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Ever since the pandemic hit and schools went fully virtual in March 2020, schools have had to adapt their curriculums and change the way they teach to fit being on Zoom. Teachers are trying to incorporate normalcy during classes by attempting to make it as engaging as possible or having students go into breakout rooms to complete group assignments. However, being on the computer for so long is mentally draining and makes it difficult to retain any new information.
Students now spend hours each day on Zoom staring at their computer screens to try and learn just to end the day with more online homework. With all the stress of being stuck in our homes with limited interaction with others and trying to pass our classes, raises the question of whether homework is effectively helping students or not.
Giving homework, in general, has been a widely debated topic even before the pandemic hit. Now that students are stuck learning virtually, it is harder for them to motivate themselves to complete their assignments after already completing six and a half hours of school online.
For WCHS students, they are on an A day-B day schedule with four classes each day. Each class is one hour long with a 10-15 break in-between and an hour and fifteen-minute lunch after the first two periods. Wednesdays are used as an asynchronous day for work with optional check-ins. Classes are harder to pay attention to and get involved in.
Many students have fallen into a fruitless pattern. Once their classes are done, they try to get their homework done as quickly as possible so it will be completed. Rushing through it so fast ends with the material not being learned, but being copied later, and eventually forgotten. Homework does not serve its purpose to help further the lessons in school if it is being done so quickly and without care.
Too much homework can stress a student out and if they are focused too much on that stress, they won’t retain the information either. In a student survey conducted by a non-profit organization called Challenge Success from 2009-2020, the most common answer to “what causes you the most stress” was homework. Even before the pandemic, students were very stressed about the amount of homework they were given even with in-person school every day where it was easier to talk to teachers.
Throughout the pandemic, people have been isolated from friends and family and activities have been canceled or changed to fit pandemic guidelines. This has taken a toll on the mental health of teenagers everywhere. Being separated from everyone has caused a loss in motivation and happiness for many students which makes it more difficult to stay focused on school when so many other pressures and issues are floating around your thoughts.
Also, not being in a classroom to learn has taken a toll on the well-being of students. “Research shows that the school environment is critical for fostering academic motivation and social development,” said Heather Stringer of the American Psychological Association. Taking away the school environment and making it all virtual takes away a student’s incentive to do their work to the best of their abilities and work hard.
It is hard to differentiate what is classwork and what is homework since everything is done from the same location and within the same time frame. Being uninvolved and unmotivated during classwork will reflect on homework. Being on a computer all day is exhausting and it is reasonable for students to want a break from it.
Another reason piling on virtual homework is hurting students stems from being on a computer too long. This prolonged activity can cause eye strain and blurred vision. Our bodies produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates our circadian rhythms which helps us fall asleep. Computers emit blue light that disrupts circadian rhythms and can make it harder for us to feel tired and go to sleep.
Many students stay up very late on their computers doing homework and it can end up affecting our melatonin levels making us feel less tired. This can result in going to sleep later and then being more tired the next day which will make you feel less motivated to do school and homework. The cycle will keep continuing.
Since now all students are on the computer for much longer than normal, online homework should adapt because getting a good night’s sleep is important if you want students to be awake, pay attention in class and try on assignments.
While giving high school students homework is shown to improve their standardized test scores and learning, these are unprecedented times where all students are trying to adapt to the changes in their education and being online for many more hours after school ends is not effectively helping students learn. Getting rid of homework entirely may not be possible, but limiting it and adjusting learning to provide a less stressful environment will help students learn better during this unusual school year.