Nourse ch 1 and 2 after revisionsDocument Transcript
Why is Homework a Dirty Word?
Will On-line Homework Improve Completion Rates and By Extension, Improve
A Field Project Presented to the Faculty of the College of Education
TOURO UNIVERSITY - CALIFORNIA
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree of
MASTERS OF ARTS
With Emphasis in
Type emphasis here
Why is Homework a Dirty Word?
Will On-line Homework Improve Completion Rates and By Extension, Improve Test
In partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the
MASTER OF ARTS DEGREE
TOURO UNIVERSITY – CALIFORNIA
Under the guidance and approval of the committee and approval by all the members, this
field project has been accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree.
Pamela A. Redmond, Ed.D. Date
Jim O’Connor, Ph.D, Dean Date
TOURO UNIVERSITY CALIFORNIA
College of Education
Name: Lauren Nourse
The Touro University California College of Education has permission to use my MA
thesis or field project as an example of acceptable work. This permission includes the
right to duplicate the manuscript as well as permits the document to be checked out from
the College Library or School website.
In addition, I give Dr. Pamela Redmond permission to share my handbook with others via
Table of Contents
Statement of the Problem...............................................................................................................................1
Background and Need....................................................................................................................................1
Purpose of the Project....................................................................................................................................1
Definition of Terms.........................................................................................................................................1
READING OTHER PROJECTS FOR THIS CLASS ONE REALIZES THAT THE
PROBLEMS WE ARE FACING AS TEACHERS ARE COMMON
THROUGHOUT THE ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES. OUR REASON FOR
INVESTIGATING THE USE OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY IS TO ALLOW
TEACHERS TO BETTER CONNECT WITH OUR STUDENTS WHO HAVE
GROWN UP AS TECHNOLOGY NATIVES (HATZIGEORGIOU, 2009).
STUDENTS SEEM TO BE FEELING MORE AND MORE DISCONNECTED
FROM SCHOOL WITH EACH PASSING YEAR. THEY QUESTION THE
RELEVANCE OF THE SUBJECT BEING TAUGHT AND DON’T
UNDERSTAND HOW THIS VARIETY OF TOPICS CAN FORM A MAJOR
FOUNDATION FOR THEIR FUTURE EDUCATION AND, MORE
IMPORTANTLY, FOR THEIR LATER SUCCESS IN THE WORK PLACE.
(PRENSKY, 2008B) IN OUR EFFORTS TO FIND WAYS TO HELP STUDENTS
WANT TO ENGAGE, WE MUST INVESTIGATE HOW WE AS TEACHERS CAN
USE THESE NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT STUDENTS USE DAILY (OR EVEN
APPENDIX: FIELD PROJECT............................................................................30
Field Project Title.........................................................................................................................................30
List of Tables
Statement of the Problem
Background and Need
Purpose of the Project
Definition of Terms
There is an ever increasing complaint from high school teachers that the students we are sending
from the junior high are not prepared for the rigors of their classes. Given the premise that
homework is a necessity when learning to work independently and in developing self-discipline
and responsibility the teachers at Martinez Junior High School instituted a homework lunch for
students who did not complete math and science homework when due. The purpose was to
provide a location for homework completion with teacher assistance. In spite of this intervention,
the rates of completion of homework stayed static. Can we create more opportunities for
homework to be done on line and will this increase homework completion rates?
Will On-line Homework Improve Completion Rates and By Extension, Improve Test Scores?
Reading other projects for this class one realizes that the problems we are facing as
teachers are common throughout the academic disciplines. Our reason for investigating the use
of educational technology is to allow teachers to better connect with our students who have
grown up as technology natives (Hatzigeorgiou, 2009). Students seem to be feeling more and
more disconnected from school with each passing year. They question the relevance of the
subject being taught and don’t understand how this variety of topics can form a major foundation
for their future education and, more importantly, for their later success in the work place.
(Prensky, 2008b) In our efforts to find ways to help students want to engage, we must investigate
how we as teachers can use these new technologies that students use daily (or even hourly).
The debate continues to rage on as to the effectiveness of homework: does it translate
into higher test scores? How do I cover the language of science and insure students have the
background needed to understand our curriculum without asking for some effort on their part
outside of the classroom day?
Overwhelming evidence exists that homework improves student achievement (Cooper,
Robinson, and Patall 2006). With that evidence in mind, how can we insure that: a) homework
gets done; b) that homework is deemed to be meaningful to both students and teachers and; c)
the new methods to deliver homework will stimulate its completion?
Statement of the problem
Research has shown improved student learning when meaningful homework assignments
are completed and returned to students with constructive comments (Mendicino, Razzaq &
Heffernan, 2009). In addition, students benefit from completing homework and learning to work
independently. Homework also helps to develop self-discipline and responsibility. Given this
information I wanted to find research that supported my belief that homework is an essential part
of student learning and, more importantly, important for student retention of information.
There is an ever growing struggle between schools and parents over the necessity,
amount, and usefulness of homework. There are studies for (Cooper, Civey. Robinson, & Patall,
2006) and against (Kravlovec & Buell, 2000) homework, but the majority of studies conclude
that homework does improve academic achievement. In spite of these studies, the perception
persists and in fact is growing among teachers and administrators that homework is no longer an
essential piece of the educational puzzle (Kralovec & Bell, 2003).
In an attempt to increase homework completion rates in our eighth grade science classes
we have been keeping an accurate tally of students who do not turn in assignments on time. They
are then given a lunchtime detention with the principal and an opportunity to complete the work.
The assumption has been that this intervention would improve the turn in rates. In the four
months of this program there has been little or no improvement in percentage of homework turn
in. 40-50% of students routinely do not turn in their assignments on time. In an effort to improve
this turn in rate I have investigated studies that offer options to the traditional pen-and-paper
The Mendicino fifth grade study concluded that there was a significant improvement in
learning for students who completed the homework using the Web-based model. In a college
level study, results were negligible. That study concluded that web-based homework is a good
alternate but not necessarily a replacement for traditional general homework (Liang, 2002).
Even though the college level physics results did not show any significant difference in
learning outcomes, the study did report a higher level of homework completion for those who
completed the web-based homework. They also reported that students found the web-based
homework more “interesting” even though they spent more time completing it.
Background and Need
There is a need to find a new tech savvy way to allow students to participate in
homework. In our continuing efforts to engage students in the academic process it appears we
must learn from them and employ some new web based methods for completing homework.
Obviously a student technology assessment would need to be completed. We are making
assumptions that ALL students have access to and routinely use the internet and other
technology. This survey would help find out what technology literacy exists among my students.
What is the student’s access to computers, their access to the internet, and the ability of their
computer to handle the graphic and video components anticipated in the homework events?
Following the lead of several other teachers doing research on this topic I would suggest a need
to an assessment of the conditions under which students do their homework. Items needing to be
assessed would include: a) when and where homework is done; b) lighting conditions; c) study
space or surface; and d) music, television, or other noise level factors. From that point, testing
parameters would be established and a research time period set.
The purpose of the project is to take existing homework assignments and compare the
rates of homework completion between students using the traditional pen-and-paper style versus
homework completed on-line and returned to the teacher via the web. Will there be an increase
in homework completion rates as indicated by several prior studies? (Bonham, Beichner, &
Deardorff. (2001), Salend, Duhaney, Anderson, Gottschalk, (2004), Cooper, Robinson, Patall,
(2006) or has the novelty of the web as an educational homework resource begun to fade?
Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? With this project I hope to determine
what type of homework is necessary to encourage students to do their homework. I anticipate
giving pre- and post- tests for the unit covered under the study.
During the course of the project I hope to determine what homework teachers at MJHS deem
The project will call for implementation of the use of online homework assignments for at
least one project at MJHS. In addition, it will be necessary to find routine weekly homework
assignments that can be done online. Hopefully this project will open dialogue and debate at
MJHS as to the effectiveness and worth of homework in our specific community.
The hypothesis is that web-based homework, particularly well-designed homework with
a web component, can provide an alternative to traditional types of homework. Can we create
more opportunities for homework to be done on line and will this increase completion of
homework assignments and by extension improve student test scores? Will on-line homework
improve understanding of the material and thus create improved test scores? Lastly, will this be
just a novelty to students who will be interested in completing this new style initially but quickly
tire and return to old habits?
Blog or Web Log – A blog (short for "web log") is essentially an online journal or diary where
one can post messages, photos, music and video on their own.
Blogger – A contributor to a blog or online journal (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/blogger)
Computer-based homework: A more general term for any type of homework graded by a
computer, including web-based homework.
Critical pedagogy- process of learning and relearning
Digital Literacy – The ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to
locate, evaluate, use and create information.
Digital Native – A digital native is a person who has grown up with digital technology such as
computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3 players.
Digital Immigrant – A person who was not born into the digital world but has adopted many or
most aspects of the new technology. (Prensky, 2001)
High quality homework -well prepared cognitively engaging tasks of varying difficulty and
involving careful class discussion of homework assignments (Trautwein et al. p 453 2006)
Homework- any task assigned to students that is to be done outside the hours of the school day;
any paper and pencil activity given by the classroom teacher that the student must complete at
home. The activity or activities are not constrained to one subject or content area, but it can also
be based on abstract thinking skills and requires mental effort and discipline (adapted from
Cooper 2006, Corno 2000, and Taback 2005).
Meaningful learning- occurs when students select and organize relevant visual and verbal
information and systematically integrate the newly constructed visual and verbal representations.
Paper-based homework- the more traditional method of students working out their solutions on
paper, turning these in for grading, and, after a delay of a few days to a few weeks, receiving the
papers back with written comments on them.
Web 2.0 – The term given to describe a second generation of the World Wide Web that is
focused on the ability for people to collaborate and share information online.
Web-based homework system- a service which (1) can be accessed from any standard browser
and Internet connection (2) password authenticates the user, (3) delivers assignments to students
and receives their answers (4) grades student work automatically and (5) keeps a permanent
record of student scores which the instructor can access at a latter time.
Why have students in a suburban middle school stopped completing homework in ever
increasing numbers? What is it about homework that has become a battleground for teachers,
administrators and students? Why do teachers assign homework? What do parents and teachers
want their students to gain from completing the assigned tasks? If in fact homework has become
a lightning rod for educational change, how can we facilitate that change and still keep the
components of homework that are important to teachers and parents and still motivate students to
higher rates of completion? Some investigations have suggested the reasons for non-completion
involve the difficulty of the assignment or the inability of students to work independently (Latto-
Auld, 2005). Other studies suggest that students do not have adequate facilities at home to
complete work (Krovalec & Buell, 2001). Some researchers maintain that the assigned
homework is inappropriate (Marzano & Pickering, 2007). Still others maintain that the student
voice has been neglected and should be incorporated as best as it can be (Noguera, 2007).
In our continuing efforts to engage students in the academic process, it appears we must
learn from these various studies and employ some new web based methods for completing
homework. As one might expect, the issue of homework creates a complicated debate. While
some feel homework is punitive and a detriment to students and families, (Kohn, 2006), other
research has shown nice improvements in student learning when assigned homework is
completed (Mazzino, Brock, & Heffernan, 2009). Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) in their
seemingly exhaustive research of the effects of homework found that homework improves
learning but leaves the door open for more study (p. 53). Some of the studies they investigated
suggest significant correlation between homework and achievement. There were differing
conclusions based on grade level and subject matter, which leads the topic open to future
investigation. Coutts (2004) argued that more homework is needed to achieve educational
excellence. The debate rages on as to the necessity of homework.
Homework is such a complicated issue. The ever-changing demographics of a
community and the classroom continually cloud the issue of homework’s worth. Those who
subscribe to the theory that homework is evil, tend to focus on the amount of time it takes for a
student to complete the homework. This can create conflict at home between parents and
students (Kohn, 2006a). Simplicio (2005) offers the argument that because there is little
consistency between teachers on amounts and types of assigned homework students cannot
adequately plan for homework time. This then leads to an investigation of the type of homework
assigned: routine worksheets based on the day’s lesson, practice, review, research for a report, or
perhaps a response to an inquiry based lesson. There are also homework assignments that fall
under the non-instructional design (Xu, 2005). These include punishment assignments, social
skill development, and homework involving parents that is intended intended to improve
communication between parents and students. Those who support homework feel that it
promotes a positive attitude towards school, cements the classroom learning, and helps to dispel
the notion that learning occurs only in school. Homework also reinforces concepts introduced in
the classroom. Students can learn to cope with mistakes and difficulties (Bempechat, 2004).
Hong, Milgram, & Rowell (2004). Hong et al (2007) stated that “Homework is a powerful tool
that can contribute to the advancement of children’s education, or it can do more damage than
good to their education and development. The difference between the two outcomes depends on
the quality of decisions as how to homework is implemented” (p. 203).
Killoran (2003) proposed that there are four theories of development that can be applied
to the homework question. These development theories can be used to explain many of the
reasons for not completing homework and can also be used to specify what interventions could
1. Behaviorism identifies the homework problem as being an issue of
reinforcement. It is anything that results in a behavior increasing or staying
the same. One must find a way to reinforce the desired behavior.
2. Constructivism suggests that a child should be the initiator of activity and is
the person responsible for interacting with the environment. The child will
manipulate the environment. The teacher would set up the environment so that
the child could progress up the developmental scale.
3. Maturational theory believes in the biological reasons behind the development
level. In order for the student to be successful the teacher must give
homework that is at the appropriate developmental level.
4. Ecological systems theory maintains that there are extraneous issues that
should be resolved before the student can be successful (Killoran, I. (2003).
Why Is Your Homework Not Done? How Theories of Development Affect
Your Approach in the Classroom. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 30(4),
The constructivist view was applied to the proposed research because it supported active
learning and allowed students to investigate new ways to solve old problems. Students used the
web and Internet to complete routine homework assignments. This study proposed to examine if
they could become active learners using a medium they have embraced. Xu (2005) suggested
that when students complete homework for intrinsic reasons, the result is a higher grade. He
defined intrinsic characteristics as ones that develop responsibility, allow the learner to work
independently, help them to learn study skills, develop good discipline and reinforce school
One piece to the homework puzzle is to ask why a teacher assigned the homework in the
first place – what were they hoping students would get out of the assignment and how long did
the teacher think it would take the student to complete the assigned work. Some of the research
studies focused on the value of the assigned homework (Marzano & Pickering, 2007). There
were fewer studies that addressed the ideas of computer-based homework. There were some
studies on the effect of web-based versus paper and pencil based homework at the university and
upper high school level (Cole, 2003; Mendicino, Roth & Ivanchencko, 2008; Pritchard &
The study proposed that homework could be a good way to help students create the
foundation they need for science literacy and comprehension. It asked, could a teacher create
homework that would combine student love of the computer and its instant gratification with
instant feedback on assigned homework? Would this then translate into better understanding?
Would this create better science literacy? More importantly, would this create a greater interest
in science learning? Having been born into an era in which technology surrounds them, students
born after 1991 can be considered Digital Natives. While they access technology and the internet
daily through their computers and cell phones, it is usually for social networking purposes rather
than for educational reasons. It is increasingly important to integrate the student’s use of
technology into classroom instruction for Digital Natives. The custom of students having a
passive role in the learning process should be left behind (Strom, Strom, Wing & Beckert, 2009).
This opens the door for studying the effects of web-based homework, its completion rates, and
the effect of completing that homework on quiz and test scores.
Differing Opinions: What makes Homework Bad?
As noted previously, there are differing opinions as to the value of homework. Marzano
and Pickering (2007) looked at both sides of the homework issue. They reviewed the work of 7
studies and articles. One of those studies by Kralovec and Buell (2000, as cited in Marzano &
Pickering, 2007) suggested that homework “teaches students to overvalue work and increase a
sense of competition” (p. 74). Analyzing Bennett and Kalish (2006 as cited in Marzano &
Pickering, 2007), Marzano and Pickering ascertained that too much homework can harm
students’ health and family time. They also suggested that most homework is not designed well
and teachers are not trained in how to assign homework. Another study examined by Marzano
and Pickering took aim at other homework researchers and said that they fail to show that
homework is effective (Kohn, 2006 as cited in Marzano & Pickering, 2007). Homework should
be designed to involve activities appropriate for the home. Marzano and Pickering take note that
Kohn may have misunderstood or misrepresented the research which then sent the wrong
message that research does not support homework. The Marzano and Pickering study suggested
that inappropriate or poorly designed homework may even decrease student achievement.
Krovalec and Buell (2001) discussed how homework punishes students in poverty who
may not have the time or place or equipment to adequately complete homework. In their follow
up to a study in the 1990s on why students drop out, an inability to complete homework was a
major factor. This study led to a further analysis of other research reports and interviews with
teachers, parents, high school dropouts, and current high school students. In addition to being
punitive on those who are poor, their investigations showed that homework can be a major factor
in disrupting family life and being a major cause of family conflict. They suggested that
academic skills needed to complete long-term independent projects should be taught within the
school day. The drill and practice that is so often assigned as homework would be better placed
within the school day to allow students to get help when needed when they are stuck or lack
understanding. Krovalec and Buell go on to tackle and debunk three homework myths:
1. homework increases academic achievement
2. homework is needed for improved test scores
3. no homework will dilute the curriculum and cater to lazy students.
Kohn (2006) in his article Abusing Research; The study of homework and other examples,
tackled several studies and argued against their findings by reinterpreting the results of the
various studies. His investigations rebutted those studies that showed a positive effect of
homework on younger children. He went on to suggest that giving homework is just a form of
Why does a teacher bother assigning homework? Connor (2004) reported that teachers
assign homework with the notion that they do it to “promote good attitudes toward school, to
improve study habits, to dispel the notion that learning occurs only in school, and to allow
parents the opportunity to express to children how much they value education” (p.31).
Conversely Van Voorhis (2004) pointed out that teachers have very little training and little
professional development in what constitutes effective and well-designed homework.
Schuster’s study involved 9th grade geography students (2009). In addition to measuring
the impact of homework on learning, the study also measured the impact of student homework
preferences on homework completion and on learning. Schuster’s investigation also involved a
study of the homework environment, time management, the handling of distractions, a
monitoring of motivation, and the controlling emotions related to homework. This research did
not find an improvement in quiz scores for those students assigned homework. Thus one is left
pondering whether there is a simple solution to the question of the value of homework.
Differing Opinions: What makes Homework Good?
When questioned, most teachers will say that they give homework to cement student
understanding, promote responsibility, and provide for practice. Cooper, Robinson, and Patell
(2006) completed a major study updating their 1989 study investigating over 69 studies on
homework effectiveness. While other authors have debated their conclusions (Kohn, 2006),
Cooper et al (2006) found that there was a positive influence of homework on achievement,
particularly in upper grades. In six studies that employed exogenous manipulations, they all
revealed that homework had a positive effect on unit tests. Because Cooper’s investigation of
homework studies was so vast, there was difficulty in connecting the effects of homework on
achievement due to the different foci for each of the studies. Looking at nine studies that used
data collected as part of various waves of the National Education Longitudinal Study, he found
that all but one had a positive association with homework. There were 12 other studies that
examined the relationship between homework and achievement in Cooper’s analysis. Again,
positive results between homework and achievement were recorded although caution was
advised against drawing conclusions from this set as their variables and methods were diverse.
Cooper recommended that future research was needed because of these variables.
With the debate raging on the value and effectiveness of homework, it was important to
narrow the research to look for the impact of web and internet based homework on learning.
Mendicino, Razzaq and Heffernan (2009) conducted a study of 54 5th graders. Using a
counterbalanced experimental design they got positive quantitative results. They ascertained that
students learned significantly more with web-based homework than with paper and pencil based
homework. In their short 1 week study, they compared the effects of web-based homework
using the ASSISTment system to the effectiveness of paper and pencil homework. The
ASSISTment system was used to provide tutoring at each step of the homework. Each tutoring
step was constructed around a cognitive model of the problem-solving knowledge students have
and the knowledge needed to solve each problem. It was modeled as a set of independent
production rules which represented different pieces of knowledge. The ASSISTment system
provided both interactive scaffolding and hints on demand. The results of this study showed that
students performed better on assessments after using the web-based homework.
Salend, Duhaney, Anderson and Gottschalk (2004) found that setting up a homework site
on the internet was an effective tool to guide students and their families when attempting to
complete homework successfully. Several studies Roth, Ivanchenko, and Record (2007),
Pritchard and Morote, (2000), and Melis, et al (2001) focused on the effectiveness of various
college level programs. The products researched were Web Work, Cybertutor, and ActiveMath.
All three found these programs to be helpful in alleviating the problem of assessing large
numbers of homework assignments. Getting information back to the student in a timely fashion
was shown to be a key in the student’s better comprehension of material. It appeared that
looking at ways to improve assessment is critical. Cole and Todd (2003) studied the use of
computer animation and multimedia presentations. This was also a college level study. While
they found that all forms of computer based instruction were effective at the college level their
research showed that they were somewhat less effective at the pre-college level. Strom, Strom,
Wing, and Becket (2007) found that students considered internet homework to be helpful and
found that understanding of topics was increased. In addition, independent learning was
facilitated and the internet allowed for more practice with research skills. Bonham, Becker, and
Deardorff (2001) in their study of 294 college physics students found that while there was little
difference in performance between web and paper assignments, students generally preferred to
do their homework on the web. This was also the finding of Liang’s (2002) study of students in
courses in introductory college level physics.
Table 1 presents a summary of the major advantages and disadvantages surrounding the
homework debate as highlighted in the majority of the research.
Summary of Homework Pluses and Minuses
• Integrates separately learned skills and • Major cause of stress in students’
• Dispels notion that learning occurs only • Major cause of family stress
• Supplements in-school academic • Can promote a negative attitude
activities; reinforces school learning toward school
• Prompts greater self direction and self • Can deny students access to leisure
discipline time and community activities
• Promotes better time organization • Can increase differences between
high-and low-achieving students
• Invites more independent problem
• Can increase parent involvement
• Prepares students to be prepared for
academic demands and obstacles
Summary of Recent Studies on Effectiveness of Homework
Author Date Sample Age, Quantitative Qualitative difference in
Grade and difference in performance.
1. Xu 2005 8th grade No Rural students took
initiative in monitoring
High achieving students
made greater use of all 5
subscales of homework
2. Cole and 2003 College No measurable Appreciated on line
Todd freshman quantitative component of homework
effect on the High GALT students
students outcome preferred paper and
Low GALT students
preferred web and liked
immediate feedback to
3, Razza and 2009 5th graders Yes: students Students take hw more
Heffernan 50% male learned more seriously when they
50% female with Web-based know it will be graded
hw than with
4. Cooper, 2006 K-12 Yes: doing hw Of 69 studies, 50 were
Robinson, & 1987- improved positive and 19 were
Patall 2003 academic negative pg 48
achievement. Too much hw leads to
More effect at poor attitude towards
middle and upper school
5. Schuster 2009 9th graders No: hw had little Inconclusive relationship
impact on between homework and
learning in quiz scores and
geography homework preferences
and quiz scores
6. Pritchard & 2000 Yes Final exam, weekly tests,
Morote and Socratic tutor
Tutor based assessment
was able to provide more
accurate was to deal
fairly with students’
capabilities (pg 6)
7. Bonham, 2001 College Student Students overwhelmingly
Beichner, & physics performance was preferred web-based hw
Deardorff similar between system.
paper and web
sections (pg 294)
8. Bonham, 2003 College No statistical More effective for
Deardorff, & physics difference teacher in assessing
Beichner student work
9. Roth, 2008 Postsecondary Students perceptions
Ivenchecnko & math and positive: liked immediate
Record science feedback
Resubmissions of work
Every study had unique findings. Table 2 summarizes the various research. While studies 1, 2,
5, and 8 showed no measurable quantitative differences in performance between students
assigned homework and those not assigned homework, studies 3, 4,and 6 do show a measurable
improvement. In addition, studies 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 suggested students prefer using a web-based
Student Engagement and Student Perception
It would be a common conclusion to assume that the findings of Cooper’s study lead to a
conclusion that there is a distinct and measurable value to homework. However, broadening the
research base revealed articles and books with distinctly different opinions. Schuster, in his 2009
study of ninth grade geography students, found inconclusive evidence that homework improved
quiz scores. Kohn (2006a, 2006b) in several books and articles argued that homework is usually
assigned simply because it is expected of teachers to assign homework. Kohn contends that
homework “should not be assigned unless there are good data to demonstrate its value for most
students” (p7). There is also a body of research that discussed how little teachers really know
about the homework they assign-how long it will take a student and what their reasons are for
assigning it. Often student teachers are given little or no instruction on how to decide what
makes a good homework assignment. Bryan and Burstein (2004), who are pro-homework, found
that the amount of homework completed had an effect on student academic achievement, in
contrast to the amount of homework assigned. These arguments gave rise to the idea that
students should have more of a voice in their homework and in their learning.
There seems to be a fit for homework done and submitted on the computer. Students are
looking for teachers to hop on the digital bandwagon. Mendicino, Razzaq and Heffernan in their
2009 study of 5th graders found that students learned significantly more with web-based
homework as compared to traditional paper and pencil homework. Strom, Strom, Wing, and
Beckert (2009) reminded us that students now consider the internet to be their most important
source for most anything. Recent reports suggested that adolescents spend upwards of 15 hours
a week online. This has been refuted by another study suggesting that the amount of time
students spend on homework has not changed in 20 years (Van Voorhis, 2004). The U. S.
Department of Education 2001 survey found that 26% of 13 year olds had one to two hours of
homework per night while 37% had less than one hour. 30-40% spend no time on homework,
either because they were not assigned any or did not complete it. Even with these statistics
Coutts (2004) reported that many mid and high school students find homework to be socially
isolating. According to Lenhart and Madden’s 2007 survey, 87% of students go online daily
after school. Teachers must begin to tap into this technology to facilitate the digital native’s
learning. Students like the fact that on the internet they can proceed at their own pace. With
student participation in social networking sites so high, there is an avenue opening for online
teamwork tasks and use of the internet to expand group learning. A student’s perceptions of
homework and school in general play a major part in their future success.
If, in fact, homework is being assigned in an effort to improve student achievement then
one must answer the question of how that achievement is measured. Relative to this study, while
it would seem that achievement in science could be measured in terms of science literacy and
curiosity about the topic, the reality is that achievement must hold to our state and national
measures of judging literacy which currently is by standardized tests scores.
More recent studies showed that students prefer using the web and computer for their
homework regardless of its direct impact on test or quiz scores. Prensky (2007) suggested that
students are asking for new technologies since they realize how useful they can be. As Strom et
al (2009) reported, students are frustrated by teachers who do not embrace the digital
environment. As Digital Natives they are said to prefer receiving information quickly; are adept
at processing information rapidly; prefer multi-tasking and non-linear access to information;
have a low tolerance for lectures; prefer active rather than passive learning, and rely heavily on
communications technologies to access information and to carry out social and professional
interactions (Prensky 2001).
As we can see from Figure 1, students are spending increasingly larger amounts of time
on the internet. As adolescents increase their online time, it will be important to tap into their
belief that their homework can be improved through the use of the internet. (Lenhart & Madden,
2007). The focus of Chapter 3 will be to narrow the study of homework on the Internet to
middle school students. There is strong evidence that teachers can lead the way in showing
students how to employ technology based tools to optimize the learning experience. (Kirkwood
& Price, 2005). The idea is to teach with technology – not just teach about technology.
Figure 1. Percentage of students in nursery school and students in K-12 using computers or the
internet, by grade level: 2003. Reprinted from “Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003:
A Statistical Analysis Report,” by M. DeBell, and C. Chapman, 2006, National Center for
Education Statistics, p.7. Copyright 2006 by the U.S.Department of Education
Once we improve the completion rate for homework, will that translate into higher test
scores? Will these higher test scores come because the teachers can devote more in class time to
experiments and work at a lab station? Even though other studies have shown that the same
learning can be affected with computer simulations, is there a way to get students more interested
and involved in the classroom during the day? A higher percentage of students attach little
importance to what is happening in the classroom. Will providing more computer time and/or
more time working on hands-on labs rather than “seat” time make their science education more
relevant to them? Noguera (2007) reminds us to include the student voice in this discussion as
students’ can often come up with acceptable solutions to a problem. How homework is
implemented can determine whether it will be helpful or a detriment (Hong, Milgram, & Rowell
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