One of the great struggles of modern education is getting students to finish their homework. Even worse, when homework does get completed, students often lack the understanding of the subject matter to perform well. So, teachers have two issues to face when it comes to homework.
On the one hand, teachers do want their students to turn in their homework. However, they also don’t want to send homework home that students don’t know ho to complete. There’s no point in assigning homework that students don’t understand and just guess their way through.
So, what can teachers do to improve the situation? Each of these issues can be tackled by adopting different strategies.
Increasing Homework Completion
Getting students to finish their homework may be a bit easier than getting people to complete their homework well, so it makes a good first topic to tackle. Here are a few strategies that teachers can adopt to make sure students want to get their homework done.
Integrate Students’ Interests into Your Methods
The first and easiest approach to improving students’ desire to complete their homework is to integrate what they’re interested in to your approach. When students’ interests are part of the curriculum, they’re more likely to get it done.
In one research study, conducted by Michelle Hinton and Lee Kern, homework completion went from only 60% to more than 95%. The trick, then, is to find out where your students’ interests lie and finding ways to mix them into homework assignments.
An easy way to do this is by looking to technology. Now, more than ever, kids are connected to the internet. When they’re not playing games online, they’re surfing the internet on their computers or using social media over their mobile phones. It’s not unusual for kids to use tablets these days. So, how can teachers take advantage of this? In this example, teachers could create an online portal where students have access to their work and can engage with each other.
An online social media site, like a Facebook page, gives students the chance to interact with one another. Homework could be assigned through the portal and online discussions used to connect students, who can help one another with the work. Technology is among the easiest ways for teachers to integrate student interests in a time of unparalleled connection.
Create Completion Tools
One way that teachers can help ensure that students get their homework done, particularly if they themselves have trouble sticking to schedules, is by creating tools that they can use to help their students keep track of what’s due. The easiest way to do this is by creating a homework calendar.
A physical version of this might be kept in the classroom on a large display, allowing students to regularly review what’s due and when. A blank copy of this calendar can be given to students so that they can fill in dates and remove them based on how the class is moving along.
However, an even better way of creating a calendar for students is by making an online one. As noted, social media sites are great ways of keeping students up to date on what is due and when. An online calendar can be maintained on a class website or social media sites where students can easily review changes to the calendar. The power of the internet has made it much easier for teachers to keep students up to date on changes happening in the course.
Establish a Routine
Very often, teachers fall into the trap of getting behind in their work and assigning homework on days they don’t intend to. Maybe they mean to assign it one a Monday but, because they fall behind in their lessons, they instead assign it on a Tuesday. This is actually a really easy way of hurting the chances that your students will turn in their work.
Kids, like adults, benefit from having a routine. They don’t like having to guess what days they’ll need to turn in homework. Because their lives are already so hectic, it’s not uncommon for them to get confused about what work is due on what days By having a regular routine, you’ll help improve the chances that the homework gets turned in. If homework is assigned every Monday and due every Wednesday, make sure that you stick to that routine.
Week to week, students are regularly having to balance their personal lives with their academic ones. They also have to integrate extracurricular activities. In all of the chaos, it’s not uncommon for students to mix up days when homework is due for certain classes. A regular routine will help ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Improving Homework Completion and Performance
Some strategies for improving homework completion are also well suited for improving performance. Here are just two approaches you can consider to help you not only ensure students not only turn in homework more regularly but perform better on the work they do.
Sometimes, students don’t finish homework not because they lose track of what’s due, but because they simply struggle with the material. In class, teachers are taught to differentiate their instructions.
Each student learns at a different pace, and teachers are most effective when they understand how to assign work that’s of different levels of difficulty. However, this isn’t a lesson that should stay restricted to the classroom. Teachers should also take the time to develop differentiated homework. By adjusting the difficulty, teachers make it all the more likely that homework will get done.
This strategy may best be used by adopting testing that’s not so much designed to grade students as much as to simply gauge which students need the most support. Teachers need to have a firm grasp on what their students are capable of and what they know and do not know.
Unfortunately, students can sometimes feel pressured under test conditions. For struggling students, this can make it all the more likely that they’ll underperform. It may be useful to consider tests that are non-graded but still provide insight into how students are performing. This sort of low stakes assessment may help provide an accurate picture of what students need the greatest adjustment to the homework you give them.
Provide Additional Resources
Another way that teachers can help guarantee that teachers will complete their work is by providing additional resources that students can use when getting their work done. Sometimes, this might mean pointing to resources that students can find in the library. At other times, this might mean pointing to websites that can help get students through their lessons.
For instance, YouTube has become a wildly popular resource for teachers. Now, more than ever, YouTube is filled with instructional videos that can help guide students through particularly difficult problems. There are also countless videos that discuss the plots of books or take students through science and math problems.
However, with the modern internet, teachers can also provide their own additional resources. Websites and social media sites can be used to make posts and host files that students can access. These files might provide additional context about a historic event or guides through particularly hard math problems.
This can be a more time-consuming effort if teachers want to put together their own resources from scratch. However, it’s also not difficult for teachers to find resources that they can host online. Using this approach can reduce the associated with putting together a teacher’s own original materials.
Improving Homework Performance
Finally, there are also approaches that are tailored toward improving homework performance. These strategies make it more likely that your students will do better on the homework that you assign.
Get Parents Involved
This is time consuming, but it can have one of the best payoffs if you’re trying to improve outcomes in student homework. Parent involvement is linked to numerous benefits among students. When parents get involved in their child’s education, it leads to better performance and a higher level of engagement. Those benefits carry over to homework.
One study conducted among sixth and seventh graders revealed that when parents helped their children with their homework, it led to better outcomes. This study was interesting not only because it benefited students in general, but specifically because it helped at-risk students.
These students are often those who are most likely to underachieve. Due to various circumstances, ranging from a lower socioeconomic background to violence in the community, at-risk students often perform more poorly than students who are not at risk.
Despite the chance that these students will perform more poorly on homework, researchers discovered that their performance jumped when parents became involved. This intervention did require effort and time. Parents had to be trained in how to help their children. However, the results were clear.
Over the course of a 10w-eek homework program, students saw improved marks in mathematics. This showed that with help from appropriately trained parents, even students who were at the greatest risk of failing saw improvement in their performance.
Flip Your Classroom
Now this is another radical idea that some teachers may want to consider if they’re ready to really make significant changes to how they approach in-class versus homework.
The idea of the flipped classroom is fairly simple. Using this model, teachers take homework and, instead of having students do it at home, have their students do it in the classroom. This approach is beneficial because it lets teachers, who have all the knowledge and experience necessary to guide their students, assist their class with the completion of the work.
If the students are doing their ‘homework’ in the classroom though, then what are they doing at home? Well, the flipped classroom also means flipping instruction so that it happens at home instead of the class. In a flipped classroom, teachers do some teaching in the class and introduce lessons. However, they leave the majority of text reading to be done at home.
Teachers may put additional videos and resources online, but the majority of instruction occurs at the student’s house, not the classroom. When students arrive in class, they’re expected to have learned the basics of their lessons. Teachers review these lessons briefly and go through some introductory instruction. Then, teachers guide them through more difficult work.
The most active part of the lesson is left for the classroom, where students can engage with one another and their teacher. The most passive part of the lesson, on the other hand, is left at home.
Learn more about the flipped classroom.
At some point, it’s up to educators and administrators to come together to find ways of improving academic performance together. Many students who struggle on homework at home may benefit from a more community-oriented approach. For this reason, schools should focus on putting together an environment where students can do homework together under the supervision of adults.
Study halls should serve this purpose, but they often do not. Instead, students tend to complete most of their homework independently when in a study hall. This is often because students from many different classes find themselves together with a single adult who specializes in a limited number of topics. Instead of depending on study halls to help students get their work done, schools can put together homework clubs that will help students perform better on their work.
Homework clubs bring together students to work together under the supervision of parents and teachers. Homework clubs are structured. They meet together at regular times and often involve groups of parents or teachers that oversee the club. Just like any other club, like chess or drama clubs, they require adult supervision. This supervision is particularly important for homework clubs though, where students need the help and support of adults to help them improve their scores.
The best part about homework clubs is that they take the negative feelings off of homework and help students enjoy their academics more. Students get to work outside the classroom alongside friends. These clubs don’t have to be held in a school. They can also be held in a library, for instance.
Homework clubs typically happen right after school though, so these clubs should be held somewhere near the school. Homework clubs provide a positive environment where friends can be together and work on their homework as a group. Overseeing them are trained individuals who can help them in a variety of topics, almost like a tutoring center.
There are countless ways that homework performance can be addressed. For some teachers, the emphasis may be on simply improving homework completion. The steps for doing this are often easier than the steps required of improving homework performance. Teachers can help students complete their work more frequently simply by being consistent, providing calendars, or making the homework more engaging.
Improving academic performance is a bit trickier, but there are many ways to get this done as well. There are steps teachers can take independently, like flipping their classroom or providing additional resources to students. However, larger changes require a commitment from teachers, administrators, and parents. Homework clubs can be a fun approach to getting homework done, but it requires having the proper venue, the appropriate number of supervisors, and the commitment to helping students day in and day out.
Regardless of what approach teachers take, this list of interventions includes many ways that homework completion and performance can be improved. Which approach is best depends on the teacher and their own assessment of the needs of their classroom.