Maths homework effort: Increasing autonomous motivation through support from family and school

An article published in Frontiers in Psychology examines how maths homework effort among middle school pupils is influenced by adult support from family and school. The authors hypothesised that support from parents and teachers could promote the autonomous motivation of pupils by providing a sense of having free choice, and by generating interest.  

A questionnaire was distributed to 666 grade 7 and 8 (Year 8 and 9) pupils from three schools in the Hubei Province of China. The questionnaire sought information about pupils’ maths homework effort, autonomous motivation, maths teacher support and parental autonomy support. The results were as follows:

  • Pupils perceived that parental autonomy support and maths teachers’ support facilitated pupils’ autonomous motivation, which in turn enhanced their effort in homework.
  • Furthermore, pupils perceived that parental autonomy support directly promoted their maths homework effort.

The authors concluded that parents and teachers should provide more support for middle school pupils’ maths learning. Specifically, they provided three practical strategies to parents, namely: “Try to understand children’s perspective when communicating homework and school life, offer meaningful reasons why homework is important, and allow children to arrange their homework time”.

Source: Effects of parental autonomy support and teacher support on middle school students’ homework effort: Homework autonomous motivation as mediator (March 2019), Frontiers in Psychology

How do teachers choose to give feedback?

While the impacts of feedback on pupils’ learning are well-established, it is less clear what factors influence the ways teachers provide feedback. To help rectify this, an article published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology examines how teachers’ perceptions of task difficulty and views of intelligence influence whether and how they give feedback.

The study was conducted with 169 English teachers from Chinese primary schools attending an English summer school for enhancing teacher skills. Teachers were given six scenarios to read, each of which described a lesson where the teacher asked a designated pupil to complete a task. In three of the scenarios, the pupil succeeded, while in the other three scenarios, the pupil failed. After reading each scenario, teachers were asked to rate their perception of task difficulty, the likelihood of giving feedback, and the likelihood of giving both person and process forms of feedback. Moreover, teachers completed a measure assessing their views on whether intelligence is malleable. The results showed that:

  • teachers were more likely to provide feedback following success than failure
  • following pupils’ failure, teachers were more likely to provide process feedback rather than person feedback
  • when the tasks were perceived to be challenging, teachers were more likely to provide feedback
  • teachers who believed more in the view that intelligence was fixed reported that they would give more person and process praise, but following failure gave more process feedback.

The authors recommend that future research could explore in detail what feedback teachers in other cultures provide and the underlying reasons, with the goal of enriching our understanding of the entire feedback mechanism in order to benefit pupils.

Source: Examining teachers’ ratings of feedback following success and failure: a study of Chinese English teachers (December 2019), British Journal of Educational Psychology, Volume 89, Issue 4

Does enhancing teacher expectation benefit pupils?

A recent study published in Learning and Individual Differences investigates the effects of an intervention in China that enhances teachers’ approaches to conveying high expectations to pupils.

The researchers randomly selected two schools in an urban area of a city in south China. Four grade 8 (Year 9) English teachers in each school were randomly chosen and evenly assigned to either the intervention or control group. While the control group teachers did not receive training, the intervention group teachers were provided with training workshops focusing on three strands of high-expectation behaviour, namely, giving pupils challenging tasks, providing affirmation or suggestions to pupils about their performance, and enhancing how teachers impart personal regard to pupils.

Teachers were asked to estimate the final exam score they believed each pupil would achieve for the study to categorise pupils into high-, middle- and low-expectation groups. Then, the researchers selected 30 pupils from each class, consisting of 10 each of high-, middle-, and low-expectation pupils, to participate in the study. Among the 240 pupils selected, 229 pupils provided complete data for analysis. Pupils’ self-concepts regarding English and the English test achievement of 113 pupils from the intervention group and 116 pupils from the control group were gathered at the end of Grade 7 (Year 8) and at the middle and the end of Grade 8 (Year 9).

Results showed that:

  • While the self-concept of pupils from the control group significantly declined from the end of grade 7 (Year 8) to the end of grade 8 (Year 9), the self-concept of mid- and low-expectation pupils from the intervention group significantly increased over the year.
  • English achievement increased for pupils in the intervention group, while no significant changes were found among pupils in the control group.
  • Low-expectation pupils exhibited the most gains in both self-concept and achievement.

The authors conclude that teachers giving challenging tasks, detailed feedback, and enhanced personal regard to pupils has a positive impact on improving pupils’ self-belief and academic achievement.

Source: Teacher expectation intervention: Is it effective for all students? (August 2019), Learning and Individual Differences, Volume 74

The reciprocal effects of homework self-concept, interest and effort on maths achievement

Maths achievement has been thought to be interrelated with self-concept, interest, and effort. In a recent longitudinal study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology, researchers examined how these factors influence each other over time using a sample of Grade 8 (Year 9) pupils in China. 

A total of 702 pupils in Grade 8 from 14 classes in two public schools in East and South China completed an assessment of their maths achievement, homework self-concept, interest and effort at six weeks after the start of the school year and at the end of the school year. The analysis showed that: 

  • Reciprocal effects were found between maths self-concept and achievement, effort and achievement, as well as interest and effort.
  •  In particular, the authors found that higher homework interest led to higher subsequent effort, and higher prior effort could promote higher homework interest. 
  • Moreover, self-concept had no significant effect on subsequent interest, but prior interest led to higher self-concept, possibly reflecting the positive homework attitude among Chinese pupils. 

The authors suggest that the reciprocal effects indicated that simultaneously improving homework self-concept, interest, effort and maths achievement is a more effective approach. Specifically, attention should be paid to how homework interest and effort can be promoted more effectively.

Source: Reciprocal effects of homework self-concept, interest, effort, and math achievement (October 2018), Contemporary Educational Psychology

Future planning and achievement among pupils

Several studies have related the benefits of future planning to academic achievement, but not many have examined whether academic achievement also influences how pupils plan their future. Zhao and colleagues from Shandong Normal University conducted a longitudinal study to examine the relationship between Chinese middle school pupils’ academic achievement and future planning in educational and occupational domains.

The study included three assessments six months apart from spring 2014 to spring 2015 in Shandong Province in eastern China. A total of 775 pupils from sixth to eighth grade (Years 7–9) participated in the first assessment wave. The questionnaire measured pupils’ future explorations, commitments, and affects concerning future education and occupations. Data on their academic achievement were collected from school records of their scores in Chinese, English and maths. The relationships were analysed with data collected at different times.

The analysis showed that:

  • There were reciprocal relationships between academic achievement and pupils’ future educational planning.
  • Reciprocal relationships were not seen between academic achievement and future planning in the occupational domain.
  • Commitment’s relationship to achievement was more robust than that of exploration to achievement.
  • The relationships were the same for both boys and girls.

The authors suggest that understanding the importance of educational performance led middle school pupils to invest more effort into improving achievement. The social status brought by high academic achievement in Chinese society might also trigger positive affects concerning future planning.

Source: Longitudinal relations between future planning and adolescents’ academic achievement in China (August 2019), Journal of Adolescence, Volume 75

What are the best self-regulated learning strategies for Chinese pupils?

Self-regulated learning has been regarded as essential for effective learning. Research suggests that self-regulated learning is associated with academic performance, but different self-regulated learning strategies are not equally effective. Addressing the gap that occurred for Chinese pupils because few studies conducted in Asia were included in a previous meta-analysis, a meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Psychology has investigated what the most effective strategies for Chinese pupils were.

Using Chinese academic databases, Junyi Li and colleagues analysed 264 independent samples that involved 23,497 participants from 59 studies. In order to be included in this meta-analysis, studies had to be conducted in real teaching situations; studies based on online learning environments were excluded. Furthermore, participants had to be primary, middle, or secondary school pupils in China. The effect sizes of self-regulated learning strategies on academic achievement were analysed. The results showed that: 

  • Among the self-regulated learning strategies, self-efficacy (ES = +0.70), self-evaluation (ES = +0.72), and task strategies (ES = +0.60) had relatively large effect sizes on academic achievement.
  • On the other hand, the effect sizes of goal orientation (ES = +0.09) and attributions (ES = +0.27) were relatively small. 
  • The effect sizes of self-regulated learning on science (ES = +0.45) were larger than those on language (ES = +0.29).

The authors suggest that task strategies supported learning by reducing a task to its key parts, that self-evaluation helped learners compare results with their goals, and that self-efficacy helped learners to use their resources. 

Source: What are the effects of self-regulation phases and strategies for Chinese students? A meta-analysis of two decades research of the association between self-regulation and academic performance (December 2018), Frontiers in Psychology