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The role of school counselors in homework intervention.

Counselor involvement in student academic development often has focused on interventions with students whose personal and/or social difficulties interfere with their capacities to perform well academically. At the middle school and high school levels, counselor involvement with course scheduling and testing, both strongly identified with the academic development domain, often constitute a significant portion of counselors' workload (Rowell & LaLonde, 2001). More recently, however, school counselors have been challenged to broaden their perspectives regarding contributions in the academic development domain (Roels, 1998). In the emerging standards-driven environment of U.S. education, enhancing counselor involvement in student academic development would help strengthen the bonds among counselors, teachers, administrators, students, and parents and help demonstrate concretely the centrality of counselor involvement in the total educational enterprise. Classroom guidance and individual or small-group counseling activities focused on assisting students acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for successful completion of schoolwork can be relevant components of school counselors' involvement in student academic development.

The purpose of this article is to explore school counselors' role in homework intervention, an important area in the academic development domain. Homework has been employed widely by classroom teachers for its positive effects on student academic development (e.g., Bursuck, 1995; Keith & Benson, 1992). In this article we review research findings on homework, delineate a model of learner-centered adaptive homework that focuses on learners' homework motivation and learning preferences, and present two counseling approaches to helping students with homework issues. The proposed counseling approaches are based on a homework model--Homework Performance: Motivation and Preference (Hong & Milgram, 2000)--which serves as the foundation for interventions by counselors, teachers, and parents. The article suggests how counselors along with teachers and parents can help students better understand their learning preferences and be more successful in completing homework.

Research on Homework

Many educators believe that homework contributes to the enhancement of school learning and academic achievement (Bursuck, 1995; Cooper, 1994; Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998; Keith & Benson, 1992). Accordingly, homework is a frequently used teaching strategy in schools. Although there have been movements against the use of homework (Gill & Schlossman, 1996; Jones & Ross, 1964), homework remains an important academic activity in schools.

Both favorable and negative reactions toward homework assignments have been observed from teachers and parents (Bryan & Sullivan-Burstein, 1997). Inappropriate assignment, management, supervision, and feedback can cause problems in family life and more importantly in students' attitudes toward homework and school. Although some students report that they like homework or believe that homework assignments are necessary and help them increase achievement (O'Rourke-Ferrara, 1998), many students think the homework assigned to them is not of value (Bryan & Nelson, 1994). Nevertheless, increased homework time has been reported to be positively related to increased school achievement (Gorges & Elliott, 1995; Keith, 1982; Keith & Page, 1985). However, in a recent study by Cooper et al. (1998), the relationship between the amount of homework assigned and student achievement was found to be weak; however, it was the amount of homework students completed that showed a positive relation with achievement. That is, students who spend large amounts of time on their homework are not necessarily effective in completing homework.

Efforts have been made to improve students' attitudes toward school and homework. Books and articles on helping children with homework have appeared (e.g., Bursuck, 1995; Epstein, Coates, Salinas, Sanders, & Simon, 1997; Rosemond, 1990; Wood, 1987), and homework policy guidelines have been produced for school administrators (e.g., Cooper, 1994). However, we found no literature addressing the role of school counselors in homework intervention. In addition, school counselor education provides little preparation for counselor involvement in academic support of students (Hayes, Dagley, & Horne, 1996). Yet, given empirical evidence on the contribution of homework to academic achievement (e.g., Cooper et al., 1998), the homework difficulties numerous students experience (e.g., Bryan & Nelson, 1994), and higher negative attitudes toward homework found in U.S. students compared to their peers in other countries (e.g., Chen & Stevenson, 1989; Hong, Topham, et al., 2000), the importance of school counselors' involvement in helping students with homework-related issues seems relevant. Because academic development is at the center of school counselor involvement in helping students acquire the attitudes, knowledge, and skills that contribute to effective learning in school (Campbell & Dahir, 1997), homework interventions may need to be recognized as essential elements in guidance and counseling programs.

Homework Motivation and Preference

Homework is affected by a myriad of unique factors that are not found in school. Some of the factors that affect homework are the home environment; the influence of parents, siblings, and friends; and the existence of other activities that compete for the attention and time of the children. There are important individual differences among learners both in motivation to do homework in general and in specific preferences about when, where, how, and with whom they prefer to do it (Hong & Milgram, 2000).

A small number of studies have examined whether matching individual out-of-school learning preferences with the conditions under which homework is done increases compliance with these assignments and raises homework achievement (e.g., Hong, Tomoff, Wozniak, Carter, & Topham, 2000; Marino, 1993). In the Hong, Tomoff, et al. (2000) study, when treatment and control groups were compared following a homework intervention, students exposed to the intervention saw themselves as doing their homework better than students not exposed to the intervention. Students who actually applied their strong preferences in doing homework had more positive attitudes toward homework than those who did not. Thus, attending to individual differences among learners in the way they prefer to do their homework and encouraging children to study at home under conditions that match their preferences may help students acquire a more positive attitude toward homework and learn more from doing their homework (Hong & Milgram, 2000).

Recently, Hong and Milgram (2000) developed a theoretical model on homework motivation and preference based on numerous empirical studies (Hong, in press; Hong & Lee, 2000; Hong & Milgram, 1999; Hong, Milgram, & Perkins, 1995; Hong, Tomoff, et al., 2000; Hong, Topham, et al., 2000). It is believed that this model and the homework instrument developed from this model have relevance for the work of school counselors in the domain of academic development. The model was developed with the goal of helping students, parents, classroom teachers, administrators, and school counselors understand the factors influencing homework completion and encouraging them to apply the model in homework situations. Hong and Milgram's (2000) model provides a conceptualization of the complex pattern of motivational, perceptual, and personal/social characteristics associated with homework behavior.

The conceptual components of the model are divided into two categories--motivation and preference. The first category postulates the motivation source (self-motivated, parent-motivated, teacher-motivated) and strength of the motives (promptness, persistence) that explain the initial activation of the process of doing required homework assignments and the strength of the learner's motivation to perform homework. The second category, preference, involves the degree to winch the learner will proceed and continue homework efforts until finished. It includes the intrapersonal and interpersonal preferences of the individual about how, where, when, and with whom to do homework, and is divided into four subcategories: (a) organizational (structure, order, place, time), (b) surroundings (sound, light, temperature, furniture design), (c) perceptual-physical (auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic, intake, mobility), and (d) interpersonal (alone/peers, authority figures present).

The Homework Motivation and Preference Questionnaire (HMPQ; Hong & Milgram, 1998, 2001) was developed to assess an individual's profile of homework motivation and learning preference (i.e., the 21 components, of the model noted above). A series of construct validation studies including factor analysis, internal consistency and test-retest reliability, item analysis and refinement, group difference, and concurrent and discriminant studies provided evidence that the HMPQ can be used as a tool for determining the homework motivation and preference of children and youth in elementary and secondary schools (Hong, in press; Hong & Lee, 2000; Hong & Milgram, 2000; Ohayon, 1999). Currently, the HMPQ is available for the fifth-grade through twelfth-grade levels, and an edition for younger students is under development. For a thorough explanation of each component and interpretation of component scores, see Hong and Milgram (2000). The HMPQ and manual are available from the authors.

Counseling Approaches for Homework Motivation and Preference

Students, parents, and teachers are equally important in determining the degree to which homework is effective in meeting its goals. Counselors at the elementary, middle, and high school levels also can play an important role in homework. They can provide classroom guidance aimed at helping students better understand their motivation and preferences in homework situations and small group or individual interventions for those students who require extra attention and support for homework accomplishment. Teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents face the challenge of sharing information about children's homework motivation and preferences and of developing strategies to be used at school and at home to attain a better match between what the child likes to do and needs to do to attain academic success. In this section, two counseling approaches to homework intervention, preventive and remedial, are introduced. Knowledge about learning styles and homework preferences is needed to effectively implement these approaches.

A Proactive and Preventive Approach to Homework Motivation and Preference

A classroom guidance activity, a staff development session, and/or a parent workshop are examples of proactive approaches for addressing the prevention focus. Most educators, parents, and students believe that doing homework enhances learning and helps students take responsibility for themselves. To achieve positive outcomes in homework, teamwork by all parties--students, parents, teachers, and counselors--needs to be emphasized. According to Jenson, Sheridan, Olympia, and Andrews (1995), home-school collaboration based on consistency and coordination among all parties is essential to increasing the effectiveness of homework, maintaining work habits, and generalizing from these homework outcomes to other academic outcomes.

Classroom guidance. The classroom guidance activity is based on a one-session guidance lesson presented to each class of a target grade (e.g., ninth grade). The lesson should be preceded by a 10- to 15-minute pre-session for HMPQ completion. Teacher collaboration would be needed for both the HMPQ and the classroom activity. We suggest that this activity might be particularly useful with students at the high-school level. The guidance lesson that follows completion of the HMPQ could include the following: (a) introducing the relationship of homework to success in school; (b) explaining homework motivation--whether students are self-, parent, and/or teacher motivated; (c) explaining homework preferences--organizational issues, physical surroundings, perceptual-physical elements, and interpersonal elements; (d) interpreting the students' individual profiles; (e) encouraging students to be aware of and to utilize their strong preferences; and (f) encouraging students to diversify their preferences.

The activity provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their own motivations and preferences about homework. They can acquire awareness of themselves as learners and about some of the complexities of the learning process. Students are also to be encouraged to diversify their preferences. Students' recognition of their own learning preferences can help them make useful decisions regarding how they should go about doing their homework. Students who are knowledgeable about their learning preferences are better able to recognize their preferences as potential strengths and to learn to compensate for those preferences that may impede their learning in given situations (Bauer, 1987; Silverman, 1989).

Friedman and Alley (1984) suggested that teacher guidance motivates students to identify and utilize their preferred learning styles to their advantage. We believe that counselors also can motivate students in this area and that a classroom guidance lesson planned and delivered by the school counselor can be an effective first step in such motivation. As counselors and teachers introduce the concepts of learning preferences and discuss these concepts with students, students will be able to take more responsibility for their own homework by virtue of the fact that they can exercise some control over their learning environment and learning assignments. This control permits them to learn in ways with which they are most comfortable.

Staff development. Many teachers and school counselors have little knowledge about individual differences in learning preferences, the diagnostic skills to identify them, or how to accommodate to students' learning preferences (e.g., Campbell, 1990; Mills & Stevens, 1998; Pettigrew & Buell, 1989). To increase awareness of individual differences in students' learning preferences and of their own preferences about learning, the counselors can use the HMPQ in a staff development session. Although the instrument was developed for students, it can be used with counselors and teachers by having them complete the questionnaire based on their most recent experience as a student.

The staff development session may include the following: (a) introducing various learning style models (e.g., Dunn & Dunn, 1992, 1993; Gregorc, 1982; Kolb, 1984) and the current homework model to enhance staff's knowledge about individual differences in learning preferences in school and home learning situations; (b) discussing the relationship between homework and school success; (c) completing the HMPQ by the staff; (d) explaining each component of the HMPQ, learning briefly how scoring is done, and scoring their own homework motivation and preference (a large number of completed HMPQ can be machine-scored); and (e) presenting strategies for homework accommodation using homework motivation and preference information.

Those attending the session will have the opportunity to learn more about individual differences and how these differences can be accommodated to improve teaching and learning. In particular, classroom teachers can appreciate learning about the specific HMPQ components in which the teacher can have major influence on homework assignments (e.g., recognition of teacher-motivated students; structure of homework; projects that accommodate various perceptual strengths).

Parent workshop. The parent workshop would be most useful when it is conducted in conjunction with the classroom guidance activity mentioned above, where students will receive their individual profiles from the counselor. At the parent workshop, a counselor may utilize the HMPQ to help parents better understand the differences in the ways their children learn and study. Parents attending the workshop would be asked to respond to each item in the HMPQ as they think their child would respond. Parents will learn each component of the HMPQ and how to interpret component scores. When they return home, parents are encouraged to compare their own HMPQ component scores and their child's profile that was sent home following the guidance lesson. By comparing the HMPQ scores, parents would be able to determine their level of awareness of the child's learning preferences. It has been found that a higher level of parental awareness of child's homework preferences was associated with a child having higher academic achievement and more positive attitudes toward homework (Hong & Lee, 1999; Hong et al, 1995).

Although many parents have ideas about the best way of learning, mostly shaped from their own learning experience, they often do not realize that their preferred way of learning is neither necessarily the same as their child's nor the best way for their child (Hong, Tomoff, et al., 2000). In the parent workshop, parents learn how to use the information on their child's homework motivation and preference profile for designing the home environment to accommodate the child's needs for sound/quiet, bright/dim light, correct temperature, or formal/informal seating design. Parents also can help their children with other dimensions of homework preferences such as organization, perceptual-physical needs, and interpersonal needs. For example, with understanding of their child's interpersonal preference (e.g., the need for studying with peers), parents may be willing to coordinate learning situations so the child's need is met. The counselor or workshop facilitator can help parents recognize the child's source of motivation (self, parent, or teacher) and whether the child needs to improve in promptness and persistence in doing his or her homework.

Remediation: Small-Group Counseling Intervention and Student-Parent-Counselor Conferences

Many students fail to complete their homework assignments because they are not willing or able to do so (Bursuck, 1995). For students with persistent homework difficulties and negative attitudes toward homework, an individual or a small-group counseling intervention approach would be helpful. In this section, group counseling and parent-student-counselor conferences are presented as examples of a remediation approach. As students with homework difficulties are referred by classroom teachers and/or parents, the counselor can form groups of 5 to 10 students. The HMPQ would be administered to each student at the first group meeting. In subsequent sessions, the counselor would discuss different ways individuals learn by explaining the differences in learning preferences that exist among and within students, teachers, and families. The counselor and group members then discuss each member's profile and possible creative solutions to the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental barriers that impeded successful homework experiences for the student under consideration. The counselor would help the student become aware of his or her own preferences and, along with the other group members, explore ways to accommodate his or her homework preferences. Students are encouraged to become more observant regarding whether their homework environment matches their own preferred way of learning and begin to implement their own preferences at home based upon their knowledge of their homework preferences. Subsequent group sessions would include discussion of the progress the student is making in relationship to the creative solutions developed within the group and how this progress is impacting the student's academic achievement.

As an additional step in the remediation process, the counselor may utilize the assessment of the student's homework preference at student-parent-counselor conferences. At the meeting, the student, counselor, and parent would discuss the student's homework motivation and preferences, determining the most appropriate homework environment. The counselor would communicate with the teacher and vice versa about the homework progress made by the student and the outcome of the intervention. The counselor also would maintain communication with parents regarding the student's progress. Throughout the remediation process it is important to recognize basic academic skills necessary for completing homework. Although awareness of homework preference is helpful in completing homework, the level of homework achievement will not be increased without the necessary academic skills. Students with academic skill deficiencies need specific help addressing the deficiencies.

School counselors are well positioned to take leadership in the homework remediation area. School counselors have group counseling skills that can be applied to a variety of types of groups. In addition, having knowledge of students' academic backgrounds as well as the backgrounds of families and friends helps counselors assess the barriers to learning that particular students face and helps point to possible reasons for homework difficulties. This information along with the individual students' homework motivation and preference profile can help counselors identify a variety of interventions that may be helpful to students experiencing serious difficulties with homework completion. Counselors are encouraged to refer to other homework intervention approaches when planning homework remediation activities such as those suggested by Epstein et al. (1997) and Rosenberg (1995). In addition, Hong and Milgram (2000) presented strategies for each of the motivational and preference components of the model used in this article.


This article explored school counselors' role in homework intervention as part of guidance and counseling program activities in the academic development domain. Although the proposed counseling approaches incorporate the homework motivation and preference model, the article is not based on the claim that learning preferences are more important than other learning needs. However, we maintain that accommodating students' learning preferences increases the likelihood that students' learning potential will be actualized.

Homework has been one of the most frequently used teaching strategies in schools, and an increased emphasis on student achievement has brought with it an increased emphasis on homework. In this article we have examined some of the links between homework, student achievement, and learning preferences, with a particular focus on school counselor involvement in assisting students with homework. Counselors can play a leading role in implementing a variety of interventions to enhance the attitudes and skills that contribute to effective learning through homework. In our view, school counselors' utilization of the information provided is an effective way to assist students with their academic development. The role of the school counselor can take a variety of forms such as a provider of resources to teachers and parents, a facilitator of individual or group interventions for students experiencing homework problems, or an instructor in classroom guidance activities for all students focused on homework motivation and learning preferences.

Ensuring success for all students is an awesome task that requires exemplary practice on the part of all involved in the education enterprise. School counselor involvement in homework intervention further aligns counselors with teachers, administrators, parents, and students in relation to the high priority issue of student achievement. Although school counselors will continue to provide essential services and programs for personal/social and career development, broadening their involvement in academic development is an important challenge. In our view, adding a homework intervention component to the existing school counseling program is an excellent way to strengthen the connection between counseling and success for all students.


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Lonnie L. Rowell, Ph.D., is an assistant professor, School of Education, University of San Diego, CA. E-mail: lrowell@ Eunsook Hong, Ph.D., is an associate professor, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
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Author:Hong, Eunsook
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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