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Good Study Habits and Academic Performance: Findings From the NAEP 1994 U.S. History and Geography Assessments

Vol. 2, No. 4

August 1997

(NCES 97-931) Ordering Information

Summary: Analysis of data from the NAEP 1994 U.S. history and geography assessments found a real, but limited relationship between good study habits and academic performance, for 8th and 12th graders. For 4th graders, the analysis found either positive relationships, no relationship, or a negative relationship¾mixed results that are consistent with previous research. Researchers are divided on whether this indicates that 4th graders are often assigned too much homework.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) continuously monitors the knowledge, skills, and performance of the nation's children and youth in a variety of academic subjects. The data collected are available in major reports known as "Report Cards." The NAEPfacts series takes data collected for the Report Cards and uses them to highlight specific issues of particular interest to teachers, researchers, policymakers, and other indi-viduals with an interest in education.

The NAEP 1994 U.S. history and geography assessments asked 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students three questions about their general study habits. This issue of NAEPfacts examines answers given to those questions by students whose perform-ance on the assessments fell near the 25th, 50th, and 90th percentiles of the NAEP scale.\1\ The purpose is to determine if there is a relationship between study habits and academic performance.

Both assessments asked students the following three questions on their general study habits: (1) how much time they spent on homework; (2) how frequently they discussed their studies at home; and (3) how many pages they read each day at school and for homework. The questions referred to student study habits in general, not limited to U.S. history or geography. In answering the questions, students could select from a number of responses.\2\

The responses that indicated the most conscientious behavior were selected as identifying "good study habits." These responses were "spent more than one hour on homework every day," "discussed studies at home daily/almost daily," and "read more than 20 pages each day at school and for homework." The assumption that students giving these responses had better study habits than students who did not was considered reasonable, but refutable. By comparing the percentages of students performing near the 25th, 50th, and 90th percentiles who gave these responses, it was possible to determine whether or not students with higher scores were more likely to display good study habits than those with lower scores.\3\

U.S. History

In general, the data obtained from the U.S. history assessment (table 1) show a positive trend linking high performance on the assessment and good study habits. That is, students near the 90th percentile were more likely to report good study habits than those near the 50th percentile, and those near the 50th percentile were more likely to report good study habits than those near the 25th percentile. This is true for every category except one, 4th graders who said they spent more than an hour a day on homework. This category showed a negative trend-the better these students did, the less likely they were to say they spent more than an hour a day on homework.

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Table 1.- Academic performance and study habits, NAEP 1994 U.S. History Assessment
          Responses of Students to General Study Habits Questions by Grade and Percentile
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           25th Percentile  50th Percentile  90th Percentile  Trend
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

More than One Hour Spent on Homework Each Day
4th Grade                                          18%             16%             12%           >
8th Grade                                          22%             27%             33%           >
12th Grade                                         20%             25%             37%           >

Discussed Studies at Home Almost Every Day
4th Grade                                          50%             53%             59%           >
8th Grade                                          32%             36%             47%           >
12th Grade                                         27%             32%             38%           >

Read More Than 20 Pages Each Day in School and for Homework
4th Grade                                          19%             22%             26%           >
8th Grade                                           9%             11%             13%           >
12th Grade                                         10%             13%             29%           >
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------       
> Indicates a positive trend linking academic performance and good study habits as
conventionally defined.
SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP), 1994 U.S. History Assessment.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

Geography

Results from the geography assessment, summarized in table 2, were similar. Data for both 8th- and 12th-grade students showed a positive trend linking academic performance and good study habits for all three responses. However, data from 4th graders showed a positive trend for only one of the three responses, "Discussed Studies at Home Almost Every Day." Data for the other two responses showed no trend.

Summary and Conclusion

Data from the NAEP 1994 U.S. History and Geog-raphy Assessments show that there is a positive relationship between good study habits as here defined and academic performance in U.S. history and geography, in most cases. However, it is important to note that many students in the 90th percentile did not display good study habits. For example, data from the U.S. history assessment show that even though 8th-grade students in the 90th percentile were more likely to read more than 20 pages a day in school and for homework than those in the 50th and 25th percentiles, only 13 percent of those in the 90th percentile actually reported doing so.

Overall, the better students perform academically, the more likely they are to discuss their studies at home every day. This finding held true for all three grades on both assessments. Better-performing students were also more likely to read more than 20 pages a day, except for 4th graders in geography.

Data from both assessments also showed that better-performing 8th- and 12th-grade students were more likely to spend more than an hour a day on homework. Data for 4th graders, however, gave different results. Fourth graders who performed well on the geography assessment were not more likely to spend more than an hour a day on their homework than students with lower scores. On the U.S. history assessment better-performing students were less likely to spend more than an hour on their homework each day than lower-performing students.

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Table 2.- Academic performance and study habits, NAEP 1994 Geography Assessment
          Selected Responses of Students to General Study Habits Questions by Grade
          and Percentile
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 25th Percentile   50th Percentile  90th Percentile   Trend
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
More than One Hour Spent on Homework Each Day
4th Grade                                              16%              16%             14%
8th Grade                                              23%              27%             33%              >
12th Grade                                             22%              24%             38%              >

Discussed Studies at Home Almost Every Day
4th Grade                                              53%              57%             61%              >
8th Grade                                              33%              37%             49%              >
12th Grade                                             27%              30%             38%              >

Read More Than 20 Pages Each Day in School and for Homework
4th Grade                                              21%              21%             24%
8th Grade                                               9%              10%             17%              >
12th Grade                                              9%              13%             26%              >
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Indicates a positive trend linking academic performance and good study habits as
conventionally defined.
The standard errors of the estimated percentages range from 1.5 to 3.9. It can be said
with 95 percent certainty that, for each population of interest, the value for the whole
population is within plus or minus two standard er-rors of the estimate for the sample.

Differences between groups may be partially explained by other factors not included in
this table.

Shading is for clarity only.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP), 1994 Ge-ography Assessment.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This finding is consistent with other research re-garding homework. Researchers have suggested different theories for both the causes and implications of these findings.\4\ It may be that 4th graders are simply not ready for substantive homework. They may lack the attention span, the ability to budget their time, and the ability to establish an effective study area at home. The real function of homework at this age, then, would be to teach children how to do homework. However, it may also be that most 4th graders are ready for substantive homework. Slow learners do take longer (hence the negative correlation), but they benefit, and will perform better in higher grades. In general, researchers stress the importance of "quality" over "quantity" in as-signing homework.\5\

The positive relationships between good study habits and performance on the NAEP assessments can be interpreted in various ways as well. On the one hand, the finding that high performing students are significantly more likely to discuss their studies at home almost every day supports recent research that has linked improved student achievement with parental efforts to ensure good study habits and involve themselves with the schools.\6\ On the other hand, it is also possible that the academic abilities of high performing students enable them to read more easily, to find doing their homework less burdensome, and to enjoy talking to their parents about their successes in school. Increased effort may or may not be the most effective way to improve student performance. But the data also suggest that grade-specific and developmental factors may need to be considered when determining the amount and kind of homework that should be given.

 

Notes

1/ The assessments used a 500-point scale for each of the three grades. NAEP identified the particular scale points that defined the 25th, 50th, and 90th percentiles on both the geography and U.S. history assessments. Students described as being at or near a percentile had a scale score that was within a 5-percentage point range on either side of the specified scale point. For example, translating this 10-percentage-point range into scale-score ranges for 12th-grade students on the U.S. history assessment gives the following results: 25th percentile, 259-270; 50th percentile, 284-292; 90th percentile, 319-335. A procedure known as scale anchoring was used to develop descriptions of student performance at or near these percentiles. Questions given as examples of student knowledge at a given percentile were answered successfully by at least 65 percent of the students within the appropriate scale-point range. The criterion was set at 74 percent for multiple-choice questions to correct for the possibility of answering correctly by guessing.

2/ For example, when asked how much time they spent on homework, students could answer "More than one hour," "One hour," "One half hour or less," "Assigned/Don't usually do," or "Not usually assigned."

3/ For the complete range of responses to the questions, see NAEP 1994 U.S. History Report Card, pp. 90-92 and NAEP 1994 Geography Report Card pp. 94-96.

4/ For a review of past research, see Cooper, Harris (1994), The Battle Over Homework, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

5/ Paulu, Nancy, (forthcoming), Helping Your Students with Homework, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC.

6/ Chistenson, S.L. (1992). Family factors and student achievement: An avenue to increase students' success. School Psychology Quarterly, 7(3), 178-206, and
Heller, L.R., and Fantuzzo, J.W. (1993). Reciprocal peer tutoring and parent partnership: Does parent involvement make a difference? School Psychology Review, 22(3), 517-34.

For Further Information

Helping Your Students with Homework, Nancy Paulu. Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC 20208-5653.

NAEP 1994 U.S. History Report Card: Findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, NCES 96-085. Single copies are available free from the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC 20208-5653.

NAEP 1994 Geography Report Card Look: Findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, NCES 96-087. Single copies are available free from the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC 20208-5653.

NAEPfacts is a publication series that briefly summarizes findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The series is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics. This issue was written by Alan Vanneman, of the Education Statistics Services Institute, in support of the National Center for Education Statistics. To order other NAEP publications e-mail Sherran.Osborne@ed.gov. The NAEP World Wide Web Home Page address is http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/.

 

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