In my last post, I speculated that there were three reasons I read educational research.
- I encounter it (via Twitter, blogs, or in journals) and I’m curious, so I read it.
- I deliberately seek it out to confirm a bias. (Don’t judge me. We all do this.)
- I’m genuinely interested in what the research has to say on a certain topic, so I search for it.
Since biases are fun, let’s look at an article I dug up for the second reason. I’ve made my views on homework pretty clear on this blog in a couple of posts. Here’s a study I found on the subject of homework. Unfortunately, it failed to confirm my bias.
The study is by Daniel J. Henderson, of New York and was published as IZA Discussion Paper No. 5547, March 2011.
The abstract reads:
Following an identification strategy that allows us to largely eliminate unobserved student and teacher traits, we examine the effect of homework on math, science, English and history test scores for eighth grade students in the United States. Noting that failure to control for these effects yields selection biases on the estimated effect of homework, we find that math homework has a large and statistically meaningful effect on math test scores throughout our sample. However, additional homework in science, English and history are shown to have little to no impact on their respective test scores.
Yikes. Math homework has a large and statistically meaningful effect on math test scores throughout our sample? Uh. Oh. I guess I’d better read more than just the abstract and see if I can figure our what is going on. The math used in the study is complicated. That might make it tricky to read.
Here’s something I wonder about. Page 9.
…higher able students benefit more from additional homework.
Perhaps higher able students are the only ones who actually do the homework, because they’re the only ones who are capable of doing it.
Later, on page 17.
Taking the Peabody Individual Achievement Test in math as our benchmark, the gain from math homework (1.77 points) corresponds to one-fourth of the raw black-white test score gap between the ages of 6 and 13
My question would be: Can we be sure the gain on that test is solely attributable to homework? Maybe we can. I’ll admit to not fully understanding the tables in the study.
Here’s a finding on page 19 that I am glad to hear. At least one of my biases was confirmed by this study.
The teachers Treatment of the homework (whether it is being recorded and/or graded) does not appear to affect the returns to math homework.