’ Time

Extra-curricular activities are a crucial part of life for many students. These activities can also help increase students’ chances of being accepted into specific universities or college degree programs.

But these activities can reduce the time students have to complete homework. Finding the balance between enriching after-school activities and the free time to complete homework can be challenging, even for the most organized and time-conscious students.

Managing free time can also contribute to students’ stress and anxiety regarding schoolwork, negatively impacting academic performance.

Students Don’t Believe the Homework Is Relevant

Often, homework tends to be the least significant part of a student’s final grade, with exams, tests, and quizzes typically holding more weight.

For this reason, students may focus more on preparing for tests and quizzes. Homework that seems irrelevant to upcoming test material is particularly prone to be ignored by students.

Assignments with supplementary information that won’t appear on tests or quizzes might soon become frustrating for students, leading to a total abandonment of any attempt to complete at-home assignments.

Teachers who declare that homework holds minimal weight regarding a student’s final grade might also experience a lack of completed homework assignments.

If students understand that homework is only worth 10% or less of their final grade, they know their true focus should be on test-taking and quizzes. Even if a student completes zero homework for a class, so long as they perform well on the higher-weight tasks, they can still earn a decent overall grade.

There’s a Lack of Constructive Feedback on Completed Homework Assignments

Making mistakes is part of the learning process. But it’s impossible to learn from mistakes when errors aren’t explained.

Students that feel their homework doesn’t help them master specific concepts or skills can begin to feel disillusioned with doing at-home assignments. That’s why constructive feedback for homework assignments is essential.

For example, a student receives a grade for a spelling homework assignment. But instead of finding the correct spelling written next to the words they’ve misspelled, they only see “X” marks in red pen, indicating wrong answers.

While teachers might expect or request students to look up the misspelled words using a dictionary or a spell-checking device, some students might not have access to these resources at home.

In this scenario, students can remain uncertain about why they got specific answers wrong and thus be unable to learn from their mistakes, resulting in disillusionment toward homework.

Parents Aren’t Available or Capable of Assisting With Homework

Students who struggle with their homework might turn to their parents for assistance. But some parents are unable or unwilling to assist their children with at-home tasks.

While this reaction certainly isn’t true of all parents, these attitudes can leave students feeling more frustrated than before. They can also cause a general feeling of apathy toward homework.

A lack of support or engagement from parents can also contribute to poor mental health, another issue that can contribute to problems with completing homework.

Issues Outside of School

Every child deserves a happy and stable home, but not all students are fortunate enough to have supportive family members and a safe home environment.

Students struggling to cope with problems at home can struggle with schoolwork, both in and after class. The burden of unfavorable at-home conditions can cause or contribute to significant mental health concerns, resulting in reduced academic performance and an inability to complete homework.

Unfortunately, declining grades and pressure related to homework can contribute to student anxiety and stress, creating a feedback loop that only worsens academic performance.

However, there are several things teachers can do to help students turn things around and complete homework more frequently and confidently.

What Can Teachers Do?

To avoid homework-related problems, teachers should set aside time during class to clarify the instructions and address any misconceptions related to homework assignments. Reducing the workload also increases students’ chances to complete their tasks and allows teachers more time to provide constructive feedback. Finally, teachers should ensure that homework is relevant and engaging if they want to boost the homework completion rate.

Discuss Homework Assignments During Class

One of the most common reasons students fail to complete homework is a lack of understanding of how to complete the assignment.

For example, worksheet instructions can be confusing or unclear, or students might need clarification about how to approach a new homework activity.

Teachers can reduce confusion regarding homework instructions by setting aside some time during class to discuss and explain the assignment. This small change can help clarify what you expect from your students and help them approach the work more confidently.

Teachers often sacrifice a few minutes at the end of the lesson to review the homework instructions. But avoid holding students after the bell, as this could have a knock-on effect on other classes or subjects.

Set Aside Part of In-Class Time for Homework

Although it might seem counterintuitive to allow students to work on homework while in the classroom, doing so can provide opportunities for teachers to engage with students on a one-on-one basis.

When students have questions or concerns about specific parts of a homework assignment, they can discuss those issues with you in class. Not only is this beneficial for students, but it can also offer teachers insight into what types of assignments are confusing or engaging to students.

Setting aside in-class time for homework can also reduce a student’s overall at-home workload, thus decreasing stress associated with school.

Be Patient With Students and Allow for Late Turn-In

Because some students may be struggling with issues outside their control, such as mental health concerns or family problems, educators should practice patience when dealing with a lack of submitted homework.

For example, instead of asking, “Why haven’t you turned in your homework assignment?” teachers can ask, “Would you be able to complete this if you had an extra day to work on it?”

Although accepting late assignments can result in completed tasks being returned later than expected, it can also reassure students that their work is appreciated and valued. The same can be said for providing in-depth feedback on homework assignments.

Provide Feedback When Returning Completed Homework

When a student receives a graded homework assignment and sees they’ve gotten a few items wrong, their first question is generally, “Why was this marked incorrect?”

If homework lacks comments, students can struggle to understand what information they’re misunderstanding. As a result, they can begin to feel frustrated or apathetic about their schoolwork.

Providing detailed feedback on an individual basis can be time-consuming for teachers, but it’s a fantastic way to help students perform better on in-class and at-home assignments. Besides, teachers can assign fewer homework assignments to reduce the workload for both themselves and their students.

Reduce or Eliminate Assigned Homework

Most public schools in the United States don’t require teachers to give their students homework.

Although it’s often recommended, teachers are the ones who create course syllabi and assign grade percentages to academic tasks like exams, quizzes, group projects, and homework assignments.

Consequently, they can choose to eliminate or significantly reduce homework loads. This option can be particularly beneficial for elementary school students and teachers.

After all, homework assignments given to elementary-aged children can have negative consequences, including strained parent-child relationships, increased stress levels, and a bleak outlook on education.

But reducing or getting rid of homework altogether can also be a beneficial change for older students.

For example, Scott Anderson, a high school mathematics teacher from Wisconsin, decided to eliminate homework and focus more on completing tests and quizzes. This change placed a stronger focus on learning and mastering concepts.

This no-homework policy may be unconventional, but it could also help students boost their academic performance without increasing their stress levels.

Final Thoughts

When students fail to complete their homework, their grades can suffer. They can also struggle to understand more complex course topics that build on information covered in the homework, leading to a cycle of declining academic performance and increasing apathy or frustration.

There are several reasons why students don’t do homework. Complicated directions, an excessive homework workload, and apathy towards homework can all contribute to a lack of homework completion.

Fortunately, teachers can adapt homework assignments to meet students’ needs, thus increasing homework completion rates.


Mr Mustafa

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