Why Students Don’t Do Their Homework–And What You Can Do About It
byDr. Jennifer Davis Bowman
‘That was homework?’
‘That’s due today?’
‘But… it was the weekend.’
We hear a lot of stuff when students don’t do their homework. Our cup runneth over with FBI-proof, puppy-dog eyes, procrastinated-filled homework excuses. What we don’t hear, is the research on how to excuse-proof our classrooms for homework. It seems, we are in the dark about engaging students in the homework process. Specifically, what contributes to homework resistance? How can we better support students in not only completing, but learning (gasp) from assigned homework?
To answer these questions, I examined a number of research articles. I focused on interviews/surveys with classrooms that struggled with homework completion (to identify triggers). Also, I used data from classrooms with high homework achievement (to identify habits from the homework pros). Here are 6 research-backed reasons for why students resist homework- plus tips to help overcome them.
6 Reasons Students Don’t Do Their Homework–And What You Can Do About It
Students resist homework if…
Fact #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.
Teaching Tip: 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.
Fact #2 The value of homework is misunderstood
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 affective tool (to measure learning motivation, confidence, and ability to take responsibility).
Teaching Tip: Communicate with students the multiple purposes for homework. Reveal how homework has both short-term (impact on course grade) and long-term benefits (enhance life skills). Identify specific long-term homework benefits that students may be unaware of such as organization, time management and goal setting.
Fact #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).
Teaching Tip: Assess student learning style with the use of learning inventories. Differentiate homework to account for student interest and learning preference. Educator, Carol Tomlinson provides examples of low-prep differentiation assignments that include negotiated criteria, ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ projects, and choices of texts. As teacher Cathy Vatterott emphasizes in The Five Hallmarks of of Good Homework, consider placing the differentiation responsibility on the learner. For instance, ask students to ‘create your own method to practice the key terms’.
Fact #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 undergraduate students, almost half of the learners agreed that teacher recognition of ‘doing a good job’ was important to them.
Teaching Tip: 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 (students can correct or change answers while obtaining feedback).
Fact #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.
Teaching Tip: 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 a 2-3 of their responses to include in each assessment.
Fact #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. Amazingly, the students with a plan complete homework in spite of their dislike for the assignment.
Teaching Tip: 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 phone Apps that help track homework planning procedures.
- Bempechat, J., Li, J., Neier, S. B., Gillis, C. A., & Holloway, S. D. (2011). The homework experience: Perceptions of low-income youth. Journal of Advanced Academics, 22(2).
- Kuklansky, Shosberger, & EsHach (2016). Science teachers’ voice on homework beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 14(1).
- Letterman, D. (2013). Students’ perception of homework assignments and what influences their ideas. Journal of College Teaching and Learning, 10(2).
- Malik, K., Martinez, N., Romero, J., Schubel, S., & , P. A. (2014). Mixed method study of online and written organic chemistry homework. Journal of Chemistry Education, 91(11).
- Science Daily (2015). How Much Math, Science Homework is too Much?
- Vandenbussche, J., Griffiths, W., & Scherrer, C. (2014). Students’ perception of homework policies in lower and intermediate level mathematic courses. Mathematics and Computer Education, 48(12).
Why Students Don’t Do Their Homework–And What You Can Do About It
I've been teaching English/Reading for some twenty years now. I understand many kids I teach have major issues which prevent them from working at home... jobs, care for siblings or their own children, homes which do not value education, non-native English speakers, ADHD, ADD, being several years below your current enrollment, dyslexic, ED, a partridge in a pear tree, etc...
I have tried to be understanding to my Freshmen as the change from middle to high school is often fraught with soooo many changes for the kids.
Here's my 'beef'.
I give additional time for work.
I give timelines for when assignments are do...way in advance of the scheduled due dates/
I offer Open Book assignments and tests.
I extend deadlines. I have extra copies of assignments for when papers may be lost or misplaced.
I offer additional time before and after school to work either with me or with technology needed for an assignment. (access to computers.)
I give extra credit for work done before deadlines.
I offer choices so few students feel constricted to 'have to do' one kind of essay prompt or paper.
I modify work for my students and often the homework I give can be completed in class if a student applies themselves to the task.
I send email reminders of due dates and post signs in the halls and my classroom.
Anywho, I think you get the idea here... I am trying every way I can to meet my pupils at least halfway when it comes to homework in the classroom. (including studying for a test)
I am still experiencing a lack of comprehension from the majority of my students on the importance of doing their work.
The value and importance of a good education for one's future is more of a "yeah, maybe I'll do that one of these days" versus the "I get it and now I want to make something of/for myself".
I am very tired(exhausted actually) of the stack of papers to correct right before progress reports and report cards and often feel that I am being punished for my students lack of motivation and work ethic. I do my work. I plan, I prepare. I try to make lack luster CC and curriculum musts as spoonful-of-sugary with the medicine as I can.
Yet, to let the grades "fall where they lie" makes me look like a poor or uncaring educator when/if the majority of my students are failing. I document, I call home, I do the parent/teacher/conference dealios...
Many of the assignments we work upon are available to students via their computers, laptops, phones, and other tech gadgetry. As many schools are asking for more rigor and preparing our kids for higher education and/or the work force I feel as if I am banging my head against the wall.
My administration is very understanding and supportive. I am blessed to have excellent people working with me. So I have made them aware of this issue and know that I am not alone in experiencing this kind of student.
"It's a while new generation out there."
I realize many kids will be kids and some will never do their work, but honestly, I am extremely concerned for this upcoming generation. If there are no consequences, then how can they learn to do the 'right thing'?
I can see why the work force/major industries are having to do more and more pre-vocational training and why so many young people do not make it in the 'real world'. There seems to be no more (I dunno) shame? or downcast eyes when a student realizes they have not done their work.
It's almost a badge of honor to admit you didn't do your work or there are bragging sessions about how low their averages are.
"Ha, I got a 37 on my report card."
"Ah man that's nothing, I've got you beat, I have a 9 in this class."
I only want the best for my students and I refuse to give up the concept of homework but don't want to become an 'Uber-Nazi' kind of teacher where you lose many students because you don't give any wiggle room for those kids who will try if they see you want them to succeed especially when your subject is their Achilles' heel.
I've spoken to other teachers locally and have heard the viewpoints from the "Don't EVER accept late work ever' parties to the "I don't give homework anymore because I am burned out from trying to accomplish anything outside of the classroom" set.
How do you deal with those times when you ask yourself "Why do I care more about my students' grades and getting a diploma than they do?"
How can I make my classroom one where I am not doing all the work and the kids are holding their end of the student teacher dynamic? Especially when working in Intensive classes where students don't wish to be present to begin with...
Don't get me wrong, I will work hard and not expect a perfect classroom, but I am sooooo far behind in what I need to accomplish and having to make up for what wasn't done is starting to get to me....a tad. lololol (Play Lotto anyone? Dream of marrying a millionaire?)
Is there/are there ways to change this seemingly non-caring attitude about work and deadlines?
How can we get kids in this country to want to shine again?
Are other educators experiencing this outside of my corner of the universe?
What has or has not worked for some of you out there?
Okay, I've written a book. I hope you can see the care and genuine frustration behind my mini-novella about this subject.
I am very interested to see what others think about this phenomena.
Most sincerely yours,
The teacher with the little birdies dancing around her head.