Action Research On Homework

Transcript of Homework Completion - Action Research

HOMEWORK Completion
What are the factors affecting homework completion among sixth grade social studies and math students?
Cycles of inquiry
There were a number of areas looked at regarding
homework completion . . .
1. Power School Access
2. Number of Late Assignments
3. Student Interviews
4. New Grading Practice at Middle School
5. Booster Lab - H.W. Club
6. My Big Campus Access and Use

What have i been involved with as an administrative intern?
Middle School Building Steering Committee:

1 day late . . . -25
2 or more days late . . . -50
Students have an entire quarter to make up late work

In retrospect, it would have been nice to ask students if they feel pressure to get work in on time because of this practice. Personally, I can see a difference in the amount of work turned in on time.

Integration of Common Core Learning Standards - Building
Booster Lab - H.W. Club - Building
Technology Integration - Trained H.S. Staff on LMS
Authentic Assessments - Building and District
Aided in the facilitation of Conference Days
Worked in District Office - APPR Plan
Administrative Meetings
Shadow H.S. Assistant Principal
booster lab - homework club

Duration: December 2014 - May 2015
2 days a week
13 mentors with 26 mentees

I would have liked to have interviewed more teachers and
students in getting qualitative feedback. Those who attended
did turn in more work but it would have been nice to track more students.
power school access
There was a slight correlation between access to grades and how well students were doing. Some students had accessed their grades nearly 300 times and some students were in single digits.


After reflecting on Power School access, there wasn't enough data to suggest that access to grades influences homework completion.
student interviews
5 students chosen at random -

Results - Students reach out to their parents for help
All checked My Big Campus for assignments
Some utilized other siblings for help

Absolutely, I would have liked to have interviewed more students
as it is intriguing to learn about their homework routine and
what other factors effect their time outside of school.
My Big Campus
access and use
This was one of those Moments of reflection . . .

Created a Survey Monkey that went out to the
entire sixth grade
110 out of 118 students and parents responded
68% of the students check their H.W. daily
84% of parents check the calendar at least once a week
action plan
21% of parents would like a workshop at the beginning of the school year on how to access the electronic calendar
36% would like a video posted on the middle school website
73% would like a workshop regarding Common Core Learning Standards to better assist their children

Action Research Project:
Travis McCarty

sample - 6th grade
Math Class - 20 students
Social Studies Class - 22 students
Total of 42 students

Mixed Methodology -
Quantitative and Qualitative

Duration: September 2014 - May 2015
number of students with late assignments
5 students had 9 late assignments in social studies
12 students had 36 late assignments in math

After reflecting on late assignments, it became apparent that this helps to inform that there is a concern.

Full transcript

Homework and Motivation in a Tracked Secondary Chemistry Class

Reina Horowitz


University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Fall, 2000

The topic of homework originally caught my attention last year. Out of my 80-90 secondary chemistry students, 14-35% failed the homework portion of their grade each marking period, as shown in table 1. This fall, the trend is even more pronounced (see table 2). Out of 100 students, 54% failed homework for the first marking period. It seemed to me that such low rates of homework completion contribute to poor grades in chemistry.

I teach in a large, public, urban high school in Springfield, MA. The student population is primarily Latino and Black, with a minority of white and Asian students. Like some other urban schools, students come from primarily lower SES families. Parent participation is minimal. Last year, only 7 parents attended an evening workshop on Financial Aid for college, while 150 parents attended at a nearby private school. Class issues and parent involvement directly affect the success of students at my school.

My chemistry students are predominantly eleventh graders with a few 12th graders repeating the class. Last year my classes were college preparatory track (the middle track) with one section of honors. This year I am teaching three sections of the low track class (common core), and two sections of honors chemistry. There are pronounced differences between the high and low tracks in homework completion and motivation in general.

In my low track classes, a combination of factors prevents students from succeeding academically. These are students with minimal skills who donπt feel supported by school. They are constantly on the border of success and failure, at least in science class. Pintrich and Schrauben (1992) point out that motivation affects failure to transfer appropriate knowledge to the current academic situation. When students on Monday cannot recall aspects of last weekπs lessons, it is due to a combination of cognitive factors and motivation. Engagement with the material relies on a combination of self goals and beliefs about chemistry class and their self-perception. Positive motivational beliefs can lead to increased academic performance through engagement with classroom tasks. The implication is that building a supportive class community is an essential aspect of teaching my low track students. All the MCAS preparation focusing on ≥teaching to the test≤ overlooks this part of the equation.

            In order to improve my studentsπ success rates in chemistry, I decided to focus on the issue of homework for my core students. My original staring point statement described intentions to affect changes in students' homework completion patterns. My plan was to observe rates of HW return based on type of assignment. The goal was to help students' improve their grades using the information collected.

            Separate from my action research, there were other strategies that I implemented this fall to help with the homework problem. I offered rewards at the start of the year to those students who would earn Aπs on homework each marking period. However, at the end of the first marking period only honors students earned rewards. To keep up morale I awarded second prizes to the 13 out of 75 common core students who earned grades of C or higher. For the second marking period I lowered the stakes by offering prizes halfway through the marking period. I will award 6 prizes to A homework students at this point, a definite improvement.

            Another strategy was to post student grades throughout the marking period. Gradekeeper [1], the grading software I am using, allows me to print out a summary of student grades according to their school ID numbers. I update and post grades every Monday morning. This allows students to see the effects of missed assignments and to have an accurate picture of how many assignments they have missed. This strategy relies on the motivation of individual students to consult the postings regularly.

            Initially I kept track of the types of homework I assigned and compared their rates of completion. This would ensure quantitative data that could easily be analyzed. I found a range of 39-72% return rates for various assignments, as shown in table 3. The highest rates occurred with worksheets that I made myself. Students seem to like directive, concrete assignments they can hold in their hand like a worksheet. Students often vocalize dislike of assignments from the book, and resist bringing their book home. Our text, Holtπs Modern Chemistry, is a poor match for our student body. The reading level is high and the text dry. According to Ostler (1997), experimental evidence shows that improving studentsπ ability to comprehend the text increases their homework success rate. This rings true since students often complain that they did not understand the questions assigned.

I quickly decided that this data was not useful. I was trying to change the symptoms of the homework problem without observing its manifestations. A change in tactic was needed to ascertain the specifics of the problem. After class discussions of Eisner (1981) and other readings, I realized that qualitative work has validity in action research. His description of the aspects of qualitative research fit nicely with our framework for the characteristics of action research. Other possibilities for collecting and analyzing data were discussed during the ≥Analyzing and validity≤ class session. Suggestions were made for interpretive and descriptive methods of data analysis.

            Students in my classes have many barriers for academic success. These include after-school jobs and family childcare responsibilities that leave little time for school work. Their families may not value education or have had positive educational experiences to make school a friendly place. Parents may not be able to assist students with completion of assignments. For some students, grades are not motivational tools. I began to realize that student motivation lies at the heart of the homework issue.

Research shows that making coursework relevant to studentsπ lives increases their motivation and potential for success. Bryan and Sullivan-Burstein (1998) found that real-life homework assignments made a difference in assignment completion. By making classroom topics relevant, students were more motivated to do their homework and to prepare for exams. Our textbook and the cityπs tentative chemistry curriculum is completely irrelevant to real life and focuses on theoretical chemistry. For my core classes next year I plan to include more relevant content in every unit, after consulting such resources as ChemCom[2] and Chem Matters[3].

To find out why my students are not doing their homework, I decided to ask them. After considering surveys for students or for teachers, I decided to utilize a resource already in place. Students in my common core classes write in their journals daily during the first five minutes of class. This allows me to check homework and absence notes while the students are occupied, and gives them practice writing about chemistry. Journal questions include content from recent classes, opinions about school issues, or ideas about science in general. Journals are graded on a weekly basis, according to the number of completed entries. I hope this allows students freedom to express their ideas since I do not grade the content of their writing.

For a period of one week I asked students questions related to homework completion. I did not explain my research at all during this week. The first four were open-ended, non-judgemental questions to elicit a broad range of ideas from students (table 4). I did not wish to sway their opinions by giving mine. Questions 5 and 6 were follow up questions asked after I explained my research project. Several students expressed remorse that would have taken it more seriously had they known it was for my research. They mentioned things they would have emphasized, like jobs or the amount of homework they had for all their classes. I assured them that such points had come up from the larger body of data collected.

The total number of students responding to each question can be found in table 5. Out of 75 students enrolled in my three core classes, around 45 answered their journals each day. The remaining 30 students were absent, tardy to class so they missed the journal question, or were in class and neglected to answer. On Friday, only 32 students responded to the question. One of my classes was engaged with other material and were unable to answer on this day. Additionally, the Thanksgiving holiday prevented all  students from answering question 6.

Table 6 contains categories of responses to questions one through four. The frequency of responses that fit into each coded category is included. The percent of responses for each category was found by dividing the number of responses in each category by the total number of students responding to the specific question. Because some students offered multiple reasons in their answers, these percentages total over 100% for each question.

Most students agreed that the purpose of homework was to practice what they learned in class (84%). Student comments included:

≥So you can learn more about the lesson,≤

≥It gives you a better feel of the work.≤

≥To help students not only in class but at home.≤

≥To learn and practice for quizzes and tests.≤

≥I think the purpose of homework assignments is to learn and study the material more.≤

≥The purpose of homework assignments is so that you can get the hang of doing the work.≤

These students seem to understand teacherπs motivation for assigning work to do outside of class, and agree that it is reasonable.

            The second most popular response to this question was cynical. A few students explained that homework is a punishment for students (11 %).

≥The purpose of homework assignments is to make the students life as difficult as possible.≤

≥So that you lose time when you get home and lose points.≤

≥To bring stress.≤

≥Homework is given so you can waist your valuable time.≤ (sic)

≥I think that homework is just given to upset kids. Teachers have to correct papers so they figure that kids should have to do something, so they give out homework.≤

These answers indicate, not unexpectedly, that students resent homework and school in general.

            A couple of students chose the simple response, ≥Because it is part of your grade.≤ (5%) This seems to indicate an uncritical acceptance of the school routines and the power of teachers. This type of response has come up over the years as I have asked students to share their opinions of academic practices in their journal. Some students think homework is ≥just the way things are≤ and did not think critically about it.

            Students seemed to answer the second question honestly. ≥What are some reasons why students do not do their homework?≤ was phrased to avoid accusing any student of not doing their homework. They were able to hypothesize regarding the motivation of others. After-school jobs were the number one reason why students did not do homework (31%). The second most common reason was lack of time in general (27%), and a close third was laziness (24%).

≥Then I think some of they (sic) donπt have time because the day goes by entirely too quickly. Some of the time I donπt do my homework its usually because I have no time to do it, and sometimes I donπt understand.≤

≥Some students just have jobs that they find more important than school and some are just too lazy.

≥Because they have no time. Because they forgot or just because theyπre too lazy.≤

≥Lazy or didnπt want to do it.≤

≥I canπt speak for other students but I donπt do my homework because I am lazy.≤

≥I think some students are actually really caught up in other things, which in a way they shouldnπt, and donπt get around to their homework, or they just could be lazy students and not realize how important their schoolwork is.≤

Other popular answers included being too tired ≥People be tired and if your feeling you donπt do it. No point.≤ (18%); not understanding the assignment ≥I think that many students donπt really understand homework, and sometimes are very nervous to ask for help.≤ (13%); students donπt want to do homework for general reasons ≥Just donπt care;≤ and because they forgot ( 11%) or have too much homework for other classes (7%). I was hoping students would give me a laundry list of reasons for not doing homework, but only one student did so. This was the one day he came to class this marking period, and his list of 6 reasons was the most detailed answer I received.

            65% of the responses to question 3 indicated that students complete homework assignments to earn a good grade.

≥Some reasons why students do their homework is to get better in class and also to do better on a test or in order to pass.≤

≥The reason why I do my homework every day is to because I want to get a good grade and try to learn.≤

≥I do my homework because I canπt afford not to I need to pass chemistry.≤

≥Some reasons why I do my homework is because I realize that homework is a big portion of your grade and very important.≤

32% said they do their homework to practice what they learned in class. Other responses included parental influence (4%), ≥... Also most of the time my parents tend to make me.≤ and ≥To show the teacher what you have trouble with≤ (4%). One student idealistically indicated that ≥The reason I do my homework is to exercise my brain, to explore what I know to let my thoughts free.≤ Another student said ≥Also homework can keep children out of trouble for that period of time.≤

            Question number four asked students for advice on how to encourage more completion of assignments. 53% of the students responded that teachers should give less homework.

≥Not to give as much!≤

≥Not to give eny.≤ (sic)

≥For 1 no homework on Fridays.≤

≥Donπt give that much.≤

≥Lighten it up. Not so much homework.≤

≥Not giving us homework everyday or long assignments.≤

≥What teachers can do to help you do more homework is nothing that I can think of. I believe the more homework the students get, the less they are likely to do.≤

≥Give us less homework. (Hint for Ms. H!)≤

Some students said I should offer rewards to students who do their homework, and half as many said to penalize students who donπt do their homework. Some other suggestions were to explain the assignment more clearly, start homework in class, and to make assignments easier or more fun.

            Many students indicated that the purpose of doing homework was to earn a good grade. For many students, other factors, such as jobs, exhaustion, and lack of time in general interfere. I would tentatively conclude that grades are not strong enough motivation for these students. The handful of students in my core classes who earn Aπs or Bπs on homework stand out as exceptionally motivated compared to their peers. Some come for extra help when they do not understand the assignment, and others attempt assignments even if their answers are incomplete. Of the six A earners the second marking period, three are 12th graders, and two are repeating chemistry. I have noticed that the maturity of 12th graders sometimes increases student dedication to academics. Sometimes the necessity of passing chemistry to graduate is an incentive for repeaters to work harder. Both of these factors should be further explored in the future, as I have as many students who prove those hypotheses as disprove them.

Questions 5 and 6 were follow up questions. At this point I briefly explained my project on homework to students, and also shared my opinions about homework. One studentπs response to the next question exactly mimicked what I said.

≥Yes homework does help you to learn because you go home and study you get a better understanding of the lesson you learned in school. And homework is like studying at home.≤

I was glad that I had not prefaced the first journal question with my purpose and opinion. This echoes a concern I have about informed consent in action research and its impact on participants. Adolescents are vulnerable to internalizing the ideas of authority figures which could interfere with the validity of a research project.

            Question 5 tried to test the validity of the idea that the purpose of homework is to practice what we learned in class or to help students study (see table 7). 69% of the student responses to this question fit into the category of ≥To practice what we learned.≤

≥Yes because you go over the work for yourself.≤

≥I think homework helps you practice material from class that we were taught.≤

≥Yes I think it helps you because you can remember the material that you have done or are doing.≤

≥I think homework helps you learn and practice, because while you are doing it, you are practicing to know how to do it better.≤

≥I think it help me learn and remember, because you review the material so you wonπt forget.≤

18% of the students disagreed, and 12% of the responses were mixed.

≥I donπt think homework makes me learn more because I always seems harder than what we have been doing in class and if I wanna ask a question thereπs no one to explain it.≤(sic)

≥Sometimes because you make a mistake and keep on doing the mistake.≤

≥No because when you home you donπt remember anything.≤

≥Some time HW helps me learn but some times I have no clue what the question be asking on the homework.≤ (sic)

≥It helps practice but it doesnπt help you learn anything.≤

≥Yes but you will need to listen in class also≤, wrote one student who does not listen in class and is earning an F for the second marking period in a row. Some of the reasons why homework doesnπt help shed light on student insecurities and discomfort with the work assigned. They emphasize the need for tutors or study buddies, and for students to come after school for extra help. With so little free time after school, students do not come to see me frequently enough.

            Question 6 was a follow up to earlier comments concerning the amount of homework that students are given every night. These comments included:

≥Students do not do their homework because some work and sometimes they have too much homework or sometimes they are tired.≤

≥They have to much homework from 6 other classes they may have.≤

However, the responses I received to question 6 varied too much to be useful. Some students estimated the amount by time, some by pages, and some by the number of classes that assigned homework. Some responses were ≥A lot≤ or ≥ Not too much.≤ In the future, in order to get a more accurate picture I would need to carefully structure the question. I might give prompts regarding number of subjects, amount of time spent, and frequency of assignments per week. The responses I did receive reinforced my notion that students complain about having more homework than they realistically receive. No one wrote that they received homework in all seven of their subjects every night.

             One of the reasons why I became a teacher was to encourage students to succeed in science. Many adults I speak with relay negative experiences with chemistry in high school. I hope to offer my students a different experience. Though this action research project I have gained insight into issues of motivation among students in my low track classes.

            Some aspects of homework are within my control. The length, frequency, and type of assignment can be manipulated, while my studentsπ lives outside of school cannot. Given the premium on time and the factors that inhibit student motivation, the question of increasing students homework completion remains. Future work would consider the impact of shorter assignments with more relevance to studentsπ lives. Lather (1986) emphasizes the need to involve participants in creation of theory, which echoes the premise of action research of practitioner as expert. Another step remaining in my work is to consult the students in my classes. I would like to encourage their collaboration by asking for their interpretation of my results. They are the experts on why students do or do not complete homework, and I will look to them for further suggestions.

Table 1: Percent of students failing homework by marking period, 1999-2000.

Marking period

Percentage of students with failing HW grade

Percentage of students that failed course













Table 2: Percent of students failing homework by class, first marking period 2000-2001.


Percentage of students with failing HW grade

Percentage of students that failed course










B (honors)



G (honors)



Table 3: Return rates for assignment types for my core classes.


Number of returned assignments from 75 students

Percent return

Paragraph summarizing how fireworks work



Flame test lab worksheet



Derivation of element names worksheet



Section questions from textbook



Definitions from the textbook



Table 4: Journal questions.




What do you think is the purpose of homework assignments?


What are some reasons why students do not do their homework?


What are some reasons why you do your homework?


What can the teacher do to help you to do more homework?


Do you think homework helps you learn or practice material from class? Explain.


Describe how much homework you have each night.

Table 5: Number of students responding to each question.

Question #

Number of students responding













Table 6: Types and frequency of responses by question.

1. What do you think is the purpose of homework assignments?


# Responses


To practice what we learned in class




To make our lives miserable




To get good grades




To show the teacher what weπre having trouble with




2. What are some reasons why students do not do their homework?

After-school jobs




No time ≠ general




Too lazy




Too tired in the evening




Donπt know how to complete the assignment




Forgot to do it




Donπt want to ≠ general




Too much work for other classes




Didnπt copy down the assignment








Extracurricular activities




Missed class and didnπt get assignment




3. What are some reasons why you do your homework?

To get good grades




To practice what I learned in class




Important ≠ general




Parental influence




To show the teacher what weπre having trouble with




To stay out of trouble




Have enough time




To earn rewards




To exercise my brain




4. What can the teacher do to help you to do more homework?

Give less homework




Offer rewards when students do HW




Nothing, it is the studentπs responsibility




Explain assignments more clearly




Start assignment in class and finish it at home




Penalize students who donπt do HW




Help with homework




Pay students so they donπt have to work




Make it more enjoyable




Make it easier




Table 7: Responses to question 5.

Do you think homework helps you learn , or practice material from class? Explain.











[1] Shareware available at

[2]ChemCom: Chemistry in the Community, Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

[3] A chemistry magazine published monthly by the American Chemical Society for secondary students.


Bryan, T. and K. Sullivan-Burstein (1998). Teacher-selected strategies for improving homework completion. Remedial and Special Education, 19 (5), 263-275.

Eisner, Elliot (1981). On the differences between scientific and artistic approaches to qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 10(4), 5-9.

lather, P. (1986). Research as praxis. Harvard educational review, 56(3), 257-277.

Ostler, E. (1997). The effect of learning mathematics reading strategies on secondary studentsπ homework grades. The Clearing House, 77 (1), 37-41.

Pintrich, P. and Schrauben, B. (1992). Students motivational beliefs and their cognitive engagement in the classroom academic tasks. in D. H. Schunk & J. L. Meece (Eds.), Student perceptions in the classroom (pp. 149-183). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

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