Homework Survey Receives an F


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Leah DiBenedetto, Reporter

In November, Pres students participated in the homework survey that the administration sent out to gauge each student’s homework load and their feedback on each class’ work. The questions ranged from the amount of homework they were doing for each class per night, to the usual load for that class, and how much of the work they considered “busy” work, or work that was not helping them learn the material.

The surveys came back with decidedly mixed results. Students reported an alarming number of hours spent per night and also deemed 32% of their homework to be “busy” work. However, given the ineffective design of the survey, teachers should question the results and really consider whether the data should serve as the basis for curriculum changes.

First, the survey was recording behavior, which is often inaccurate. According to Dr. Chong-ho Yu, “Subjects tend to report what they believe the researcher expects to see,” which in the case of a homework survey means that Pres girls probably reported their minutes of homework to be higher than they actually were.

Furthermore, research has also found that people report what reflects positively on their own abilities, knowledge, beliefs, or opinions. In other words, we’re human and we want to look good, so it’s likely that we wanted to be seen as hard-working; thus, the reported hours of homework could be inflated.

Yu also reports that another concern about such data centers on whether subjects are able to accurately recall past behaviors. “Cognitive psychologists have warned that the human memory is fallible and thus the reliability of self-reported data is tenuous.” While this effect would have been mitigated a bit because the data was reported the same day, it’s still possible that students simply didn’t remember how long they were really on Instagram during their homework break.

Finally, it’s important to remember that for Pres girls, the battle to get less homework in each class is prevalent. Therefore, when filling out the survey, in order to actually see a change in our homework load and stress level, the answers were most likely dramatized and exaggerated by the students. An anonymous junior admits to this by saying, “For my survey I exaggerated my answers mostly for the classes that I didn’t like or had tons of homework in so the teachers would realize [it].”

In January, each department head was supposed to discuss the results of the survey with the rest of the department. After evaluating the results, many department chairs discovered problems.

Dr. Duwel, head of the Social Studies Department, addresses the problem that it could have been confusing to ask the students their report of homework five nights in a row. She states, “If the survey was asked over five days, and a student was in a class that only met twice, then they might report 0, 60, 0, 60, 0, for an average of 24 minutes a day over the survey period, but then when asked how much homework on average they would say 60.”

This made it unclear about when a calendar day or an A/B day was being asked about.  This problem results in skewed data because it does not collect the average time students are spending on homework, but rather only each night, which conflicts with the A/B day schedule.

Another problem that was uncovered was due to the students’ unreliability in the responses. Ms. Rosenthal, head of the Science Department, reveals that she had one teacher in her department that did not give any homework the week the survey was given, due to Thanksgiving break, and they had one test. But, her homework load was the highest in the department, which clearly reveals dishonesty amongst the students.

The question is: should teachers actually take these results into consideration and change their curriculum in order to better the students? Due to the various issues, most teachers are not making changes to their curriculum or their workload, due to the information from the survey being skewed and overstated.

The homework survey gave students the opportunity to produce honest results, but, unfortunately the  “staying up until 3 a.m. finishing a project” type of nights, possibly the dislike for a certain class, and lack of accuracy in the formation of the survey got the best of the results. Nevertheless, it’s clear that students at Pres are dealing with enormous amounts of stress, so teachers should certainly keep that in mind when assigning homework, projects, and papers., But until we can design a survey that accurately measures time spent on homework, teachers should be wary of making drastic changes to their curriculum.