Comparing the Effects of Teacher-Directed Homework and Student-Centered Homework on Return Rate and Homework Attitudes

By: Susan Kogan and Robert Rueda

Purpose of study

Homework is an important educational tool. It helps students learn materials presented in class and it helps parents maintain a connection with a student and what is happening at school. Homework is most often defined as a practice and preparation activity assigned by teachers.

Students with LD are often homework resistant. Students with LD are often more likely to drop out of school and to be under or unemployed in adult life. Ogbu (1987) notes that there is often a disproportionate number of minority children in special education classes.

The researchers wanted to know if a more student-centered model of homework would increase the likelihood of assignment completion. The student-centered model believes that learning develops from interactions with others. For learning to be real this model believes assignments must relate to real world needs. Rather than memorize a list of words for a spelling test, for example, a student would write a letter to a friend that included those words.

The researchers hypothesized, or thought, that students in the student-centered homework group would produce more homework of better quality than students in the traditional homework model.


40 students (70% male) identified with learning disabilities were in the study. They attended a large public high school in Los Angeles. 87% were African American, 10% Hispanic and 3% Caucasian. 90% of the students gave English as their first language. 87% were enrolled in special education classes for most of the school day.


Baseline homework completion rates were calculated for all students.

Following a four-week baseline period students were randomly assigned to the teacher-directed or student-directed homework model for the next 12 weeks.

The researchers then had students complete homework surveys and gathered other qualitative data from the students, teachers and parents.

Students seemed to benefit from the student.


  • Results were analyzed according to high or low baseline homework completion rate and homework method-teacher or student-centered.
  • Students seemed to benefit from the student-centered approach. Low baseline homework completion students benefited increased homework production more in the student-centered approach than high baseline homework students.
  • Qualitative data analysis also indicated that students preferred the student-centered approach.

Bottom line

Results are from a relatively small sample. Statistically significant differences between the teacher and student-centered approaches are not identified.

Results do suggest, however,that homework assignments that are more related to real world events may work better for students with LD. This concurs with evidence gathered about homework and students in general education programs as well.

A preferred model of homework is identified- especially for low baseline homework completion students. The data, however, does not demonstrate that increased homework production leads directly to improved academic achievement for either group of students.

Roundtable Paper Presentation for the 1997 AERA Convention, Susan Kogan, Ph.D and Robert Rueda, Ph.D.
Summarized by Kathleen Ross-Kidder, Ph.D.