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Between-Teacher Differences in Homework Assignments and the Development of Students' Homework Effort, Homework Emotions, and Achievement



The study examines whether teachers' homework objectives, implementation practices, and attitudes toward parental involvement are associated with the development of students' homework effort, homework emotions, and achievement during Grade 8. A total of 63 teachers (40 male, 23 female; mean teaching experience: M = 17.5 years) of French as a 2nd language and their 1,299 Grade 8 students (51.2% female; mean age at first measurement point: M = 13.84, SD = 0.56) participated in the study. In multilevel models, teachers' homework attitudes and behaviors were specified to predict outcomes at the end of Grade 8, controlling for covariates at the beginning of Grade 8. A low emphasis on drill and practice tasks and a high emphasis on motivation were associated with favorable developments in homework effort and achievement. Controlling homework assignments were associated with less homework effort and more negative homework emotions; the opposite pattern was found for students whose teacher supported student homework autonomy rather than parental homework involvement. The authors call for a systematic integration of findings from homework research in teacher training. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Between-Teacher Differences in Homework Assignments and the
Development of Students’ Homework Effort, Homework Emotions,
and Achievement
Ulrich Trautwein
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
Alois Niggli
College of Teacher Education Fribourg
Inge Schnyder
University of Fribourg
Oliver Lu¨dtke
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
The study examines whether teachers’ homework objectives, implementation practices, and attitudes
toward parental involvement are associated with the development of students’ homework effort, home-
work emotions, and achievement during Grade 8. A total of 63 teachers (40 male, 23 female; mean
teaching experience: M17.5 years) of French as a 2nd language and their 1,299 Grade 8 students
(51.2% female; mean age at first measurement point: M13.84, SD 0.56) participated in the study.
In multilevel models, teachers’ homework attitudes and behaviors were specified to predict outcomes at
the end of Grade 8, controlling for covariates at the beginning of Grade 8. A low emphasis on drill and
practice tasks and a high emphasis on motivation were associated with favorable developments in
homework effort and achievement. Controlling homework assignments were associated with less
homework effort and more negative homework emotions; the opposite pattern was found for students
whose teacher supported student homework autonomy rather than parental homework involvement. The
authors call for a systematic integration of findings from homework research in teacher training.
Keywords: homework, teachers, effort, achievement, parental support
Given the practical significance of homework for students,
teachers, and parents alike, the quantity of empirical research on
the subject is surprisingly limited and its quality mixed (Buell,
2004; Cooper, 2001; Trautwein & Ko¨ller, 2003). The present
article aims to fill critical gaps in scientific knowledge by exam-
ining the association between teachers’ homework assignments
and the development of students’ homework effort, homework
emotion, and achievement. Common sense and anecdotal evidence
say that teachers differ considerably in their capacity to set appro-
priate homework assignments. Unfortunately, empirical studies to
support this claim are lacking. We therefore conducted a study
providing first insights into the differential development of home-
work effort, homework emotions, and achievement across classes,
and into potential predictors of these differences. We specifically
focused on teachers’ objectives in assigning homework, their
homework implementation practices, and their attitudes toward
parental help. Using a multilevel framework, we linked these
teacher reports to student data on the development of homework
effort, homework emotions, and achievement provided by 1,299
Grade 8 students in classes in French as a second language.
Homework: A Short Overview of Recent Research
Homework is typically defined as “tasks assigned to students by
school teachers that are meant to be carried out during non-school
hours” (Cooper, 1989, p. 7). Currently, there is a renewed contro-
versy about the positive and negative effects of homework. Critics
such as Bennett and Kalish (2006) and Buell (2004) have argued
that there is little evidence for positive effects of homework on
achievement, but ample evidence that it negatively affects family
life, overburdens many students, and causes negative emotions in
parents and students. Furthermore, critics of homework point to
major deficits in teachers’ knowledge about its advantages and
disadvantages. Despite these warnings, however, the majority of
teachers, parents, and students remain convinced that homework is
a valuable educational tool (Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Lindsay, Nye,
& Greathouse, 1998), and several empirical studies seem to sup-
port this view (for reviews, see Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Robinson,
& Patall, 2006; Keith, 1986). Most recently, using a sample of
2,216 students in 100 classes participating in a large educational
assessment, Trautwein (2007) found that mathematics achieve-
ment developed more favorably in classes in which teachers set
Ulrich Trautwein, Center for Educational Research, Max Planck Insti-
tute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany; Alois Niggli, College of
Teacher Education Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland; Inge Schnyder, De-
partment of Secondary-School Teacher Training, University of Fribourg,
Fribourg, Switzerland; Oliver Lu¨ dtke, Center for Educational Research,
Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
This study was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science
Foundation (Project 13DPD3-108054/1). We thank Susannah Goss and
Monika Oppong for editorial assistance.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ulrich
Trautwein, who is now at the Institute of Education, University of Tu¨-
bingen, Mu¨nzgasse 11, 72070 Tu¨ bingen, Germany. E-mail:
Journal of Educational Psychology © 2009 American Psychological Association
2009, Vol. 101, No. 1, 176–189 0022-0663/09/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0022-0663.101.1.176
frequent (but not necessarily lengthy) rather than infrequent
homework assignments. Similarly, the way students approach
their assignments has been shown to have substantial effects on
their school grades (Trautwein, 2007; Zimmerman & Kitsantas,
2005), with homework effort evidencing a stronger positive asso-
ciation with achievement than time spent on homework
(Trautwein, 2007; Trautwein & Lu¨dtke, 2007; Trautwein, Lu¨ dtke,
Schnyder, & Niggli, 2006).
At the same time, many studies have failed to find positive
homework effects (Buell, 2004; Cooper et al., 2006), and charac-
teristics of most studies on the homework–achievement relation-
ship (e.g., neglect of the multilevel structure and potential third
variables, issues concerning the direction of causality in cross-
sectional designs) threaten their internal or external validity
(Cooper, 1989; Cooper et al., 2006; Trautwein & Ko¨ller, 2003). At
the very least, the available evidence indicates that the effective-
ness of homework assignments differs greatly across different
samples and—possibly—across classes within studies, with
between-teacher differences in homework characteristics being a
likely source for this differential effectiveness. Based on a multi-
level, longitudinal design, the present study aims at clarifying the
existence and strengths of such differences.
Homework assignments are likely to be most effective if stu-
dents are motivated to invest effort in completing them and if they
do not experience negative emotions when doing so. But how can
teachers enhance student homework effort and emotion? As yet,
there is no coherent theoretical framework that articulates how
teachers’ homework beliefs and behaviors translate into students’
homework outcomes. In the following study, we therefore report
theoretical approaches and empirical results from three interrelated
but separate strands of research: teachers’ homework objectives,
teachers’ homework implementation, and teachers’ attitudes to-
ward parental involvement.
Teachers’ Reasons for Assigning Homework
The many reasons teachers report for assigning homework (e.g.,
Bempechat, 2004; Cooper, 1989; Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001)
can be grouped into three major categories: enhancing achieve-
ment, improving student motivation and self-regulation, and es-
tablishing a positive link between the school and the home. Not
surprisingly, enhancing student achievement is teachers’ stated
reason number one for setting homework (Cooper, 1989). Drill and
practice assignments, the main purpose of which is to rehearse and
deepen the knowledge acquired in the previous lessons, seem to be
the most prevalent form of homework assignments. A distinction has
been made between homework containing same-day tasks and home-
work involving elements of practice and/or preparation (Cooper,
1989). The former is cognitively less demanding and focuses on
repetitive exercises. In Cooper’s differentiation, practice and/or
preparation homework is cognitively more demanding because it
covers material that has not been completely covered in class, or
material dealt with in earlier lessons. Reviewing eight studies,
Cooper (1989) found an average effect size of d0.14 favoring
cognitively more demanding homework assignments.
A second achievement-related purpose of homework assign-
ments is their assumed potential to narrow the achievement gap
between high- and low-achieving students. Some researchers (e.g.,
Keith, 1982) have suggested that low-ability students in particular
could benefit from spending more time on homework assignments,
because low achievers need more time to reach the same level as
more gifted students. Indeed, homework assignments have always
been seen as providing leverage to close the achievement gap
between high- and low-achieving students. Depending on cogni-
tive factors such as aptitude and ability, every learner needs a
certain amount of time to master a task (Carroll, 1984; see also
Bloom, 1976). Given the same number of tasks to be completed
and unlimited learning time—which is at least theoretically the
case for homework assignments—the achievement gap between
students can be expected to diminish. Homework is thus seen as
offering additional learning opportunities in which learning time is
individualized and in which students can theoretically continue
working until their assignments are completed and they have
acquired a deeper understanding of the content covered. In con-
trast, Walberg, Paschal, and Weinstein (1985) argued that home-
work assignments are equally beneficial to students of all achieve-
ment levels. In a large-scale longitudinal study, Trautwein, Ko¨ller,
Schmitz, and Baumert (2002) found that the effect of homework
length interacted significantly with the individual achievement
level; extensive homework assignments tended to reduce intraclass
variability in achievement, but they were also associated with a
comparatively unfavorable development in the overall achieve-
ment of these classes.
Improving student motivation and self-regulation is the second
major reason for assigning homework. In fact, as pointed out by
Hoover-Dempsey et al. (2001) and Warton (2001), enhancing
student motivation and self-regulation might be the primary reason
for many teachers to assign homework. Elementary school teach-
ers, in particular, see homework as a valuable tool for enhancing
student self-regulation and time use. Similarly, Bempechat (2004)
disputed the idea that achievement-related issues are the main
purpose of homework; instead, she argued that “we need to pay as
much attention to the development of skills that help children take
initiative in their learning and maintain or regain their motivation
when it wanes” (p. 190). However, Warton (2001) convincingly
argued that many children may not be aware of this objective and
that in many cases homework is more likely to undermine than to
enhance student motivation (see also Corno, 1996).
Finally, improvement of the school– home link has been iden-
tified as a third important reason for assigning homework
(Bempechat, 2004; Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001; also see Hill &
Taylor, 2004). Homework informs parents about what is taught at
school, prompts communication about school matters, and com-
municates standards and expectations (Bempechat, 2004; Natriello
& McDill, 1986). These effects are believed to be positively
associated with school achievement.
Implementing Homework Assignments
Previous empirical research has devoted little attention to how
teachers’ homework implementation practices affect homework
completion and achievement (Trautwein & Ko¨ller, 2003). How-
ever, drawing on findings of research on learning and instruction
in the classroom (see reviews by Brophy & Good, 1986; Weinert
& Helmke, 1995) and on theoretical accounts of student motiva-
tion (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 2002), informed speculations about the
effect of homework assignments on student effort and motivation
are possible.
One important characteristic of homework assignment practices
is the control of homework completion. Walberg et al. (1985)
called for intensive control and grading of homework: “Homework
benefits achievement and attitudes, especially if it is commented
upon or graded” (p. 76). An intervention study by Elawar and
Corno (1985) seems to support that claim. Elawar and Corno
trained teachers in the experimental group to give a specific form
of written feedback. The authors found improved achievement and
attitudes in the experimental group relative to the control group;
furthermore, improvement was observed at all ability levels.
The study by Elawar and Corno (1985) clearly illustrates the
potential of sophisticated feedback on homework assignments.
However, it remains unclear whether teachers’ typical homework
control practices are positively associated with student homework
effort and motivation beyond this intervention setting. In fact,
some theoretical accounts imply that grading and intensive control
of homework completion might be at odds with the aim of increas-
ing student motivation. For instance, self-determination theory
(Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999; Deci & Ryan, 2002; Ryan &
Connell, 1989) differentiates between informational feedback,
which is thought to have positive consequences, and controlling
feedback and external rewards, which are believed to undermine
students’ intrinsic motivation (see Cameron & Pierce, 1994, for a
critical account). In that sense, students’ homework motivation and
effort might be weakened by overcontrolling teacher behaviors,
resulting in negative emotional states during homework. Con-
versely, and in line with both self-determination theory (Grolnick,
2003) and social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1997; Zimmerman,
2000), emphasizing that doing homework is students’ responsibility
and their “job” (Corno & Xu, 2004) might be associated with an
increase in students’ homework motivation and effort (Bempechat,
2004; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2001; Warton, 2001; Zimmerman &
Kitsantas, 2005).
In most existing studies on the effects of teachers’ homework
control on homework effort and motivation, students were the only
source of information about teachers’ homework control. In these
studies, perceived homework control tended to be positively re-
lated to self-reported effort when operationalized as constructive
or informational teacher behavior (e.g., “Our teacher makes sure
that we all try hard on our homework”; see Trautwein, Lu¨dtke,
Kastens, & Ko¨ller, 2006), but negatively related or unrelated to
homework effort when measures alluded to controlling teacher
responses (e.g., “If we haven’t done our French homework, we get
into trouble with our teacher”; see Trautwein, Lu¨dtke, Schnyder, et
al., 2006).
Recruiting Parental Homework Involvement
Parental homework involvement is of high theoretical and prac-
tical interest. Many parents perceive that teachers solicit parental
help (see Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2001), and some researchers and
educators believe it is a key ingredient in the development of
beliefs and attitudes that help to foster academic achievement
(Bempechat, 2004). However, researchers and educators are split
about the extent to which parents should be involved in homework
completion (e.g., Cooper, 2001; Corno, 1996; Grolnick, 2003;
Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2001), and
it remains unclear whether teachers are generally in favor of
parental involvement.
What is clear is that, overall, parents have a considerable effect
on the development of student attitudes, behaviors, and learning
(Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Hill & Taylor, 2004). Parental involve-
ment in homework has proven to be a two-edged sword, however,
producing both wanted and unwanted effects depending on the
form of support provided (Grolnick, 2003). The association be-
tween parental homework involvement and homework motivation
and behavior seems to be fairly consistent with theoretical predic-
tions derived from self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2002),
which stresses students’ needs for autonomy, affiliation, and com-
petence. Clearly, certain forms of parental homework support are
more likely to be congruent with these needs (Grolnick & Slowiaczek,
1994). Generally speaking, whereas more distal variables such as
parental education and parent– child communication about school
have been found to be positively related to achievement, school
adjustment, and homework effort, more proximal variables such as
homework support and control have yielded only mixed support
for parental engagement in the homework process (Grolnick &
Slowiaczek, 1994). For instance, in a study by Cooper, Lindsay,
and Nye (2000), the frequency of direct parental involvement in
homework was significantly negatively correlated with achieve-
ment in standardized test scores (r–.18) and class grades (r
–.11), whereas parental autonomy support was associated with
more homework completed. Similarly, Pomerantz, Wang, and Ng
(2005) found a correlation of r.35 between frequency of
parental help and child homework helplessness; the correlation
between frequency of help and homework persistence was non-
The Present Study
Common sense and anecdotal evidence suggest that teachers are
differentially successful in enhancing student morale with regard
to homework assignments, but empirical evidence on the extent
and predictors of such differences is lacking. We therefore con-
ducted a study with a large sample of eighth graders studying
French as a second language and their teachers. More specifically,
we examined the development of student homework effort, home-
work emotions, and achievement between the beginning and end
of the school year as a function of teachers’ homework objectives,
their implementation of assignments, and their attitudes toward
parental involvement.
There were two main research questions. The first addressed
teachers’ objectives for setting homework, their homework imple-
mentation practices, and their attitudes toward parental involve-
ment. Given the lack of prior research or standardized instruments,
we developed a short questionnaire instrument to assess major
characteristics of teachers’ homework assignment practices. In the
present study, we investigated the teachers’ mean endorsement of
several facets and the intercorrelations of these facets.
The second—and most central—research question concerned
the association between the development of students’ homework
effort, emotion, and achievement, on the one hand, and teachers’
reports about their homework assignment practices, on the other.
We expected to find between-class differences in trajectories of
homework effort, emotion, and achievement. Moreover, we ex-
pected that teachers’ homework objectives, homework implemen-
tation practices, and attitudes toward parental homework involve-
ment would help to explain these differences. Given the lack of
similar previous studies and the conflicting predictions and results
found in the literature, however, no a priori predictions were
Most educational studies rely on convenience samples. In non-
experimental research, this is frequently a point of criticism be-
cause the natural variation of the phenomenon under study is often
restricted. The largely representative sample of teachers from three
Swiss cantons and their classes used in the present study over-
comes this restriction to a considerable extent. The study is part of
a larger study on homework assignment and homework comple-
tion in French as a second language conducted in collaboration
between researchers at the College of Teacher Education in Fri-
bourg, Switzerland, and the Max Planck Institute for Human
Development in Berlin, Germany. The local educational authori-
ties of the three Swiss cantons in which the study took place
strongly supported it; furthermore, the teachers in these cantons
had little previous experience of empirical studies and were gen-
erally interested in the research. These two factors resulted in a
very high participation rate. In two Swiss cantons (Fribourg and
Valais), more than 90% of all Grade 8 classrooms with German as the
school language participated; in addition, a small number of classes
from a third canton (Lucerne) were included. Because of this high
participation rate, the sample is largely representative of students
of this age in Switzerland in terms of socioeconomic status, as
The total sample consists of 112 Grade 8 classrooms with 93
teachers and a total of 1,915 students attending compulsory lessons
in French as a second language. Nine teachers and their classes had
to be eliminated from the sample because the teacher questionnaire
was not returned. An additional teacher and her students were
dropped because it was a special education class. Moreover, be-
cause we were interested in naturally occurring homework effects,
we excluded 20 teachers and their classes who were randomly
selected to take part in a teaching effectiveness program while the
present study was in progress.
The remaining sample consisted of 63 French teachers (40 male,
23 female; mean teaching experience: M17.50 years, SD
10.56) and 1,299 eighth graders (51.2% female; mean age at first
measurement point: M13.84, SD 0.56) from 71 classes. For
the majority of teachers, only one of their classes participated; for
8 teachers, however, student responses from 2 classes were avail-
able. Of the participating students, 93.8% were born in Switzer-
land; moreover, 88.7% of the students’ mothers and 88.6% of
fathers were born in Switzerland, and 92.4% of students reported
speaking German with their parents most or all of the time. Finally,
28.2% of the fathers and 15.2% of the mothers had obtained a
college degree—figures typical for this generation in Switzerland.
In Switzerland, students are assigned to different secondary
tracks on the basis of their prior achievement. We distinguished
two tracks: a higher and a lower track. Additionally, we dummy
coded the region, using Valais as the reference category. The
content of the French-as-a-second-language curriculum is very
similar across the participating schools. It is important that teach-
ers in all cantons and tracks could choose between only two—
rather similar—French textbooks. In fact, the major difference
between the classes was the expected level of achievement, which
is higher in the upper track.
The study was conducted during regular lesson time in intact
classes in the 2003–2004 school year. Participation was voluntary
for teachers and students. All participating teachers and students
were extensively informed about the goals of the study and assured
that their data would be used for scientific purposes only.
The first student questionnaire and achievement test and the
teacher questionnaire were administered between August and Oc-
tober 2003 (Time 1); the second student questionnaire and
achievement test were administered in May–June 2004 (Time 2).
The achievement test and student questionnaire each took 1 hr of
lesson time. A 30-min test of basic cognitive abilities was also
administered at Time 1; the test scores were used as control
variables (see below). Materials, including detailed written instruc-
tions on data collection, were mailed to the participating French
teachers, who administered the student instruments. Immediately
after testing, teachers collected the materials, put them in a sealed
envelope, and mailed them back to the researchers. Teachers were
sent their questionnaires in October and asked to return them by
mail within two weeks. A written report about the study’s main
results was made available to the participating classes in the school
year after the study took place.
Teacher questionnaire. Teachers were asked about their
homework objectives, their homework implementation practices,
and their attitudes toward parental homework involvement. A
4-point Likert-type scale (where 1 completely disagree and 4
completely agree) was used for all constructs. All items in the
teacher homework scales are reported in the Appendix. The
construction of the instrument and its eight subscales was
theoretically driven; item and scale analyses were used to
validate the instrument.
Homework objectives were assessed by means of four sub-
scales, the first two of which focus on achievement. Teachers who
endorse the four items of the Drill and Practice scale tend to use
homework assignments to repeat material covered in the previous
lesson and to diagnose student progress. The scale focuses on
We also conducted a confirmatory factor analysis with the eight
teacher scales described below. In this factor analysis, all items were
specified to have loadings on their theoretically predicted factor, and no
cross-loadings or correlated uniquenesses were specified (i.e., a conserva-
tive approach was used). All teachers in the total sample with sufficient
data for the analysis were included. Model fit for the postulated model with
eight intercorrelated factors was acceptable, with
(271, N84)
385.09, root-mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA) .071. All
standardized factor loadings were well above .30, with an average of .60.
We also specified a set of more parsimonious alternative models in which
two or more factors with comparably high intercorrelations (see Table 1)
were collapsed into one factor, but all these models showed a weaker fit
with the data. It should be noted, however, that caution is warranted in
interpreting the results of the factor analyses with the teacher scales
because of the small ratio between sample size and number of items.
same-day tasks, but the items do not explicitly refer to tasks with
low potential for cognitive activation. The internal consistency of
the scale score proved to be satisfactory (␣⫽.67). The Closing the
Achievement Gap scale (␣⫽.69) consists of two items highlight-
ing the potential of homework to help low-achieving students in
particular. The third scale, labeled Motivation, consists of six items
(␣⫽.68) describing the potential of homework assignments to
enhance student motivation. Finally, the two items of the School–
Home Link scale (␣⫽.83) reflect the idea that homework informs
parents about school and stimulates communication between par-
ents and students.
Teachers’ homework implementation practices were assessed
by means of two teacher self-report scales. First, the Emphasis on
Student Responsibility scale (2 items, ␣⫽.74) consists of two
items stressing that students and not teachers draw most benefit
from the completion of homework assignments. Second, teachers
high on the Controlling Homework Style scale (four items, ␣⫽
.67) reported using homework assignments extensively to control
student effort and for student evaluation.
Teachers’ attitudes toward parental homework involvement
were captured by two scales. Teachers high on Endorsement of
Parental Homework Control (two items, ␣⫽.72) expressed a
positive attitude toward parental control of homework comple-
tion. Conversely, teachers who endorsed the items of the Sup-
port for Student Homework Autonomy scale (four items, ␣⫽
.68) consider homework to be particularly helpful when chil-
dren do it on their own.
Student questionnaire. Most of the items used to assess stu-
dent homework behavior and homework motivation were drawn
from earlier studies (see Trautwein, Lu¨dtke, Schnyder, et al.,
2006). A 4-point Likert-type scale (where 1 completely disagree
and 4 completely agree) was used for all constructs.
Homework Effort scale consisted of five items (sample item: “I
always try to finish my French homework”). Students high on
homework effort do their homework assignments carefully and do
not copy from others. Internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) of
the scale score was adequate for Time 1 (.75) and Time 2 (.79).
Students’ negative homework emotions were assessed by means of
5 items (sample item: “Doing French homework often annoys
me”); the Negative Homework Emotions scale describes negative
emotional states that accompany the completion of homework
assignments. Students high on this scale feel angry, uneasy, and
tense when working on their assignments. Internal consistency of
the scale score was adequate for Time 1 (.80) and Time 2 (.81).
French achievement test. Students’ French skills were as-
sessed at two points of measurement (beginning and end of Grade
8) using a standardized achievement measure (Neumann et al.,
2007). Test scores were scaled according to item response theory
using the ConQuest package (Wu, Adams, & Wilson, 1998). The
French test was designed to provide a broad overview of students’
command of the language by assessing a range of skills (reading
comprehension, listening comprehension, and writing proficiency)
and levels of language. Different response formats were used:
Multiple choice tasks were combined with tasks requiring sen-
tences to be completed, generated from words provided, put in the
right order, or translated from French into German. Achievement
scores were calculated on the basis of 62 items at Time 1 and 48
items at Time 2, with 13 items serving as anchor items. The
reliability of the test scores was high at both points of measure-
ment. The internal consistency (Kuder-Richardson Formula 20
[KR-20]) was .89 at Time 1 and .91 at Time 2.
Cognitive ability. Teachers can be expected to adapt their
homework assignments to the ability level of their students. In
addition, there may be regional differences in homework assign-
ments and student homework outcomes. In the present study,
effects of such variables would constitute unwanted confounding
(or third-variable) influences. To minimize such effects, we ad-
ministered a measure of cognitive abilities at Time 1. The verbal
subscales of the Cognitive Abilities Test 4 –13 (Heller, Gaedike, &
Weinla¨der, 1976) were used to tap basic cognitive abilities, with a
total of 95 multiple-choice items (finding analogies, similarities,
opposites, and missing words in a sentence) administered. Internal
consistency was high (KR-20 .89).
Statistical Analyses
Statistical models. We conducted multilevel regression analy-
ses to predict homework effort, negative homework emotions,
homework expectancy beliefs, and homework value beliefs. In
most studies in school settings, individual student characteristics
are confounded with classroom or school characteristics because
individuals are not randomly assigned to groups. This clustering
effect introduces problems related to appropriate levels of analysis,
aggregation bias, and heterogeneity of regression (Raudenbush &
Bryk, 2002). Particularly when major variables represent different
levels, it is important to use appropriate multilevel statistical
procedures for data analysis. Multilevel modeling, a special form
of regression analysis, provides a powerful methodology for han-
dling hierarchical data of this kind. Multilevel analyses were
computed with the computer program HLM 6 (Raudenbush, Bryk,
Cheong, & Congdon, 2004).
The HLM output does not report standardized regression coef-
ficients. To enhance the interpretability of the resulting regression
coefficients, we standardized (M0, SD 1) all continuous
variables before performing the multilevel analyses. Dichotomous
variables were retained in their original metric. All models re-
ported are random-intercept models. Hence, the random part of the
intercept was freely estimated to reflect between-classroom differ-
ences in students’ reports about homework; teachers’ homework
scales were used as predictors of between-classroom differences.
Because we had no a priori hypotheses concerning between-
classroom differences in the predictive power of the predictor
variables, we did not estimate the random parts of the slopes.
Restricted maximum likelihood estimation was used in all models.
Missing data. Missing data represent a potentially serious
methodological problem in many empirical studies. For each of the
variables considered here, the percentage of missing data was
below 10%; on average, 3.7% of the data were missing. Only 7.4%
of the participants had more than two missing values on the total
of 19 variables used; 73.5% had valid data on all variables; 19.1%
had either one or two missing values. In the methodological
literature on missing data (Little & Rubin, 1987; Schafer, 1997),
Again, we also specified confirmatory factor analyses. For the student
questionnaire data, the fit for the postulated model with two intercorrelated
factors (homework effort and homework emotions) was acceptable, with
(34, N1299) 212.55, RMSEA .066 for Time 1, and
(34, N
1299) 290.76, RMSEA .072 for Time 2.
there is growing consensus that multiple imputation of missing
data is superior to traditional pairwise and listwise deletion meth-
ods. We therefore opted for the multiple imputation procedure
(Schafer, 1997) and used the NORM software (Version 2.03; see
Schafer & Graham, 2002) to generate five data sets in which all
missing data were replaced by estimated values. All subsequent
statistical analyses were conducted separately for each of the five
data sets. Parameters and their standard errors were then automat-
ically combined by the HLM 6.0 program, using procedures de-
scribed by Schafer and Graham (2002). The overall estimates and
standard errors reported thus take into account the uncertainty of
missing data.
Effect sizes of teacher variables. Effect sizes have found in-
creasing use in educational research. The statistical significance of
a finding says little about its substantive meaning or real-world
importance (see Kline, 2004). Effect sizes allow the meaningful-
ness of an empirical result to be presented clearly and the findings
of empirical studies to be more readily appreciated; they also help
politicians and policy makers in their decision making (McCartney
& Rosenthal, 2000).
How can the meaningfulness of results from multilevel model-
ing be determined? In our study, we used three indicators of effect
size. First, in analogy to the measure of explained variance in
ordinary linear regression models, we report the proportion of
variance explained by the predictor variables at each level for each
model. This measure is determined by calculating the proportion of
the variance that is explained at each of the levels when the
predictor variables are introduced into the specific model (see
Snijders & Bosker, 1999).
Second, we report easily interpretable regression coefficients for
Level-1 variables. Because we standardized all continuous Level-1
predictor and outcome variables before entering them in our mul-
tilevel models, the coefficients of the continuous Level-1 variables
can be interpreted in almost the same way as the standardized
regression coefficients resulting from ordinary regression analysis.
Because gender was not standardized, the regression coefficients
for gender show the differences in girls’ and boys’ outcome
variables in standard deviations, controlled for the other predictor
Third, the class-level regression weights show change in the
dependent variables corresponding to an increase of one unit (1
SD) in the predictor variables. Given the complexity of the regres-
sion weights at the class level and the resemblance of classes and
treatment groups in experimental research, there has recently been
growing interest in the application of effect sizes in multilevel
models; effect sizes are familiar to psychological researchers and
are easily interpretable. Tymms (2004) proposed that the effect
size for continuous Level-2 predictors in multilevel models, which
is comparable to Cohen’s d, be calculated using the following
where Bis the unstandardized regression coefficient in the multi-
level model, SD
is the standard deviation of the predictor
variable at the class level, and
is the residual standard deviation
at the student level. To give an example, let the regression coef-
ficient at the class level be B0.30, its standard deviation SD
0.35, and the residual standard deviation at the student level
0.80. Inserting these values into the formula yields
⌬⫽20.30 0.35 /0.80 0.26.
An effect size of ⌬⫽0.26 indicates that the difference in the
dependent variable between two classes that differ two standard
deviations on the predictor variable amounts to 0.26. Applying
Cohen’s (1988) conventions, this would constitute a small effect.
Research in the field of teaching generally yields rather small
effect sizes (Brophy & Good, 1986), reflecting the fact that
changes in student outcome variables are multiply determined. For
this reason, small effect sizes are typically considered meaningful
in this research field, especially if they are associated with teaching
characteristics that are modifiable (see also the Discussion sec-
tion). We thus suggest that a small effect size of ⌬⫽0.20 should
also be considered meaningful in the present research.
Descriptive Analyses
Students reported lower homework effort (M2.97, SD
0.61) at the end of Grade 8 than at the beginning (M3.19, SD
0.53), t(62) 10.55, p.001; significance test performed with
HLM to take account of the hierarchical character of the data. At
the same time, the occurrence of negative feelings when doing
homework increased (Time 1: M1.95, SD 0.63; Time 2: M
2.06, SD 0.67), t(62) – 4.59, p.001. French achievement
increased by slightly more than one third of a standard deviation
over the school year (Time 1: M0.00, SD 1.10; Time 2: M
0.40, SD 1.38), t(62) – 6.18, p.001.
Teachers’ Homework Objectives, Implementation
Practices, and Attitudes Toward Parental Involvement
The first research question concerned teachers’ overall endorse-
ment of various homework objectives, implementation practices,
and attitudes toward parental involvement. Table 1 reports means
and standard deviations for the teacher variables. With regards to
homework objectives, teachers strongly endorsed the items from
the Drill and Practice scale, and generally saw the school– home
link as a less compelling reason for setting homework. The means
of the Enhancing Student Motivation and Closing the Achieve-
ment Gap scales fell between these two scales. For homework
implementation, the majority of teachers reported placing an em-
phasis on student responsibility for homework completion. The
average score for Controlling Homework Style was somewhat
lower, but still above the scale midpoint of 2.5. Finally, in terms of
parental involvement in homework, the majority of teachers
showed support for student homework autonomy; at the same time,
as indicated by a mean of 2.49 and a comparatively high standard
deviation, teachers were split on whether to welcome or reject
parental homework control.
Table 1 also reports the correlations between these constructs;
our observations focus on two findings that seem to be of partic-
ular relevance. First, as indicated by the positive correlations
between the homework objectives scales, most of which are sta-
tistically significant, teachers did not consider the different objec-
tives to be antagonistic. Second, there was a tendency for teachers
who endorsed the Drill and Practice scale to score high on the
Endorsement of Parental Homework Control and Controlling
Homework Style scales.
Predicting Homework Effort
We now turn to the second research question: Are there systematic
differences in the development of homework effort, homework emo-
tions, and achievement across different school classes? And if so, do
the teacher variables predict these outcomes when controlling for a
host of potentially important other predictor variables?
We started with Time 2 homework effort as the outcome vari-
able (see Table 2). In the first model, the empty (or null) model,
only the dependent variable was introduced; this model gives a
baseline estimation of the variance components within and be-
tween classes (see Snijders & Bosker, 1999). A total of 12% of the
variance in student-reported homework effort at Time 2 was be-
tween teachers, indicating that students taught by different French
teachers differed substantially on homework effort.
In the second model, we introduced all student-level predictor
variables and the teacher-level control variables (track and region);
in addition to regression weights for the predictor variables in-
cluded, this second model gives an estimate of interclass differ-
ences in Time 2 effort after controlling for important Time 1
variables. As expected, Time 1 homework effort strongly predicted
Time 2 homework effort (B0.52); no other variable had a
statistically significant regression weight. At the student level, the
predictor variables explained 26% of the student-level variance in
Model 2. At the teacher level, 60% of the variance was explained;
Table 1
Teachers’ Homework Objectives, Homework Implementation Practices, and Attitudes Toward Parental Involvement: Means, Standard
Deviations, and Intercorrelations
Scales MSD 12345678
1. Closing the achievement gap 2.38 0.62
2. School-home link 2.18 0.65 0.49
3. Drill and practice 3.27 0.42 0.35 0.30
4. Motivation 2.54 0.41 0.46 0.41 0.26 —
5. Emphasis on student responsibility 3.31 0.60 0.08 0.01 0.25 0.32 —
6. Controlling homework style 2.76 0.53 0.29 0.29 0.41 0.38 0.35 —
7. Endorsement of parental homework control 2.49 0.71 0.12 0.03 0.29 0.02 0.14 0.35 —
8. Support for student homework autonomy 3.12 0.51 0.18 0.41 0.08 0.04 0.36 0.12 0.17 —
Note. Correlations .25 are statistically significant at p.05.
Table 2
Predicting Time 2 Homework Effort: Results From Multilevel Modeling
Variable Model 1
Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5
Canton: Fribourg 0.10 0.08 0.08 0.08 0.04 0.07 0.08 0.08
Canton: Lucerne 0.19 0.13 0.15 0.11 0.25
0.10 0.22 0.11
Upper track 0.00 0.09 0.04 0.09 0.12 0.09 0.01 0.08
Homework objectives
Closing the achievement gap 0.02 0.03
School–home link 0.07
Drill and practice 0.08
Motivation 0.07
Homework implementation practices
Student responsibility 0.10
Controlling homework style 0.15
Attitudes toward parental involvement
Endorsement of parental homework control 0.05 0.04
Support for student homework autonomy 0.07
Student level
Gender: Male 0.08 0.05 0.08 0.05 0.08 0.05 0.08 0.05
Basic cognitive abilities 0.00 0.03 0.01 0.03 0.00 0.03 0.00 0.03
Homework effort (Time 1) 0.52
0.03 0.52
0.03 0.52
0.03 0.51
Residual variance
Teacher level 0.12 0.05 0.04 0.03 0.04
Student level 0.88 0.66 0.66 0.66 0.66
Explained variance
Teacher level 0.60 0.69 0.72 0.67
Student level 0.26 0.26 0.26 0.26
teacher-level variance can be explained by both student-level and
teacher-level predictor variables (see Snijders & Bosker, 1999).
After controlling for the variables included in Model 2, there was
still a meaningful variance component at the teacher level; the
residual intraclass correlation coefficient (the ratio of residual vari-
ance at the teacher level and total residual variance) amounted to .07;
this indicates that the development of homework effort differed mean-
ingfully between students taught by different teachers.
In the next three models, we sequentially introduced the teacher
variables. In Model 3, we included teachers’ homework objectives;
in Model 4, we entered the homework implementation variables;
finally, in Model 5, we introduced teachers’ attitudes toward
parental homework involvement. Critically, in each of these mod-
els, we included Time 1 homework effort as a predictor variable to
control for differences already present at Time 1.
Three of the four homework objective variables entered in
Model 3 statistically significantly predicted Time 2 homework
effort when we controlled for the other variables in the model. The
largest absolute value was found for the Drill and Practice scale.
We calculated the effect size of this coefficient using the formula
described previously. With a standard deviation of the Drill and
Practice scale of SD 1.00 at the teacher level and a residual
standard deviation of
0.81 at the student level, we found
⌬⫽2⫻⫺0.08 1.00 /0.81 ⫽⫺0.21.
Applying the criteria for a meaningful effect sized described
above, ⌬⫽⫺0.21 indicates a small but meaningful effect. Hence,
controlling for the other variables in Model 3, the development of
students’ homework effort was comparatively unfavorable in
classes taught by teachers who scored high on the Drill and
Practice scale. A negative association with Time 2 homework
effort was also found for the School-Home Link scale. With ⌬⫽
0.18, the respective effect size was marginally below the value
of 0.20. A more positive development in homework effort was
found in classes whose teacher emphasized the potential of home-
work to enhance student motivation; again, however, at ⌬⫽0.17
the effect size was rather small. Overall, the explained variance in
Model 3 was .69 at the teacher level and .26 at the student level.
In Model 4, we replaced teachers’ homework objectives by the
homework implementation practices scales. Most importantly, a
controlling homework style was found to be associated with an
unfavorable development of homework effort (B⫽⫺0.15); with
⌬⫽⫺0.38, the effect approached a medium size. Conversely, an
emphasis on student responsibility positively predicted Time 2
homework effort; the effect size was ⌬⫽0.24. Interestingly,
relative to the reference group (students from Valais), students
from Lucerne evidenced a less favorable development of home-
work effort. The total amount of variance explained at the teacher
level in Model 4 was .72.
Finally, teachers’ attitudes about parental involvement were
considered in Model 5. As shown in Table 2, teacher support for
student homework autonomy was positively associated with Time
2 homework effort after controlling for the other predictors in
Model 5; the effect size was ⌬⫽0.18. At R
.67, the amount
of explained variance at the teacher level was somewhat smaller
than in Model 4.
Predicting Negative Emotions During Homework
Applying the same set of analyses, we next predicted Time 2
negative homework emotions. The results of these analyses are
reported in Table 3. The unconditional model (Model 1) indicated
that a total of 10% of the variance in the dependent variable was
between classes. In Model 2, the high regression coefficient for
Time 1 negative homework emotions indicated that there was
considerable stability between Time 1 and Time 2 in students’
experience of negative emotions when doing homework. Some-
what unexpectedly, we also found a statistically significant effect
for female gender, indicating a more unfavorable development of
homework emotions in boys than in girls during Grade 8. The
variance explained at the teacher level was .67. The remaining
teacher-level variance component was ( p.001) different from
zero, and the residual intraclass correlation coefficient was .05,
indicating that the development of homework emotions differed
meaningfully between students with different teachers.
In Models 3, 4, and 5, three statistically significant regression
coefficients were found for the teacher homework scales. First,
when we controlled for the stability effects, students in classes in
which the teacher endorsed the enhancement of the school– home
link as an important reason for setting homework showed a com-
paratively unfavorable development in homework emotions (B
0.09; see Model 3). We again calculated the effect size for this
coefficient. With a standard deviation of the School-Home Link
scale of SD 1.00 and a residual standard deviation at the student
level of
0.78, we found a small, but meaningful effect size of
⌬⫽0.23. Second, in Model 4, a controlling homework style was
associated with an increase in negative student emotions during
homework completion. The effect size was small, but meaningful
(⌬⫽0.21). Third, in Model 5, we found a comparatively positive
development of homework emotions in classes whose teachers
strongly endorsed student homework autonomy. The effect size
amounted to ⌬⫽⫺0.26. At R
.77, the explained variance at
the teacher level was larger than in Models 2, 3, or 4.
Predicting French Achievement
Finally, we repeated the same set of analyses with French
achievement at Time 2 as the outcome variable (see Table 4). The
empty model indicated that 63% of the total variance in Time 2
achievement was between students with different teachers, reflect-
ing the expected achievement differences across classes in tracked
systems (e.g., Trautwein, Lu¨dtke, Marsh, Ko¨ ller, & Baumert,
2006). Model 2 showed substantive stability in achievement, as
indicated by the regression weight of Time 1 achievement. In
addition, we found basic cognitive abilities at Time 1 and gender
to significantly predict Time 2 achievement when controlling for
the other predictor variables. Higher cognitive abilities and female
gender were associated with favorable change in achievement.
Achievement gains were most favorable in students in the upper
track and from the canton of Valais, the reference group. A total of
92% of the variance at the teacher level was explained by the
inclusion of the student and teacher variables. The remaining
teacher-level variance component was still statistically significant
(p.001); the residual intraclass correlation was .22.
Three of the four homework objective variables entered in
Model 3 predicted Time 2 homework effort when the other vari-
ables in the model were controlled. Paralleling the findings for
homework effort, the largest absolute value was found for the Drill
and Practice scale (⌬⫽⫺0.37). Hence, when we controlled for the
other variables in Model 3, the development of students’ achieve-
ment was comparatively unfavorable in classes taught by teachers
who scored high on the Drill and Practice scale. A positive
association with Time 2 achievement was found in classes whose
teacher emphasized the potential of homework to close the
achievement gap between high- and low-performing students (⌬⫽
0.32) and considered homework to be a valuable tool for enhanc-
ing student motivation (⌬⫽0.28). Overall, the variance explained
in Model 3 was .93 at the teacher level and .50 at the student level.
In Model 4, we replaced teachers’ homework objectives by the
homework implementation practices scales. However, these two
scales proved not to be associated with Time 2 achievement after
controlling for the other variables in the model. Finally, teachers’
attitudes about parental involvement were considered in Model 5.
As shown in Table 4, teacher endorsement of parental homework
control was negatively associated with Time 2 achievement when
we controlled for the other predictors in Model 5; the effect size
was ⌬⫽⫺0.27.
Effective Homework Assignments
The present study indicates that what teachers think and do
about homework is associated with the development of students’
homework effort, homework emotions, and achievement. The ef-
fect sizes found were mostly small but meaningful. In the follow-
ing section, we focus on five of the eight teacher scales that were
statistically significantly associated with more than one student
outcome; the remaining three predictors were associated with one
There were several predictive effects of homework objectives.
Drill and practice assignments were associated with comparatively
negative developments in homework effort and achievement. This
finding does not imply that homework assignments should not
involve any drill and practice—as the descriptive results show,
most teachers endorsed drill and practice as a major objective of
assigning homework. However, when teachers scored especially
high on this scale, student homework effort and achievement tended
to suffer. Conversely, students whose French teacher strongly
endorsed the enhancement of student motivation evidenced com-
paratively favorable developments in homework effort and
achievement over the course of Grade 8. Several researchers (e.g.,
Bempechat, 2004; Cooper, 1989; Corno & Xu, 2004; Warton,
2001) have emphasized that effective homework assignments
should promote student self-regulation and motivation; the present
results support this view.
Our study also contributes to a controversial issue in homework
research (Bennett & Kalish, 2006; Buell, 2004; Cooper, 2001),
namely the extent to which homework should be seen as a means
to tighten the school– home link. In our study, students whose
teachers did not see the enhancement of the school– home link as
a major reason for assigning homework showed somewhat more
favorable developments in homework effort and homework emo-
Table 3
Predicting Time 2 Negative Homework Emotions: Results From Multilevel Modeling
Variable Model 1
Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5
Canton: Fribourg 0.00 0.07 0.03 0.06 0.03 0.07 0.04 0.07
Canton: Lucerne 0.12 0.11 0.10 0.08 0.15 0.09 0.13 0.07
Upper track 0.05 0.08 0.02 0.07 0.02 0.08 0.05 0.07
Homework objectives
Closing the achievement gap 0.04 0.04
School-home link 0.09
Drill and practice 0.05 0.03
Motivation 0.03 0.03
Homework implementation practices
Student responsibility 0.05 0.03
Controlling homework style 0.08
Attitudes toward parental involvement
Endorsement of parental homework control 0.01 0.03
Support for student homework autonomy 0.10
Student level
Gender: Male 0.17
0.05 0.15
0.05 0.17
0.05 0.17
Basic cognitive abilities 0.02 0.03 0.00 0.03 0.01 0.03 0.00 0.03
Negative homework emotions (Time 1) 0.57
0.02 0.56
0.03 0.58
0.02 0.57
Residual variance
Teacher level 0.10 0.03 0.03 0.03 0.02
Student level 0.90 0.60 0.60 0.60 0.60
Explained variance
Teacher level 0.67 0.71 0.71 0.77
Student level 0.33 0.33 0.33 0.33
tions. Hence, the more teachers intended to establish a close link
with parents and to involve them in the homework process, the less
positive the student outcomes were. Interestingly, the pattern of
results for the two attitudes toward parental involvement scales
point into the same direction. Students whose teachers believed
that students should do their homework assignments on their own,
without parental help, showed comparatively favorable develop-
ments in homework effort and homework emotions, whereas there
was comparatively unfavorable development of achievement in
classes in which the teacher endorsed parental homework control.
Overall, this pattern of results runs counter to some educators’
calls (e.g., Bempechat, 2004) for increased parental involvement in
homework. At the same time, it is compatible with self-
determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2002) and other theoretical
approaches (e.g., Bandura, 1997) that emphasize the need for
student autonomy and self-regulation. Parental homework support
has already been shown to be a double-edged sword. For instance,
as research by Pomerantz and colleagues (e.g., Ng, Kenney-
Benson, & Pomerantz, 2004; Pomerantz et al., 2005; Pomerantz &
Eaton, 2001) indicates, although parental help can be beneficial to
students, homework help is frequently intrusive and likely to have
negative effects on students’ self-concept of ability. These nega-
tive effects might apply particularly to adolescents. Prior research
on parental involvement in homework has focused on elementary
school students. It is possible that parental involvement may be
more beneficial to student development in students younger than
the eighth graders who participated in the present study.
For the homework implementation practices variables, three
statistically significant predictive effects were found. We found a
controlling homework style to be negatively associated with home-
work effort, whereas an emphasis on student responsibility posi-
tively predicted homework effort; the effect size for controlling
homework style, in particular, was quite pronounced. Furthermore,
a controlling homework style also predicted an increase in nega-
tive homework emotions. Again, this pattern of results seems to be
compatible with self-determination theory and other theoretical
approaches that predict overcontrolling to be associated with mal-
adaptive outcomes. At the same time, this finding runs counter to
the assumption articulated by Walberg (1991), who predicted that
collecting and grading of homework would be associated with
positive outcomes. At first glance, the pattern of results may seem
surprising. In classes where teachers grade homework assign-
ments, students would be especially ill-advised to come to class
without them; hence, homework morale might be expected to
increase in these classes. However, homework control may have
negative side effects: when homework is graded or the teacher is
experienced as overcontrolling, students may feel tempted to copy
from high-achieving classmates to escape negative consequences.
This is not to say that homework control is bad per se: the quality
of control is likely to be crucial. For instance, informational
feedback may have positive effects. Indeed, an experimental study
by Elawar and Corno (1985), who used an elaborate feedback
system including positive feedback, showed that teachers’ home-
work control can enhance student morale and achievement. In
nonexperimental settings such as the present one, however, a
particularly strong emphasis on controlling and grading homework
might be associated with undesired outcomes.
Table 4
Predicting Time 2 French Achievement: Results From Multilevel Modeling
Variable Model 1
Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5
Canton: Fribourg 0.13
0.06 0.12
0.05 0.13
0.06 0.11
Canton: Lucerne 0.54
0.15 0.56
0.12 0.55
0.15 0.58
Upper track 0.38
0.08 0.34
0.07 0.39
0.09 0.37
Homework objectives
Closing the achievement gap 0.07
School–home link 0.03 0.03
Drill and practice 0.08
Motivation 0.06
Homework implementation practices
Student responsibility 0.02 0.03
Controlling homework style 0.00 0.03
Attitudes toward parental involvement
Endorsement of parental homework control 0.06
Support for student homework autonomy 0.04 0.04
Student level
Gender: Male 0.07
0.03 0.07
0.03 0.07
0.03 0.07
Basic cognitive abilities 0.10
0.02 0.10
0.02 0.10
0.02 0.10
French achievement (Time 1) 0.64
0.02 0.64
0.02 0.64
0.02 0.64
Residual variance
Teacher level 0.63 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05
Student level 0.37 0.18 0.18 0.18 0.18
Explained variance
Teacher level 0.92 0.93 0.92 0.93
Student level 0.50 0.50 0.50 0.50
Practical Implications and Meaningfulness of Effect Sizes
Although the effect sizes for the teacher variables were mostly
small, the effects found are meaningful and have clear practical
implications. It is important that the differences in the development
of students with different teachers were substantial for all depen-
dent variables. Moreover, the effect sizes for the teacher variables
were statistically significant and of meaningful magnitude, despite
the fact that we controlled for corresponding Time 1 variables and
a host of additional predictor variables. When interpreting the
teacher-level predictor variables, it is important to bear in mind
that changes in homework effort, homework emotion, and achieve-
ment are multiply determined (Ahadi & Diener, 1989); as Swann,
Chang-Schneider, and McClarty (2007) recently observed, “com-
plaints about small effect sizes routinely overlook the fact that
when studies are conducted in naturally occurring settings rather
than relatively impoverished laboratory settings, the number of
causes that influence outcome variables increase dramatically” (p.
89). Furthermore, cross-lagged effects are potentially cumulative
over time: The specific effect of a small beta coefficient may be
quite substantial if the effect continues over longer periods of time
(Neyer & Asendorpf, 2001; Prentice & Miller, 1992).
Given the statistical significance and meaningfulness of our
findings, it seems worth considering how they can be translated
into practical educational applications. In our view, it is essential
to systematically include critical discussion of homework and its
potential benefits and costs in all preservice teacher training cur-
ricula; somewhat surprisingly, this is not yet standard practice
(Bennett & Kalish, 2006; Cooper, 1989). In addition to findings on
the relationship between the quantity of homework and student
outcomes (e.g., Cooper et al., 2006; Trautwein, 2007), it seems
particularly important to consider the limited number of studies
that have analyzed the association between quality characteristics
of homework and student outcomes (e.g., Corno & Xu, 2004;
Elawar & Corno, 1985; Trautwein, Lu¨dtke, Schnyder et al., 2006;
Warton, 2001; Xu, 2005). One important message from these studies
is that teachers assigning homework should always bear in mind the
potential positive and negative consequences for motivation.
Limitations and Future Research
The present research provides initial evidence for teacher effects on
students’ homework completion. At the same time, several limitations
should be noted. First and foremost, although we used a longitudinal
design and data from two sources (teachers and students), our study
cannot fully satisfactorily address the issue of causation. In that
respect, our study suffers from a limitation facing practically all
nonexperimental research: the possibility of third-variable explana-
tions. It is important to note that other predictor variables might have
had an effect on the outcome variables had we included them. Fur-
thermore, it is possible that a third variable impacted both the stu-
dents’ answers to the questionnaire items and teachers’ endorsement
of the various homework scales. Unfortunately, there is no ideal
solution to the third-variable problem in the present research (or
indeed in nonexperimental studies in general).
Generalizability is also an issue. Although our sampling procedure
resulted in a sample fairly representative of children in the German-
speaking part of three Swiss cantons, there are clear limitations to its
generalizability. Most notably, our study involved Grade 8 students in
French-as-a-second-language classes only, and it is quite possible that
homework characteristics are differently related to student outcomes
in lower or higher grades or in other subjects. For instance, teachers’
endorsement of parental homework involvement might be more pos-
itively related to student outcomes in lower grades (e.g., Bempechat,
2004). Further research is needed to address this issue. Moreover, it is
unclear to what extent cultural differences might affect the results.
Although no previous studies have documented major differences
between homework practices in Switzerland and, for instance, the
United States, cross-cultural studies might detect such differences.
Moreover, effects may differ for various ethnic groups within one
country. Hence, we would like to see similar studies in diverse
In addition, although we looked at teacher homework variables
from three broad areas, the present study was restricted to a limited
number of these variables, and future studies might benefit from
including additional constructs. Furthermore, the internal consis-
tencies of some of the scale scores should be improved by refining
the items and adding more items. Given the brevity of the scales,
the internal consistencies of the scale scores were satisfactory,
ranging between .67 and .83. However, the variance explained by
these predictor variables may well have been even larger if we had
used longer scales with higher internal consistency. We therefore
suggest that a broader, psychometrically sound instrument with
more items per scale be developed, using a larger number of
teachers. Given the predictive validity of the scale scores docu-
mented in the present study, the items we used provide a useful
starting point for an extended instrument. In addition to teachers’
views of homework, future research should also seek to collect
parents’ attitudes toward homework and their homework behaviors.
Finally, our study relied in part on self-report data, the validity
of which is sometimes questioned. In our view, however, concerns
about the validity of self-report data only partially apply to our
study. In fact, the simultaneous use of three different data sources
(teacher report, student report, standardized achievement tests) is a
notable strength of our study. Furthermore, we specifically asked
teachers about their homework beliefs and attitudes. Self-report is
arguably the most valid assessment method for such constructs.
Similarly, student self-report is arguably the best way to tap
students’ homework emotions. Finally, we would argue that self-
report is probably the most valid data source of data on students’
homework effort. However, students’ self-reports also correlate
with third-party reports. Data from an unrelated (unpublished)
study conducted in our lab indicate a substantive correlation of .49
between student and teacher reports.
To conclude, the present study significantly extended prior research
by establishing a link between what teachers think and do about
homework and student outcomes. Most important, a comparably low
emphasis on drill and practice tasks and a high emphasis on motiva-
tion was associated with favorable developments in students’ home-
work effort and achievement, whereas a controlling homework style
was associated with less homework effort and more negative home-
work emotions. Moreover, contrasting patterns of results were found
for students whose teacher endorsed student homework autonomy and
students whose teacher endorsed parental homework involvement.
More generally, it seems that teachers who emphasized the control of
homework completion as well as drill and practice were less success-
ful than teachers who emphasized student motivation as well as
increasing student responsibility and autonomy via homework assign-
ments. Despite the reasonably consistent pattern of results, more
research is clearly needed to identify the defining characteristics of
effective homework assignments and to ensure that time spent on
homework is not wasted. We hope that our study will mark the
beginning of a more concentrated research effort to determine the role
of teachers and their homework assignments for student learning and
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Teacher Items
Homework Objectives
Drill and Practice
One of my main reasons for setting homework is . . .
. . . to drill, practice, and consolidate the material covered in the
previous lesson.
. . . that it is very effective to have students practice the material
covered in the lesson again at home.
. . . to check that the students are keeping up.
. . . that the assignments help me to see what students have not
Closing the Achievement Gap
One of my main reasons for setting homework is . . .
. . . that it enables students who do not otherwise contribute
much to participate.
. . . that it helps to close achievement gaps between high- and
low-achieving students.
One of my main reasons for setting homework is . . .
. . . that it promotes student responsibility and independence.
. . . that I want to increase the students’ interest in the subject.
. . . that the students can work together and learn from one
. . . that interesting assignments can enhance student motivation.
. . . that students can become more independent by doing home-
work assignments without the teacher’s help.
. . . that it helps me to see which students have motivational
School–Home Link
One of my main reasons for setting homework is . . .
. . . that it informs parents about the curriculum and their chil-
dren’s activities at school.
. . . that it encourages parent-child communication on school
Homework Implementation Practices
Emphasis on Student Responsibility
I have explained to my students why it is important for them to
do homework.
I have explained to my students that they do the homework for
themselves and not for the teacher.
Controlling Homework Style
I can soon tell how much effort a student has made by looking
at his or her homework assignments.
I take homework completion into account when assigning grades.
I often ask students to hand in their homework so that I can
check their work.
In my classes, students who do homework are particularly well
prepared for tests and exams.
Attitudes About Parental Homework Involvement
Endorsement of Parental Homework Control
Parents should have their children show them their homework to
make sure that it has been done properly.
It is important for parents to control their children’s homework
Support for Student Homework Autonomy
Students should do their homework without help, because that is
how they learn most.
Homework should be a school matter, and not a matter for
Parents should only help with homework if their children ask
them explicitly.
Parents should support their children indirectly by encouraging
them with their homework, rather than by doing the assignments
Received April 3, 2007
Revision received June 8, 2008
Accepted June 11, 2008
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