Secondary School Students' Interest in Homework: What about Race and School Location?

Article excerpt


This study examined models of homework interest at the secondary school level to assess whether homework interest varies across race and school location and whether the influence of race on homework interest depends on characteristics of the context (e.g., school location and teacher feedback). Student- and class-level predictors of homework interest were analyzed in a survey of 866 eighth graders from 61 classes and of 745 eleventh graders from 46 classes in the southeastern United States. Results revealed that homework interest did not vary across race (Black students vs. White students) or school location (rural settings vs. urban settings). On the other hand, Black students considered homework more interesting in classes with more frequent teacher feedback than in classes with less frequent teacher feedback, but exactly the opposite was observed for White students.

Key Words: homework, interest, racial difference, White students, Black students, multilevel modeling, secondary school, high schools, rural, urban, teachers, feedback, motivation, academic engagement


Homework is a common, well-known, and important part of most school-aged children's daily routine (Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006; Corno, 2000). It has long been an active area of investigation among educational researchers (Cooper et al., 2006; Corno, 1996; Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001). It is surprising to note, however, that homework interest as perceived by children is notably absent from much contemporary homework research (Warton, 2001).

Informed by research and theorizing on interest in general, and theoretical models of homework in particular, the present researcher (Xu, 2008a) examined empirical models of variables posited to predict homework interest at the secondary school level. However, that study did not examine whether homework interest was related to race and school location.

Thus, there is a need to examine whether students' interest in homework is influenced by race and school location. This line of research is important, as homework interest is positively related to the amount of homework completed (Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998; Xu, 2008a) and academic achievement (Cooper et al., 1998), and as Black students have consistently underachieved in comparison to White students (Ladson-Billings, 2006; Lee, 2002). In addition, rural students tend to have lower educational aspirations in comparison with urban students (Arnold, Newman, Gaddy, & Dean, 2005; Hu, 2003). As educational aspirations may influence how students approach academic tasks such as homework assignments, it is important to examine whether there is a difference in homework interest as perceived by rural and urban students.

Related Literature

The present study is informed by previous research on homework interest as perceived by secondary school students. It is further informed by two lines of literature that suggest that race and school location may play a role in students' interest in homework.

Previous Research on Homework Interest

Typically defined as "a motivational variable [which] refers to the psychological state of engaging or the predisposition to reengage with particular classes of objects, events, or ideas over time" (Hidi & Renninger, 2006, p. 112), interest as a psychological construct has been given renewed attention recently (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Hidi & Renninger, 2006; Schiefele, 2001; Silvia, 2008). This is largely because interest is found to be positively associated with a variety of desirable outcomes (e.g., a positive impact on attention, persistence, and deep-level learning; Hidi & Renninger, 2006; Schiefele, 1999) and because educators continue to wrestle with the challenges of working with academically unmotivated students (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000).

As interest is often defined in terms of engagement (e.g., a psychological state of engaging or reengaging with particular classes of events over time), Corno and Mandinach's (2004) theoretical framework on academic engagement, with homework engagement in particular, bears direct relevance to the present study (Xu, 2008a). …


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