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Taking Homework Seriously

Jason Diodati

High School Chemistry

Stern Math and Science School

Summer 2008

EDCI 590

Creating a Healthy and

Effective Classroom Climate




Action Research and Diagnosis†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Page 3


††††††††††† Action Research Questions


††††††††††† Data Collection Method


††††††††††† Data Analysis Methods


††††††††††† Timeline for Research


Goals and Vision Setting†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Page 6


††††††††††† Goals for Classroom Climate


††††††††††† Mission Statement


Technical Management Plan††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Page 6

††††††††††† Cue Technique and Attention Strategy


††††††††††† Directions, Transitions, Procedures


††††††††††† Homework Accountability


Motivation, Expectations, Emotional Climate††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Page 7


††††††††††† Motivational Goals and Philosophy


††††††††††† Basic Needs


††††††††††† Motivational Strategies


††††††††††† Emotional Climate


Whole Class Goals and Strategies††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Page 8


††††††††††† Social Bonds, Coherence


††††††††††† Consequences


††††††††††† Difficult Students


††††††††††† Community and Responsibility†††††††††
Action Research and Diagnosis


Action Research Questions

††††††††††† Last year was my first full year as a teacher.I had all chemistry courses with all sophomores, with an average class size of 25 students and 2 hour block periods.Since I teach chemistry, and the concepts of chemistry need to be practiced to be understood, I assign homework on a nightly basis.Ideally, homework is a way for the students to practice what they have learned in class, and to identify any areas that they still need clarification.In reality, the students see homework as a boring chore that they want to avoid, cheat on, copy, or lose.It is a constant battle to make sure that the homework I assign is relevant, not overly time consuming, and is properly completed by each student.It is a battle that I would like to win next year, so I am making it my action research plan.

††††††††††† For the first half of the year I had the homework battle under control.The students were coming to class with their assignments complete, very few missed questions, and eager to participate in the lesson.I could tell they were completing the assignment on their own from their involvement in the warm up questions, classroom discussions, and quiz/test scores.Slowly, as time passed on, the students began to slack off on their homework.I expected this and was able to confront the situation and ďput outĒ the small fires that periodically appeared.Although my homework policy was successful, I was not satisfied with the methods and practices I was using and was eager to change them the following year.

††††††††††† After the second semester, I was dealt a devastating blow to my homework policy; the school implemented a new grading system where homework could not be graded.Now, the students knew that homework was not worth points and they did not have to do it to pass the class.I donít disagree with this grading policy; I think homework should not be graded.However, I donít think a large policy change can be made halfway through the school year without causing problems.

††††††††††† Next year I have the opportunity to implement the no grade policy at the beginning of the year with a fresh group of students.I can train them from day one to have an internal desire to complete their homework without expecting the typical reward of points or a grade.I hope to accomplish this through my action research plan.

For my action research plan, I have an overlying theme that will be addressed by asking several important questions.The main question of the plan is how do I get students to take their homework seriously; to not copy their homework and to not skip out on doing it altogether? ††Several supporting questions that arise are:


   What about the homework assignment causes the student to be dissuaded from completing it or leads them to want to copy?

   Will giving a quiz at the start of each period for homework points create more homework responsibility?

   If I put the answers on the homework, and only require the work, will more students make an attempt to complete their homework on their own and on time?

   If I make the assignment shorter, or spend more time in class clarifying the assignment, will more students complete the assignment?


I feel that by answering these questions I can create a more intrinsic desire among the students to complete their homework on their own and on time.If that were to happen, the students would feel more comfortable with the material and increase their enjoyment in the class.That would cut down on the time I spend managing their behavior and increase the amount of time I can spend on instruction.


Data Collection Methods

††††††††††† There are several valuable methods I will use to collect data for my action research.The first, and I feel most valuable, is to talk to last years students.I need to find out why they did there homework at the start of the year, and what caused them to stop.I also need to find out how many of them were actually doing their homework and how many were copying or allowing others to copy. I can also try to figure out what motivates them to do their homework and what factors turn them off to completing an assignment. I may think I know that answers to all of these questions, but I am sure I will be surprised by what really happened.

††††††††††† In order to accomplish the goals of this data collection method I need to make sure the students are comfortable and willing to be candid with their answers.I want them to be able to admit they cheated without fear of reprisal.There are several ways I can do this.I can give them an anonymous survey with very direct questions.Using this method will give me lots of answers, but not for specific cases.I wonít be able to tell which student was cheating, only how many.I can also conduct several personal interviews with a select group of students.It will be more difficult to get them to open up and be honest, but I will get more detailed answers to my questions.

††††††††††† Another data collection method I will use is to conduct these same surveys and interviews with my current group of students.I can try to find out what motivates them to work, what causes them to not want to work, what types of assignments they like and dislike and what they would like to see on their assignments.This will make them feel more involved in their homework creation, and possibly help give them more motivation to complete it.It will also show me what they want to see on their homework and what types of assignments I can give them will keep them interested.

††††††††††† A method I will use to get more detailed data will be to use two or three selected students from each class as case studies throughout the year.I will randomly select these students and use them as the baseline example of the average student in my class.I will monitor their homework completion, their test scores, and even look into their home and family issues.I can use their data as a method to alter my assignments during the course of the year.If I see dramatic issues with them, I can then make changes to my assignments and see if it affects the entire class.

††††††††††† A more direct form of data collection I will use is to monitor how many of them are completing their homework.I can mark down who has it completely done, partially done, or not done at all.I can also tell, usually by checking their work, if some of them have been copying.I will also collect class averages on tests and quizzes, for comparison purposes.

††††††††††† Another form of data collection I will use is to randomly call and interview the parents of the students.I would like to see how much time they spend on their homework, where they do their homework, if they seem to struggle with their homework, and if they ever complain about the assignment.I will be able to learn about the homework assignments from an adult view and from someone who is not involved in the class or the learning process.


Data Analysis Methods

††††††††††† The best way I can analyze the data I collect is through graphs.I will need to analyze the amount of homework turned in during each unit, for each type of assignment given, and in comparison to test scores.

††††††††††† After interviewing the students I can take some of their responses and put them into a pie graph.This will allow me to make comparisons for each year that I interview, from the beginning to the end of the year, and if I want to ask the questions again in the middle of the year.

††††††††††† For the student case studies I will use both graphing and written responses to analyze the information and data I gather.Since that information will be used immediately, to alter assignments or to change the style of homework issued, I will probably just read through the notes and make any changes accordingly.The same will happen with the information gathered from parent interviews.I will use their feedback to change the lessons and homework, instead of graphing their comments and analyzing it.

††††††††††† Essentially, all of the data will be grouped together in a method that shows me if there is improvement on the amount of homework done and quality of work done. ††This will be especially important when I look at test scores and amount of homework turned in.In order to tell if changing their homework has any affect on their performance in the class, I will need to compare the data.If I see that they are doing more homework, I should see a direct correlation to increased test scores.


Timeline for Research

††††††††††† For the initial portion of the research, I will need at least the first half of the school year.If I really want to make this research effective, I will need at least two years of data collection.I will need to talk to the students after the school year is over to evaluate how the new process worked and any changes I can make for the following year.

††††††††††† I will start the research by conducting the interviews of last yearís students.I want to get a better understanding of what happened, what went wrong and what worked last year.I will then move into the interviews of this yearís students.We will focus on getting them assignments they are interested in doing right at the start of the year.

††††††††††† After I have conducted my interviews, I will select the few students from each period as my case studies.I will not let them know they are involved in the study, in order to keep them from tainting the data.I will simply use them as the highlighter for how the entire class is doing.I will study them throughout the entire year.

††††††††††† I will collect the data for amount of homework completed throughout the school year.I will also collect and analyze the test and quiz scores throughout the year.

††††††††††† At the end of the project, or school year, I will conduct the interviews of the entire class one more time.This will allow me to learn information I could not have otherwise known; who cheated, who tried on the HW, what assignments worked the best.


Goals and Vision Setting

Goals for Classroom Climate

††††††††††† The goals for my classroom have a very important theme; I want to have a safe environment where everyone wants to help each other succeed and has fun.I also want to show the students that I care about their education and I will work hard to make sure they are taught to the best of my ability.


††††††††††† I create a classroom environment of cooperation and peer support.

††††††††††† I return all test grades within one school day.

††††††††††† I give homework assignments that relate to the material learned.

††††††††††† I give test questions to test their knowledge of the material and not to trick them.

††††††††††† I have a classroom that is a fun place to be.

††††††††††† I teach the students science concepts that interest them and relate to their life.


Mission Statement

††††††††††† The mission of Mr. Diodatiís chemistry classroom is to enjoy and respect science.Students are not expected to leave the classroom as trained scientists; rather, they are to leave with an interest in the subject and a desire to continue studying the topic and possibly enter into a future career in science.



Technical Management Plan

Cue Technique and Attention Strategy

††††††††††† I think having a proper cue technique is one of my largest goals for the next school year.Throughout last year, I never had a consistent cue technique.However, I never felt I had trouble transitioning or getting the attention of the students.I do think it would be easier if they had a routine and didnít have to guess at my intentions.So, For this section, I will say the techniques I used and the techniques I would like to try for the next school year.


Directions, Transitions, Procedures

††††††††††† To cue the students for giving directions my method was to ask for their attention and then wait until I had it.Usually, since my directions were for a lab or a demonstration, they were excited to participate and eager to listen.So, I rarely had trouble getting them to listen.However, near the end of the year, especially if we were doing an activity they were super excited about, I did have trouble with some students talking and not paying attention.This is a problem since they need to know the direction or it could be potentially dangerous for them and their partners.For next year, I would like to have a cue technique that I can use for giving directions.I think the technique I will use will be to stand in a specific part of the room and hold up the lab or activity.This will signal to the students that I am going to talk about the directions and they need to pay attention.

††††††††††† The cue I would use for transitions would vary depending on the activity.Sometimes, I would get their attention by hitting the wall, hitting the floor, or jumping up and down on a table.All of these seemed to get their attention, so I never thought about changing it.However, for next year, I would like to have a cue that signals we are done with one part of the activity and are about to move on to the next.I think what I would like to do is put a time (number) on the board.Maybe the number ten or five.†† This will signal to the students that they have that long to finish up what they are doing and need to prepare to move on the to the next part.I can then stand in front of the number when the time has come I want them to transition.

††††††††††† For procedures I really had to cue technique.This is the area I would like to have a cue the most.I always start the period with a set protocol, but I wasnít very strict on having the students follow it.I would like to start the year by teaching them the protocol and having them go through it several times until they understand.I will then be very strict on those who donít follow the protocol.This should help them see that they need to perform certain tasks every day that they walk into the room.


Homework Accountability

††††††††††† Having the kids do their homework is the focus of my action research plan and I have already discussed that in depth.I will use this section to discuss the cue I use to have them turn in their homework.I felt that this was one of my strongest cues.The kids were never confused about when they had to turn their homework in, and what I expected of them when they were turning it in.Essentially, they knew that I always checked their homework when they were doing their warm up activity.They knew that when they got out their warm up sheet, they had to also get out their homework assignment.If they did not have it out when I walked by, then they were marked as either not having it or late.I was very happy with this cue technique, and it is not one I plan on changing.



Motivation, Expectations, Emotional Climate

Motivational Goals and Philosophy

††††††††††† For me, motivating the students is the crux of my teaching strategy.I think that having motivated students in your classroom will decrease the amount of classroom management needed and increase the quality and quantity of work produced.You need to think of the class as employees of a company; if they are motivated and have a purpose, they will work hard and take pride in what they do.I have noticed that when the students are truly motivated to produce high quality work, they will produce work that far exceeds their abilities and your expectations.My philosophy for motivation is to make sure that the students feel there work and the lesson has a real life connection and purpose.Also, the students need to know they can succeed at the task they have been given, and that when they succeed they will be acknowledged for their achievement.


Basic Needs

††††††††††† I definitely make sure that the basic needs of all the students are met in my classroom.I try to have snacks and water available for those who are in need of food or drink. I always make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable.I also make sure that the students understand every lesson at least on a basic level.I never move on from a lesson or material until everyone in the class has understood at least the basic concept of what I am teaching.I try to use informal visual assessments and checks for understanding to make sure this has been accomplished: thumbs up or down, eyes up or down, and hand open or closed.


Motivational Strategies

††††††††††† I donít really have any specific motivational strategies that I can think of.I think my ability to motivate students stems from a continuous series of actions and events that provide the students with the emotions I mentioned in my philosophy.Some of the specific things I do are to show the students what happens when they succeed in school and science.I bring in outside speakers, take them on field trips, and show them videos of people in similar socioeconomic backgrounds who have succeeded.After making sure they know they can succeed, I then give them praise when they accomplish the tasks I have given them.For example, I love giving high fives.I also put certificates of students on the walls and make sure to announce any achievements they have made outside of my class.Then, I try to find extracurricular activities for the students to perform.I only allow students with a passing GPA to participate.Some examples of these are field trips, summer jobs, research positions, and science fairs.Doing all of these things seems to work effectively to create an atmosphere of motivation in my classroom.


Emotional Climate

††††††††††† The emotional climate in my classroom is focused primarily on having fun, learning science, and enjoying life.I am not a strict teacher, but I expect the students to behave like young adults.Also, I do not tolerate any form of bullying.The emotional climate represents a safe classroom and peer support.Students know they can come into my classroom and be themselves; I donít judge and I donít let others judge.The easiest way I can establish this climate is to be as open and supportive as possible.I never get angry or frustrated with the students, and I encourage them to do the same with each other.I also try to listen to their problems instead of providing solutions.I think doing these things shows the kids they can relax and be open in my room.



Whole Class Goals and Strategies

Social Bonds, Coherence

††††††††††† Making sure that the students have strong bonds with each other is not a top priority in my classroom. I cannot control who becomes friends with who, and which students want to make strong bonds with each other.However, I can encourage them to work together and to be polite and friendly towards everyone in the school.I can make sure that they are tolerant of everyone, no matter what they say, do, look like or are friends with.At the high school level, this is very difficult.Students at this age are very group oriented, forming strong friendships with a few individuals and shunning the others.They also tend to be very opinionated and influenced easily by peers and the media.So, my goals is to model for them the type of behavior they should exhibit, and require that behavior when they are in my presence.



††††††††††† In my classroom, consequences are clear and quick.I have lots of different consequences for several different actions, but they are all fair and the students know what to expect when they break the rules.I have a wheel of misfortune for students who donít do their homework.They have to spin the wheel, and perform the task they land on.Since I am fair, I have a get out of jail free space on the wheel.(One student got it last year and was very excited!)For behavior, especially during labs or science activities, I simply give them an alternative assignment to complete in another room.I have very little patience for behavior that can cause injury to other students.However, they always understand that I am not mad; they simply made the choice to not participate that day.


Difficult Students

††††††††††† I am lucky to not have faced many difficult students yet.I had several that were apathetic, that only wanted to sleep in class, or that were having a bad day, but none that I would consider difficult.For the apathetic students I always tried to make the lessons engaging and pertinent, which would usually get their attention.It is easy to make science fun; I would light something on fire, cause an explosion or show them a concept they had never seen.Then, once I had them hooked, l would go into the lesson.This seemed to work for the sleepy students also.Sometimes I would just make them dance.For the students who were having a bad day, I would try to give them space and let them work it out.We are all human.


Community and Responsibility†††††††††††

††††††††††† Creating an atmosphere of community and responsibility was top priority in my classroom.I would always have the students work in groups or pairs, and I would give them tasks requiring them to work as a team.When students would come in for tutoring, I would team them up with another student that understood the material and have them work together.This is my favorite activity, since the student who is teaching learns just as much, if not more, as the student who is seeking help.Having students teach other students was an ongoing task in my room.I also tried to create a feeling of responsibility by giving them lots of freedom.They had freedom of behavior, freedom of classroom supplies, and freedom of my personal belongings.Often, I would let them listen to my ipod, look through my desk and look through my family photos.When they saw that I wasnít worried about them stealing, breaking or abusing their rights, they learned to be more responsible.Often, they would watch others and make sure they were respectful of the items in my room.