Research: Impacts on Teaching and Homework Practices

February 6th, 2017

For the past few weeks, my Educational Psychology class has been discussing the relationship between research and teaching. Often we don’t even think about the relationship, we just know that the two go hand in hand. However, teachers and schools can sometimes find themselves falling into routine practices instead of instituting policies based in empirical research. One of my biggest takeaways from this unit is that research can be used to inform educational policies and practices (NCTE). As one of my classmates remarked “Research provides the ‘why’ to the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ we teach in our classrooms”. Instituting research based policies could help teachers and administrators justify changes, practices, and even additional funding. Yet, often we see practices in education that lack a solid base of evidence. One of these practices is assigning students homework.

This conversation heightened when a note that a Mrs. Brandy Young sent home with students appeared on social media. Below is a picture of the note.

Dear Parents,  After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.  Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.     Thanks,     Mrs. Brandy Young

Mrs. Brandy Young’s Homework Policy Note to Parents

This was an idea that was met well by some parents, and not so well by others. Yet, Mrs. Brandy Young may have had the correct idea. During the period of time that we discussed the pros and cons of homework in class, I engaged with quite a bit of research on the topic. Initially, I thought that more homework would improve student learning, however, after digging deeper into the topic, I was surprised by what I found.

The first article studied the relationship between a student’s attitude towards homework and their course outcomes. This study surveyed foreign language students, analyzed their final scores, and concluded that if the students perceived the homework as relevant, perceived the feedback as useful, and perceived the grading as fair, they were more likely to do well on course outcome (Chang et. al). Prior to reading this study I hadn’t considered how students attitude towards homework could impact performance.

The second article I found examined pre-existing research and reached the conclusion that “in nearly all circumstances, homework has a positive association with achievement and that this association is strongest and most positive at the secondary level” (Maltese et. al). This conclusion fit my initial stance, but I appreciated the authors clarifying that homework has the most positive effect on the secondary level.

The third article examined how well students performed on tests in the areas of English, math, science, and history. This study reached the conclusion that “we find that math homework has a large and statistically meaningful effect on math test scores throughout our sample. However, additional homework in science, English and history are shown to have little to no impact on their respective test scores” (Eren & Henderson). This contrasts sharply with the article by Maltese. However, in comparison to the article by Chang, one might call into question whether the homework administered in this study was viewed well by the student and was structured appropriately.

Lastly, the fourth article I found takes another perspective on the homework debate and analyzes whether or not students actually have a homework problem. This article analyzed time-use surveys from eight countries and reached the conclusions that American teens don’t necessarily have an excess of homework, but instead may have additional stress from all the other areas on which they spend their time (Zuzanek).

These articles challenged me to think about homework differently. As a future teacher in secondary education, I hope to implement small amounts of homework that relate directly to course outcomes. I would also like to take into account students personal situations and perhaps use a tiered model of homework- allowing students to choose from an array of assignments in order to fit their academic or time-use needs.

 

References

Chang, C. B., Wall, D., Tare, M., Golonka, E., & Vatz, K. (2014). Relationships of attitudes toward homework and time spent on homework to course outcomes: The case of foreign language learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1049-1065.

Eren, Ozkan, & Henderson, Daniel J. (2011). Are We Wasting Our Children’s Time by Giving Them More Homework? Economics of Education Review, 30(5), 950-961.

Maltese, A. V., Tai, R. H., & Xitao, F. (2012). When is Homework Worth the Time? Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math. High School Journal, 96(1), 52-72.

Understanding the Relationship between Research and Teaching. (2008). Retrieved February 06, 2017.

Zuzanek, J. (2009). Students’ Study Time and Their “Homework Problem”. Social Indicators Research, 93(1), 111-115.

 


One Response to “Research: Impacts on Teaching and Homework Practices”

  1. Sean Williams on March 12, 2017 3:53 pm

    Marly,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post. I especially connected with and appreciated the part where you explained the articles that you found regarding homework effectiveness. I have always been intrigued by this topic and did research of my own even before it was required for class. I think you really hit on the point that homework is important, but only if used in the right way. I also liked how you talked about the grade level that homework is most important in. I too believe that homework is important, and especially so at the high school and post secondary level. Overall, I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing your insight on the matter. It challenged me to think of how I will use homework in my future classroom.

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