Does Homework Really Help Students Learn?

A conversation with a Wheelock researcher, a BU student, and a fourth-grade teacher

child doing homework

“Quality homework is engaging and relevant to kids’ lives,” says Wheelock’s Janine Bempechat. “It gives them autonomy and engages them in the community and with their families. In some subjects, like math, worksheets can be very helpful. It has to do with the value of practicing over and over.” Photo by iStock/Glenn Cook Photography

Do your homework.

If only it were that simple.

Educators have debated the merits of homework since the late 19th century. In recent years, amid concerns of some parents and teachers that children are being stressed out by too much homework, things have only gotten more fraught.

“Homework is complicated,” says developmental psychologist Janine Bempechat, a Wheelock College of Education & Human Development clinical professor. The author of the essay “ The Case for (Quality) Homework—Why It Improves Learning and How Parents Can Help ” in the winter 2019 issue of Education Next , Bempechat has studied how the debate about homework is influencing teacher preparation, parent and student beliefs about learning, and school policies.

She worries especially about socioeconomically disadvantaged students from low-performing schools who, according to research by Bempechat and others, get little or no homework.

BU Today  sat down with Bempechat and Erin Bruce (Wheelock’17,’18), a new fourth-grade teacher at a suburban Boston school, and future teacher freshman Emma Ardizzone (Wheelock) to talk about what quality homework looks like, how it can help children learn, and how schools can equip teachers to design it, evaluate it, and facilitate parents’ role in it.

BU Today: Parents and educators who are against homework in elementary school say there is no research definitively linking it to academic performance for kids in the early grades. You’ve said that they’re missing the point.

Bempechat : I think teachers assign homework in elementary school as a way to help kids develop skills they’ll need when they’re older—to begin to instill a sense of responsibility and to learn planning and organizational skills. That’s what I think is the greatest value of homework—in cultivating beliefs about learning and skills associated with academic success. If we greatly reduce or eliminate homework in elementary school, we deprive kids and parents of opportunities to instill these important learning habits and skills.

We do know that beginning in late middle school, and continuing through high school, there is a strong and positive correlation between homework completion and academic success.

That’s what I think is the greatest value of homework—in cultivating beliefs about learning and skills associated with academic success.

You talk about the importance of quality homework. What is that?

Quality homework is engaging and relevant to kids’ lives. It gives them autonomy and engages them in the community and with their families. In some subjects, like math, worksheets can be very helpful. It has to do with the value of practicing over and over.

Janine Bempechat

What are your concerns about homework and low-income children?

The argument that some people make—that homework “punishes the poor” because lower-income parents may not be as well-equipped as affluent parents to help their children with homework—is very troubling to me. There are no parents who don’t care about their children’s learning. Parents don’t actually have to help with homework completion in order for kids to do well. They can help in other ways—by helping children organize a study space, providing snacks, being there as a support, helping children work in groups with siblings or friends.

Isn’t the discussion about getting rid of homework happening mostly in affluent communities?

Yes, and the stories we hear of kids being stressed out from too much homework—four or five hours of homework a night—are real. That’s problematic for physical and mental health and overall well-being. But the research shows that higher-income students get a lot more homework than lower-income kids.

Teachers may not have as high expectations for lower-income children. Schools should bear responsibility for providing supports for kids to be able to get their homework done—after-school clubs, community support, peer group support. It does kids a disservice when our expectations are lower for them.

The conversation around homework is to some extent a social class and social justice issue. If we eliminate homework for all children because affluent children have too much, we’re really doing a disservice to low-income children. They need the challenge, and every student can rise to the challenge with enough supports in place.

What did you learn by studying how education schools are preparing future teachers to handle homework?

My colleague, Margarita Jimenez-Silva, at the University of California, Davis, School of Education, and I interviewed faculty members at education schools, as well as supervising teachers, to find out how students are being prepared. And it seemed that they weren’t. There didn’t seem to be any readings on the research, or conversations on what high-quality homework is and how to design it.

Erin, what kind of training did you get in handling homework?

Bruce : I had phenomenal professors at Wheelock, but homework just didn’t come up. I did lots of student teaching. I’ve been in classrooms where the teachers didn’t assign any homework, and I’ve been in rooms where they assigned hours of homework a night. But I never even considered homework as something that was my decision. I just thought it was something I’d pull out of a book and it’d be done.

I started giving homework on the first night of school this year. My first assignment was to go home and draw a picture of the room where you do your homework. I want to know if it’s at a table and if there are chairs around it and if mom’s cooking dinner while you’re doing homework.

The second night I asked them to talk to a grown-up about how are you going to be able to get your homework done during the week. The kids really enjoyed it. There’s a running joke that I’m teaching life skills.

Friday nights, I read all my kids’ responses to me on their homework from the week and it’s wonderful. They pour their hearts out. It’s like we’re having a conversation on my couch Friday night.

It matters to know that the teacher cares about you and that what you think matters to the teacher. Homework is a vehicle to connect home and school…for parents to know teachers are welcoming to them and their families.

Bempechat : I can’t imagine that most new teachers would have the intuition Erin had in designing homework the way she did.

Ardizzone : Conversations with kids about homework, feeling you’re being listened to—that’s such a big part of wanting to do homework….I grew up in Westchester County. It was a pretty demanding school district. My junior year English teacher—I loved her—she would give us feedback, have meetings with all of us. She’d say, “If you have any questions, if you have anything you want to talk about, you can talk to me, here are my office hours.” It felt like she actually cared.

Bempechat : It matters to know that the teacher cares about you and that what you think matters to the teacher. Homework is a vehicle to connect home and school…for parents to know teachers are welcoming to them and their families.

Ardizzone : But can’t it lead to parents being overbearing and too involved in their children’s lives as students?

Bempechat : There’s good help and there’s bad help. The bad help is what you’re describing—when parents hover inappropriately, when they micromanage, when they see their children confused and struggling and tell them what to do.

Good help is when parents recognize there’s a struggle going on and instead ask informative questions: “Where do you think you went wrong?” They give hints, or pointers, rather than saying, “You missed this,” or “You didn’t read that.”

Bruce : I hope something comes of this. I hope BU or Wheelock can think of some way to make this a more pressing issue. As a first-year teacher, it was not something I even thought about on the first day of school—until a kid raised his hand and said, “Do we have homework?” It would have been wonderful if I’d had a plan from day one.

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Senior Contributing Editor

Sara Rimer

Sara Rimer A journalist for more than three decades, Sara Rimer worked at the Miami Herald , Washington Post and, for 26 years, the New York Times , where she was the New England bureau chief, and a national reporter covering education, aging, immigration, and other social justice issues. Her stories on the death penalty’s inequities were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. Her journalism honors include Columbia University’s Meyer Berger award for in-depth human interest reporting. She holds a BA degree in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Profile

She can be reached at [email protected] .

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There are 81 comments on Does Homework Really Help Students Learn?

Insightful! The values about homework in elementary schools are well aligned with my intuition as a parent.

when i finish my work i do my homework and i sometimes forget what to do because i did not get enough sleep

same omg it does not help me it is stressful and if I have it in more than one class I hate it.

Same I think my parent wants to help me but, she doesn’t care if I get bad grades so I just try my best and my grades are great.

I think that last question about Good help from parents is not know to all parents, we do as our parents did or how we best think it can be done, so maybe coaching parents or giving them resources on how to help with homework would be very beneficial for the parent on how to help and for the teacher to have consistency and improve homework results, and of course for the child. I do see how homework helps reaffirm the knowledge obtained in the classroom, I also have the ability to see progress and it is a time I share with my kids

The answer to the headline question is a no-brainer – a more pressing problem is why there is a difference in how students from different cultures succeed. Perfect example is the student population at BU – why is there a majority population of Asian students and only about 3% black students at BU? In fact at some universities there are law suits by Asians to stop discrimination and quotas against admitting Asian students because the real truth is that as a group they are demonstrating better qualifications for admittance, while at the same time there are quotas and reduced requirements for black students to boost their portion of the student population because as a group they do more poorly in meeting admissions standards – and it is not about the Benjamins. The real problem is that in our PC society no one has the gazuntas to explore this issue as it may reveal that all people are not created equal after all. Or is it just environmental cultural differences??????

I get you have a concern about the issue but that is not even what the point of this article is about. If you have an issue please take this to the site we have and only post your opinion about the actual topic

This is not at all what the article is talking about.

This literally has nothing to do with the article brought up. You should really take your opinions somewhere else before you speak about something that doesn’t make sense.

we have the same name

so they have the same name what of it?

lol you tell her

totally agree

What does that have to do with homework, that is not what the article talks about AT ALL.

Yes, I think homework plays an important role in the development of student life. Through homework, students have to face challenges on a daily basis and they try to solve them quickly.I am an intense online tutor at 24x7homeworkhelp and I give homework to my students at that level in which they handle it easily.

More than two-thirds of students said they used alcohol and drugs, primarily marijuana, to cope with stress.

You know what’s funny? I got this assignment to write an argument for homework about homework and this article was really helpful and understandable, and I also agree with this article’s point of view.

I also got the same task as you! I was looking for some good resources and I found this! I really found this article useful and easy to understand, just like you! ^^

i think that homework is the best thing that a child can have on the school because it help them with their thinking and memory.

I am a child myself and i think homework is a terrific pass time because i can’t play video games during the week. It also helps me set goals.

Homework is not harmful ,but it will if there is too much

I feel like, from a minors point of view that we shouldn’t get homework. Not only is the homework stressful, but it takes us away from relaxing and being social. For example, me and my friends was supposed to hang at the mall last week but we had to postpone it since we all had some sort of work to do. Our minds shouldn’t be focused on finishing an assignment that in realty, doesn’t matter. I completely understand that we should have homework. I have to write a paper on the unimportance of homework so thanks.

homework isn’t that bad

Are you a student? if not then i don’t really think you know how much and how severe todays homework really is

i am a student and i do not enjoy homework because i practice my sport 4 out of the five days we have school for 4 hours and that’s not even counting the commute time or the fact i still have to shower and eat dinner when i get home. its draining!

i totally agree with you. these people are such boomers

why just why

they do make a really good point, i think that there should be a limit though. hours and hours of homework can be really stressful, and the extra work isn’t making a difference to our learning, but i do believe homework should be optional and extra credit. that would make it for students to not have the leaning stress of a assignment and if you have a low grade you you can catch up.

Studies show that homework improves student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results, and the likelihood to attend college. Research published in the High School Journal indicates that students who spent between 31 and 90 minutes each day on homework “scored about 40 points higher on the SAT-Mathematics subtest than their peers, who reported spending no time on homework each day, on average.” On both standardized tests and grades, students in classes that were assigned homework outperformed 69% of students who didn’t have homework. A majority of studies on homework’s impact – 64% in one meta-study and 72% in another – showed that take home assignments were effective at improving academic achievement. Research by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) concluded that increased homework led to better GPAs and higher probability of college attendance for high school boys. In fact, boys who attended college did more than three hours of additional homework per week in high school.

So how are your measuring student achievement? That’s the real question. The argument that doing homework is simply a tool for teaching responsibility isn’t enough for me. We can teach responsibility in a number of ways. Also the poor argument that parents don’t need to help with homework, and that students can do it on their own, is wishful thinking at best. It completely ignores neurodiverse students. Students in poverty aren’t magically going to find a space to do homework, a friend’s or siblings to help them do it, and snacks to eat. I feel like the author of this piece has never set foot in a classroom of students.

THIS. This article is pathetic coming from a university. So intellectually dishonest, refusing to address the havoc of capitalism and poverty plays on academic success in life. How can they in one sentence use poor kids in an argument and never once address that poor children have access to damn near 0 of the resources affluent kids have? Draw me a picture and let’s talk about feelings lmao what a joke is that gonna put food in their belly so they can have the calories to burn in order to use their brain to study? What about quiet their 7 other siblings that they share a single bedroom with for hours? Is it gonna force the single mom to magically be at home and at work at the same time to cook food while you study and be there to throw an encouraging word?

Also the “parents don’t need to be a parent and be able to guide their kid at all academically they just need to exist in the next room” is wild. Its one thing if a parent straight up is not equipped but to say kids can just figured it out is…. wow coming from an educator What’s next the teacher doesn’t need to teach cause the kid can just follow the packet and figure it out?

Well then get a tutor right? Oh wait you are poor only affluent kids can afford a tutor for their hours of homework a day were they on average have none of the worries a poor child does. Does this address that poor children are more likely to also suffer abuse and mental illness? Like mentioned what about kids that can’t learn or comprehend the forced standardized way? Just let em fail? These children regularly are not in “special education”(some of those are a joke in their own and full of neglect and abuse) programs cause most aren’t even acknowledged as having disabilities or disorders.

But yes all and all those pesky poor kids just aren’t being worked hard enough lol pretty sure poor children’s existence just in childhood is more work, stress, and responsibility alone than an affluent child’s entire life cycle. Love they never once talked about the quality of education in the classroom being so bad between the poor and affluent it can qualify as segregation, just basically blamed poor people for being lazy, good job capitalism for failing us once again!

why the hell?

you should feel bad for saying this, this article can be helpful for people who has to write a essay about it

This is more of a political rant than it is about homework

I know a teacher who has told his students their homework is to find something they are interested in, pursue it and then come share what they learn. The student responses are quite compelling. One girl taught herself German so she could talk to her grandfather. One boy did a research project on Nelson Mandela because the teacher had mentioned him in class. Another boy, a both on the autism spectrum, fixed his family’s computer. The list goes on. This is fourth grade. I think students are highly motivated to learn, when we step aside and encourage them.

The whole point of homework is to give the students a chance to use the material that they have been presented with in class. If they never have the opportunity to use that information, and discover that it is actually useful, it will be in one ear and out the other. As a science teacher, it is critical that the students are challenged to use the material they have been presented with, which gives them the opportunity to actually think about it rather than regurgitate “facts”. Well designed homework forces the student to think conceptually, as opposed to regurgitation, which is never a pretty sight

Wonderful discussion. and yes, homework helps in learning and building skills in students.

not true it just causes kids to stress

Homework can be both beneficial and unuseful, if you will. There are students who are gifted in all subjects in school and ones with disabilities. Why should the students who are gifted get the lucky break, whereas the people who have disabilities suffer? The people who were born with this “gift” go through school with ease whereas people with disabilities struggle with the work given to them. I speak from experience because I am one of those students: the ones with disabilities. Homework doesn’t benefit “us”, it only tears us down and put us in an abyss of confusion and stress and hopelessness because we can’t learn as fast as others. Or we can’t handle the amount of work given whereas the gifted students go through it with ease. It just brings us down and makes us feel lost; because no mater what, it feels like we are destined to fail. It feels like we weren’t “cut out” for success.

homework does help

here is the thing though, if a child is shoved in the face with a whole ton of homework that isn’t really even considered homework it is assignments, it’s not helpful. the teacher should make homework more of a fun learning experience rather than something that is dreaded

This article was wonderful, I am going to ask my teachers about extra, or at all giving homework.

I agree. Especially when you have homework before an exam. Which is distasteful as you’ll need that time to study. It doesn’t make any sense, nor does us doing homework really matters as It’s just facts thrown at us.

Homework is too severe and is just too much for students, schools need to decrease the amount of homework. When teachers assign homework they forget that the students have other classes that give them the same amount of homework each day. Students need to work on social skills and life skills.

I disagree.

Beyond achievement, proponents of homework argue that it can have many other beneficial effects. They claim it can help students develop good study habits so they are ready to grow as their cognitive capacities mature. It can help students recognize that learning can occur at home as well as at school. Homework can foster independent learning and responsible character traits. And it can give parents an opportunity to see what’s going on at school and let them express positive attitudes toward achievement.

Homework is helpful because homework helps us by teaching us how to learn a specific topic.

As a student myself, I can say that I have almost never gotten the full 9 hours of recommended sleep time, because of homework. (Now I’m writing an essay on it in the middle of the night D=)

I am a 10 year old kid doing a report about “Is homework good or bad” for homework before i was going to do homework is bad but the sources from this site changed my mind!

Homeowkr is god for stusenrs

I agree with hunter because homework can be so stressful especially with this whole covid thing no one has time for homework and every one just wants to get back to there normal lives it is especially stressful when you go on a 2 week vaca 3 weeks into the new school year and and then less then a week after you come back from the vaca you are out for over a month because of covid and you have no way to get the assignment done and turned in

As great as homework is said to be in the is article, I feel like the viewpoint of the students was left out. Every where I go on the internet researching about this topic it almost always has interviews from teachers, professors, and the like. However isn’t that a little biased? Of course teachers are going to be for homework, they’re not the ones that have to stay up past midnight completing the homework from not just one class, but all of them. I just feel like this site is one-sided and you should include what the students of today think of spending four hours every night completing 6-8 classes worth of work.

Are we talking about homework or practice? Those are two very different things and can result in different outcomes.

Homework is a graded assignment. I do not know of research showing the benefits of graded assignments going home.

Practice; however, can be extremely beneficial, especially if there is some sort of feedback (not a grade but feedback). That feedback can come from the teacher, another student or even an automated grading program.

As a former band director, I assigned daily practice. I never once thought it would be appropriate for me to require the students to turn in a recording of their practice for me to grade. Instead, I had in-class assignments/assessments that were graded and directly related to the practice assigned.

I would really like to read articles on “homework” that truly distinguish between the two.

oof i feel bad good luck!

thank you guys for the artical because I have to finish an assingment. yes i did cite it but just thanks

thx for the article guys.

Homework is good

I think homework is helpful AND harmful. Sometimes u can’t get sleep bc of homework but it helps u practice for school too so idk.

I agree with this Article. And does anyone know when this was published. I would like to know.

It was published FEb 19, 2019.

Studies have shown that homework improved student achievement in terms of improved grades, test results, and the likelihood to attend college.

i think homework can help kids but at the same time not help kids

This article is so out of touch with majority of homes it would be laughable if it wasn’t so incredibly sad.

There is no value to homework all it does is add stress to already stressed homes. Parents or adults magically having the time or energy to shepherd kids through homework is dome sort of 1950’s fantasy.

What lala land do these teachers live in?

Homework gives noting to the kid

Homework is Bad

homework is bad.

why do kids even have homework?

Comments are closed.

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The Cult of Homework

America’s devotion to the practice stems in part from the fact that it’s what today’s parents and teachers grew up with themselves.

research on homework 2019

America has long had a fickle relationship with homework. A century or so ago, progressive reformers argued that it made kids unduly stressed , which later led in some cases to district-level bans on it for all grades under seventh. This anti-homework sentiment faded, though, amid mid-century fears that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union (which led to more homework), only to resurface in the 1960s and ’70s, when a more open culture came to see homework as stifling play and creativity (which led to less). But this didn’t last either: In the ’80s, government researchers blamed America’s schools for its economic troubles and recommended ramping homework up once more.

The 21st century has so far been a homework-heavy era, with American teenagers now averaging about twice as much time spent on homework each day as their predecessors did in the 1990s . Even little kids are asked to bring school home with them. A 2015 study , for instance, found that kindergarteners, who researchers tend to agree shouldn’t have any take-home work, were spending about 25 minutes a night on it.

But not without pushback. As many children, not to mention their parents and teachers, are drained by their daily workload, some schools and districts are rethinking how homework should work—and some teachers are doing away with it entirely. They’re reviewing the research on homework (which, it should be noted, is contested) and concluding that it’s time to revisit the subject.

Read: My daughter’s homework is killing me

Hillsborough, California, an affluent suburb of San Francisco, is one district that has changed its ways. The district, which includes three elementary schools and a middle school, worked with teachers and convened panels of parents in order to come up with a homework policy that would allow students more unscheduled time to spend with their families or to play. In August 2017, it rolled out an updated policy, which emphasized that homework should be “meaningful” and banned due dates that fell on the day after a weekend or a break.

“The first year was a bit bumpy,” says Louann Carlomagno, the district’s superintendent. She says the adjustment was at times hard for the teachers, some of whom had been doing their job in a similar fashion for a quarter of a century. Parents’ expectations were also an issue. Carlomagno says they took some time to “realize that it was okay not to have an hour of homework for a second grader—that was new.”

Most of the way through year two, though, the policy appears to be working more smoothly. “The students do seem to be less stressed based on conversations I’ve had with parents,” Carlomagno says. It also helps that the students performed just as well on the state standardized test last year as they have in the past.

Earlier this year, the district of Somerville, Massachusetts, also rewrote its homework policy, reducing the amount of homework its elementary and middle schoolers may receive. In grades six through eight, for example, homework is capped at an hour a night and can only be assigned two to three nights a week.

Jack Schneider, an education professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell whose daughter attends school in Somerville, is generally pleased with the new policy. But, he says, it’s part of a bigger, worrisome pattern. “The origin for this was general parental dissatisfaction, which not surprisingly was coming from a particular demographic,” Schneider says. “Middle-class white parents tend to be more vocal about concerns about homework … They feel entitled enough to voice their opinions.”

Schneider is all for revisiting taken-for-granted practices like homework, but thinks districts need to take care to be inclusive in that process. “I hear approximately zero middle-class white parents talking about how homework done best in grades K through two actually strengthens the connection between home and school for young people and their families,” he says. Because many of these parents already feel connected to their school community, this benefit of homework can seem redundant. “They don’t need it,” Schneider says, “so they’re not advocating for it.”

That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that homework is more vital in low-income districts. In fact, there are different, but just as compelling, reasons it can be burdensome in these communities as well. Allison Wienhold, who teaches high-school Spanish in the small town of Dunkerton, Iowa, has phased out homework assignments over the past three years. Her thinking: Some of her students, she says, have little time for homework because they’re working 30 hours a week or responsible for looking after younger siblings.

As educators reduce or eliminate the homework they assign, it’s worth asking what amount and what kind of homework is best for students. It turns out that there’s some disagreement about this among researchers, who tend to fall in one of two camps.

In the first camp is Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Cooper conducted a review of the existing research on homework in the mid-2000s , and found that, up to a point, the amount of homework students reported doing correlates with their performance on in-class tests. This correlation, the review found, was stronger for older students than for younger ones.

This conclusion is generally accepted among educators, in part because it’s compatible with “the 10-minute rule,” a rule of thumb popular among teachers suggesting that the proper amount of homework is approximately 10 minutes per night, per grade level—that is, 10 minutes a night for first graders, 20 minutes a night for second graders, and so on, up to two hours a night for high schoolers.

In Cooper’s eyes, homework isn’t overly burdensome for the typical American kid. He points to a 2014 Brookings Institution report that found “little evidence that the homework load has increased for the average student”; onerous amounts of homework, it determined, are indeed out there, but relatively rare. Moreover, the report noted that most parents think their children get the right amount of homework, and that parents who are worried about under-assigning outnumber those who are worried about over-assigning. Cooper says that those latter worries tend to come from a small number of communities with “concerns about being competitive for the most selective colleges and universities.”

According to Alfie Kohn, squarely in camp two, most of the conclusions listed in the previous three paragraphs are questionable. Kohn, the author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing , considers homework to be a “reliable extinguisher of curiosity,” and has several complaints with the evidence that Cooper and others cite in favor of it. Kohn notes, among other things, that Cooper’s 2006 meta-analysis doesn’t establish causation, and that its central correlation is based on children’s (potentially unreliable) self-reporting of how much time they spend doing homework. (Kohn’s prolific writing on the subject alleges numerous other methodological faults.)

In fact, other correlations make a compelling case that homework doesn’t help. Some countries whose students regularly outperform American kids on standardized tests, such as Japan and Denmark, send their kids home with less schoolwork , while students from some countries with higher homework loads than the U.S., such as Thailand and Greece, fare worse on tests. (Of course, international comparisons can be fraught because so many factors, in education systems and in societies at large, might shape students’ success.)

Kohn also takes issue with the way achievement is commonly assessed. “If all you want is to cram kids’ heads with facts for tomorrow’s tests that they’re going to forget by next week, yeah, if you give them more time and make them do the cramming at night, that could raise the scores,” he says. “But if you’re interested in kids who know how to think or enjoy learning, then homework isn’t merely ineffective, but counterproductive.”

His concern is, in a way, a philosophical one. “The practice of homework assumes that only academic growth matters, to the point that having kids work on that most of the school day isn’t enough,” Kohn says. What about homework’s effect on quality time spent with family? On long-term information retention? On critical-thinking skills? On social development? On success later in life? On happiness? The research is quiet on these questions.

Another problem is that research tends to focus on homework’s quantity rather than its quality, because the former is much easier to measure than the latter. While experts generally agree that the substance of an assignment matters greatly (and that a lot of homework is uninspiring busywork), there isn’t a catchall rule for what’s best—the answer is often specific to a certain curriculum or even an individual student.

Given that homework’s benefits are so narrowly defined (and even then, contested), it’s a bit surprising that assigning so much of it is often a classroom default, and that more isn’t done to make the homework that is assigned more enriching. A number of things are preserving this state of affairs—things that have little to do with whether homework helps students learn.

Jack Schneider, the Massachusetts parent and professor, thinks it’s important to consider the generational inertia of the practice. “The vast majority of parents of public-school students themselves are graduates of the public education system,” he says. “Therefore, their views of what is legitimate have been shaped already by the system that they would ostensibly be critiquing.” In other words, many parents’ own history with homework might lead them to expect the same for their children, and anything less is often taken as an indicator that a school or a teacher isn’t rigorous enough. (This dovetails with—and complicates—the finding that most parents think their children have the right amount of homework.)

Barbara Stengel, an education professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, brought up two developments in the educational system that might be keeping homework rote and unexciting. The first is the importance placed in the past few decades on standardized testing, which looms over many public-school classroom decisions and frequently discourages teachers from trying out more creative homework assignments. “They could do it, but they’re afraid to do it, because they’re getting pressure every day about test scores,” Stengel says.

Second, she notes that the profession of teaching, with its relatively low wages and lack of autonomy, struggles to attract and support some of the people who might reimagine homework, as well as other aspects of education. “Part of why we get less interesting homework is because some of the people who would really have pushed the limits of that are no longer in teaching,” she says.

“In general, we have no imagination when it comes to homework,” Stengel says. She wishes teachers had the time and resources to remake homework into something that actually engages students. “If we had kids reading—anything, the sports page, anything that they’re able to read—that’s the best single thing. If we had kids going to the zoo, if we had kids going to parks after school, if we had them doing all of those things, their test scores would improve. But they’re not. They’re going home and doing homework that is not expanding what they think about.”

“Exploratory” is one word Mike Simpson used when describing the types of homework he’d like his students to undertake. Simpson is the head of the Stone Independent School, a tiny private high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that opened in 2017. “We were lucky to start a school a year and a half ago,” Simpson says, “so it’s been easy to say we aren’t going to assign worksheets, we aren’t going assign regurgitative problem sets.” For instance, a half-dozen students recently built a 25-foot trebuchet on campus.

Simpson says he thinks it’s a shame that the things students have to do at home are often the least fulfilling parts of schooling: “When our students can’t make the connection between the work they’re doing at 11 o’clock at night on a Tuesday to the way they want their lives to be, I think we begin to lose the plot.”

When I talked with other teachers who did homework makeovers in their classrooms, I heard few regrets. Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Joshua, Texas, stopped assigning take-home packets of worksheets three years ago, and instead started asking her students to do 20 minutes of pleasure reading a night. She says she’s pleased with the results, but she’s noticed something funny. “Some kids,” she says, “really do like homework.” She’s started putting out a bucket of it for students to draw from voluntarily—whether because they want an additional challenge or something to pass the time at home.

Chris Bronke, a high-school English teacher in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, told me something similar. This school year, he eliminated homework for his class of freshmen, and now mostly lets students study on their own or in small groups during class time. It’s usually up to them what they work on each day, and Bronke has been impressed by how they’ve managed their time.

In fact, some of them willingly spend time on assignments at home, whether because they’re particularly engaged, because they prefer to do some deeper thinking outside school, or because they needed to spend time in class that day preparing for, say, a biology test the following period. “They’re making meaningful decisions about their time that I don’t think education really ever gives students the experience, nor the practice, of doing,” Bronke said.

The typical prescription offered by those overwhelmed with homework is to assign less of it—to subtract. But perhaps a more useful approach, for many classrooms, would be to create homework only when teachers and students believe it’s actually needed to further the learning that takes place in class—to start with nothing, and add as necessary.

Research Report: Homework

research on homework 2019

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Much of the homework students are asked to do aligns to the Common Core State Standards , finds a new analysis from the Center for American Progress—but it overwhelmingly focuses on rote learning.

In a sample of nearly 200 pieces of homework collected nationwide, the researchers identified the skills required for each task.

They found 76 percent of math homework involved performing procedures, and another 11 percent involved memorization. By contrast, none of the math tasks asked students to solve nonroutine problems or make connections.

In language arts homework, 47 percent involved memorization, and 33 percent involved performing procedures. Only 18 percent of the homework asked students to demonstrate understanding, and 3 percent involved generalizing or proving arguments.

A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2019 edition of Education Week as Homework

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Individual Precursors of Student Homework Behavioral Engagement: The Role of Intrinsic Motivation, Perceived Homework Utility and Homework Attitude

Natalia suárez.

1 Department of Psychology, University of Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain

Bibiana Regueiro

2 Department of Psychology, University of A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain

Iris Estévez

3 Department of Pedagogy and Didactics, University of A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain

María del Mar Ferradás

M. adelina guisande.

4 Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Susana Rodríguez

Currently, the concept of engagement is crucial in the field of learning and school achievement. It is a multidimensional concept (e.g., behavioral, emotional, and cognitive dimensions) that has been widely used as a theoretical framework to explain the processes of school engagement and dropout. However, this conceptual framework has been scarcely used in the field of homework. The aim of the present study was to analyze the role of intrinsic motivation, perceived homework utility, and personal homework attitude as precursors of student homework engagement (behavioral engagement) and, at the same time, how such engagement is the precursor of academic achievement. Seven hundred and thirty students of Compulsory Secondary Education (CSE) (7th to 10th grade) from fourteen schools northern Spain participated. A structural equation model was elaborated on which intrinsic motivation, perceived utility and attitude were observed variables, and student engagement (time spent on homework, time management, and amount of teacher-assigned homework done) and academic achievement (Mathematics, Spanish Language, English Language, and Social Science) were latent variables. The results reveal that (i) intrinsic motivation is a powerful precursor of student behavioral engagement (also perceived utility and attitude, although to a lesser extent), and (ii) academic achievement is closely linked to the level of student engagement, qualifying the results of many of the previous studies conducted from a task-centered perspective (as opposed to a person-centered perspective).


In accordance with the proposal of Trautwein et al. (2006) , we study herein the role of motivational variables as individual antecedents of student behavioral homework engagement and its impact on academic achievement. Assuming the principles of the theory of expectancy-value ( Eccles, 1983 ; Pintrich and De Groot, 1990 ; Eccles and Wigfield, 2002 ), we focused this study on the role of the motivational variables related to the value attributed to homework and we addressed the construct of engagement in accordance with the contributions of the theory of school engagement ( Fredricks et al., 2004 ).

Nowadays, it seems little debatable that the value attributed by students to academic tasks such as tests or homework is linked to their engagement and the effort dedicated to these tasks ( Greene et al., 2004 ; Xu, 2005 ; Cole et al., 2008 ). Thus, students with high-value beliefs spend more time, devote more effort, and complete more homework than those who do not value academic activity ( Bong, 2001 ; Miller and Brickman, 2004 ; Wise and DeMars, 2005 ; Liem et al., 2008 ; Eccles and Wang, 2012 ). This attributed value thereby indirectly influences their achievement ( Pintrich and De Groot, 1990 ; Wolters and Pintrich, 1998 ; Wigfield and Eccles, 2002 ; Trautwein et al., 2006 ).

Motivation and Homework Behavioral Engagement

Compared with students who do their homework to avoid blame or to please their parents, the evidence suggests that intrinsically motivated students devote more effort, persist more, and obtain better results when they engage in an activity ( Wigfield and Eccles, 2002 ; Hardre and Reeve, 2003 ; Coutts, 2004 ; see the review of Wigfield et al., 2009 ). Along with personal expectancies, the link between the value attributed to homework and the intentions of learning and devoting effort is well documented in the literature ( Bandura, 1997 ; Wigfield and Eccles, 2000 ; Eccles and Wigfield, 2002 ; Wigfield et al., 2009 ; Metallidou and Vlachou, 2010 ). Assuming the principles of the theory of Expectancy-Value, this study aims at verifying to what extent the value students attribute to homework predicts their intentions and real decision to engage in homework and to do it ( Eccles et al., 1993 ; Eccles, 2005 ; Wigfield et al., 2017 ).

Most of the research that supports the expectancy value models has argued that the value attributed to homework has at least three dimensions or components: the degree to which it is perceived as interesting—its intrinsic value— personally significant and important for the student—achievement value—, and useful—utility value. Thus, students who consider homework important, useful, and/or interesting hold high self-efficacy beliefs and persevere in the face of difficulties encountered when doing homework ( Bandura, 1997 ). In fact, this value-effort relationship has been found for homework, showing the direct influence of the value attributed to dedication and engagement ( Trautwein et al., 2006 ; Hong et al., 2009 ; Xu, 2017 ; Xu et al., 2017 ), and underlining the importance of the utility perception of homework in the promotion of diverse academic outcomes ( Trautwein et al., 2006 ; Yang et al., 2016 ; Xu et al., 2017 ). The term attitude is understood as an evaluative predisposition (positive or negative) that conditions the subject to perceive and to react in a determined way in light of the objects (people, groups, ideas, situations, etc.). It is a learned predisposition, not innate, and stable although it can change ( Hidalgo et al., 2004 ). Therefore, the attitude toward homework refers to the positive or negative predisposition of these students to do homework.

Homework Behavioral Engagement and Academic Achievement

School engagement is receiving increasingly more attention in psychological research because it has been shown to be a relevant predictor of different educational outcomes ( Ladd and Dinella, 2009 ; Wang and Peck, 2013 ), and specifically, of academic achievement ( Ladd and Dinella, 2009 ; Reeve and Tseng, 2011 ). Although there are significant variations in the implementation of the construct, we consider engagement as a meta-construct with affective-emotional, cognitive, and behavioral subcomponents ( Fredricks et al., 2016 ; Rodríguez-Pereiro et al., 2019 ).

In this context, the review of students’ behavioral engagement usually refers to their participation at school, indicators of pro-social behavior in academic contexts, compliance with rules, and/or dedication to homework (e.g., Fredricks et al., 2004 ; Christenson et al., 2012 ). Behavioral engagement, in terms of time, effort, amount of homework performed, persistence, and/or dedication ( Eccles and Wang, 2012 ), must have an impact on adolescents’ academic achievement ( King, 2015 ; Mikami et al., 2017 ).

The construct student homework behavioral engagement usually includes behavioral indicators concerning the time devoted to homework, the management of that time, or the amount of homework performed ( Trautwein et al., 2006 ).

Although among other factors, achievement could depend on students’ age, the quality of the assigned homework, and/or the procedure used to measure achievement, research tends to support a positive relationship between the amount of homework carried out and academic achievement (e.g., Cooper et al., 1998 , 2006 ; Cooper and Valentine, 2001 ; Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2001 ; Trautwein et al., 2002 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ; Núñez et al., 2015a ).

Some works have found positive relationships (see review of Cooper, 1989 ; Cooper and Valentine, 2001 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ), with more obvious effects in secondary education than in primary education, and some studies have shown that the time spent on homework and achievement may not be related or may even be negatively related ( De Jong et al., 2000 ; Trautwein, 2007 ; Kitsantas et al., 2011 ). There may be a differential effect of the time devoted to homework, and also of the amount of homework performed, at the classroom and individual level.

Both students’ committed effort and their good use of homework time have a positive effect on their achievement ( Schmitz and Skinner, 1993 ; Trautwein and Köller, 2003 ; Trautwein et al., 2006 ; Xu, 2013 ). In this sense, Xu (2010) concluded, for example, that a good study time management contributes to completing a greater amount of homework. Trautwein (2007) found that effort is a better predictor of achievement than time spent on homework. As proposed by Núñez et al. (2015a) , the use of homework time could positively affect academic achievement insofar as it contributes to increasing the amount of homework performed.

The Present Study

According to Lawson (2017) , behavioral engagement is a manifestation of internal motivational processes such as intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, or the value attributed to homework ( Becker et al., 2010 ; Schiefele et al., 2012 ; Guthrie et al., 2013 ), which energize and direct action. In this study, we focus on the value component in terms of the conceptual model of homework developed by Trautwein and colleagues and tested in various studies (e.g., Trautwein and Lüdtke, 2007 ; Dettmers et al., 2010 , among others). As in other studies of this field ( Hughes et al., 2008 ; King, 2015 ; Mikami et al., 2017 ), we propose a structural model in which homework behavioral engagement (i.e., the amount of time dedicated to doing teacher-assigned homework; homework time management; and the amount of homework assigned) mediates between certain student motivational conditions— students’ motivational conditions (perceived homework utility; homework intrinsic motivation; and homework attitude) and their general academic achievement (Social Sciences, Math, Language, and English as second language). In the present study we focus on students in grades 7–10, it is the proper age in which they should begin to take importance the accomplishment of homework. Despite the large number of research on homework in secondary education, it seems interesting to begin to verify models of relationships that allow us to interpret adequately the relationships between motivation and behavioral engagement.

Figure 1 shows the model to be tested. The main hypotheses of this model are as follows:

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is fpsyg-10-00941-g001.jpg

Structural model to be tested.

  • simple (1) Students’ homework behavioral engagement will be significantly and positively determined by their motivational conditions (homework intrinsic motivation, homework utility, and homework attitude). Based on previous studies (e.g., Trautwein et al., 2006 ; Hong et al., 2009 ; Regueiro et al., 2015 , 2017 , 2018 ; Valle et al., 2018 ; Yang et al., 2016 ; Xu, 2017 ; Xu et al., 2017 ), we expect that the intensity of this relationship (in terms of the effect size) will be medium or large.
  • simple (2) Students’ homework behavioral engagement will positively and significant predict their overall academic achievement (in terms of average grades in the four core academic areas). Based on the results of previous studies of the relationship between homework and academic achievement in Secondary Education students (e.g., De Jong et al., 2000 ; Trautwein et al., 2002 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ; Trautwein, 2007 ; Kitsantas et al., 2011 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ; Núñez et al., 2015a ; Fan et al., 2017 ), we expect that the effect size of the relationship will be moderate (or small).

Materials and Methods


Participants were 730 students in Compulsory Secondary Education (CSE) (aged between 12 and 16 years ( M = 13.5, SD = 1.15) from 14 schools randomly selected (12 public schools and 2 private-subsidized schools) in three provinces of northern Spain. Fifty-six students were eliminated due to missing data. Half of the schools are in urban areas and the other half are in rural or semi-urban areas. Of the participants, 43.4% were boys and 56.6% were girls. Besides, 194 students (26.6%) were in 1st grade of CSE, 152 students (20.8%) were 2nd-graders, 182 students (24.9%) were in 3rd grade, and 202 students (27.7%) were 4th-graders.


Student’s motivational variables.

The items used to measure homework intrinsic motivation, homework perceived utility, and homework attitude were obtained from the Homework Survey, an instrument already used in previous studies (e.g., Núñez et al., 2015a , b , c ; Valle et al., 2015a , 2018 ). The fact of having chosen the questionnaire as a data collection instrument was mainly due to its characteristics of versatility, efficiency and generalizability, which have made this research instrument one of the most widespread in the educational and psychological field, as established authors such as McMillan and Schumacher (2005) .

- HW Intrinsic Motivation . We evaluated the students’ degree of enjoyment, satisfaction, and the benefits obtained by doing homework. This dimension consists of 8 items (α = 00.85), which are rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 ( completely false ) to 5 ( completely true ). An example item is: “I enjoy doing homework, because it allows me to learn more.” - HW Perceived Utility . This variable was assessed with a single item asking students whether they considered the homework assigned by their teachers to be useful. The response scale ranged from 1 ( completely false ) to 5 ( completely true ). - Homework Attitude . In this study three items to evaluate the affective dimension of the homework attitude were used: students’ preference for, their willingness to (their disposal to), and their positive emotions generated and associated with doing homework (α = 0.77). Students responded on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 ( completely false ) up to 5 ( completely true ).

Homework Behavioral Engagement

Behavioral engagement was measured through three indicators: time spent on homework, homework time optimization, and amount of teacher-assigned homework carried out by the students. The items used to obtain three measurements were taken from the aforementioned Homework Survey.

- Homework Time Spent . To measure the time spent on homework, students responded to two items (“How much time do you usually spend on homework every day from Monday to Friday?,” and “How much time do you usually spend on homework on the weekend?), with the following response options: 1 ( less than 30 min ), 2 ( 30 min to 1 h ), 3 ( 1 h to an hour and a half ), 4 ( 1 h and a half to 2 h ), and 5 ( more than 2 h ). The alpha coefficient was α = 0.72 in this study). - Homework Time Management . This variable was measured through the responses to two items asking students to indicate how they managed the time normally spent doing homework (Monday through Friday, and on the weekend), using the following scale: 1 ( I waste it completely; I am constantly distracted by anything ), 2 ( I waste it more than I should ), 3 ( regular ), 4 ( I manage it pretty well ), and 5 ( I optimize it completely; I concentrate and, I don’t think about anything else until I finish ). The alpha coefficient was α = 0.78 in this study. - Amount of Homework Done. The estimate of the amount of teacher-assigned homework completed by students was obtained through one item rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale: 1 ( none ), 2 ( some ), 3 ( one half ), 4 ( almost all ), and 5 ( all of it ).

Academic Achievement

The evaluation of academic achievement was calculated from average grade obtained by the students at the end of the academic year they were enrolled in at that time. The subjects used to calculate the mean were Social Sciences, Mathematics, Spanish Language, and Foreign Language (English as a second language) because they have the greatest weight in the curriculum.

The data referring to the variables under study were collected during school hours by personnel external to the school itself, after obtaining the written informed consent of the parents or legal guardians, the management team, and the students’ teachers, respecting the ethical standards established in the Declaration of Helsinki. In each session, the staff give some practical indications to students on how to address those questions. Then, participants fill in all the questions of the self-report individually by themselves, and without time limit.

Data Analysis

After verifying that the distribution of the variables could be considered sufficiently normal to allow the use of the maximum likelihood procedure, a structural equation analysis, using the computer program AMOS 18, was employed to contrast a hypothesized model predicting the influence of homework motivation on homework engagement and achievement. In addition to chi-square (χχ 2 ) and its associated probability ( p ), we used two absolute indices: the goodness-of-fit-index (GFI) and the adjusted goodness-of-fit-index (AGFI). We also provide a relative index, the comparative fit index (CFI) ( Bentler, 1990 ); and a close-fit parsimony-based index, the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA), including 90% confidence intervals ( Hu and Bentler, 1999 ). The model fits well if GFI and AGFI >0.90, CFI >0.95, and RMSEA ≤ 0.05.

The effect sizes were calculated using Cohen’s d ( d < 0.20 = non-significant effect; d ≥ 0.20 and d < 0.50 = small effect; d ≥ 0.50 and d < 0.80 = medium effect; d ≥ 0.80 = large effect).

Preliminary Analysis

Table 1 shows the means, standard deviations, skewness, kurtosis, and bivariate Pearson correlations. In general, the relationship between the variables included in the study was as expected. Specifically, the three motivational variables considered— intrinsic motivation, utility, and homework attitude—significant and positive correlations with the time spent doing homework, time optimization, and the amount of homework done. These three variables that constitute the construct of homework behavioral engagement correlated positively and significantly with each other and with the grades obtained by the students in the four subject areas considered.

Descriptive statistics and Pearson correlations ( N = 730).

We observed moderate correlations between the utility perception and the intrinsic value of homework and students’ grades, whereas the interrelationship between homework attitude and academic achievement was lower. Statistically significant correlations were also observed among the three homework motivational variables, as well as among the grades obtained in the subjects that constitute the academic achievement measures.

Structural Model Fit

In Figure 1 , the relationships expressed in the formulation of the hypothesis of the contrasted model are made explicit. With the exception of χ 2 (31) = 75.548; χ 2 / df = 2.43, p < 0.001, all the fit indices suggest that the hypothesized model adequately represents the relations of the empirical data matrix: GFI = 0.980; AGFI = 0.964; TLI = 0.980; CFI = 0.986; and RMSEA = 0.044, 90% CI [0.032, 0.057], p > 0.05. As a result, the model does not need any changes. In addition, as can be seen in Table 2 , the factor loadings as well as the corresponding estimation errors of the three measurement variables corresponding to student homework behavioral engagement (time spent; homework time management; amount of homework done) and to the academic achievement areas (Social Sciences, Mathematics, Spanish Language, and English as Second Language) suggest that both latent variables were reliably constructed.

Assessment of the hypothesized homework model.

Assessment of Model Hypotheses

Correlations between the three independent variables, standardized regression weights, and their statistical significance are presented in Table 2 and Figure 2 .

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Correlations and standardized regression weights for the final model. All coefficients are statistically significant at p < 0.001, except for HW Attitude on HW Behavioral Engagement ( p < 0.01).

In the present study, two general hypotheses were formulated. First, we hypothesized that students’ homework behavioral engagement would be significantly and positively determined by their motivational personal variables. In addition, based on previous studies, we expected that the intensity of this relationship would be medium or large. In general terms, the results confirm this hypothesis. As a whole, the effect is statistically significant and positive: students who perceive greater homework utility have a more positive attitude toward homework and consider it an opportunity to learn. They also engage more in their homework than students who express low utility, a poor attitude, and low intrinsic motivation. However, the effect sizes suggest that students’ homework behavioral engagement depends little on perceived homework utility and homework attitude, although it does depend on intrinsic homework motivation (interest in working on homework to achieve learning and gain competence), with an effect size between medium and large. The three motivational variables explain 17.5% of students’ homework behavioral engagement.

Secondly, we formulated the hypothesis that students’ homework behavioral engagement would significantly and positively predict their overall academic achievement, and that the effect size of that relationship would be moderate, or even small. The data obtained confirm this hypothesis, both in the intensity (the mean effect size) and the sign (positive). The higher the students’ homework behavioral engagement, the greater was their academic achievement, and vice versa. The amount of total explained academic achievement variance was 41%.

The role of students’ behavioral homework engagement is a highly controversial issue. For example, prior studies indicate that spending more time on homework is no guarantee of higher academic achievement. Also, there is not sufficient empirical evidence about the determinants of such engagement. This research intended to provide some information about these two large gaps. On the one hand, we wondered whether the motivational factors could be important determinants of student homework engagement (as derived from the motivational theories of academic learning) and, on the other hand, we wished to confirm the predictive power of student homework engagement for academic achievement when using latent variables (instead of specific measures of engagement or achievement).

The results confirm the contribution of motivation and, specifically, of its value component, on students’ academic engagement ( Bong, 2001 ; Eccles and Wang, 2012 ). Moreover, according to our results, the value attributed to homework in terms of enjoyment and satisfaction, utility perception, and positive attitude moderately explain students’ dedication to and engagement with homework.

Specifically, when students approach homework due to their interest, in order to learn and acquire competence, they spend more time, optimize the time spent, and also do more homework ( Trautwein et al., 2006 ; Hong et al., 2009 ; Xu et al., 2017 ). As defended from different theoretical frameworks, interest would contribute to achievement to the extent that, in general, it increases behavioral engagement, dedication, management of the learning process, and the attentional resources that are implemented ( Lee et al., 2014 ; Trautwein et al., 2015 ; Harackiewicz et al., 2016 ). The prescription and correction of homework can become an instructional strategy for the learning promotion and academic performance, as teachers manage to adjust to the needs and interests of their students (e.g., Akioka and Gilmore, 2013 ). Beyond the interventions focused on self-monitoring and self-management (e.g., Breaux et al., 2019 ) or the use of reinforcements ( Reinhardt et al., 2009 ), homework that are prescribed from classroom must be meaningful and purposeful if we want the apprentices to actively engage with them ( Kalchman and Marentette, 2012 ).

Likewise, it seems that homework utility perception contributes somewhat to helping students spend more time on homework, better manage that time, and do more homework ( Cooper et al., 2006 ; Yang et al., 2016 ; Fan et al., 2017 ). Intrinsic motivation and perceived utility also guarantee a more positive attitude toward doing homework. Given the strong association found, if students perceive the utility of the assigned homework, they could improve their more intrinsic reasons for engaging in homework, which would promote more positive attitudes toward such engagement.

The value students attribute to homework, a key aspect of motivation in self-regulated learning models ( Pintrich and Zusho, 2007 ; Wigfield and Cambria, 2010 ), should be understood as a multidimensional construct that integrates students’ personal interests and the interest aroused by the situations, but also their estimates of its importance or usefulness. As learners will probably engage intrinsically in their homework if they perceive its utility, and in view of the fact that direct intervention in the intrinsic value of homework is not always easy and could even undermine students’ sense of autonomy ( Deci and Ryan, 1985 ), homework utility value becomes a core support in the educational intervention with students who show little interest in homework.

Thus, as Epstein and Van Voorhis (2001 , 2012 ) concluded, when teachers explicitly present the meaning and utility of the homework they assign, they could be affecting students’ behavioral engagement and homework time management. In general, the research seems consistent, suggesting that student homework engagement could be optimized if the teacher assigns quality homework, that is, homework perceived as useful and interesting, which enables students’ progress (adapted to the potential of each student or group of students) and is causally linked to academic success (e.g., Trautwein et al., 2006 ; Trautwein and Lüdtke, 2009 ; Dettmers et al., 2010 , 2011 ; Rosário et al., 2018 ).

In any case, we should not lose sight of the fact that the explanatory potential of the motivational variables considered herein is relatively low and, in fact, more than 80% of the variability of homework behavioral engagement would be explained by variables that were not included in this work. In this regard, we acknowledge that we did not address the expectancy component of motivation, which, as defended from different theoretical frameworks ( Eccles, 1983 ; Pintrich and De Groot, 1990 ; Bandura, 1997 ; Eccles and Wigfield, 2002 ), can be considered a predictor of homework behavioral engagement, at least in terms of effort and persistence ( Trautwein et al., 2006 ; Nagengast et al., 2013 ). On the other hand, although we must assume that motivation energizes cognitive engagement ( Greene et al., 2004 ; Greene, 2015 ), in this case, we did not study the resources and learning strategies implemented by students when approaching homework. However, the research of Valle et al. (2015b) allows us to hypothesize the importance of intrinsic motivation and attitude in the decision to engage more or less deeply in homework, and thereby related to homework behavioral engagement.

On another hand, as has already been stated by many previous studies ( Cooper et al., 1998 , 2006 ; Cooper and Valentine, 2001 ; Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2001 ; Trautwein et al., 2002 ; Xu, 2010 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ; Núñez et al., 2015a ), the time spent on homework along with good time management the amount of homework done largely contribute to students’ grades in different curricular subjects. Compared with other studies that found null or negative relationships (e.g., see De Jong et al., 2000 ; Trautwein, 2007 ; Kitsantas et al., 2011 ), the results of this research not only corroborate the positive relationship between behavioral engagement measures and academic achievement, but also show that the effect size is higher than that reported in most of the previous studies. High school students who spend more time, manage that time well, and do all the homework clearly perform better than those who dedicate little time, are easily distracted, or do not finish their homework.

If, indeed, the more students engage in their homework, the better grades they obtain, then doing homework is better than not doing homework, and assigning homework in class will therefore contribute to improving students’ academic achievement. In this regard, no doubt, students’ competence and abilities will mediate their management of resources like time, the environment, or help ( Du et al., 2016 ; Xu et al., 2017 ), as well as the role of parents, teachers, and peers ( Núñez et al., 2015b , c ).

Finally, as student engagement and dedication to homework impact on their academic results and depend to some extent on homework utility perception, parents and teachers need to converge so we can sustain the utility perception of homework as a society. In this sense, there is a risk that the increasing and recurrent loss of prestige of homework will end up diminishing students’ intrinsic motivation and promoting a negative attitude toward homework.

Limitations of the Work and Future Research

Although the results of the study seem to be robust (consistent effects of the predictions, estimation errors within normal parameters, etc.), they should be taken with some precaution due to some limitations inherent in the nature of the data of the study, the sample used, or the measuring instruments.

The research is cross-sectional, so any causal inferences are seriously compromised. Although we used a powerful multivariate strategy to analyze the data, which could lead us to think in terms of causality, this is not possible because, for this purpose, we should have used a longitudinal design (three repeated measures could be sufficient for this model) or an experimental design. Although in the present investigation, we chose a cross-sectional strategy, we accept and appreciate the suggestion of Xu et al. (2017) about the need to develop causal research where the effects of homework assignment—type of tasks, frequency, etc.—and teacher feedback on students’ motivation and homework engagement are confirmed. In line with different works of research within the framework of the expectancy-value models (e.g., Durik et al., 2006 ; Simpkins et al., 2006 ), it also seems interesting to begin to develop longitudinal follow-up studies that allow us to determine whether, indeed, students’ attitudes and motivation have a greater explanatory potential for homework behavioral engagement throughout their schooling and to observe the extent to which we can assume evolutionary changes in the influence of homework on academic achievement.

Another limitation has to do with the student sample used in this study. We must admit that the results could vary significantly if the sample had been obtained randomly and were representative of the population from which it comes (educational stage, types of educational centers, sociometric features of the families, etc.). However, we are confident that the procedure used is sufficiently sensitive to the variables and that it has strengthened the reliability of the results described.

Finally, data collection regarding homework was done through self-reports. Although this methodology is commonly used in psychology and education, possibly essential to measure thoughts and behaviors that are otherwise hardly observable, it is necessary to replicate the findings using complementary strategies and measuring instruments (of various types). In addition, some variables of this study were assessed with a relatively low number of items, which may compromise the robustness of these measures (although consistency coefficients higher than 0.70 are usually considered reliable). In relation to this type of measure, a matter which we must not forget when interpreting the data and drawing conclusions and implications for educational practice, is that the information obtained is self-reported, which may be more or less subjective, depending on the individual’s variables and the variables of the context. For example, homework utility in itself was not considered, but instead students’ utility perception. Reality and perception of reality may not coincide completely.

Finally, we emphasize that, in this investigation, like in many others carried out within the field of education, we used students’ grades at the end of course as an indicator of academic achievement. However, it should not be forgotten that the magnitude of the relationship between student homework engagement and academic achievement could be significantly different if we had used a more objective measure of achievement (for example, the result of a standardized achievement test). Nevertheless, this study used the final grades as a measure of achievement due to its markedly ecological nature (compared to the standardized test).

This work allows us to suggest the need to incorporate motivational variables such as interest, usefulness and attitude toward homework in research agendas given the incidence found for active participation and student dedication. It is also important to emphasize the need to develop improvement programs, integrated into the school curriculum and implemented from schools with the involvement of parents.

Ethics Statement

Does the study presented in the manuscript involve human or animal subjects: Yes.

This study was carried out in accordance with the recommendations of Research and Teaching Ethics Committee of the University of A Coruña and the Declaration of Helsinki. The protocol was approved by the Research and Teaching Ethics Committee of the University of A Coruña and the Declaration of Helsinki.

Data about the target variable were collected in accordance with the recommendations of the ethical standards established in the Research and Teaching Ethics Committee of the University of A Coruña and the Declaration of Helsinki. This study was carried out with the written informed consent from parents or legal guardians.

Author Contributions

NS, BR, and IE contributed to conception and design of the study. MdMF organized the database. MG and SR performed the statistical analysis. NS, BR, and IE wrote the first draft of the manuscript. MdMF, MG, and SR wrote the sections of the manuscript. All authors contributed to manuscript revision, read and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Funding. This work was developed with the financing of the research projects EDU2013-44062-P (MINECO), EDU2017-82984-P (MEIC), and Government of the Principality of Asturias, Spain. European Regional Development Fund (Research Groups Program 2018–2020 FC-GRUPIN-IDI/2018/000199).

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“homework should be…but we do not live in an ideal world”: mathematics teachers’ perspectives on quality homework and on homework assigned in elementary and middle schools.

\r\nPedro Rosrio*

  • 1 Departamento de Psicologia Aplicada, Escola de Psicologia, Universidade do Minho, Braga, Portugal
  • 2 Departamento de Psicología, Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain

Existing literature has analyzed homework characteristics associated with academic results. Researchers and educators defend the need to provide quality homework, but there is still much to be learned about the characteristics of quality homework (e.g., purposes, type). Acknowledging that teachers play an important role in designing and assigning homework, this study explored teachers’ perspectives regarding: (i) the characteristics of quality homework and (ii) the characteristics of the homework tasks assigned. In the current study, mathematics teachers from elementary and middle schools ( N = 78) participated in focus group discussions. To enhance the trustworthiness of the findings, homework tasks assigned by 25% of the participants were analyzed for triangulation of data purposes. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis for elementary and middle school separately. Teachers discussed the various characteristics of quality homework (e.g., short assignments, adjusted to the availability of students) and shared the characteristics of the homework tasks typically assigned, highlighting a few differences (e.g., degree of individualization of homework, purposes) between these two topics. Globally, data on the homework tasks assigned were consistent with teachers’ reports about the characteristics of the homework tasks they usually assigned. Findings provide valuable insights for research and practice aimed to promote the quality of homework and consequently students’ learning and progress.


The extensive literature on homework suggests the importance of completing homework tasks to foster students’ academic achievement (e.g., Trautwein and Lüdtke, 2009 ; Hagger et al., 2015 ; Núñez et al., 2015a ; Valle et al., 2016 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2017 ). However, existing research also indicate that the amount of homework assigned is not always related to high academic achievement ( Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2001 ; Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2012 ). In the words of Dettmers et al. (2010) “homework works if quality is high” (p. 467). However, further research is needed to answer the question “What is quality homework?”.

Teachers are responsible for designing and assigning homework, thus our knowledge on their perspectives about this topic and the characteristics of the homework typically assigned is expected to be a relevant contribution to the literature on the quality of homework. Moreover, data on the characteristics of homework could provide valuable information to unveil the complex network of relationships between homework and academic achievement (e.g., Cooper, 2001 ; Trautwein and Köller, 2003 ; Trautwein et al., 2009a ; Xu, 2010 ).

Thus, focusing on the perspective of mathematics teachers from elementary and middle school, the aims of the present study are twofold: to explore the characteristics of quality homework, and to identify the characteristics of the homework tasks typically assigned at these school levels. Findings may help deepen our understanding of why homework may impact differently the mathematics achievement of elementary and middle school students (see Fan et al., 2017 ).

Research Background on Homework Characteristics

Homework is a complex educational process involving a diverse set of variables that each may influence students’ academic outcomes (e.g., Corno, 2000 ; Trautwein and Köller, 2003 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ; Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2012 ). Cooper (1989 , 2001 ) presented a model outlining the factors that may potentially influence the effect of homework at the three stages of the homework process (i.e., design of the homework assignment, completion of homework and homework follow-up practices). At the first stage teachers are expected to consider class characteristics (e.g., students’ prior knowledge, grade level, number of students per class), and also variables that may influence the impact of homework on students’ outcomes, such as homework assignment characteristics. In 1989, Cooper (see also Cooper et al., 2006 ) presented a list of the characteristics of homework assignments as follows: amount (comprising homework frequency and length), purpose, skill area targeted, degree of individualization, student degree of choice, completion deadlines, and social context. Based on existing literature, Trautwein et al. (2006b) proposed a distinct organization for the assignment characteristics. The proposal included: homework frequency (i.e., how often homework assignments are prescribed to students), quality, control, and adaptivity. “Homework frequency” and “adaptivity” are similar to “amount” and “degree of individualization” in Cooper’s model, respectively. Both homework models provide a relevant theoretical framework for the present study.

Prior research has analyzed the relationship between homework variables, students’ behaviors and academic achievement, and found different results depending on the variables examined (see Trautwein et al., 2009b ; Fan et al., 2017 ). For example, while homework frequency consistently and positively predicted students’ academic achievement (e.g., Trautwein et al., 2002 ; Trautwein, 2007 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ), findings regarding the amount of homework assigned (usually assessed by the time spent on homework) have shown mixed results (e.g., Trautwein, 2007 ; Dettmers et al., 2009 ; Núñez et al., 2015a ). Data indicated a positive association between the amount of homework and students’ academic achievement in high school (e.g., OECD, 2014a ); however, this relationship is almost null in elementary school (e.g., Cooper et al., 2006 ; Rosário et al., 2009 ). Finally, other studies reported a negative association between time spent on homework and students’ academic achievement at different school levels (e.g., Trautwein et al., 2009b ; Rosário et al., 2011 ; Núñez et al., 2015a ).

Homework purposes are among the factors that may influence the effect of homework on students’ homework behaviors and academic achievement ( Cooper, 2001 ; Trautwein et al., 2009a ; Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2012 ; Rosário et al., 2015 ). In his model Cooper (1989 , 2001 ) reported instructional purposes (i.e., practicing or reviewing, preparation, integration and extension) and non-instructional purposes (i.e., parent-child communication, fulfilling directives, punishment, and community relations). Depending on their nature, homework instructional purposes may vary throughout schooling ( Muhlenbruck et al., 2000 ; Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2001 ). For example, in elementary school, teachers are likely to use homework as an opportunity to review the content taught in class, while in secondary school (6th–12th grade), teachers are prone to use homework to prepare students for the content to be learned in subsequent classes ( Muhlenbruck et al., 2000 ). Still, studies have recently shown that practicing the content learned is the homework purpose most frequently used throughout schooling (e.g., Xu and Yuan, 2003 ; Danielson et al., 2011 ; Kaur, 2011 ; Bang, 2012 ; Kukliansky et al., 2014 ). Studies using quantitative methodologies have analyzed the role played by homework purposes in students’ effort and achievement ( Trautwein et al., 2009a ; Rosário et al., 2015 , 2018 ), and reported distinct results depending on the subject analyzed. For example, Foyle et al. (1990) found that homework assignments with the purposes of practice and preparation improved the performance of 5th-grade students’ social studies when compared with the no-homework group. However, no statistical difference was found between the two types of homework purposes analyzed (i.e., practice and preparation). When examining the homework purposes reported by 8th-grade teachers of French as a Second Language (e.g., drilling and practicing, motivating, linking school and home), Trautwein et al. (2009a) found that students in classes assigned tasks with high emphasis on motivation displayed more effort and achieved higher outcomes than their peers. On the contrary, students in classes assigned tasks with high drill and practice reported less homework effort and achievement ( Trautwein et al., 2009a ). A recent study by Rosário et al. (2015) analyzed the relationship between homework assignments with various types of purposes (i.e., practice, preparation and extension) and 6th-grade mathematics achievement. These authors reported that homework with the purpose of “extension” impacted positively on students’ academic achievement while the other two homework purposes did not.

Cooper (1989 , 2001 ) identified the “degree of individualization” as a characteristic of homework focused on the need to design homework addressing different levels of performance. For example, some students need to be assigned practice exercises with a low level of difficulty to help them reach school goals, while others need to be assigned exercises with high levels of complexity to foster their motivation for homework ( Trautwein et al., 2002 ). When there is a disparity between the level of difficulty of homework assignments and students’ skills level, students may have to spend long hours doing homework, and they may experience negative emotions or even avoid doing homework ( Corno, 2000 ). On the contrary, when homework assignments meet students’ learning needs (e.g., Bang, 2012 ; Kukliansky et al., 2014 ), both students’ homework effort and academic achievement increase (e.g., Trautwein et al., 2006a ; Zakharov et al., 2014 ). Teachers may also decide on the time given to students to complete their homework ( Cooper, 1989 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ). For example, homework may be assigned to be delivered in the following class (e.g., Kaur et al., 2004 ) or within a week (e.g., Kaur, 2011 ). However, research on the beneficial effects of each practice is still limited.

Trautwein et al. (2006b) investigated homework characteristics other than those previously reported. Their line of research analyzed students’ perception of homework quality and homework control (e.g., Trautwein et al., 2006b ; Dettmers et al., 2010 ). Findings on homework quality (e.g., level of difficulty of the mathematics exercises, Trautwein et al., 2002 ; homework “cognitively activating” and “well prepared”, Trautwein et al., 2006b , p. 448; homework selection and level of challenge, Dettmers et al., 2010 ; Rosário et al., 2018 ) varied regarding the various measures and levels of analysis considered. For example, focusing on mathematics, Trautwein et al. (2002) concluded that “demanding” exercises improved 7th-grade students’ achievement at student and class levels, while “repetitive exercises” impacted negatively on students’ achievement. Dettmers et al. (2010) found that homework assignments perceived by students as “well-prepared and interesting” (p. 471) positively predicted 9th- and 10th-grade students’ homework motivation (expectancy and value beliefs) and behavior (effort and time) at student and class level, and mathematics achievement at class level only. These authors also reported that “cognitively challenging” homework (p. 471), as perceived by students, negatively predicted students’ expectancy beliefs at both levels, and students’ homework effort at student level ( Dettmers et al., 2010 ). Moreover, this study showed that “challenging homework” significantly and positively impacted on students’ mathematics achievement at class level ( Dettmers et al., 2010 ). At elementary school, homework quality (assessed through homework selection) predicted positively 6th-grade students’ homework effort, homework performance, and mathematics achievement ( Rosário et al., 2018 ).

Finally, Trautwein and colleagues investigated the variable “homework control” perceived by middle school students and found mixed results. The works by Trautwein and Lüdtke (2007 , 2009 ) found that “homework control” predicted positively students’ homework effort in mathematics, but other studies (e.g., Trautwein et al., 2002 , 2006b ) did not predict homework effort and mathematics achievement.

The Present Study

A vast body of research indicates that homework enhances students’ academic achievement [see the meta-analysis conducted by Fan et al. (2017) ], however, maladaptive homework behaviors of students (e.g., procrastination, lack of interest in homework, failure to complete homework) may affect homework benefits ( Bembenutty, 2011a ; Hong et al., 2011 ; Rosário et al., 2019 ). These behaviors may be related to the characteristics of the homework assigned (e.g., large amount of homework, disconnect between the type and level of difficulty of homework assignments and students’ needs and abilities, see Margolis and McCabe, 2004 ; Trautwein, 2007 ).

Homework is only valuable to students’ learning when its quality is perceived by students ( Dettmers et al., 2010 ). Nevertheless, little is known about the meaning of homework quality for teachers who are responsible for assigning homework. What do teachers understand to be quality homework? To our knowledge, the previous studies exploring teachers’ perspectives on their homework practices did not relate data with quality homework (e.g., Xu and Yuan, 2003 ; Danielson et al., 2011 ; Kaur, 2011 ; Bang, 2012 ; Kukliansky et al., 2014 ). For example, Kukliansky et al. (2014) found a disconnect between middle school science teachers’ perspectives about their homework practices and their actual homework practices observed in class. However, results were not further explained.

The current study aims to explore teachers’ perspectives on the characteristics of quality homework, and on the characteristics underlying the homework tasks assigned. Findings are expected to shed some light on the role of teachers in the homework process and contribute to maximize the benefits of homework. Our results may be useful for either homework research (e.g., by informing new quantitative studies grounded on data from teachers’ perspectives) or educational practice (e.g., by identifying new avenues for teacher training and the defining of guidelines for homework practices).

This study is particularly important in mathematics for the following reasons: mathematics is among the school subjects where teachers assign the largest amount of homework (e.g., Rønning, 2011 ; Xu, 2015 ), while students continue to yield worrying school results in the subject, especially in middle and high school ( Gottfried et al., 2007 ; OECD, 2014b ). Moreover, a recent meta-analysis focused on mathematics and science homework showed that the relationship between homework and academic achievement in middle school is weaker than in elementary school ( Fan et al., 2017 ). Thus, we collected data through focus group discussions with elementary and middle school mathematics teachers in order to analyze any potential variations in their perspectives on the characteristics of quality homework, and on the characteristics of homework tasks they typically assign. Regarding the latter topic, we also collected photos of homework tasks assigned by 25% of the participating teachers in order to triangulate data and enhance the trustworthiness of our findings.

Our exploratory study was guided by the following research questions:

(1) How do elementary and middle school mathematics teachers perceive quality homework?

(2) How do elementary and middle school mathematics teachers describe the homework tasks they typically assign to students?

Materials and Methods

The study context.

Despite recommendations of the need for clear homework policies (e.g., Cooper et al., 2006 ; Bembenutty, 2011b ), Portugal has no formal guidelines for homework (e.g., concerning the frequency, length, type of tasks). Still, many teachers usually include homework as part of students’ overall grade and ask parents to monitor their children’s homework completion. Moreover, according to participants there is no specific training on homework practices for pre-service or in-service teachers.

The Portuguese educational system is organized as follows: the last two years of elementary school encompass 5th and 6th grade (10 and 11 years old), while middle school encompasses 7th, 8th, and 9th grade (12 to 14 years old). At the two school levels mentioned, mathematics is a compulsory subject and students attend three to five mathematics lessons per week depending on the duration of each class (270 min per week for Grades 5 and 6, and 225 min per week for Grades 7–9). All students are assessed by their mathematics teacher (through continuous assessment tests), and at the end of elementary and middle school levels (6th and 9th grade) students are assessed externally through a national exam that counts for 30% of the overall grade. In Portuguese schools assigning homework is a frequently used educational practice, mostly in mathematics, and usually counts toward the overall grade, ranging between 2% and 5% depending on school boards ( Rosário et al., 2018 ).


In the current study, all participants were involved in focus groups and 25% of them, randomly selected, were asked to submit photos of homework tasks assigned.

According to Morgan (1997) , to maximize the discussion among participants it is important that they share some characteristics and experiences related to the aims of the study in question. In the current study, teachers were eligible to participate when the following criteria were met: (i) they had been teaching mathematics at elementary or middle school levels for at least two years; and (ii) they would assign homework regularly, at least twice a week, in order to have enough experiences to share in the focus group.

All mathematics teachers ( N = 130) from 25 elementary and middle schools in Northern Portugal were contacted by email. The email informed teachers of the purposes and procedures of the study (e.g., inclusion criteria, duration of the session, session videotaping, selection of teachers to send photos of homework tasks assigned), and invited them to participate in the study. To facilitate recruitment, researchers scheduled focus group discussions considering participants’ availability. Of the volunteer teachers, all participants met the inclusion criteria. The research team did not allocate teachers with hierarchical relationships in the same group, as this might limit freedom of responses, affect the dynamics of the discussion, and, consequently, the outcomes ( Kitzinger, 1995 ).

Initially we conducted four focus groups with elementary school teachers (5th and 6th grade, 10 and 11 years old) and four focus groups with middle school teachers (7th, 8th, and 9th grade, 12, 13 and 14 years old). Subsequently, two additional focus group discussions (one for each school level) were conducted to ensure the saturation of data. Finally, seventy-eight mathematics teachers (61 females and 17 males; an acceptance rate of 60%) from 16 schools participated in our study (see Table 1 ). The teachers enrolled in 10 focus groups comprised of seven to nine teachers per group. Twenty teachers were randomly selected and asked to participate in the second data collection; all answered positively to our invitation (15 females and 5 males).

Table 1. Participants’ demographic information.

According to our participants, in the school context, mathematics teachers may teach one to eight classes of different grade levels. In the current research, participants were teaching one to five classes of two or three grade levels at schools in urban or near urban contexts. The participants practiced the mandatory nationwide curriculum and a continuous assessment policy.

Data Collection

We carried out this study following the recommendations of the ethics committee of the University of Minho. All teachers gave written informed consent to participate in the research in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The collaboration involved participating in one focus group discussion, and, for 25% of the participants, submitting photos by email of the homework tasks assigned.

In the current study, aiming to deepen our comprehension of the research questions, focus group interviews were conducted to capture participants’ thoughts about a particular topic ( Kitzinger, 1995 ; Morgan, 1997 ). The focus groups were conducted by two members of the research team (a moderator and a field note-taker) in the first term of the school year and followed the procedure described by Krueger and Casey (2000) . To prevent mishandling the discussions and to encourage teachers to participate in the sessions, the two facilitators attended a course on qualitative research offered at their home institution specifically targeting focus group methodology.

All focus group interviews were videotaped. The sessions were held in a meeting room at the University of Minho facilities, and lasted 90 to 105 min. Before starting the discussion, teachers filled in a questionnaire with sociodemographic information, and were invited to read and sign a written informed consent form. Researchers introduced themselves, and read out the information regarding the study purpose and the focus group ground rules. Participants were ensured of the confidentiality of their responses (e.g., names and researchers’ personal notes that might link participants to their schools were deleted). Then, the investigators initiated the discussion (see Table 2 ). At the end of each focus group discussion, participants were given the opportunity to ask questions or make further contributions.

Table 2. Focus group questions.

After the focus group discussions, we randomly selected 25% of the participating teachers (i.e., 10 teachers from each school level), each asked to submit photos of the homework tasks assigned by email over the course of three weeks (period between two mathematics assessment tests). This data collection aimed to triangulate data from focus groups regarding the characteristics of homework usually assigned. To encourage participation, the research team sent teachers a friendly reminder email every evening throughout the period of data collection. In total, we received 125 photos (51% were from middle school teachers).

Data Analysis

Videotapes were used to assist the verbatim transcription of focus group data. Both focus group data and photos of the homework assignments were analyzed using thematic analysis ( Braun and Clarke, 2006 ), assisted by QSR International’s NVivo 10 software ( Richards, 2005 ). In this analysis there are no rigid guidelines on how to determine themes; to assure that the analysis is rigorous, researchers are expected to follow a consistent procedure throughout the analysis process ( Braun and Clarke, 2006 ). For the current study, to identify themes and sub-themes, we used the extensiveness of comments criterion (number of participants who express a theme, Krueger and Casey, 2000 ).

Firstly, following an inductive process one member of the research team read the first eight focus group transcriptions several times, took notes on the overall ideas of the data, and made a list of possible codes for data at a semantic level ( Braun and Clarke, 2006 ). Using a cluster analysis by word similarity procedure in Nvivo, all codes were grouped in order to identify sub-themes and themes posteriorly. All the themes and sub-themes were independently and iteratively identified and compared with the literature on homework ( Peterson and Irving, 2008 ). Then, the themes and sub-themes were compared with the homework characteristics already reported in the literature (e.g., Cooper, 1989 ; Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2001 ; Trautwein et al., 2006b ). New sub-themes emerged from participants’ discourses (i.e., “adjusted to the availability of students,” “teachers diagnose learning”), and were grouped in the themes reported in the literature. After, all themes and sub-themes were organized in a coding scheme (for an example see Table 3 ). Finally, the researcher coded the two other focus group discussions, no new information was added related to the research questions. Given that the generated patterns of data were not changed, the researcher concluded that thematic saturation was reached.

Table 3. Examples of the coding scheme.

An external auditor, trained on the coding scheme, revised all transcriptions, the coding scheme and the coding process in order to minimize researchers’ biases and increase the trustworthiness of the study ( Lincoln and Guba, 1985 ). The first author and the external auditor examined the final categorization of data and reached consensus.

Two other members of the research team coded independently the photos of the homework assignments using the same coding scheme of the focus groups. To analyze data, the researchers had to define the sub-themes “short assignments” (i.e., up to three exercises) and “long assignments” (i.e., more than three exercises). In the end, the two researchers reviewed the coding process and discussed the differences found (e.g., some exercises had several sub questions, so one of the researchers coded it as “long assignments”; see the homework sample 4 of the Supplementary Material ). However, the researchers reached consensus, deciding not to count the number of sub questions of each exercise individually, because these types of questions are related and do not require a significant amount of additional time.

Inter-rater reliability (Cohen’s Kappa) was calculated. The Cohen’s Kappa was 0.86 for the data analysis of the focus groups and 0.85 for data analysis of the photos of homework assignments, which is considered very good according to Landis and Koch (1977) . To obtain a pattern of data considering the school levels, a matrix coding query was run for each data source (i.e., focus groups and photos of homework assignments). Using the various criteria options in NVivo 10, we crossed participants’ classifications (i.e., school level attribute) and nodes and displayed the frequencies of responses for each row–column combination ( Bazeley and Jackson, 2013 ).

In the end of this process of data analysis, for establishing the trustworthiness of findings, 20 teachers (i.e., ten participants of each grade level) were randomly invited, and all agreed, to provide a member check of the findings ( Lincoln and Guba, 1985 ). Member checking involved two phases. First, teachers were asked individually to read a summary of the findings and to fill in a 5-point Likert scale (1, completely disagree; 5, completely agree) with four items: “Findings reflect my perspective regarding homework quality”; “Findings reflect my perspective regarding homework practices”; “Findings reflect what was discussed in the focus group where I participated”, and “I feel that my opinion was influenced by the other teachers during the discussion” (inverted item). Secondly, teachers were gathered by school level and asked to critically analyze and discuss whether an authentic representation was made of their perspectives regarding quality homework and homework practices ( Creswell, 2007 ).

This study explored teachers’ perspectives on the characteristics of quality homework, and on the characteristics of the homework tasks typically assigned. To report results, we used the frequency of occurrence criterion of the categories defined by Hill et al. (2005) . Each theme may be classified as “General” when all participants, or all except one, mention a particular theme; “Typical” when more than half of the cases mention a theme; “Variant” when more than 3, and less than half of the cases mention a theme; and “Rare” when the frequency is between 2 and 3 cases. In the current study, only general and typical themes were reported to discuss the most salient data.

The results section was organized by each research question. Throughout the analysis of the results, quotes from participants were presented to illustrate data. For the second research question, data from the homework assignments collected as photographs were also included.

Initial Data Screening

All participating teachers defended the importance of completing homework, arguing that homework can help students to develop their learning and to engage in school life. Furthermore, participants also agreed on the importance of delivering this message to students. Nevertheless, all teachers acknowledged that assigning homework daily present a challenge to their teaching routine because of the heavy workload faced daily (e.g., large numbers of students per class, too many classes to teach, teaching classes from different grade levels which means preparing different lessons, administrative workload).

Teachers at both school levels talked spontaneously about the nature of the tasks they usually assign, and the majority reported selecting homework tasks from a textbook. However, participants also referred to creating exercises fit to particular learning goals. Data collected from the homework assigned corroborated this information. Most of participating teachers reported that they had not received any guidance from their school board regarding homework.

How do Elementary and Middle School Teachers Perceive Quality Homework?

Three main themes were identified by elementary school teachers (i.e., instructional purposes, degree of individualization/adaptivity, and length of homework) and two were identified by middle school teachers (i.e., instructional purposes, and degree of individualization/adaptivity). Figure 1 depicts the themes and sub-themes reported by teachers in the focus groups.

Figure 1. Characteristics of quality homework reported by mathematics teachers by school level.

In all focus group discussions, all teachers from elementary and middle school mentioned “instructional purposes” as the main characteristic of quality homework. When asked to further explain the importance of this characteristic, teachers at both school levels in all focus group talked about the need for “practicing or reviewing” the content delivered in class to strengthen students’ knowledge. A teacher illustrated this idea clearly: “it is not worth teaching new content when students do not master the material previously covered” (P1 FG3). This idea was supported by participants in all focus groups; “at home they [students] have to work on the same content as those taught in class” (P1 FG7), “students have to revisit exercises and practice” (P2 FG9), “train over and over again” (P6 FG1), “practice, practice, practice” (P4 FG2).

While discussing the benefits of designing homework with the purpose of practicing the content learned, teachers at both school levels agreed on the fact that homework may be a useful tool for students to diagnose their own learning achievements while working independently. Teachers were empathetic with their peers when discussing the instrumentality of homework as a “thermometer” for students to assess their own progress. This idea was discussed in similar ways in all focus group, as the following quotation illustrates:

P2 FG1: Homework should be a bridge between class and home… students are expected to work independently, learn about their difficulties when doing homework, and check whether they understood the content.

When asked to outline other characteristics of quality homework, several elementary school teachers in all focus group mentioned that quality homework should also promote “student development” as an instructional purpose. These participants explained that homework is an instructional tool that should be designed to “foster students’ autonomy” (P9 FG4), “develop study habits and routines” (P1 FG8), and “promote organization skills and study methods” (P6 FG7). These thoughts were unanimous among participants in all focus groups. While some teachers introduced real-life examples to illustrate the ideas posited by their colleagues, others nodded their heads in agreement.

In addition, some elementary school teachers observed that homework tasks requiring transference of knowledge could help develop students’ complex thinking, a highly valued topic in the current mathematics curriculum worldwide. Teachers discussed this topic enthusiastically in two opposite directions: while some teachers defended this purpose as a characteristic of quality homework, others disagreed, as the following conversation excerpt illustrates:

P7 FG5: For me good homework would be a real challenge, like a problem-solving scenario that stimulates learning transference and develops mathematical reasoning … mathematical insight. It’s hard because it forces them [students] to think in more complex ways; still, I believe this is the type of homework with the most potential gains for them.

P3 FG5: That’s a good point, but they [students] give up easily. They just don’t do their homework. This type of homework implies competencies that the majority of students do not master…

P1 FG5: Not to mention that this type of homework takes up a lot of teaching time… explaining, checking…, and we simply don’t have time for this.

Globally, participants agreed on the potential of assigning homework with the purpose of instigating students to transfer learning to new tasks. However, participants also discussed the limitations faced daily in their teaching (e.g., number of students per class, students’ lack of prior knowledge) and concluded that homework with this purpose hinders the successful development of their lesson plans. This perspective may help explain why many participants did not perceive this purpose as a significant characteristic of quality homework. Further commenting on the characteristics of quality homework, the majority of participants at both school levels agreed that quality homework should be tailored to meet students’ learning needs. The importance of individualized homework was intensely discussed in all focus groups, and several participants suggested the need for designing homework targeted at a particular student or groups of students with common education needs. The following statements exemplifies participants’ opinions:

P3 FG3: Ideally, homework should be targeted at each student individually. For André a simple exercise, for Ana a more challenging exercise … in an ideal world homework should be tailored to students’ needs.

P6 FG6: Given the diversity of students in our classes, we may find a rainbow of levels of prior knowledge… quality homework should be as varied as our students’ needs.

As discussed in the focus groups, to foster the engagement of high-achievers in homework completion, homework tasks should be challenging enough (as reported previously by P3 FG3). However, participants at both school levels observed that their heavy daily workload prevents them from assigning individualized homework:

P1 FG1: I know it’s important to assign differentiated homework tasks, and I believe in it… but this option faces real-life barriers, such as the number of classes we have to teach, each with thirty students, tons of bureaucratic stuff we have to deal with… All this raises real-life questions, real impediments… how can we design homework tasks for individual students?

Considering this challenge, teachers from both school levels suggested that quality homework should comprise exercises with increasing levels of difficulty. This strategy would respond to the heterogeneity of students’ learning needs without assigning individualized homework tasks to each student.

While discussing individualized homework, elementary school teachers added that assignments should be designed bearing in mind students’ availability (e.g., school timetable, extracurricular activities, and exam dates). Participants noted that teachers should learn the amount of workload their students have, and should be aware about the importance of students’ well-being.

P4 FG1: If students have large amounts of homework, this could be very uncomfortable and even frustrating… They have to do homework of other subjects and add time to extracurricular activities… responding to all demands can be very stressful.

P4 FG2: I think that we have to learn about the learning context of our students, namely their limitations to complete homework in the time they have available. We all have good intentions and want them to progress, but if students do not have enough time to do their homework, this won’t work. So, quality homework would be, for example, when students have exams and the teacher gives them little or no homework at all.

The discussion about the length of homework found consensus among the elementary school teachers in all focus group in that quality homework should be “brief”. During the discussions, elementary school teachers further explained that assigning long tasks is not beneficial because “they [students] end up demotivated” (P3 FG4). Besides, “completing long homework assignments takes hours!” (P5 FG4).

How do Elementary and Middle School Teachers Describe the Homework Tasks They Typically Assign to Students?

When discussing the characteristics of the homework tasks usually assigned to their students four main themes were identified by elementary school teachers (i.e., instructional purposes, degree of individualization/adaptivity, frequency and completion deadlines), and two main themes were raised by middle school (i.e., instructional purposes, and degree of individualization/adaptivity). Figure 2 gives a general overview of the findings. Data gathered from photos added themes to findings as follows: one (i.e., length) to elementary school and two (i.e., length and completion deadlines) to middle school (see Figure 3 ).

Figure 2. Characteristics of the homework tasks usually assigned as reported by mathematics teachers.

Figure 3. Characteristics of the homework tasks assigned by mathematics teachers.

While describing the characteristics of the homework tasks usually assigned, teachers frequently felt the need to compare the quality homework characteristics previously discussed with those practices. In fact, at this stage, teachers’ discourse was often focused on the analysis of the similarities and potential discrepancies found.

The majority of teachers at both school levels in all focus group reported that they assign homework with the purpose of practicing and reviewing the materials covered earlier. Participants at both school levels highlighted the need to practice the contents covered because by the end of 6th- and 9th-grade students have to sit for a national exam for which they have to be trained. This educational context may interfere with the underlying homework purposes teachers have, as this quotation illustrates:

P3 FG3: When teaching mathematics, we set several goals, but our main focus is always the final exam they [students] have to take. I like students who think for themselves, who push themselves out of their comfort zone. However, I’m aware that they have to score high on national exams, otherwise… so, I assign homework to practice the contents covered.

Beyond assigning homework with the purpose of practicing and reviewing, middle school teachers also mentioned assigning homework with the purpose of diagnosing skills and personal development (see Figure 2 ). Many teachers reported that they use homework as a tool to diagnose students’ skills. However, several recognized that they had previously defended the importance of homework to help students to evaluate their own learning (see Figure 1 ). When discussing the latter point, participants observed the need to find out about whether students had understood the content taught in class, and to decide which changes to teaching style, homework assigned, or both may be necessary.

Participant teachers at middle school in all focus groups profusely discussed the purpose of personal development when assigning homework. In fact, not many teachers at this school level mentioned this purpose as a characteristic of quality homework (it was a variant category, so it was not reported), yet it was referred to as a cornerstone in their homework practice. Reflecting on this discrepancy, middle school teachers explained in a displeased tone that their students were expected to have developed study habits and manage their school work with autonomy and responsibility. However, this “educational scenario is rare, so I feel the need to assign homework with this aim [personal development]” (P4 FG9).

Moving further in the discussion, the majority of teachers at both school levels reported to assign whole-class homework (homework designed for the whole class with no focus on special cases). “Individualized homework requires a great amount of time to be monitored” (P1 FG6), explained several participants while recalling earlier comments. Teachers justified their position referring to the impediments already mentioned (e.g., large number of students per class, number of classes from different grade levels which means preparing different lessons). Besides, teachers discussed the challenge of coping with heterogeneous classes, as one participant noted: “the class is so diverse that it is difficult to select homework tasks to address the needs of every single student. I would like to do it…but we do not live in an ideal world” (P9 FG4).

Moreover, teachers at both school levels (see Figure 2 ) reported to assign homework according to the availability of students; still, only elementary school teachers had earlier referred to the importance of this characteristic in quality homework. When teachers were asked to elaborate on this idea, they defended the need to negotiate with students about specific homework characteristics, for example, the amount of homework and submission deadline. In some classes, matching students’ requests, teachers might assign a “weekly homework pack” (P7 FG10). This option provides students with the opportunity to complete homework according to their availability (e.g., choosing some days during the week or weekend). Teachers agreed that ‘negotiation’ fosters students’ engagement and homework compliance (e.g., “I do not agree that students do homework on weekends, but if they show their wish and actually they complete it, for me that’s okay”, P7 FG10). In addition, teachers expressed worry about their students’ often heavy workload. Many students stay in school from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm and then attend extracurricular activities (e.g., soccer training, private music lessons). These activities leave students very little free time to enjoy as they wish, as the following statement suggests:

P8 FG4: Today I talked to a group of 5th-graders which play soccer after school three times a week. They told me that sometimes they study between 10.00 and 11.00 p.m. I was astonished. How is this possible? It’s clearly too much for these kids.

Finally, elementary school teachers in all focus group referred frequency and completion deadlines as characteristics of the homework they usually assign. The majority of teachers informed that they assign homework in almost every class (i.e., teachers reported to exclude tests eves of other subjects), to be handed in the following class.

The photos of the homework assignments (see some examples in Supplementary Material ) submitted by the participating teachers served to triangulate data. The analysis showed that teachers’ discourses about the characteristics of homework assigned and the homework samples are congruent, and added information about the length of homework (elementary and middle schools) and the completion deadlines (middle school) (see Figure 3 ).

Discussion and Implications for Practice and Research

Homework research have reported teachers’ perspectives on their homework practices (e.g., Brock et al., 2007 ; Danielson et al., 2011 ; Kaur, 2011 ; Bang, 2012 ; Kukliansky et al., 2014 ), however, literature lacks research on the quality of homework. This study adds to the literature by examining the perspectives of teachers from two school levels regarding quality homework. Moreover, participants described the characteristics of the homework assignments they typically assign, which triggered the discussion about the match between the characteristics of quality homework and the tasks actually assigned. While discussing these key aspects of the homework process, the current study provides valuable information which may help deepen our understanding of the different contributions of homework to students’ learning. Furthermore, findings are expected to inform teachers and school administrators’ homework practices and, hopefully, improve the quality of students’ learning.

All teachers at both school levels valued homework as an important educational tool for their teaching practice. Consistent with the literature, participants indicated practicing or reviewing the material covered in class as the main purpose of both the homework typically assigned ( Danielson et al., 2011 ; Kaur, 2011 ) and quality homework. Despite the extended use of this homework purpose by teachers, a recent study conducted with mathematics teachers found that homework with the purpose of practicing the material covered in class did not impact significantly the academic achievement of 6th-grade students; however, homework designed with the purpose of solving problems did (extension homework) ( Rosário et al., 2015 ). Interestingly, in the current study only teachers from elementary school mentioned the homework purpose “extension” as being part of quality homework, but these teachers did not report to use it in practice (at least it was not a typical category) (see Figure 2 ). Extension homework was not referenced by middle school teachers either as quality homework or as a characteristic of homework assigned. Given that middle school students are expected to master complex math skills at this level (e.g., National Research Council and Mathematics Learning Study Committee, 2001 ), this finding may help school administrators and teachers reflect on the value and benefits of homework to students learning progress.

Moreover, teachers at both school levels stressed the use of homework as a tool to help students evaluate their own learning as a characteristic of quality homework; however, this purpose was not said to be a characteristic of the homework usually assigned. If teachers do not explicitly emphasize this homework purpose to their students, they may not perceive its importance and lose opportunities to evaluate and improve their work.

In addition, elementary school teachers identified personal development as a characteristic of quality homework. However, only middle school teachers reported assigning homework aiming to promote students’ personal development, and evaluate students’ learning (which does not imply that students evaluate their own learning). These findings are important because existing literature has highlighted the role played by homework in promoting students’ autonomy and learning throughout schooling ( Rosário et al., 2009 , 2011 ; Ramdass and Zimmerman, 2011 ; Núñez et al., 2015b ).

Globally, data show a disconnect between what teachers believe to be the characteristics of quality homework and the characteristics of the homework assigned, which should be further analyzed in depth. For example, teachers reported that middle school students lack the autonomy and responsibility expected for this school level, which translates to poor homework behaviors. In fact, contrary to what they would expect, middle school teachers reported the need to promote students’ personal development (i.e., responsibility and autonomy). This finding is consistent with the decrease of students’ engagement in academic activities found in middle school (e.g., Cleary and Chen, 2009 ; Wang and Eccles, 2012 ). This scenario may present a dilemma to middle school teachers regarding the purposes of homework. On one hand, students should have homework with more demanding purposes (e.g., extension); on another hand, students need to master work habits, responsibility and autonomy, otherwise homework may be counterproductive according to the participating teachers’ perspective.

Additionally, prior research has indicated that classes assigned challenging homework demonstrated high mathematics achievement ( Trautwein et al., 2002 ; Dettmers et al., 2010 ). Moreover, the study by Zakharov et al. (2014) found that Russian high school students from basic and advanced tracks benefited differently from two types of homework (i.e., basic short-answer questions, and open-ended questions with high level of complexity). Results showed that a high proportion of basic or complex homework exercises enhanced mathematics exam performance for students in the basic track; whereas only a high proportion of complex homework exercises enhanced mathematics exam performance for students in the advanced track. In fact, for these students, a low proportion of complex homework exercises was detrimental to their achievement. These findings, together with our own, may help explain why the relationship between homework and mathematics achievement in middle school is lower than in elementary school (see Fan et al., 2017 ). Our findings suggest the need for teachers to reflect upon the importance of assigning homework to promote students’ development in elementary school, and of assigning homework with challenging purposes as students advance in schooling to foster high academic outcomes. There is evidence that even students with poor prior knowledge need assignments with some degree of difficulty to promote their achievement (see Zakharov et al., 2014 ). It is important to note, however, the need to support the autonomy of students (e.g., providing different the types of assignments, opportunities for students to express negative feelings toward tasks, answer students’ questions) to minimize the threat that difficult homework exercises may pose to students’ sense of competence; otherwise an excessively high degree of difficulty can lead to students’ disengagement (see Patall et al., 2018 ). Moreover, teachers should consider students’ interests (e.g., which contents and types of homework tasks students like) and discuss homework purposes with their students to foster their understanding of the tasks assigned and, consequently, their engagement in homework ( Xu, 2010 , 2018 ; Epstein and Van Voorhis, 2012 ; Rosário et al., 2018 ).

We also found differences between teachers’ perspectives of quality homework and their reported homework practices concerning the degree of individualization when assigning homework. Contrary to the perspectives that quality homework stresses individual needs, teachers reported to assign homework to the whole class. In spite of the educational costs associated with assigning homework adjusted to specific students or groups of students (mentioned several times by participants), research has reported benefits for students when homework assignments match their educational needs (e.g., Cooper, 2001 ; Trautwein et al., 2006a ; Zakharov et al., 2014 ). The above-mentioned study by Zakharov et al. (2014) also shed light on this topic while supporting our participants’ suggestion to assign homework with increasing level of difficulty aiming to match the variety of students’ levels of knowledge (see also Dettmers et al., 2010 ). However, teachers did not mention this idea when discussing the characteristic of homework typically assigned. Thus, school administrators may wish to consider training teachers (e.g., using mentoring, see Núñez et al., 2013 ) to help them overcome some of the obstacles faced when designing and assigning homework targeting students’ individual characteristics and learning needs.

Another interesting finding is related to the sub-theme of homework adjusted to the availability of students. This was reported while discussing homework quality (elementary school) and characteristics of homework typically assigned (elementary and middle school). Moreover, some elementary and middle school teachers explained by email the reasons why they did not assign homework in some circumstances [e.g., eves of assessment tests of other subjects, extracurricular activities, short time between classes (last class of the day and next class in the following morning)]. These teachers’ behaviors show concern for students’ well-being, which may positively influence the relationship between students and teachers. As some participants mentioned, “students value this attitude” (P1 FG5). Thus, future research may explore how homework adjusted to the availability of students may contribute to encouraging positive behaviors, emotions and outcomes of students toward their homework.

Data gathered from the photos of the assigned homework tasks allowed a detailed analysis of the length and completion deadlines of homework. Long assignments did not match elementary school teachers’ perspectives of quality homework. However, a long homework was assigned once and aimed to help students practice the material covered for the mathematics assessment test. Here, practices diverged. Some teachers assigned this homework some weeks before and others assign it in last class before the test. For this reason, the “long term” completion deadline was not a typical category, hence not reported. Future research could consider studying the impact of this homework characteristic on students’ behaviors and academic performance.

Finally, our findings show that quality homework, according to teachers’ perspectives, requires attention to a combination of several characteristics of homework. Future studies may include measures to assess characteristics of homework other than “challenge” and “selection” already investigated ( Trautwein et al., 2006b ; Dettmers et al., 2010 ; Rosário et al., 2018 ); for example, homework adjusted to the availability of students.

Strengths and Limitations of the Study

The current study analyzed the teachers’ perspectives on the characteristics of quality homework and of the homework they typically assigned. Despite the incapability to generalize data, we believe that these findings provide important insights into the characteristics that may impact a homework assignment’s effectiveness, especially at middle school level. For example, our results showed a disconnect between teachers’ perspectives about the characteristics of quality homework and the characteristics of the homework they assign. This finding is relevant and emphasizes the need to reflect on the consistency between educational discourses and educational practices. Teachers and school administrators could consider finding opportunities to reflect on this disconnect, which may also occur in other educational practices (e.g., teacher feedback, types of questions asked in class). Present data indicate that middle school teachers reported to assign homework with the major purpose of practicing and reviewing the material, but they also aim to develop students’ responsibility and autonomy; still they neglect homework with the purpose of extension which is focused on encouraging students to display an autonomous role, solve problems and transfer the contents learned (see discussion section). Current findings also highlight the challenges and dilemmas teachers face when they assign homework, which is important to address in teachers’ training. In fact, assigning quality homework, that is, homework that works, is not an easy task for teachers and our findings provide empirical data to discuss and reflect upon its implications for research and educational practice. Although our findings cannot be generalized, still they are expected to provide important clues to enhance teachers’ homework practices in different contexts and educational settings, given that homework is among the most universal educational practices in the classroom, is a topic of public debate (e.g., some arguments against homework are related to the characteristics of the assignments, and to the malpractices in using this educational tool) and an active area of research in many countries ( Fan et al., 2017 ).

Moreover, these findings have identified some of the most common obstacles teachers struggle with; such data may be useful to school administrators when designing policies and to teacher training. The administrative obstacles (e.g., large number of students per class) reported by teachers may help understand some of the discrepancies found between teachers’ definition of quality homework and their actual homework practices (e.g., degree of individualization), and also identify which problems related to homework may require intervention. Furthermore, future research could further investigate this topic by interviewing teachers, videotaping classroom activities and discussing data in order to design new avenues of homework practices.

We share the perspective of Trautwein et al. (2006b) on the importance of mapping the characteristics of homework positively associated with students’ homework behaviors. Data from this study may inform future studies analyzing these relationships, promote adaptive homework behaviors and enhance learning.

Methodologically, this research followed rigorous procedures to increase the trustworthiness of findings, improving the validity of the study (e.g., Lincoln and Guba, 1985 ) that should be accounted for. Data from two data sources (i.e., focus groups and the homework assignments photographed) were consistent, and the member checking conducted in both phases allowed the opportunity to learn that the findings of the focus group seem to accurately reflect the overall teachers’ perspectives regarding quality homework and their homework practices.

Despite the promising contributions of this study to the body of research regarding homework practices, this specific research provides an incomplete perspective of the homework process as it has only addressed the perspectives of one of the agents involved. Future research may consider analyzing students’ perspectives about the same topic and contrast data with those of teachers. Findings are expected to help us identify the homework characteristics most highly valued by students and learn about whether they match those of teachers.

Furthermore, data from homework assignments (photos) were provided by 25% of the participating teachers and for a short period of time (i.e., three weeks in one school term). Future research may consider conducting small-scale studies by collecting data from various sources of information aiming at triangulating data (e.g., analyzing homework assignments given in class, interviewing students, conducting in-class observations) at different times of the school year. Researchers should also consider conducting similar studies in different subjects to compare data and inform teachers’ training.

Finally, our participants’ description does not include data regarding the teaching methodology followed by teachers in class. However, due to the potential interference of this variable in results, future research may consider collect and report data regarding school modality and the teaching methodology followed in class.

Homework is an instructional tool that has proved to enhance students’ learning ( Cooper et al., 2006 ; Fernández-Alonso et al., 2015 ; Valle et al., 2016 ; Fan et al., 2017 ; Rosário et al., 2018 ). Still, homework is a complex process and needs to be analyzed thoroughly. For instance, when planning and designing homework, teachers need to choose a set of homework characteristics (e.g., frequency, purposes, degree of individualization, see Cooper, 2001 ; Trautwein et al., 2006b ) considering students’ attributes (e.g., Cooper, 2001 ), which may pose a daily challenge even for experienced teachers as those of the current study. Regardless of grade level, quality homework results from the balance of a set of homework characteristics, several of which were addressed by our participants. As our data suggest, teachers need time and space to reflect on their practices and design homework tasks suited for their students. To improve the quality of homework design, school administrators may consider organizing teacher training addressing theoretical models of homework assignment and related research, discussing homework characteristics and their influence on students’ homework behaviors (e.g., amount of homework completed, homework effort), and academic achievement. We believe that this training would increase teachers’ knowledge and self-efficacy beliefs to develop homework practices best suited to their students’ needs, manage work obstacles and, hopefully, assign quality homework.

Ethics Statement

This study was reviewed and approved by the ethics committee of the University of Minho. All research participants provided written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Author Contributions

PR and TN substantially contributed to the conception and the design of the work. TN and JC were responsible for the literature search. JC, TN, AN, and TM were responsible for the acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of data for the work. PR was also in charge of technical guidance. JN made important intellectual contribution in manuscript revision. PR, JC, and TN wrote the manuscript with valuable inputs from the remaining authors. All authors agreed for all aspects of the work and approved the version to be published.

This study was conducted at Psychology Research Centre, University of Minho, and supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science through national funds and when applicable co-financed by FEDER under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement (UID/PSI/01662/2013). PR was supported by the research projects EDU2013-44062-P (MINECO) and EDU2017-82984-P (MEIC). TN was supported by a Ph.D. fellowship (SFRH/BD/80405/2011) from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


The authors would like to thank Fuensanta Monroy and Connor Holmes for the English editing of the manuscript.

Supplementary Material

The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at:

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Keywords : perceived quality homework, homework characteristics, math, teachers’ perspectives, elementary school, middle school, focus group, homework samples

Citation: Rosário P, Cunha J, Nunes T, Nunes AR, Moreira T and Núñez JC (2019) “Homework Should Be…but We Do Not Live in an Ideal World”: Mathematics Teachers’ Perspectives on Quality Homework and on Homework Assigned in Elementary and Middle Schools. Front. Psychol. 10:224. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00224

Received: 12 October 2018; Accepted: 22 January 2019; Published: 19 February 2019.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2019 Rosário, Cunha, Nunes, Nunes, Moreira and Núñez. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Pedro Rosário, [email protected]

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

This paper is in the following e-collection/theme issue:

Published on 26.3.2024 in Vol 26 (2024)

Designing and Implementation of a Digitalized Intersectoral Discharge Management System and Its Effect on Readmissions: Mixed Methods Approach

Authors of this article:

Author Orcid Image

Original Paper

  • Christoph Strumann 1 , PhD   ; 
  • Lisa Pfau 1 , MD   ; 
  • Laila Wahle 2 , MBA   ; 
  • Raphael Schreiber 1 , MD   ; 
  • Jost Steinhäuser 1 , Prof Dr Med, MD  

1 Institute of Family Medicine, University Medical Centre Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany

2 Lacanja GmbH Health Innovation Port, Hamburg, Germany

Corresponding Author:

Christoph Strumann, PhD

Institute of Family Medicine

University Medical Centre Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Lübeck

Ratzeburger Allee 160

Lübeck, 23538

Phone: 49 451 3101 8005

Email: [email protected]

Background: Digital transformation offers new opportunities to improve the exchange of information between different health care providers, including inpatient, outpatient and care facilities. As information is especially at risk of being lost when a patient is discharged from a hospital, digital transformation offers great opportunities to improve intersectoral discharge management. However, most strategies for improvement have focused on structures within the hospital.

Objective: This study aims to evaluate the implementation of a digitalized discharge management system, the project “Optimizing instersectoral discharge management” (SEKMA, derived from the German Sektorübergreifende Optimierung des Entlassmanagements), and its impact on the readmission rate.

Methods: A mixed methods design was used to evaluate the implementation of a digitalized discharge management system and its impact on the readmission rate. After the implementation, the congruence between the planned (logic model) and the actual intervention was evaluated using a fidelity analysis. Finally, bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation on the readmission rate. For this purpose, a difference-in-difference approach was adopted based on routine data of hospital admissions between April 2019 and August 2019 and between April 2022 and August 2022. The department of vascular surgery served as the intervention group, in which the optimized discharge management was implemented in April 2022. The departments of internal medicine and cardiology formed the control group.

Results: Overall, 26 interviews were conducted, and we explored 21 determinants, which can be categorized into 3 groups: “optimization potential,” “barriers,” and “enablers.” On the basis of these results, 19 strategies were developed to address the determinants, including a lack of networking among health care providers, digital information transmission, and user-unfriendliness. On the basis of these strategies, which were prioritized by 11 hospital physicians, a logic model was formulated. Of the 19 strategies, 7 (37%; eg, electronic discharge letter, providing mobile devices to the hospital’s social service, and generating individual medication plans in the format of the national medication plan) have been implemented in SEKMA. A survey on the fidelity of the application of the implemented strategies showed that 3 of these strategies were not yet widely applied. No significant effect of SEKMA on readmissions was observed in the routine data of 14,854 hospital admissions ( P =.20).

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the potential of optimizing intersectoral collaboration for patient care. Although a significant effect of SEKMA on readmissions has not yet been observed, creating a digital ecosystem that connects different health care providers seems to be a promising approach to ensure secure and fast networking of the sectors. The described intersectoral optimization of discharge management provides a structured template for the implementation of a similar local digital care networking infrastructure in other care regions in Germany and other countries with a similarly fragmented health care system.


Digital patient process systems offer several advantages over analog systems. On the one hand, this can lead to more systematic, targeted use of resources, and on the other hand, easier communication and transmission of data can enable better coordination of the various cooperating partners [ 1 ]. Patient records are becoming increasingly digitalized, with some countries being prototypes in this area, such as Latvia, Denmark, and Spain [ 2 ].

In Germany, there have been several governmental attempts to shape different elements of health care digitalization. A recent example is the Hospital Future Act (Krankenhauszukunftsgesetz) from 2020. It was designed to support digitalization in hospitals by promoting the technical equipment of hospitals through state-funded investments. The investments are expected to improve process organization, documentation, and communication (internal, sectoral, and intersectoral) [ 3 ]. The results suggest that the Hospital Future Act, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, led to an increase in the digital maturity of hospitals and, thus, reduced the digitalization backlog [ 4 ]. Another approach to promote health care digitalization is the introduction of an electronic health record (EHR) within a secure telematics infrastructure. The EHR should not only simplify rapid communication within and across different health care institutions but also enable further eHealth applications, for example, electronic prescriptions [ 5 ]. However, the introduction of EHRs as well as other reforms promoting health care digitalization have been accompanied with strong resistance underpinned by arguments of data protection and security as well as by technical problems. Especially in the outpatient sector, the latter has resulted in a perceived disproportionate administrative effort without adequate financial compensation for the care providers such as private practices [ 6 ]. As a result, Germany lags behind other industrialized countries in the digitalization of the health care system [ 7 , 8 ].

An EHR could make treatment pathways more transparent and improve communication between different health care providers, including inpatient, outpatient and care facilities [ 9 ]. The exchange of information is particularly susceptible if a patient is discharged from hospital. With regard to the strongly pronounced sectoral separation in Germany [ 10 , 11 ], information loss is particularly high between inpatient and outpatient care. Moreover, owing to the accelerated tendency toward shortening the length of stay of patients in the inpatient sector as a result of the introduction of the diagnosis-related group–based reimbursement system [ 12 ], hospitals no longer provide care and treatment until full recovery [ 13 ]. Instead, parts of the treatment and recovery process are moved to the posthospital setting [ 14 ]. Similar developments have been observed after introducing the diagnosis-related group–based reimbursement system in other countries, for example, the United States [ 15 - 17 ]. Shortened length of stay and ineffectively designed transitions are associated with adverse events, higher risks of readmission, and higher costs [ 18 - 21 ]. Up to 1 (18%) in 5 patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge [ 22 , 23 ]. Individualized discharge management can reduce the number of readmissions of older patients with a health problem [ 24 ], leading to potential cost savings for the health care system [ 25 ]. To date, many strategies to improve discharge management have focused on structures within the hospital. However, to ensure a holistic and continuous treatment, the cooperation between different health care providers from the inpatient and outpatient sectors as well as care facilities should also be considered.

As there is still no EHR accessible to all caregivers in Germany, experience with digitalized health information systems has been gathered only in model projects, which are intended to provide insights into possible barriers and enablers for a successful implementation [ 5 , 26 - 30 ].

This study aims to explore the determinants of a digitalized discharge management system, to implement such a system within 1 area, and to evaluate its impact on the readmission rate.

The evaluation was done within the project “Optimizing intersectoral discharge management” (SEKMA, derived from the German Sektorübergreifende Optimierung des Entlassmanagements).

Study Design

A mixed methods design was chosen to evaluate SEKMA. Owing to the complexity of the intervention, the evaluation was based on the framework of developing tailored interventions [ 31 ]. This approach allows a detailed description and analysis of the components of the intervention that contributed to its effectiveness or ineffectiveness. For this purpose, this framework distinguishes between a development and an application phase. In the first step, barriers and enabling factors for a successful implementation of a digitalized discharge management system such as SEKMA were explored using qualitative research methods, that is, interviews. Second, strategies were developed for addressing these determinants. Third, these strategies were prioritized using a (quantitative) questionnaire, and a logic model was formulated to describe the logical linkages among the resources and activities needed to achieve the results. After the implementation (application phase), the congruence between the planned intervention (logic model) and the implemented intervention was evaluated. In this step, the fidelity of the use of the different strategies in the routine was examined [ 32 ]. Finally, the effectiveness of the implementation on the readmission rate (outcome) was evaluated based on routine data of hospital admissions.

The digitalized discharge management system was implemented at a medium-sized hospital (approximately 350 beds) in the northern German federal state Schleswig-Holstein in the Metropolitan area of Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany. Before the intervention, the internal and external exchange of information was typically performed by phone, fax, and email. As the network between the various caregivers was rather weak, communication occurred only on request, tying up resources and causing delays in the transfer of information.

SEKMA aimed to develop and implement a digitalized, intersectoral discharge management system that considers the patient’s entire treatment pathway, from hospital admission to possible admission to a care facility, and the follow-up treatment by general practitioners (GPs). All information relevant to ongoing (postinpatient) treatment and care should be available quickly and easily to all care providers involved. This includes providers from the inpatient and outpatient sectors as well as care facilities. For this purpose, an ecosystem of hospital and postinpatient care facilities has been implemented within a digital infrastructure based on a standardized and harmonized IT system for data exchange [ 33 ]. The workflow of the digitalized, intersectoral discharge management can be described as follows:

  • The hospital coordinates and organizes follow-up care in a timely manner based on the patient’s agreement with the hospital’s discharge management.
  • A discharge plan for medication, follow-up care, and rehabilitation is created and all professionals in the hospital are involved. This includes admission staff, medical service, nursing service, social service, and the patient information system.
  • In cooperation with the nursing staff and social service, the patient is informed and advised about care options and structures that correspond to their illness. The contents are prepared digitally.
  • The patient is discharged from the hospital and transitions to outpatient, rehabilitative, or nursing care. All documents necessary for discharge and further treatment are available digitally and can be transmitted directly to the relevant sectors.
  • If a patient contacts a primary care physician for outpatient follow-up treatment, the patient’s digital discharge documentation is already in the system of the private practice.
  • In case of a query or deterioration of health status, the primary care physician can contact the hospital and previously treating physicians directly.
  • If there is a readmission, the hospital can digitally access documentation on posttreatment care and procedures, as well as the medical history, at any time and continue treatment directly. The same applies to nursing and rehabilitation facilities.

The information transfer across the distinct health care provider is organized via KIM (Kommunikation im Medizinwesen) embedded in the telematics infrastructure. All organizations involved in the project have a KIM connection. Using KIM, participants can transmit documents in a secure and encrypted manner [ 34 ]. Overall, all communication processes have been digitalized compared with before the intervention. Since April 2022, optimized discharge management has been implemented in the department of vascular surgery.

Individual Interviews

Enabling factors and barriers leading toward successful digital discharge management were identified through individual interviews with physicians, medical assistants, social workers and nurses at the hospital, GPs, and staff from nursing homes and care services. This was performed using the COREQ (Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research) guidelines for qualitative studies ( Multimedia Appendix 1 provides details of the COREQ guidelines [ 35 ]). Originally, a combination of interviews and focus groups was planned. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, focus groups had to be abandoned.

The hospital, along with collaborating partners such as physician networks and nursing homes, conducted participant recruitment for interviews through face-to-face interactions, telephone calls, and emails. Previously developed partially standardized interview guidelines were used and pilot tested ( Multimedia Appendix 2 ). The interviews were conducted by telephone by a medical student (LP) between April 30, 2020, and October 9, 2020, at the workplace of the interviewees. A theoretical saturation effect in the statements made during the interviews resulted in the final number of interviewees.

The individual interviews were conducted in a protected setting and subsequently pseudonymized, thus providing the opportunity to explore the personal opinions of the interviewees beyond any possible social group pressures. The interviews were recorded using a digital dictaphone and were transcribed orthographically. The material was subsequently analyzed using structured content analysis according to Mayring [ 36 ]. The development of the categories was initially based on the questions (deductive) listed in the partially standardized interview guideline ( Multimedia Appendix 2 ). In addition, categories were extracted from the text (inductive). Five persons were involved in the development of the category scheme (LP: medical student [female researcher], JS: GP and experienced health service researcher including qualitative research [male researcher], CS: health economist with some experience in qualitative research [male researcher], a legal project advisor [female researcher], and a physiotherapist [female researcher]; all of them except LP were employed at the Institute of Family Medicine at the University of Lübeck at the time of the analysis). After individual coding, a coding scheme was discussed in a consensus meeting. The final coding scheme was applied to the interview material.

Development and Evaluation of Strategies

On the basis of the described processes for treating the patients, the optimization potential, and the determinants from the evaluated individual interviews as well as the workshop with clinicians and physicians in private practice, strategies for the implementation of optimized discharge management were developed. These strategies were developed in such a way that they addressed the determinants identified and were, thus, conducive to a successful implementation.

During a project meeting on February 3, 2022, employees of the Institute of Family Medicine at the University of Lübeck and the chief and senior physicians of the involved hospital discussed these results. Subsequently, the hospital’s chief or senior physicians were invited to evaluate each identified strategy according to its relevance and feasibility using a 6-point Likert scale (very high, rather high, high, rather low, low, and very low) to avoid the central tendency bias.

The resulting list of the ranked strategies formed the logic model. This model was finally compared with the list of strategies implemented in the project.

Routine Data Analysis

The focus of the evaluation of the optimized discharge management was the reduction of (unnecessary) readmissions. With the help of the evaluation of the routine admission data of the involved hospital, the effect of optimized discharge management on rehospitalization was analyzed.

Routine Data and Study Design

The hospital extracted routine data from its internal patient information system. The extracted data were provided by the hospital in an anonymized form. For each inpatient case, the data consisted of information on the date of admission and discharge, the reason for admission and discharge, diagnoses and conducted medical procedures, demographic information of the patients, and the department or departments where the patients had been treated.

Within the framework of a longitudinal study design, a pre- and postcomparison was performed. The intervention group was the department of vascular surgery, in which the optimized discharge management was implemented since April 2022. A case was assigned to the intervention group if the patient was admitted to or discharged from the department of vascular surgery. The outbreak of COVID-19 during the sample period might have affected the readmissions of the entire hospital. To minimize the risk of bias owing to the pandemic on the intervention effect, in addition to the pre-post comparison of the department of vascular surgery, a control group comparison was applied to enrich the empirical strategy. To ensure that the patients in the intervention group were as similar as possible to those in the control group, the departments of internal medicine (medical clinic) and cardiology formed the control group.

Statistical Analysis

The effect of the implementation was estimated using the difference-in-difference (DiD) approach. The sample covers the period from 2019 to August 2022. To counteract the possible COVID-19 pandemic bias, patients admitted between January 2020 and March 2022 were not considered in the analysis. To avoid any seasonal influences on the results, we restricted the preintervention period such that it covered exactly the period after the implementation, that is, from April to August. Therefore, the baseline period (T 0 ) consisted of April 1, 2019, to August 31, 2019, whereas the intervention period (T 1 ) started from April 1, 2022.

In addition to the bivariate analysis, a multivariate logistic regression model was applied. By including control variables, differences between patients from the intervention and control group were minimized. In the first step, risk factors for rehospitalization were determined by estimating separate bivariate logistic regression models. The identified risk factors served as control variables in the multivariate DiD regression analysis. A P value <.05 was considered statistically significant. Statistical analyses were performed with Stata (version 15; StataCorp LLC).

Ethical Considerations

The study was approved by the ethics committee of the University of Lübeck before recruitment commenced on December 11, 2019 (approval number 19-387). This study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

All participants provided verbal and written informed consent for their participation in the interviews and surveys. The participants were informed that they could withdraw their consent at any time. No identifiable information was recorded to ensure the confidentiality of the participants. No compensation was paid for participation.

For the analysis of routine hospital data, only anonymized data were transferred to the evaluating institution. Owing to the anonymization of the data, no additional informed consent was required to perform the routine data analysis in accordance with German law, ethical standards, and the Declaration of Helsinki. No data requiring informed consent will be presented in the routine data analysis. The ethics committee of the University of Lübeck waived the requirement for informed consent owing to the retrospective nature of this study.

A total of 26 interviews were conducted. These consisted of 14 employees of the hospital (3 doctors, 4 nurses, 4 social workers, and 3 administrative staff), 9 employees from nursing homes or mobile nursing services, and 3 GPs. The average age of the participants was 42.4 (SD 8.9; range 25-65) years, and the proportion of female participants was 54% (14/26). The average interview duration was 33 minutes and 11 seconds. An overview of the characteristics of the interview participants is provided in Table S1 in Multimedia Appendix 3 .

A total of 21 determinants were explored with various subcategories for the introduction of successful digitalized discharge management. These could be divided into 3 categories: “optimization potential,” “barriers,” and “enablers.” The aspects mentioned for optimizing the discharge process covered all areas from admission to follow-up and included inter- and intrasectoral transmission of information ( Textbox 1 ).

Category and subcategories

  • Preliminary discharge letter before discharge
  • Final discharge letter at the time of discharge
  • Digital transmission (mail, chat, and video call)
  • Platform for information exchange
  • Standardized information
  • Increased readiness to communicate
  • Information exchange at admission
  • Consent to discharge management
  • Awareness of the existence of discharge management in the hospital
  • Timely completion of the discharge process
  • Continuous preparation for (unplanned) discharge
  • Improvement of patient communication
  • Faster approvals by health insurances
  • Discharge in the morning of the working day
  • Material transfer, issuing of prescriptions and incapacity certificate
  • Nursing services accompany discharge from hospital
  • Increase in the availability of patient transport
  • Visits to general practitioner after discharge
  • More aftercare places
  • Training on discharge
  • Digital checklist
  • Standardized processes
  • Clarified responsibilities
  • Knowledge of the performance and processes at other facilities
  • Evaluation of criticism or review
  • Supervision
  • Ethics committee

In the German health care system, the discharge letter is at the center of information transmission between the inpatient and outpatient sectors. Participants saw a need for improvement in the early, or at least timely, delivery of this letter. In the best case, information would already be transmitted during the hospital stay to the follow-up service providers such as private practices or care facilities:

To have all the information and data, everything before the patient arrives here. That would be the absolute dream. [...] You can just admit the person better[...] if you just have preliminary information. [P03]

Digital transmission of data was also perceived as beneficial; the participants could imagine using conventional media such as email or video calls as well as via a platform provided specifically for this purpose:

If you could even find some other common platform where information can be exchanged. [P01]

Furthermore, the potential for optimization was seen in the standardization of the information. The information to be communicated should be transmitted through a central entity, and at the same time, selected contacts who can be reached on demand and who can provide information about the patients would be beneficial:

Yes, standard, standard, standard. So, that you try to agree on what information I need and then it has to appear—in a structured form, so in principle already like my patient information. [P10]

Some participants also noted that, in principle, a greater willingness to communicate between the individual players would improve the transmission of information.

Participants noted that for a seamless discharge, information about the patient should already be available at the time of admission to the hospital:

Discharge or discharge planning and a good discharge process starts at admission. [...] The important thing is not to think about discharge on the day of discharge, but already on admission. [P25]

Improved patient communication was also considered important by interviewees:

And that is certainly a wish that I would have that the patients in the hospital are also informed about what they actually have, what has happened and what the next steps are. [P01]

An optimal discharge should ideally take place in the morning on a working day, and the handing over of medication and required materials should be regulated. This is considered to be the case by nursing homes and outpatient care services as well as by hospital staff:

From 9 or 10 a.m onwards, the number of patients in the emergency room increases and drops again from 8 p.m onwards. And during this peak time, there are few beds available in the hospital. Afterwards, however, when we are closed, the hospital finally loses cases and at night we have more free capacity again. And that is a mismatch between demand and capacity which can be improved. [P20]

Textbox 2 shows the barriers and enabling factors for intersectoral collaboration in the context of optimizing discharge management. In addition to the technical aspects and subjective reasons, there were concerns about data protection and fear that a change in the discharge process would require more time:

Time pressure is always an issue, both in the hospital and in outpatient care. We just often don’t have the time for some processes that we would all consider useful. [P01]
  • Data transmission security
  • Legal uncertainties
  • Leaving known structures and processes
  • Lack of electronic data processing experience
  • Higher time consumption
  • Lack of personnel
  • Limitation of one’s own competence
  • Unclear communication processes
  • No perceived benefit
  • Low appreciation for discharge management
  • No priority of discharge management
  • No consequences for noncompliance
  • User-unfriendly system
  • Electronic data processing errors
  • Interface problems
  • Outdated technical equipment
  • Lack of education or communication
  • Lack of networking among health care providers
  • Clear responsibilities, instructions, contact persons, or responsibilities
  • Surveillance
  • Introduction or training of new processes
  • No overload and enough time
  • Regular exchange for networking
  • Time saving
  • Workload reduction
  • Improved exchange of information
  • Feedback loops
  • Priority in the management
  • Communicating the advantages
  • Involvement of employees

In contrast, a possible reduction in workload owing to digitalized processes was seen as conducive:

Digitalization must not be an end in itself, in my opinion, but it must really mean an advantage for the processes, increase safety, increase communication, but it must not be a question of just because it is digital, that it is better in every case and is then associated with the fact that medical or nursing working time is lost or additionally created. [P23]

For the changeover to be successful, the communication of the advantages associated with optimized discharge management was emphasized above all as part of change management.

On the basis of the surveyed processes, the optimization potential, and the determinants from the evaluated individual interviews as well as the workshop with clinicians and physicians in private practice, 19 strategies for the implementation of optimized discharge management were developed. To rank these strategies, chief physicians of the hospital were invited to rate their relevance and feasibility.

A total of 11 physicians participated in the survey to evaluate the strategies ( Table 1 ). The strategies of always sending the discharge letter to the GP, equipping the hospital’s social service with mobile devices (eg, laptops and tablets), generating individual medication plans in the format of the national medication plan, and exclusively using the federal medication plan received the highest ratings. In contrast, the introduction of a chat function used exclusively by physicians for direct exchange between hospital and office-based physicians received the lowest rating.

a Mean over participants (6=very high, 5=rather high, 4=high, 3=rather low, 2=low, and 1=very low).

b GP: general practitioner.

c Not part of the intervention but planned for the future by the hospital.

On the basis of these ratings, the hospital staff discussed which of these strategies were already being implemented or planned for implementation in the near future. Of the 19 strategies, 6 (31%) were assessed as already implemented, 7 (37%) were assessed as planned, and 6 (31%) were assessed as not feasible to implement in the project. The 7 strategies rated highest in the development of the logic model (planned implementation) have been implemented or will be implemented in the near future as part of SEKMA.

To summarize, by April 2022, at the department of vascular surgery, (1) discharge letters were continuously updated digitally, (2) they were always sent, (3) they were sent electronically to the GP (via the infrastructure of KIM), (4) the hospital social service was equipped with mobile devices, (5) individual medication plans were in the format of the national medication plan, (6) the discharge management consent process at admission was standardized, and (7) a hotline for direct communication between hospital physicians and primary care physicians was implemented. The information transfer via the discharge letter was oriented by the standard of medical information objects (MIOs) eArztbrief. The development of this standard was initiated in 2022 by the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians and the German Hospital Association. It defines a standard for the electronic hospital discharge letter within the EHR ensuring the transition of relevant information from inpatient to subsequent care in a structured and secure manner [ 37 ]. The MIO eArztbrief was not yet ready during the project; however, the current status of the MIO was incorporated into the letter as much as possible.

Fidelity Analysis

After the implementation of the optimized discharge management into the routine in the department of vascular surgery as well as at the external partners in April 2022, the stakeholders participating in the project were asked in a fidelity analysis in September 2022 to what extent the identified strategies were implemented in practice. The survey showed that many of these strategies were not yet widely applied.

A total of 14 individuals responded to the survey (Table S2 in Multimedia Appendix 2 ). Of the 14 individuals, 11 (79%) were employed at the hospital and 1 (7%) each at an outpatient nursing service, nursing home, and private practice. Employees from social services and medical assistants did not participate in this survey. Of those surveyed, >30% (4/13) stated that they were satisfied with the implementation of the change in discharge management.

There are differences in the fidelity of use among the strategies implemented (Table S3 in Multimedia Appendix 3 ). Although sending or receiving an electronic discharge letter was always or sometimes used in their routine by only a quarter of respondents, approximately 85% (11/13) of the respondents indicated that medication plans from the hospital were always in the format of the federal medication plan at discharge.


In total, 12,407 patients were admitted to the hospital as inpatients during the study period (from April 2019 to August 2019 and from April 2022 to August 2022), corresponding to 14,854 cases treated. The internal medicine department (medical clinic) treated most of the cases (4175/14,854, 28.11%). Cases treated in the interventional group (vascular surgery) accounted for 5.11% (759/14,854) of all inpatient cases. Overall, 8.73% (994/11,386) of the patients were readmitted after 30 days. In terms of treated cases, the readmission rate was 9.07% (1222/13,477). The rates increased to 17.1% (1542/9016) for patients and 18.85% (1975/10,478) for cases when considering a longer time horizon for the readmission (90 days). Readmission rates were generally higher in the intervention group (80/705, 11.3%) at 30 days and 28.8% (161/560 at 90 days) than in the hospital as a whole and the control group. Table S4 in Multimedia Appendix 3 provides the number of admitted patients and cases treated as well as the readmissions after 30, 60, and 90 days for the total hospital cases and the departments involved.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for readmission were identified to take the differences between patients from different departments into account for the evaluation of the project’s implementation effect.

Older patients, as well as cases with a length of stay of >6 days, had a significantly higher risk of readmission. Similarly, discharge time influenced the readmission risk: patients discharged during the night (9 PM to 5 AM) had a higher risk of readmission. Similarly, there were significant differences in readmissions between cases with different ICD-10 ( International Statistical Classification of Diseases , Tenth Revision ) chapters of principal and secondary diagnoses (Table S5 in Multimedia Appendix 3 ).

Intervention Effect

Table 2 shows the implementation effects on the readmission rate after 30, 60, and 90 days (DiD) of the bivariate analysis. In the intervention group, the 30-day readmission rate increased by 2.33 percentage points from 10.4% (45/431) to 12.8% (35/274) after SEKMA was implemented. For the 60- and 90-day readmission rate, the increase was even higher (60 days: 2.25 and 90 days: 3.94). These increases have been smaller in the control group. Therefore, a reduction effect of the intervention on the readmission rate (ie, a negative DiD estimate) cannot be observed. Concentrating the analysis on patients aged ≥65 years revealed similar results (Table S6 in Multimedia Appendix 3 ). As a robustness check, the preintervention period was extended to include admissions between 2011 and 2019. These results confirm the previous findings.

a Only admissions between April 2019 and August 2019 and between April 2022 and August 2022 were considered.

b DiD: difference-in-difference, Δ: Difference between the readmission rates of the intervention and the control group at T 0 and T 1 , respectively.

c Intervention period (T 1 ): from April 1, 2022.

d N/A: not applicable.

e Baseline period (T 0 ): April 1, 2019, to August 31, 2019.

The results of the multivariate logistic regression model ( Table 3 ) confirm the results of the bivariate analysis that there were higher readmission rates in the intervention group and that there was no significant effect of the optimized discharge management on readmissions in the available data. This result was also confirmed for patients aged >65 years (Table S7 in Multimedia Appendix 3 ). Furthermore, the insignificance of the effect of the implementation of SEKMA on readmission rates was also confirmed in a pre-post comparison estimated by a multivariate logistic regression based on vascular surgery cases only (Table S8 in Multimedia Appendix 3 ). Finally, the estimated effects remained very similar if the preintervention period began in 2011 and ended at the end of 2019.

b In addition to the variables listed here, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision chapters of the principal and secondary diagnoses were also included as control variables.

d DiD: difference-in-difference.

This study aims to explore the barriers and enablers of a digitalized discharge management system, to implement such a system using a logic model developed from these determinants, and to evaluate its impact on the readmission rate.

Determinants and Implementation Strategies

The importance of the transmission of information for improved discharge management is also highlighted in the high rating of the strategies regarding the discharge letter, that is, developing an electronic discharge letter, continuously entering information into the letter, and always sending it to the GP. The discharge letter is the standard communication tool between inpatient and ambulatory care and found to be a source for deficits in information transfer [ 38 ]. In particular, delay and incompleteness of medication-related information endanger patients’ safety [ 39 , 40 ], leading to an increased risk of hospital readmission [ 41 ]. As shown for a sample of 20 Dutch hospitals, discharge letters vary in quality depending on patient and admission characteristics [ 42 ]. A standardized discharge letter can reduce transcription time and improve medical communication between physicians [ 43 ]. In addition, GPs prefer that discharge letters be written in a clear, concise, and understandable manner [ 44 ]. An electronic discharge letter generated from a computer-based document not only avoids transcription errors and lacks standardization but also ensures timely delivery [ 45 ]. In Germany, the discharge letter played a central role in approaches to creating a standard for intersectoral information exchange. For example, the VHitG (derived from the German “Verband der Hersteller von IT-Lösungen im Gesundheitswesen”) initiative “Intersectoral Communication” developed an implementation to facilitate the exchange of discharge letters between sectors, which is integrated into the existing IT system [ 46 ]. Another example is the recent approach by the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians and the German Hospital Association to create a standard for the electronic hospital discharge letter within the EHR [ 37 ].

To improve the standardization of the transmitted medication information, the use of the format of the nationwide medication plan was considered an important strategy in this study. In Germany, several projects have shown that physicians, pharmacists, and patients realize the benefits and accept the nationwide medication plan [ 47 - 49 ]. It can serve for the health care providers as a promising tool to improve the interdisciplinary and multiprofessional collaboration, especially as a digital solution that can realize its full potential [ 50 ]. Similar results have been reported in other countries [ 51 , 52 ]. In this study, participants suggested transferring medication-related information electronically and always in the format of the national medication plan. In the participating hospital, this strategy has been implemented during the project. For older patients in particular, shared medication records have the potential to reduce hospital readmissions [ 51 ].

Concerns about technical and temporal integrability were identified as an important barrier to the implementation of optimized discharge management. This includes an expected higher time consumption for the introduction of digitalized processes, a general fear of contact (owing to leaving known structures and a lack of electronic data processing experience), and further technical aspects (as a user-unfriendly system, electronic data processing errors, and interface problems). Similar barriers were identified in related eHealth projects [ 53 - 57 ]. Although the digitalization of processes was expected, in general, to be associated with time advantages, many of those involved associate the introduction with additional work effort. To overcome these concerns, successful implementation requires streamlining, simplifying, and redesigning the existing health care practices as a first step [ 58 ]. The strategy of introducing a physician-only hotline and a chat function for direct communication between the hospital and GPs could be seen as a simplification of communication instead of relying solely on the legally required discharge letter.

Effect on Readmissions

A possible explanation for the low level of fidelity as well as the insignificant effect of SEKMA on readmissions could be the relatively short application period of half a year (from April 2022 to September 2022). Complex implementations such as those elaborated in SEKMA may require a longer time before they are applied in daily routines. Another reason for the insignificant effect on readmissions could be the rather good baseline level of the outcome in national comparison. Although other studies in Germany showed readmission rates, for example, of 18.1% (30 days) to 35.4% (90 days) for older patients (aged >65 years) [ 22 ], these rates were substantially lower for the patients in this study, that is, 11.8% (30 days) to 23.6% (90 days).


Our study had several limitations. First, the restrictions that existed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic might have affected the effectiveness of the implementation. All stakeholders involved in SEKMA faced a high workload owing to the pandemic as well as the requirements and measures resulting from the pandemic. However, the study results show that even under the special circumstances of the pandemic, it was possible to develop and implement an intersectoral optimization of discharge management. The infrastructure for the intersectoral care of patients created by the project has great potential to increase the quality of care, even if this could not yet be demonstrated with regard to readmissions. Future research should analyze the routine hospital data over the next 5 years.

Although the study included all relevant health care providers and considered the entire patient care pathway, the number of respondents from some professions may be rather small. For example, only 3 GPs were interviewed. However, the theoretical saturation effect in the statements made during the interviews suggests that this number is sufficient to identify the optimization potential as well as determinants.


Creating a digital ecosystem that connects different health care providers seems to be a promising approach to ensure secure and fast networking of the sectors and to promote rapid information exchange between the sectors. The described intersectoral optimization of discharge management provides a structured template for the implementation of a similar local digital care networking infrastructure in other care regions in Germany and other countries with a similarly fragmented health care system.


This study was financially supported by the Ministry of Justice and Health (Ministerium für Justiz und Gesundheit), Schleswig-Holstein. This study was conducted independently.

Data Availability

The data sets generated during and analyzed during this study are not publicly available due to the votum of the Ethics Committee of the University of Lübeck.

Authors' Contributions

CS contributed to conceptualization, formal analysis, investigation, methodology, and validation; prepared the original draft; and reviewed and edited the manuscript. LP participated in methodology, conducted and analyzed the interviews, and reviewed and edited the draft. LW participated in conceptualizing the digital discharge system and reviewed and edited the draft. RS was involved in conceptualization and reviewing and editing the draft. JS contributed to conceptualization, investigation, methodology, and validation and reviewed and edited the draft. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest

LW was a hospital manager with a focus on digitalization at the hospital under study during the time of the project, Sektorübergreifende Optimierung des Entlassmanagements (SEKMA). LW is the founder of the company Lacanja GmbH Health Innovation Port, Hamburg, Germany, and is a member of several committees, including the expert group of the Gematik IOP (Interop) Council. All other authors declare no other conflicts of interest.

COREQ (Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research) checklist.

Interview guide.

Supplemental tables with results of supplemental analyses.

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Edited by T Leung; submitted 09.03.23; peer-reviewed by P Nohl-Deryk, S Meister; comments to author 21.04.23; revised version received 13.06.23; accepted 31.01.24; published 26.03.24.

©Christoph Strumann, Lisa Pfau, Laila Wahle, Raphael Schreiber, Jost Steinhäuser. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 26.03.2024.

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Retraction Note: Environmental factors affecting the frequency of road traffic accidents: a case study of sub-urban area of Pakistan

  • Retraction Note
  • Published: 26 March 2024

Cite this article

  • Hafiz Mohkum Hammad 1 ,
  • Muhammad Ashraf 1 ,
  • Farhat Abbas 2 ,
  • Hafiz Faiq Bakhat 1 ,
  • Saeed A. Qaisrani 1 ,
  • Muhammad Mubeen 1 ,
  • Shah Fahad 3 &
  • Muhammad Awais 4  

The Original Article was published on 19 March 2019

Avoid common mistakes on your manuscript.

Retraction Note: Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2019) 26:11674-11685

The Publisher has retracted this article in agreement with the Editor-in-Chief. An investigation by the publisher found a number of articles, including this one, with a number of concerns, including but not limited to compromised peer review process, inappropriate or irrelevant references, containing nonstandard phrases or not being in scope of the journal. Based on the investigation’s findings the publisher, in consultation with the Editor-in-Chief therefore no longer has confidence in the results and conclusions of this article.

Hafiz Mohkum Hammad, Hafiz Bakhat, and Muhammad Mubeen disagree with the retraction. Muhammad Ashraf, Farhat Abbas, Saeed A. Qaisrani, Shah Fahad, and Muhammad Awais have not replied to correspondence from the publisher.

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Department of Environmental Sciences, COMSATS University Islamabad, Vehari Campus, Vehari, Punjab, 61100, Pakistan

Hafiz Mohkum Hammad, Muhammad Ashraf, Hafiz Faiq Bakhat, Saeed A. Qaisrani & Muhammad Mubeen

Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Government College University, Faisalabad, 38000, Pakistan

Farhat Abbas

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Muhammad Awais

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What the data says about abortion in the u.s..

Pew Research Center has conducted many surveys about abortion over the years, providing a lens into Americans’ views on whether the procedure should be legal, among a host of other questions.

In a  Center survey  conducted nearly a year after the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision that  ended the constitutional right to abortion , 62% of U.S. adults said the practice should be legal in all or most cases, while 36% said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Another survey conducted a few months before the decision showed that relatively few Americans take an absolutist view on the issue .

Find answers to common questions about abortion in America, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute, which have tracked these patterns for several decades:

How many abortions are there in the U.S. each year?

How has the number of abortions in the u.s. changed over time, what is the abortion rate among women in the u.s. how has it changed over time, what are the most common types of abortion, how many abortion providers are there in the u.s., and how has that number changed, what percentage of abortions are for women who live in a different state from the abortion provider, what are the demographics of women who have had abortions, when during pregnancy do most abortions occur, how often are there medical complications from abortion.

This compilation of data on abortion in the United States draws mainly from two sources: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute, both of which have regularly compiled national abortion data for approximately half a century, and which collect their data in different ways.

The CDC data that is highlighted in this post comes from the agency’s “abortion surveillance” reports, which have been published annually since 1974 (and which have included data from 1969). Its figures from 1973 through 1996 include data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and New York City – 52 “reporting areas” in all. Since 1997, the CDC’s totals have lacked data from some states (most notably California) for the years that those states did not report data to the agency. The four reporting areas that did not submit data to the CDC in 2021 – California, Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey – accounted for approximately 25% of all legal induced abortions in the U.S. in 2020, according to Guttmacher’s data. Most states, though,  do  have data in the reports, and the figures for the vast majority of them came from each state’s central health agency, while for some states, the figures came from hospitals and other medical facilities.

Discussion of CDC abortion data involving women’s state of residence, marital status, race, ethnicity, age, abortion history and the number of previous live births excludes the low share of abortions where that information was not supplied. Read the methodology for the CDC’s latest abortion surveillance report , which includes data from 2021, for more details. Previous reports can be found at  by entering “abortion surveillance” into the search box.

For the numbers of deaths caused by induced abortions in 1963 and 1965, this analysis looks at reports by the then-U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, a precursor to the Department of Health and Human Services. In computing those figures, we excluded abortions listed in the report under the categories “spontaneous or unspecified” or as “other.” (“Spontaneous abortion” is another way of referring to miscarriages.)

Guttmacher data in this post comes from national surveys of abortion providers that Guttmacher has conducted 19 times since 1973. Guttmacher compiles its figures after contacting every known provider of abortions – clinics, hospitals and physicians’ offices – in the country. It uses questionnaires and health department data, and it provides estimates for abortion providers that don’t respond to its inquiries. (In 2020, the last year for which it has released data on the number of abortions in the U.S., it used estimates for 12% of abortions.) For most of the 2000s, Guttmacher has conducted these national surveys every three years, each time getting abortion data for the prior two years. For each interim year, Guttmacher has calculated estimates based on trends from its own figures and from other data.

The latest full summary of Guttmacher data came in the institute’s report titled “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2020.” It includes figures for 2020 and 2019 and estimates for 2018. The report includes a methods section.

In addition, this post uses data from StatPearls, an online health care resource, on complications from abortion.

An exact answer is hard to come by. The CDC and the Guttmacher Institute have each tried to measure this for around half a century, but they use different methods and publish different figures.

The last year for which the CDC reported a yearly national total for abortions is 2021. It found there were 625,978 abortions in the District of Columbia and the 46 states with available data that year, up from 597,355 in those states and D.C. in 2020. The corresponding figure for 2019 was 607,720.

The last year for which Guttmacher reported a yearly national total was 2020. It said there were 930,160 abortions that year in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, compared with 916,460 in 2019.

  • How the CDC gets its data: It compiles figures that are voluntarily reported by states’ central health agencies, including separate figures for New York City and the District of Columbia. Its latest totals do not include figures from California, Maryland, New Hampshire or New Jersey, which did not report data to the CDC. ( Read the methodology from the latest CDC report .)
  • How Guttmacher gets its data: It compiles its figures after contacting every known abortion provider – clinics, hospitals and physicians’ offices – in the country. It uses questionnaires and health department data, then provides estimates for abortion providers that don’t respond. Guttmacher’s figures are higher than the CDC’s in part because they include data (and in some instances, estimates) from all 50 states. ( Read the institute’s latest full report and methodology .)

While the Guttmacher Institute supports abortion rights, its empirical data on abortions in the U.S. has been widely cited by  groups  and  publications  across the political spectrum, including by a  number of those  that  disagree with its positions .

These estimates from Guttmacher and the CDC are results of multiyear efforts to collect data on abortion across the U.S. Last year, Guttmacher also began publishing less precise estimates every few months , based on a much smaller sample of providers.

The figures reported by these organizations include only legal induced abortions conducted by clinics, hospitals or physicians’ offices, or those that make use of abortion pills dispensed from certified facilities such as clinics or physicians’ offices. They do not account for the use of abortion pills that were obtained  outside of clinical settings .

(Back to top)

A line chart showing the changing number of legal abortions in the U.S. since the 1970s.

The annual number of U.S. abortions rose for years after Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure in 1973, reaching its highest levels around the late 1980s and early 1990s, according to both the CDC and Guttmacher. Since then, abortions have generally decreased at what a CDC analysis called  “a slow yet steady pace.”

Guttmacher says the number of abortions occurring in the U.S. in 2020 was 40% lower than it was in 1991. According to the CDC, the number was 36% lower in 2021 than in 1991, looking just at the District of Columbia and the 46 states that reported both of those years.

(The corresponding line graph shows the long-term trend in the number of legal abortions reported by both organizations. To allow for consistent comparisons over time, the CDC figures in the chart have been adjusted to ensure that the same states are counted from one year to the next. Using that approach, the CDC figure for 2021 is 622,108 legal abortions.)

There have been occasional breaks in this long-term pattern of decline – during the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, and then again in the late 2010s. The CDC reported modest 1% and 2% increases in abortions in 2018 and 2019, and then, after a 2% decrease in 2020, a 5% increase in 2021. Guttmacher reported an 8% increase over the three-year period from 2017 to 2020.

As noted above, these figures do not include abortions that use pills obtained outside of clinical settings.

Guttmacher says that in 2020 there were 14.4 abortions in the U.S. per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. Its data shows that the rate of abortions among women has generally been declining in the U.S. since 1981, when it reported there were 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women in that age range.

The CDC says that in 2021, there were 11.6 abortions in the U.S. per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. (That figure excludes data from California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey.) Like Guttmacher’s data, the CDC’s figures also suggest a general decline in the abortion rate over time. In 1980, when the CDC reported on all 50 states and D.C., it said there were 25 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.

That said, both Guttmacher and the CDC say there were slight increases in the rate of abortions during the late 2010s and early 2020s. Guttmacher says the abortion rate per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 rose from 13.5 in 2017 to 14.4 in 2020. The CDC says it rose from 11.2 per 1,000 in 2017 to 11.4 in 2019, before falling back to 11.1 in 2020 and then rising again to 11.6 in 2021. (The CDC’s figures for those years exclude data from California, D.C., Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey.)

The CDC broadly divides abortions into two categories: surgical abortions and medication abortions, which involve pills. Since the Food and Drug Administration first approved abortion pills in 2000, their use has increased over time as a share of abortions nationally, according to both the CDC and Guttmacher.

The majority of abortions in the U.S. now involve pills, according to both the CDC and Guttmacher. The CDC says 56% of U.S. abortions in 2021 involved pills, up from 53% in 2020 and 44% in 2019. Its figures for 2021 include the District of Columbia and 44 states that provided this data; its figures for 2020 include D.C. and 44 states (though not all of the same states as in 2021), and its figures for 2019 include D.C. and 45 states.

Guttmacher, which measures this every three years, says 53% of U.S. abortions involved pills in 2020, up from 39% in 2017.

Two pills commonly used together for medication abortions are mifepristone, which, taken first, blocks hormones that support a pregnancy, and misoprostol, which then causes the uterus to empty. According to the FDA, medication abortions are safe  until 10 weeks into pregnancy.

Surgical abortions conducted  during the first trimester  of pregnancy typically use a suction process, while the relatively few surgical abortions that occur  during the second trimester  of a pregnancy typically use a process called dilation and evacuation, according to the UCLA School of Medicine.

In 2020, there were 1,603 facilities in the U.S. that provided abortions,  according to Guttmacher . This included 807 clinics, 530 hospitals and 266 physicians’ offices.

A horizontal stacked bar chart showing the total number of abortion providers down since 1982.

While clinics make up half of the facilities that provide abortions, they are the sites where the vast majority (96%) of abortions are administered, either through procedures or the distribution of pills, according to Guttmacher’s 2020 data. (This includes 54% of abortions that are administered at specialized abortion clinics and 43% at nonspecialized clinics.) Hospitals made up 33% of the facilities that provided abortions in 2020 but accounted for only 3% of abortions that year, while just 1% of abortions were conducted by physicians’ offices.

Looking just at clinics – that is, the total number of specialized abortion clinics and nonspecialized clinics in the U.S. – Guttmacher found the total virtually unchanged between 2017 (808 clinics) and 2020 (807 clinics). However, there were regional differences. In the Midwest, the number of clinics that provide abortions increased by 11% during those years, and in the West by 6%. The number of clinics  decreased  during those years by 9% in the Northeast and 3% in the South.

The total number of abortion providers has declined dramatically since the 1980s. In 1982, according to Guttmacher, there were 2,908 facilities providing abortions in the U.S., including 789 clinics, 1,405 hospitals and 714 physicians’ offices.

The CDC does not track the number of abortion providers.

In the District of Columbia and the 46 states that provided abortion and residency information to the CDC in 2021, 10.9% of all abortions were performed on women known to live outside the state where the abortion occurred – slightly higher than the percentage in 2020 (9.7%). That year, D.C. and 46 states (though not the same ones as in 2021) reported abortion and residency data. (The total number of abortions used in these calculations included figures for women with both known and unknown residential status.)

The share of reported abortions performed on women outside their state of residence was much higher before the 1973 Roe decision that stopped states from banning abortion. In 1972, 41% of all abortions in D.C. and the 20 states that provided this information to the CDC that year were performed on women outside their state of residence. In 1973, the corresponding figure was 21% in the District of Columbia and the 41 states that provided this information, and in 1974 it was 11% in D.C. and the 43 states that provided data.

In the District of Columbia and the 46 states that reported age data to  the CDC in 2021, the majority of women who had abortions (57%) were in their 20s, while about three-in-ten (31%) were in their 30s. Teens ages 13 to 19 accounted for 8% of those who had abortions, while women ages 40 to 44 accounted for about 4%.

The vast majority of women who had abortions in 2021 were unmarried (87%), while married women accounted for 13%, according to  the CDC , which had data on this from 37 states.

A pie chart showing that, in 2021, majority of abortions were for women who had never had one before.

In the District of Columbia, New York City (but not the rest of New York) and the 31 states that reported racial and ethnic data on abortion to  the CDC , 42% of all women who had abortions in 2021 were non-Hispanic Black, while 30% were non-Hispanic White, 22% were Hispanic and 6% were of other races.

Looking at abortion rates among those ages 15 to 44, there were 28.6 abortions per 1,000 non-Hispanic Black women in 2021; 12.3 abortions per 1,000 Hispanic women; 6.4 abortions per 1,000 non-Hispanic White women; and 9.2 abortions per 1,000 women of other races, the  CDC reported  from those same 31 states, D.C. and New York City.

For 57% of U.S. women who had induced abortions in 2021, it was the first time they had ever had one,  according to the CDC.  For nearly a quarter (24%), it was their second abortion. For 11% of women who had an abortion that year, it was their third, and for 8% it was their fourth or more. These CDC figures include data from 41 states and New York City, but not the rest of New York.

A bar chart showing that most U.S. abortions in 2021 were for women who had previously given birth.

Nearly four-in-ten women who had abortions in 2021 (39%) had no previous live births at the time they had an abortion,  according to the CDC . Almost a quarter (24%) of women who had abortions in 2021 had one previous live birth, 20% had two previous live births, 10% had three, and 7% had four or more previous live births. These CDC figures include data from 41 states and New York City, but not the rest of New York.

The vast majority of abortions occur during the first trimester of a pregnancy. In 2021, 93% of abortions occurred during the first trimester – that is, at or before 13 weeks of gestation,  according to the CDC . An additional 6% occurred between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, and about 1% were performed at 21 weeks or more of gestation. These CDC figures include data from 40 states and New York City, but not the rest of New York.

About 2% of all abortions in the U.S. involve some type of complication for the woman , according to an article in StatPearls, an online health care resource. “Most complications are considered minor such as pain, bleeding, infection and post-anesthesia complications,” according to the article.

The CDC calculates  case-fatality rates for women from induced abortions – that is, how many women die from abortion-related complications, for every 100,000 legal abortions that occur in the U.S .  The rate was lowest during the most recent period examined by the agency (2013 to 2020), when there were 0.45 deaths to women per 100,000 legal induced abortions. The case-fatality rate reported by the CDC was highest during the first period examined by the agency (1973 to 1977), when it was 2.09 deaths to women per 100,000 legal induced abortions. During the five-year periods in between, the figure ranged from 0.52 (from 1993 to 1997) to 0.78 (from 1978 to 1982).

The CDC calculates death rates by five-year and seven-year periods because of year-to-year fluctuation in the numbers and due to the relatively low number of women who die from legal induced abortions.

In 2020, the last year for which the CDC has information , six women in the U.S. died due to complications from induced abortions. Four women died in this way in 2019, two in 2018, and three in 2017. (These deaths all followed legal abortions.) Since 1990, the annual number of deaths among women due to legal induced abortion has ranged from two to 12.

The annual number of reported deaths from induced abortions (legal and illegal) tended to be higher in the 1980s, when it ranged from nine to 16, and from 1972 to 1979, when it ranged from 13 to 63. One driver of the decline was the drop in deaths from illegal abortions. There were 39 deaths from illegal abortions in 1972, the last full year before Roe v. Wade. The total fell to 19 in 1973 and to single digits or zero every year after that. (The number of deaths from legal abortions has also declined since then, though with some slight variation over time.)

The number of deaths from induced abortions was considerably higher in the 1960s than afterward. For instance, there were 119 deaths from induced abortions in  1963  and 99 in  1965 , according to reports by the then-U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, a precursor to the Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC is a division of Health and Human Services.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published May 27, 2022, and first updated June 24, 2022.

research on homework 2019

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Key facts about the abortion debate in America

Public opinion on abortion, three-in-ten or more democrats and republicans don’t agree with their party on abortion, partisanship a bigger factor than geography in views of abortion access locally, do state laws on abortion reflect public opinion, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

Australia’s Arrivals from India Break New Record — Tourism Chief Talks Strategy

Peden Doma Bhutia , Skift

March 27th, 2024 at 6:05 AM EDT

The travel trends to Australia underscore the potential of India's middle class and its young demographic as a major force in shaping future travel trends.

Peden Doma Bhutia

Australia saw a record-breaking number of arrivals from India last year.

The new figures, which cover February 2023 to January 2024, show 402,200 inbound travelers entered the country from India. The major milestone even surpasses pre-pandemic levels, according to latest data from the  Australian Bureau of Statistics . 

It marks the first time Australia has crossed the 400,000-arrival mark. As a result, India is now the 5th largest inbound market for Tourism Australia, up from 7th place in 2019.

The organization also says Indians are spending and contributing significantly to the Australian economy.

The total trip spend by Indian visitors has also seen a notable increase for the year ending January 2024. It is up 20%, amounting to A$ 2.2 billion ($1.4 billion), with the per capita spend rising from A$ 4,908 ($3204) to A$ 5,901 ($3853), according to Nishant Kashikar, country manager — India and Gulf for Tourism Australia.

In January 2024 alone, Australia welcomed 26,200 visitors from India, representing 106% of January 2019 arrivals.

What Clicked For Australia?

“Our initiatives across marketing, public relations, partnerships, distribution, trade, and business events in India, have helped us achieve these numbers,” Kashikar told Skift.

He further credited the three-fold increase in direct aviation capacity from 8 to 28 weekly flights and the streamlined visa application process for enhancing accessibility.

Australia also issues three-year multiple-entry visas to tourists in India without any need for physical submission of documents. The duration of business visas has also been increased by up to five years, compared to the earlier three-year option.

Direct air access by Qantas and Air India, from Indian cities to Australia along with Qantas’ codeshare with IndiGo have also helped to increase accessibility.

“We are working with Indian as well as Australian carriers and airports to further build direct aviation connectivity,” Kashikar said.

Analyzing traveler profiles, Kashikar highlighted that 75% of Indian visitors to Australia were leisure travelers, with 8% traveling for business, 7% for employment, and 5% for short-term education.

Speaking to Skift at the beginning of the year , Kashikar described India as the fastest-growing inbound market for Australia, thanks to the rising middle class .

The Business Travel Rebound

Discussing the bounce-back of meetings, incentives, conferences, and event (MICE) travel from India to Australia, Kashikar noted a significant surge in leads for business events. “We’re seeing a five-time increase in leads than what we witnessed in 2019,” he told Skift in January.

He also said a key factor for this growth has also been the strengthening of bilateral ties between Australia and India across trade, investment, education, and tourism.

Speaking about Indian travel habits, Kashikar mentioned a generational shift as younger Indians travel at a much earlier age, leading to a significant increase in trips.

The shift from a savings-focused economy to one where Indians are spending more on holidays, especially among the youth has also made India a lucrative market for destinations, according to Kashikar. This trend is driving increased expenditure on travel-related services.

Kashikar also noted that Indians are increasingly immersing themselves in local experiences, such as festivals, sporting events, history, architecture, and culinary activities, which presents a significant growth opportunity for travel destinations catering to these preferences.

Skift India Report

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Photo credit: Tourism Australia has crossed the 400,000-arrival mark from India. S O C I A L . C U T / Unsplash

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The Real Impacts of Artificial Intelligence

Lama Ahmad

As a policy researcher at OpenAI, Lama Ahmad, Class of 2019, is working on one of the most fundamental questions of a generation: How does artificial intelligence impact human society?

NYUAD: How are you contributing to better understanding AI’s impact?

My work at OpenAI involves creating and collaborating on research to help generate evidence around issues with AI and its impact - both good and bad. I engage with academic researchers, policymakers, and civil society organizations to understand how AI impacts people. One of the efforts I’m leading is called our external red-teaming program. It is a method for involving different groups to help us assess the risks of a system before releasing it to the world.

NYUAD: What’s your day-to-day like? What skills do you apply regularly? As a researcher, I design and develop the questions we need to ask and how we will answer them. What data do we need to get, how do we get it, and how do we design studies? I also manage large-scale programs with stakeholders, which means finding the right people who need to be in the room to discuss a given problem, whether it's policymakers or academic researchers. I’m also doing a lot of blog writing and content publishing in different formats to make my research as accessible as possible.

NYUAD: What do you see as the biggest opportunities and threats with AI?

The Internet was a significant technological paradigm shift, and AI will do even more to make information accessible. I am excited about the applications in education and opportunities for equity and access. It will be life-changing for a lot of people. Something I worry about is job automation. We’re seeing glimmers of how that could happen as these systems become more capable. Some of our research is geared toward understanding the economic impact of AI and what policies we need to make as a society to support people’s jobs.

NYUAD: Did you anticipate your career path unfolding this way?

I checked the box of my dream job early (laughs)! Sometimes it feels like it’s not real. I got lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Still, I think I had a role in creating the conditions for it by thinking about the issues that affect my community and how I can use my education to provide a unique perspective. I have always cared about how tech impacts people.

NYUAD: How did NYUAD contribute to your current position and perspective?

Combining social science and technology created the conditions for me to be an authoritative voice and shape how these issues are discussed. I took the Politics of Code class in my sophomore year, which changed my trajectory. It got me thinking about biases in AI models and the political impact of social media. All the readings were about issues that I'm working on day-to-day now. 

I also took a lot of foundational social science research courses that helped me develop rigorous methods. I took data analysis and computer science courses with the technical skillset to look at data and use it in my research. In a way, I have the perfect formula: four years of coursework that genuinely laid the foundation for everything I’m doing now.

research on homework 2019


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    All content in this area was uploaded by Jutharat Jitpranee on Aug 03, 2019 . ... Homework research and policy: A review of the literature. N ewsletter, 2 (2). Cooper, H. (1989).

  17. PDF Trends of Homework in Mathematics: Comparative Research Based on TIMSS

    Citation: Güven, U., & Akçay, A. O. (2019). Trends of Homework in Mathematics: Comparative Research Based on TIMSS Study. International Journal of Instruction, 12(1), 1367-1382. solving skills when they work on homework as well as help them to prepare for their tests (Kalchman, 2011). Moreover, teachers can use homework as feedback to see ...

  18. [PDF] Trends of Homework in Mathematics: Comparative Research Based on

    Homework is a common instructional practice that is used to motivate students, develop students' studying skills and habits, inform parents about student learning, and increase student achievement. Homework provides an opportunity for students to revisit daily topics, and improve students' understanding of math concepts and problem-solving skills, helps students learn from their mistakes ...

  19. Homework and Practice: A Synthesis of the Research

    Homework and Practice: A Synthesis of the Research. April 14, 2019. There are few more emotional topics in education than homework. Advocates of homework contend that it is necessary because students need practice. The other side in the debate claims that homework is little more than an exercise in mindless compliance - "busywork," in the ...

  20. PDF Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research

    The Importance of Homework and Homework Research Homework is an important part of most school-aged children's daily routine. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Campbell et al., 1996), over two-thirds of all 9-year-olds and three-quarters of all 13- and 17-year-olds reported doing some homework every day.

  21. Department of Accountancy Research

    Banker, R.D., Darrough, M., Li, S. and Threinen, L. 2019. The Value of Precontract Information About an Agent's Ability in the Presence of Moral Hazard and Adverse Selection. Journal of Accounting Research 57 (5): 1201-1245.

  22. Individual Precursors of Student Homework Behavioral Engagement: The

    Despite the large number of research on homework in secondary education, it seems interesting to begin to verify models of relationships that allow us to interpret adequately the relationships between motivation and behavioral engagement. ... Piñeiro I., Estévez I., Valle A. (2019). Rendimiento previo e implicación en los deberes escolares ...

  23. Frontiers

    Homework research have reported teachers' perspectives on their homework practices (e.g., Brock et al., ... Nunes T, Nunes AR, Moreira T and Núñez JC (2019) "Homework Should Be…but We Do Not Live in an Ideal World": Mathematics Teachers' Perspectives on Quality Homework and on Homework Assigned in Elementary and Middle Schools. Front.

  24. Journal of Medical Internet Research

    For this purpose, a difference-in-difference approach was adopted based on routine data of hospital admissions between April 2019 and August 2019 and between April 2022 and August 2022. The department of vascular surgery served as the intervention group, in which the optimized discharge management was implemented in April 2022.

  25. Retraction Note: Environmental factors affecting the ...

    Environmental Science and Pollution Research - Skip to main content. Account. Menu. Find a journal Publish with us Track your research Search. ... The Original Article was published on 19 March 2019. Use our pre-submission checklist. Avoid common mistakes on your manuscript. Retraction Note: Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2019 ...

  26. What the data says about abortion in the U.S.

    Pew Research Center has conducted many surveys about abortion over the years, providing a lens into Americans' views on whether the procedure should be legal, among a host of other questions. ... The CDC says it rose from 11.2 per 1,000 in 2017 to 11.4 in 2019, before falling back to 11.1 in 2020 and then rising again to 11.6 in 2021. (The ...

  27. PROTOCOL: The relationship between homework time and academic

    Furthermore, the studies of experts in the research of homework (such as Cooper Harris, Trautwein Ulric, and Xu jianzhong) will be searched systematically to check our search strategy, and they will be contacted to help identify other relevant studies if possible. ... & Marcenaro‐Gutierrez, O. D. (2019). The relationship between homework and ...

  28. Australia's Arrivals from India Break New Record

    Arrivals from India to Australia from Feb 2023 to Jan 2024 reached a significant milestone, totaling 402,200, surpassing 2019 levels. Javascript is required for this site to display correctly. search

  29. The Real Impacts of Artificial Intelligence

    Lama Ahmad, NYUAD Class of 2019, talks about her research into the real impacts of AI. Lama Ahmad, NYUAD Class of 2019, talks about her research into the real impacts of AI. ... Some of our research is geared toward understanding the economic impact of AI and what policies we need to make as a society to support people's jobs.

  30. Examining Racial Identity Responses Among People with Middle Eastern

    Research that uses these edited public data relies on limited information on MENA people's racial identification. To address this limitation, we obtained unedited race responses in the nationally representative American Community Survey from 2005-2019 to better understand how people of MENA ancestry report their race.