Homework: How can it be 'Applied?'
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Homework provides an opportunity for practice and learning to occur outside the classroom, and research has consistently shown that it can have a positive influence on achievement. However, the preponderance of this research in high schools has been in higher-level Academic classrooms. The purpose of this study is to compare the perspectives of students and teachers with respect to homework, and student learning in Applied math classrooms in Ontario. It builds on recent research by Pang and Rogers (2013) who found that while homework completion was a strong predictor of achievement in Academic math classes, it was a weak predictor in Applied math classes. This result suggests that the current model of homework may not provide strong support for learning in Applied math classes. This study employed a multiple-method, non-experimental design. The sample consisted of 165 students and 21 teachers in Grade 9 and Grade 10 Applied math classes in Ontario. Students completed surveys, and teachers completed surveys and in-depth interviews. After the data were collected, students were separated into two groups (high achieving and not-high achieving) based on average EQAO math achievement in their schools. An exploratory factor analysis was used to determine the factor structure of the student survey. Independent sample t-tests were subsequently conducted to examine between group differences among students in high achieving vs. not-high achieving classrooms. Teachers’ perspectives were explored by conducting a thematic analysis of their qualitative interview and survey data. Matching items on the student and teacher surveys and interviews were compared to determine the alignment between students and teachers with respect to homework and student learning. Descriptive statistics were also used to gain overall pictures of the distributions of students and teachers who took part in the study. Significant differences were found between students in high achieving vs. not-high achieving classrooms with respect to the assignment and completion of homework. The analysis of teacher perspectives, and the comparison of teacher and student data, resulted in implications for research and practice that highlight the need for more conversation, examination and exploration of the complex issues surrounding homework and student learning in Applied classrooms.