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Homework attitudes and management strategies.

Abstract

This study linked family help and time spent on homework to homework attitudes and homework management strategies reported by 221 students in grades 11-12. Compared with those students who received no family help, students who received family help reported more frequently working to manage their homework. In addition, compared with students who spent less than three hours a week on homework, students who spent three hours or more reported having more positive attitudes toward homework and a more frequent use of homework management strategies.

Introduction

One important school task that is closely associated with self-regulation of learning is the reference task of homework (Corno, 2000; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994; Xu, 2004; Xu & Corno, 1998). It is often stated that a major purpose of homework is to help students develop good study habits and desirable self-regulatory strategies, such as better time organization and greater self-direction (Cooper, 1989; Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001; Warton, 2001; Xu & Yuan, 2003). However, the issue of how students manage homework has received little attention in homework research literature, particularly at the secondary school level (Bali, Demo, & Wedman, 1998; Xu & Corno, 2003). Recently, several studies have examined the role of family help (Xu & Corno, 2003, in press) on middle school homework management, including arranging the homework environment, managing time, focusing attention, monitoring motivation, and controlling emotion. However, no data were available from these studies about whether the use of homework management strategies was associated with time spent on doing homework.

The present study has linked family help and time spent on homework to high school students' attitudes toward homework and their efforts to manage their homework. This line of research is important, as students' efforts to manage their homework and their attitudes toward homework may be influenced by the amount of time they spend on doing homework, as high school students usually have been left out of public discussions of homework (Loveless, 2003).

Related Literature

The present investigation was informed by two lines of related literature: (a) literature that examines the role of family involvement on homework management; and (b) literature suggests a possible connection between time spent on homework on students' attitudes toward homework.

One study by McCaslin and Murdock (1991) implied that middle school children could learn from parents how to manage their homework. Researchers interviewed parents and children from one sixth-grade class in the Midwest concerning their homework interactions. In one family, the father encouraged his son to control negative emotions that arose during homework (Kuhl, 2000). When his son got upset with homework, he would tell the boy to calm down, so that he could get back on track and get to the bottom of the problem. Consequently, it appeared that the boy had internalized some of his father's strategies. For example, realizing the self-destructiveness of anger, he began to learn to control his emotions, as illustrated in his statement, "I don't feel like doing the work. But I keep doing it" (McCaslin & Murdock, 1991, p. 229). Recently, Xu and Corno (2003) linked family homework help to homework management strategies reported by 121 students in grades 6-8 in New York City. This study revealed that family involvement in homework was related to some homework management strategies, namely, arranging the environment and controlling negative emotions. Specifically, students who received family help, compared to those who did not, reported more frequently working to manage their workspace and were more careful about monitoring and controlling their emotions.

Whereas the first line of literature focuses on the role of family involvement on homework management, the second line of literature alludes to the possible influence of time spent on homework on student attitudes toward homework at the secondary school level. Hendrix, Sederberg, and Miller (1990) examined the relationship between the time spent on homework and affective responses to their school. The sample consisted of 1,521 seniors enrolled in three high schools in a large Midwest, suburban district. Students' affective responses were measured by using a 22-item School Commitment/Alienation Inventory, including 11 items on commitment to school (e.g., "School is important to me.") and 11 items on self-esteem as a student (e.g., "I feel proud of my schoolwork."). The study showed that students' affective responses to school was positively related to the amount of time spent on homework, r = .37, p < .01.

In another study, Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, and Greathouse (1998) examined relationships between the time spent on homework, the portion of homework completed, and students' attitudes toward homework. The researchers posed five questions to the 424 middle and high school students from three school districts in Tennessee, relating to affective reactions toward homework (e.g., whether they liked it or not) and perceived purposes for homework (e.g., whether it helped them develop study skills). The results revealed that students' attitudes toward homework positively correlated with their reports of the portion of homework they completed, r(412) = .31, p < .001, and the time spent on homework, r(412) =.10, p < .05.

Whereas the first line of literature suggests that family homework involvement may influence students' use of homework management strategies, no data were available from this line of literature on the possible influence of family help on students' attitudes toward homework management. Meanwhile, the second line of study implies that time spent on homework may positively influence student attitudes toward homework. Unfortunately, no data were available as to whether time spent on homework was related to homework management strategies. Such data would have been particularly interesting since Cooper et al. (1998) found that students' attitudes toward homework positively associated with their reports of the portion of homework they completed, implying that those students who spend more time on homework may more frequently use homework management strategies. Consequently, there is a need to explicitly link both family homework help and time spent on homework to homework attitudes and management strategies.

Method

The present study is based on a survey of 221 students in grades 11-12 in Tennessee. Of the students in this sample, 58.4% were male (129) and 41.6% were female (92). The sample included 123 eleventh graders and 98 twelfth graders. It consisted of 90.8% Caucasian, 2.8% multiracial, 2.3% Latino, 1.8% African American, 1.4% Asian American, and .9% Native American.

In the survey, which took about thirty minutes to administer, the students indicated whether or not they had received homework help from their families. They were also asked about how much time they spent on homework a week, with possible responses ranging from .49 hr or less to 21.00 hr and up. They were further asked about their attitudes toward homework using a five-item scale (e.g., "doing homework helps you learn study skills" and "doing homework helps you develop good discipline"). These survey items derived from case studies of families doing homework together (Xu & Corno, 1998) and from interviews with students, parents, and teachers (Xu & Yuan, 2003). Possible responses to each item were strongly disagree (scored 1), disagree (scored 2), agree (scored 3), and strongly agree (scored 4). Alpha reliability coefficient for this scale was .88. In addition, the students were asked about homework management strategies that they may use to aid homework completion regardless of the task's content or difficulty (Xu & Corno, 2003). The homework management scale consisted of twenty-three items, informed by relevant homework literature (Delgado-Gaitan, 1992; McDermott, Goldman, & Varenne, 1984; McCaslin & Murdock, 1991; Xu & Corno, 1998). The scale included items relating to arranging the homework environment (e.g., "turning off the TV"), managing time (e.g., "setting priorities and planning ahead"), focusing attention (e.g., "starting conversations unrelated to what I'm doing"), monitoring motivation (e.g., "praising myself for good effort"), and monitoring and controlling emotion (e.g., "cheering myself up and telling myself that I can do it"). Possible responses for each item were never (scored 1), rarely (scored 2), sometimes (scored 3), often (scored 4), and routinely (scored 5). The five items of this scale were reversely scored. Alpha reliability coefficient for this scale was .88.

A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) estimated effects of family help and time spent on homework on homework attitudes and homework management strategies. Family help was coded at two levels: 1 (students who did not receive homework help) and 2 (students who received homework help). Time spent on homework was also recoded at two levels: 1 (students who spent less than three hours a week) and 2 (students who spent three hours or more a week). The decision to use three hours as the cut off point was informed by (a) the 2003 Brown Center Report on American Education that "the typical student, even in high school, does not spend more than an hour per day on homework" (Loveless, 2003, p. 17) and by (b) the distribution of time spent on homework reported by the students in this sample.

One dependent variable was mean scores on student attitudes toward homework, ranging from strongly disagree (scored 1) to strongly agree (scored 4). Another dependent variable was mean scores on homework management, ranging from never (scored 1) to routinely (scored 5). These two variables were found to be correlated, r(204) = .56, p < .01.

Results

Overall, 52.0% of the students reported that they had received family help. In addition, 60.2% of the students reported that they spent less than three hours a week on homework, whereas 39.8% of them reported that they spent three hours of more a week on homework.

The mean score for one dependent variable--homework attitudes--was 2.86 (SD = .68), indicating that students tended to agree (scored 3) on the five items relating to doing homework for self-regulation (e.g., to learn to work independently and to develop good discipline). The mean score for the other dependent variable--homework management strategies--was 2.99 (SD = .62), indicating that students made efforts to manage their homework sometimes (scored 3). Student responses to these variables indicated that there remained sufficient variance to warrant correlational analyses of these data.

The MANOVA results - using homework attitudes and management strategies as the dependent variables and with family help and time spent on homework as the independent variables--showed that homework help and time spent on homework did not interact (Wilks's lambda = .994, F(2,199) = .629, p = .534, eta squared = .006). However, the main effects of family help (Wilks's lambda = .931, F(2,199) = 7.371, p = .001, eta squared = .069) and time on homework (Wilks's lambda = .840, F(2,199) = 18.902, p < .001, eta squared = .160) indicated significant effect on the combined dependent variables.

Separate univariate tests were performed to compare the effects of the two levels of family help (no vs. yes) on homework attitudes and homework management strategies. Univariate tests showed statistically significant effects on one of the dependent variables, namely, homework management (F(1,200) = 14.816, p < .001, eta squared = .069).

Thus, family help appeared unrelated to student attitudes toward homework, but it did relate to students' efforts to manage their homework. Comparison of means for managing homework indicated that students who received family help (M = 2.99, SD = .60) reported more frequently working to manage their homework than those who received no family help (M = 2.71, SD = .74).

Univariate tests also performed to compare effects of time spent on homework (less than three hours a week vs. three or more hours a week) on homework attitudes and homework management strategies. The results showed statistically significant effects on both dependent variables, namely, homework attitudes (F(1,200) = 19.752, p < .001, eta squared = .090), and homework management strategies (F(1,200) = 34.466, p < .001, eta squared = .147). Thus, time spent on homework appeared related to both student attitudes toward homework as well as to their efforts to manage homework.

Comparison of means for homework attitudes indicated that students who spent three hours or more a week on homework (M = 3.13, SD = .54) reported more positive attitudes toward homework than students who spent less than three hours a week on homework (M = 2.68, SD = .71). Similarly, students who spent three hours or more a week on homework (M = 3.31, SD = .52) reported more frequently working to manage their homework than students who spent less than three hours a week on homework (M = 2.78, SD = .58).

Discussion

The present study explicitly linked family help and time spent on homework to students' attitudes toward homework and their efforts to manage their homework. It revealed that family help and time spent on homework were related to homework attitudes and management strategies. Compared with those students who received no family help, students who received family help reported more frequently working to manage their homework. In addition, compared with those students spent less than three hours a week on homework, students who spent three hours or more hours a week reported more positive attitudes toward homework and more frequent use of homework management strategies.

Consistent with the findings that families play an important role in promoting desirable homework management strategies at the middle school level (McCaslin & Murdock, 1991; Xu & Corno, 2003, in press), the present study further suggests that families can continue to play such a role at the high school level. Consistent with the findings that time spent on homework is positively related to student attitudes toward school (Hendrix et al., 1990) and homework (Cooper et al., 1998), the present study suggests that time spent on homework is positively associated with student attitudes toward homework management as well. In addition, the present study takes an initial step in examining an important gap in homework research literature (i.e., the possible relationship between time spent on homework and desirable self-regulatory strategies), by suggesting that time spent on homework is positively associated with students' use of homework management strategies.

Conclusion

This study suggests that families may continue to play an important role in promoting desirable homework management strategies at the high school level. However, not all homes have made adult help available to high school students doing homework, as about hall of the students in this study reported that they received such help. Thus, it appears that high schools could profitably encourage families to help their children with homework management.

This study further suggests that time spent on homework may be positively associated with student attitudes toward homework and their use of homework management strategies. However, as the present study is the first to link time spent on homework to homework attitudes and management strategies, as some other important variables may mediate or moderate these variables (e.g., the nature and types of homework, outside employment, and organized sports activities), there is a need to continue this line of research. Similarly, there is a need to conduct related studies at the elementary and middle school levels, as homework at the secondary school level tends to focus more on the materials covered on achievement tests than time-management skills (Cooper & Valentine, 2001), implying that the role of time spent on homework on student attitudes as well as management strategies may be moderated by grade level.

References

Balli, S. J., Demo, D. H., & Wedman, J. F. (1998). Family involvement with children's homework: An intervention in the middle grades. Family Relations, 47, 149-157. Cooper, H. (1989). Homework. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Cooper, H., Lindsay, J. J., Nye, B., & Greathouse, S. (1998). Relationships among attitudes about homework assigned and completed, and student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(1), 70-83.

Cooper, H., & Valentine, J. C. (2001). Using research to answer practical questions about homework. Educational Psychologist, 36(3), 143-153.

Corno, L. (2000). Looking at homework differently. Elementary School Journal, 100(5), 529-548.

Delgado-Gaitan, C. (1992). School matters in the Mexican-American home: Socializing children to education. American Educational Research Journal, 29(3), 495-513.

Epstein, J. L., & Van Voorhis, F. L. (2001). More than minutes: Teachers' roles in designing homework. Educational Psychologist, 36(3), 181-193.

Hendrix, V. L., Sederberg, C. H., & Miller, V. L. (1990). Correlates of commitment/alienation among high school seniors. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 23(3), 129-135.

Kuhl, J. (2000). The volitional basis of personality systems interaction theory: Applications in learning and treatment contexts. In L. Corno (Ed.), Conceptions of volition: Theoretical investigations and studies of practice. International Journal of Educational Research, 33(7-8), 665-704.

Loveless, T. (2003, October). The 2003 Brown Center Report on American Education: How well are American students learning. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute.

McCaslin, M., & Murdock, T. B. (1991). The emergent interaction of home and school in the development of students' adaptive learning. In M. Maehr & P. Pintrich (Eds.), Advances in Motivation and Achievement (Vol. 7, pp. 213-259). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

McDermott, R., Goldman, S., & Varenne, H. (1984). When school goes home: Some problems in the organization of homework. Teachers College Record, 85(3), 391- 409.

Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (1994). Self-regulation of learning and performance. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Warton, P. M. (2001). The forgotten voices in homework: Views of students. Educational Psychologist, 36(3), 155-165.

Xu, J. (2004). Family help and homework management in urban and rural secondary schools. Teachers College Record, 106(9), 1786-1803.

Xu, J., & Corno, L. (1998). Case studies of families doing third-grade homework. Teachers College Record, 100(2), 402-436.

Xu, J., & Corno, L. (2003). Family help and homework management reported by middle school students. Elementary School Journal, 103(5), 503-518.

Xu, J., & Corno, L. (in press). Gender, family help, and homework management reported by rural middle school students. Journal of Research in Rural Education.

Xu, J., & Yuan, R. (2003). Doing homework: Listening to students', parents', and teachers' voices in one urban middle school community. School Community Journal, 13(2), 25-44.

Jianzhong Xu, Mississippi State University

Jianzhong Xu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Mississippi State University
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Author:Xu, Jianzhong
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2005
Words:2961
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