Homework can be a hot topic issue for students, parents, teachers and administrators. This debate centers upon the quantity, purpose and notably the impact of homework upon the lives of our students' outside of the classroom. As we all can readily admit, we lead very busy lives that can become over scheduled with an assortment of after-school activities, clubs, sport practices, musical rehearsals, and family and social events. Finding time students to complete assigned middle school homework can be challenging. Nevertheless, it is our goal to promote positive time management habits and to extend learning experiences outside of the classroom for our middle school students.
Reflecting upon this issue, it is important to review a few core beliefs regarding homework at our middle school. As stated in the John Glenn Middle School Handbook, "Homework is an essential part of a student’s education as the assignments are designed to reinforce or review the content and skills taught in class and allows students to practice." That being said, homework should never constitute ‘busy work’, nor should it be an excessive burden upon middle school students. Simply put, our teachers at JGMS assign homework to help your students learn.
In an effort to learn a bit more about how homework is viewed by our middle school students, a homework survey was provided to all JGMS students last year. More than 50% of all middle school students in 2013-2014 responded to the JGMS homework survey. The student homework survey collected both quantitative and qualitative data and revealed some very interesting perspectives that our middle school students hold towards homework.
JGMS Homework Survey:
The survey did include a few initial demographic questions to help contextualize student responses. As you can see by the charts below, it appears that both boys and girls in grades 6,7,8 had a fairly equal response rate with the survey; with a bit more 7th graders participating overall in the homework survey. This is an important point because it lends confidence that the survey results are equally distributed across the school as a whole. The survey questions were written in 'kid friendly' language and the data is as follows:
The homework survey addressed the issue of time that students required to finish homework assignments. As you can see, this survey question asked students to reflect, "On a typical night, how much time do you spend on homework?" , and the data reveals some interesting trends. Shockingly, some students did report spending more than two hours a night on homework, however the vast majority, 67% of all students actually, reported spending less than one hour a night. Please note that the response data below is not dis-aggregated by grade level, a key point when reflecting on homework expectations.
Grade 6 Homework Expectations
In the sixth grade, it is appropriate to expect up to 25 - 30 minutes of homework per night in each major subject area, including foreign language. This does not mean there will always be homework in every subject every night but this may be the case. Furthermore, there is a maximum of two announced tests per day in major subject areas that include English, Math, Science, Social Studies and Learning Strategies.
Grade 7 Homework Expectations
In the seventh grade, it is appropriate to expect up to 30 - 35 minutes of homework per night in each major subject area, including foreign language. This does not mean there will always be homework in every subject every night but this will often be the case. The 7th grade pre-Algebra course is more intensive and requires a greater level of independent work. Students in pre-Algebra should plan on between 30 – 45 minutes of homework per night. In grade 7 students should be able to do more independent work than in grade 6, which will mean asking for help or checking with a teacher when he or she has trouble understanding a specific concept. Furthermore, the team of teachers attempts to schedule no more than two tests or exams per day in the major academic areas that include English, Math, Science and Social Studies. This gives students time to review, plan and ask a teacher for help if needed. There may be any number of short quiz evaluations on any given day.
Grade 8 Homework Expectations
In the eighth grade, it is appropriate to expect up to 35 - 40 minutes of homework per night in each major subject area, including foreign language. This does not mean there will always be homework in every subject every night but this will often be the case. The Algebra program is more intensive and requires a greater level of independent work. Students in Algebra should plan on between 35 – 45 minutes of homework per night. In grade 8 students should be able to do more independent work than in grade 7, which will mean asking for help or checking with a teacher when he or she has trouble understanding a specific concept. Students should work toward independence and becoming ready for high school.
However, the survey did show that the majority of our students begin to work on homework assignments during school, perhaps in a directed study, advisory period, or at the end of class. This is an important point, because when students start working on homework assignments, it is helpful to have an educator available to provide assistance for students as needed.
The homework survey did inquire into student understanding of the reason for completing homework assignments. As you can see by the pie chart below, 63% of students either agreed, or strongly agreed that they understood the reason for doing homework. This is an important aspects, because homework should be connected to learning in the classroom and serve to further the development of instructed skills and content.
However, understanding the reason for doing homework and actually being able to complete the assigned task are two entirely different points. The homework survey did investigate student perception into homework rigor, with follow-up questions associated with student frustration and clarity/confusion. A statement on the survey asked students to respond to the prompt, "Most of the time homework is easy". This data is somewhat mixed in the responses as you can see in the pie chart below
In a deliberate attempt to help support student organization and planning, all students are given a JGMS Student Planner with dedicated space to record homework assignments. Overwhelmingly, 81% of all students (strongly agree & agree), responded that they always use the planner to write down homework assignments.
The homework survey also addressed a point raised earlier; our students' lead very busy lives outside of the classroom. As you can see by the pie chart below, the responses to this homework survey item are mixed. If you have ever seen the documentary, A Race To Nowhere, you are well aware of this particular issue.
And finally, the last item in the survey investigated student perception that homework assignments support learning. In this case, 47% of the students agreed/strongly agreed with the statement that homework assignments help them learn.