Teachers and parents alike hear a lot of excuses when students don’t do their homework. “That was homework? That’s due today? But… it was the weekend.” What they often don’t hear is the research on how to help. It seems we are in the dark about engaging students in the homework process, and specifically about what contributes to homework resistance. How can we better support students in not only completing, but also learning from assigned homework? The answers compiled in this article were gathered from a number of research articles, classroom interviews, and student surveys, often in schools where the students struggle with homework completion. Here are six research-backed reasons for why students don’t do their homework, and what you can do to help overcome them.
1. The homework takes too long to complete. In a study of over 7000 students (average age of 13), questionnaires revealed that when more than 60 minutes of homework is provided, students resisted. In addition, based on standardized tests, more than 60 minutes of homework did not significantly impact test scores.
Solution: Ask students to record how long it takes to complete homework assignments for one week. Use the record to negotiate a daily homework completion goal time. As an acceptable time frame is established, this allows the student to focus more on the task.
2. The value of homework is misunderstood. In this case, students erroneously believe that homework only has academic value. In a study of 25 teachers, interviews showed that teachers’ use of homework extended beyond the traditional practice of academic content. For example, 75% of these teachers report homework as an effective tool to measure learning motivation, confidence, and ability to take responsibility.
Solution: Communicate with students the multiple purposes for homework. Reveal how homework has both short-term (impact on course grade) and long-term (enhance life skills) benefits. Identify specific long-term homework benefits that students may be unaware of, such as organization, time management, and goal setting.
3. The assignment is a one-size fits all. In a study of 112 undergraduate chemistry students, the learners report interest in different types of homework. For example, 62% of students are satisfied with online assignments (this format provided immediate feedback and allowed multiple attempts), whereas, 41% are satisfied with traditional paper assignments (this format had no computer printing issues and it is a style most familiar).
Solution: Assess student learning style with the use of learning inventories. Differentiate homework to account for student interest and learning preference. Consider placing the differentiation responsibility on the learner–for instance, ask students to create their own method to practice the key terms.
4. Feedback is not provided. Acknowledging homework attempts matter. A survey of 1000 students shows that learners want recognition for attempting and completing homework (versus just getting the homework correct). Also, students desire praise for their homework effort. In a study of 180 students, almost half of the learners agreed that teacher recognition of doing a good job was important to them.
Solution: Expand homework evaluation to include points for completing the assignment. In addition, include homework feedback into lesson plans. One example is to identify class time to identify homework patterns with the class (student struggles and successes). Another example is to give students opportunities to compare their homework answers with a peer where students can correct or change answers while obtaining feedback.
5. The homework is not built into classroom assessments. Students want their homework to prepare them for assessments. When surveyed, 85% of students report they would complete more homework if the material was used on tests and quizzes.
Solution: Allow students to select 1 homework question each unit that they wish to see on the test. Place student selections in a bowl/lottery and pick 2-3 of their responses to include in each assessment.
6. Students don’t have a homework plan. It’s unsurprising that making provisions for homework increases the likelihood that homework is completed. In interviews with ninth graders, 43% of the students that completed all of their homework indicated that they had a plan. Their homework plan consisted of the time needed to execute the work, meet deadlines, and follow daily completion routines. The students with a plan tended to complete homework even if they disliked the assignment.
Solution: Help students develop a homework plan. For example, you may show examples and non-examples, offer templates for home-work to-do lists, or challenge students to identify apps that help track homework planning procedures.
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