A new regional study by a senior learning researcher and Mississippi State faculty member is the first to link homework distraction to a wide range of variables.
The multi-level analysis by Jianzhong Xu, a professor in the university’s College of Education, examined a range of variables affecting homework distraction, at both the student level and the class level. He hypothesized that homework distraction is affected by such variables as gender, academic achievement and student attitudes toward the work.
A member of the college’s leadership and foundations department, Xu also included numerous types of distractions in his analysis.
“The distractions I considered ranged from the conventional, such as watching television or daydreaming, to the high-tech, such as text messaging and playing video games,” he said.
Xu surveyed 1,800 eighth- and 11th-grade students from nearly 100 classes across the Southeastern United States. Students were asked about the frequency of family help with homework, extracurricular activities and parents’ education levels, among other variables.
Xu, a Columbia University doctoral graduate, said the study found those less likely to be distracted while doing homework scored higher in affective attitude, academic achievement, learning-oriented reasons, homework interest, and adult-oriented reasons.
Most of the variance in homework distraction occurred at the student level, not at the class level, he added.
While it may be a common assumption that many students tend to think of homework as boring, Xu’s investigation indicated affective attitude toward homework, like the favorability of homework as compared with other after-school activities, affect homework distraction the most.
The study also yielded two surprising results:
—Girls were more likely to be distracted than boys; and
—11th graders were more likely to be distracted than younger students while doing homework.
Xu said the study’s results have both research and practical implications.
“This line of research needs to be continued,” Xu said. “Other school levels, how different genders handle distractions and how certain attitudes toward homework play a role in coping with distraction need to be examined.”
Even though the findings show family homework help is not directly related to homework distraction, parents may still play an important role in helping children cope with distraction through influencing their attitudes toward homework. And students can take responsibility toward decreasing distraction while doing their homework by arranging a conducive homework environment and prioritizing and structuring other activities.