Student Views on Homework: Focus Group

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Findings

Students

The sole purpose of the focus groups with students was to allow the researcher to pick suitable participants for the individual interviews. The students were given a briefing sheet (Appendix 3) along with the opportunity to ask questions. Most students were willing and keen to participate and no student refused to participate prior to carrying out the focus group.

During the focus groups participation was still very high however many students required questions to prompt further response or probing questions for the same outcome. Some students required the question to be repeated or rephrased. Very many responses were similar.

Majority of students from the lower ability group preferred homework set on educake. They found typing answers quicker and easier without needing to consider presentation or losing the paper homework was set on. The majority used the internet to help them with completing homework and time spent on educake homework varied between 10 to 30 minutes. There was no majority consensus on time of day that homework was completed however they all did claim to complete homework at home.

Group 2 (Appendix 7) were hesitant in their responses often asking for the question to be repeated and in some cases giving silly responses.

Teacher ‘at home, what sort of time? Evening, weekends?’

S1 ‘I don’t know’

Teacher ‘You don’t know or you don’t remember?’

S1 ‘I don’t remember’

Teacher ‘Okay so try to remember’

S1 *long pause* ‘I think one time I did it when I was on the toilet’ *students laugh*

There was no general consensus on homework preference some opting for educake and others paper homework. Two students started to discuss educake technicalities midway, both were asked to stop at that time so the class could refocus on the task at hand, though both students were later chosen for individual interviews. The time spent on homework again varied here ranging from 5 to 30 minutes.

Group 3 (Appendix 7) were the most responsive and so the focus group took longer than the other two. Again the consensus for time spent on educake homework ranged from 5 to 30 minutes. Majority students in this group preferred paper homework but also many agreed that educake homework helped them revise along with ‘forcing’ them to think more.

S12 ‘erm educake the questions are like exam style…’

Teacher ‘okay the way the questions are?’

S12 ‘and it forces you to think more’

Teacher *addressing the class* ‘okay hands up if we agree with it forces you to think more?’

*some students raise their hands*

A number of students mentioned mood as a factor that effects effort when completing homework along with competition of marks being a counteracting factor to motivate students to try harder.

S9 ‘it depends on what mood I’m in’

Teacher ‘okay, mood dependent? Give me an example?’

S9 ‘if I’m lazy ill use the internet and do it or if I’m trying to get a specific percentage I’ll try harder’

 

AN. ‘If I’m in the mood of doing homework I will spend a good 20 or 25 minutes but if I’m being lazy then I will probably spend about 5 to 10 minutes’

 

The focus groups were analysed prior to individual student interviews. Students were chosen for varying reasons. Some were chosen for being responsive, others for not giving as much of a detailed response so that their thoughts could be investigated further. The decision was also made to pick two students that the researcher had not had prior contact with to provide a differing perspective.

The individual interview findings have been organised into the common themes that arose from the student interviews. Many students gave differing dates for the initiation of educake with their class and differed in how often homework was set for them, some claiming every other week and others once a week.

Teacher ‘okay so it would have been me in January. How often is homework set, so in general?’

ME. ‘Like probably whenever we’re stuck, when we don’t understand that topic that much then we get homework’

Teacher ‘so is it regular every week, every other week?’

ME. ‘Every other week’

Teacher ‘How often is homework set? So it doesn’t have to be educake but just in general?’

AM. ‘Once a week’

 

Teacher ‘How often in general is homework set?’

AN. ‘Probably every week erm sometimes its homework of incomplete work’

 

No student admitted to having any issues with being able to access the internet. All students said they completed homework alone unless they required help in which case they consulted the internet first, followed by textbooks or exercise books and lastly family or friends. Some also mentioned if they had forgotten or not had a chance to complete homework that they would complete it in school in which case peers or friends were around and which they received help from.

Teacher ‘Do you tend to do your homework at home if its educake or in school?’

HA. ‘So most of the time I do it at home sometimes if its slipped my mind and I have time then I will do it at school’

 

Teacher ‘Okay and then you would spend a minute depending on how much you think it is? Okay. Do you tend to complete your homework alone or with friends?’

AB. *pauses*

Teacher ‘or with people from your class?’

AB. ‘I complete it alone or sometimes in the library with my friends’

 

When questioned about the sources being used when using the internet, some students used any information that came up but most of the students mentioned opting for BBC Bitesize.

Teacher ‘What tends to be the go to when you are looking at the internet?’

RA. ‘Good websites like BBC Bitesize’

 

Teacher ‘If you find you come across a question on educake that you are not sure of, what do you tend to do?’

AN. ‘Erm first I look at it then if I’m sitting next to someone I’ll ask them but then I’ll probably go on the internet and use BBC Bitesize’

 

NO. ‘Usually it’s on educake because I find educake a bit harder than paper because of the wording and its more exam style so er I like sometimes for example if it’s a specific question about mitosis I usually like go on BBC Bitesize and read about it then answer the question’

 

Teacher ‘When you are searching on the internet what do you look for? What kind of websites?’

AB. ‘Mhmm bitesize’

Teacher ‘And if you don’t find the information on bitesize where do you look?’

AB. ‘Then I go on to Wikipedia’

Teacher ‘So do you check the validity of the websites that you are looking at?

AB. ‘Yeah’

Teacher ‘Wikipedia is a valid website?’

AB. ‘Not really but I check the answer if it’s more likely to be right’

 

The students interviewed all aimed to complete their homework on time and every time however some considered homework something to quickly get done so that it can be handed in when due whereas others understood the impact was to help recall or revise content and so confessed to putting in more time and effort.

HA. ‘Also before the question you just asked erm I do my homework not because I have to do it I do it mainly because I … actually want to get something out of it’

 

Teacher ‘And then you’d prefer to do it again so that you can… would you not spend more time on educake now that you have had a look that you can’t redo it…does that not mean that you should spend more time? Or does it not…as you have been doing educake have you not thought I’ll need to spend more time because I won’t be able to re do it?’

SH. *long pause* ‘It means that I have to spend more time’

Teacher ‘Do you spend more time?’

SH. ‘No’

Teacher ‘No? So you just try to get it done?’

SH. ‘Yeah’

 

When questioned about how much time was spent on homework all students initially said a time that interpreted as a minute per question although how many marks a question was worth had not been considered by many of the students.

Teacher ‘Okay what about when its educake and just 10 questions?’

ME. ‘That will probably take me 10 minutes’

 

Teacher ‘erm if its longer, let’s say I set you revision questions on educake that are about 25 questions how long would that take you?’

AM. ‘If it’s a longer set of questions probably more time like 20 minutes’

 

AB. ‘If its approximately 20 questions it takes me 2 minutes to do to about 25 minutes. If it is less than 20 then 10 to 15 minutes’

Teacher ‘Okay so it seems like you are aiming for a minute per mark? How do you know on educake how many marks each of those questions is?’

AB. *pauses* ‘Er…it depends on the question itself so I can roughly estimate how much marks

 

Teacher ‘So let’s say there are 10 questions on educake, how long would that take?’

IH. ’15 minutes’

Teacher ‘And if it’s like a longer revision like 25 questions?’

IH. ’25 minutes’

 

Preferences

During the student interviews it became quite apparent that there were common preferences about the use of educake among the students. Many students stated that they were fond of the format of educake for the following reasons:

Simple format (also see appendix 11. Figure 3 and 4). Vatterott (2010) argued that less information on the page, plenty of room to write answers, and the use of graphics make tasks look inviting and interesting and so increase student motivation to engage and complete homework.

IH. ‘Yeah I do’

Teacher ‘The way the questions are set, is there anything particular that you noticed that you like about it?’

IH. ‘It’s just simple to read and write down the answers quickly, it’s just really simple’

 

Teacher ‘Anything about the way it’s laid out? The format?’

SI. ‘Erm… I think is good like there’s just the question on the page, nothing like, no other distractions’

Teacher ‘So it’s quite a simple layout?’

SI. ‘Yeah’

 

Format – multiple choice (also see appendix 11. Figure 5 and 6)

SH. ‘It’s more easier’

Teacher ‘What’s easy about it?’

SH. ‘Where you choose the questions sometimes they’re like multichoice and sometimes not’

Teacher ‘Okay so get like multiple choice options are sometimes fill in the gaps so the way the questions are written is easy?’

SH. ‘Yeah’

 

Format – data and diagrams (also see appendix 11. Figure 7 and 8)

AB. ‘Yes it does help me’

Teacher ‘Why?’

AB. ‘Er sometimes it contains pictures that show you the information’

Teacher ‘Like diagrams?’

AB. ‘Yeah’

Teacher ‘And you like that because they are clear? Or…?’

AB. ‘They are more clear and more easier to understand’

 

Format – Review and Feedback (also see appendix 11. Figure 9 and 10)

Teacher ‘And what kind of information does that review give you?’

AM. ‘Allows me to see what I don’t understand as much as other topics so I know where to revise’

Teacher ‘Do you find it useful?’

AM. ‘Yeah I do find it useful’

 

SH. ‘It shows me how many marks I get and the percentage and it shows how many questions I get wrong and you can view the answers’

Teacher ‘And does that help?’

SH. ‘Yeah’

Teacher ‘When you review does that help you to revise the content?’

SH. ‘Yeah’

 

AM. ‘I suppose so because you can see what percentage you got and when you get a high percentage…’

Teacher ‘Do you like that you can see you have got this many right and it gives you the percentage at the end?’

AM. ‘Yeah’

Teacher ‘because it gives you an immediate mark and with paper you would have to wait for feedback?’

AM. ‘Yeah’

 

AB. *pauses* ‘Educake the positive thing about it is it tells you the answer after and it tells you if you’re wrong or right but on paper homework you don’t know if it’s right or wrong’

 

Many students preferred educake homework for the purpose of recall and revision.

IH. ‘Other than it’s a good, really good website to use for revision just recapping a topic that you’ve learnt in lesson’

 

RA. ‘Erm it’s useful because you don’t have to just do homework you can go on other erm tasks to do in your own time for revision’

 

SI. ‘The fact that you can make your own tests and set yourself tests if you don’t have any homework and you can learn more and the fact that it gives you the right answer’

Challenges

There were some students that did not have a preference for educake or paper homework and some that were unwavering that they still favoured paper homework. Although all students interviewed share their views on what they found either challenging when using the online system or just did not like. Almost all students (Appendix 7. focus group transcriptions) mentioned the fact that they found it quite frustrating that once the homework questions had been completed they could not attempt them again as well as not being able to move forward if an answer was not given.

NO. ‘I’ve done that before like something related to the subject but I knew it was wrong’

Teacher ‘Okay so you just take a guess so you can move on?’

NO. ‘Yeah’

Some students found that although they liked the simplicity of educake it did not however translate equally to how some of the questions were worded in class. As well as wording some specified difficulty interpreting data from graphs due to the sizing of the graphs themselves and struggle with calculations questions.

ME. ‘Yeah because there were like maybe worded a bit differently than in class’

Teacher ‘Have you? Which parts of science have you fund more difficult on educake? So physics chemistry biology?’

AM. ‘I’ll say physics but like graphs’

Teacher ‘Graphs so when it comes to calculation questions what are they like for you?’

AM. ‘Some of them are okay, some of them I can do like specific heat capacity but then others I can’t’

 

AB. ‘Sometimes I don’t like calculation questions or graphs because you can’t sometimes see and you can’t guess exactly what it is’

 

Some students also mentioned that there were some technical difficulties with the site where it glitched and skipped over questions.

Teacher ‘Do you have any issues with accessing the internet at home?’

AM. ‘No but the homework site has glitched a few times’

Comparisons

Many of the students made comparisons between educake and other sites on which they were either previously set homework on or were being set homework on for a different subject.

HA. ‘One main downside I can think of is that once you submit the homework on educake you can’t go back and change anything now we used to use easyclass for science homework before and that had, it didn’t, once you submitted the whole thing it didn’t let you change it but once you pressed finish it came up with all the questions and it asked you once more do you want to have a review of all of the questions, that’s something I haven’t found in educake which would be quite helpful if it was in there’

 

RA. ‘Yeah it’s like mymaths you can do it whenever you want if like you have a test coming up you can revise for that’

Teacher ‘Do you like mymaths?’

RA. ‘No’

Teacher ‘Why not?’

RA. *laughs* ‘I don’t know’

NO. ‘Yeah or sometimes you might get it wrong and you can’t actually try it again…that’s the only downsides I think there are to it. If you could try it again and again like mymaths and stuff like that I think it would be better…’

Teacher ‘What kind of things does mymaths have?’

NO. ‘It has the like you can learn from it without teacher setting homework’

 

IH. ‘I like mymaths because you can redo it and it’s like once you redo it you already know how to structure the answers’

Teachers

Examining the teacher interviews for how each teacher was using educake it became apparent that one of the main purposes for setting homework was recall and reinforcement of content that had been taught. Secondly it was used for revision with one teacher only using educake for this purpose whilst still setting other paper homework and another teacher setting two pieces of homework weekly. One for recall and one for revision of the previous topic. The third collective reason was as a check for understanding so that when reviewed by the teacher, questions answered mainly wrong by the class could be retaught or at least reset for students to try again.

SA. ‘Briefly and I haven’t used it well but I am planning on doing so that’s why I’ve said we’ve not used it much but more as a revision tool but erm it was one method by which I can get the students to read and revise but for next year that’s what I am planning to do, do look at it and then maybe I do need to reteach because if it’s the same question then that will mean they clearly have a misconception as a group I will have to go back and reteach that part’

 

Interviewer ‘So you take that feedback and?’

RA. ‘Ideally that is…’

Interviewer ‘Ideally you reteach?’

RA. ‘Yes that is what you are supposed to do, the intricacies of time somewhat do not permit that but…’

The expectation for time spent on homework from teacher and student point of view did corroborate. Most teacher opting to keep tests shorter with questions ranging from 10 to 30 and expected time spent ranging from 10 minutes to 30 minutes also. Tests set on educake for revision purposes were longer and did not have a set hand in date. Some teachers also admitted to not having explored some areas of the system and were already thinking about how to better use the system for the upcoming academic year.

NA ‘Yeah. Rather than give the kids here’s a graph plot a graph and have a look at data I think I need to investigate that myself to be honest but I think I will definitely be using it for the investigative skills’

 

SA. ‘That’s what I want to be doing because I’ve done it like just using it as revision so I want to see does it help, I’m thinking of when I’ve done a series of 4 lessons whether…skill based question or I’ll probably want to do a mixture of recall, skill and application and 10 questions then I would have to really think or maybe that’s where I will work…but at the moment no it was purely for revision’

 

Teacher Perception on effectiveness for students

Feedback from teacher interviews on how educake was useful for students was mostly positive. Testifying that the students enjoyed completing homework on educake, the students enthusiastically gave feedback and that this also had a direct impact on lowering the number of detentions given out to students (school policy is if a student has not completed homework they receive a detention).

NA ‘I don’t give out any detentions, I haven’t given any for educake since about December’

 

Interviewer ‘Is that because they do all of the homework or because of the feedback they have given you?’

NA ‘They gave me feedback, they come to me personally and they’ll say to me can you reset my mark, that means they are communicating with each other, they are actually bothered about their mark. If they weren’t bothered, they know it’s going to be reset anyway, even the naughty ones they actually come and say Ms can you reset my educake’

Teachers also shared that students enjoyed seeing their marks displayed as a class (appendix 10 figure 2) and that it allowed for friendly competition and a chance to praise students. Teachers also perceived that the instant feedback educake provides was liked by the students which proved to be a correct perception as students themselves mentioned appreciating this aspect of the system.

RA. ‘They want to make sure they get good marks’

 

KR. ‘So they like that they get an immediate response and they that they get to see the right answer and have it marked immediately, they like the scores and percentage and they like the fact they can query questions, they like the fact that if they disagree with an answer they can make a little comment for the teacher.

Teacher Perception on effectiveness for Teachers

Again feedback on effectiveness of educake for teachers was mainly positive. All teachers thought that it cut out a lot of marking and individual feedback time which they could then put into choosing the right mix of questions for the appropriate class, ability and topic. Accessibility was easy for all and quick feedback could be given either in person if required after analysing generated marks or responding to reviews done by students or comments left by students.

NA ‘…because everyone is not doing it once so when I check it 5 students might have done so I quickly check it so I go and look at their comments and they all do comment, I don’t think there’s any students that don’t comment’

 

RA. ‘Indeed, for example if you see that a child has a shortfall you can probably call him aside and or you can spend a few minutes and say I noticed you are not using equations properly or I noticed you got this concept wrong and you will repeat it and I am going to reset the assignment and you’ll find the children on a whole have no problem with that’

Teachers found that there was a good variety of questions on all topics when it came to setting homework for recall and reinforcement however they also noted, as did students, that many of the questions required short responses and so the site did not accommodate for practice on long response questions which are a vital part of exam practice.

Interviewer ‘So they are not getting that exam practice because of format of work and they definitely don’t get any long response questions?’

RA. ‘Precisely’

 

SA. ‘I think it depends on the teacher because it serves the same purpose to a degree I still want them to do some written tasks because you know their handwriting and what they think they are telling me and what they are write is a lot different. A lot of those questions are short answer questions which are good because they need that too but I would like a mix’

Both students and teachers gave many suggestions for improvement which are shared in the conclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion

Fascinatingly the findings of the interviews found many common insights of the online homework system between teachers and students. The first being that both teachers and students specified a fondness for the option to question a mark and students leaving feedback when reviewing homework to which the teachers could then respond to. Communication between student and teacher plays a very important role in developing better relationships that lead to greater learning. Dobransky and Frymier (2004) found that students who engage in out of class communication have relationships that are more interpersonal in nature than students who do not engage in out of class communication with teachers. Furthermore they also identified that students who perceived their teachers as exhibiting higher levels of shared control, trust, and intimacy reported greater learning. And so communication back and forth is valuable in enabling the students to be engaged in their learning by questioning and receiving feedback from their teachers.

In addition Oliver and Omari (1999) reported that the students frequently indicated that they valued the input of the teacher and saw this component as a valuable part of teaching and learning. They suggest the need to remember the important role of the teacher in any learning process and the need to ensure students have adequate access to, and lines of, communication with their teachers.

Both teachers and students also noted that sometimes the system required very particular words or spellings for students to receive marks for certain questions whereas the exam board that the students are sitting allowed phonetic spellings.

Figure 1. Specific wording

NO. ‘Yeah sometimes you can be typing and obviously it’s important that if you have errors but it might not be like…in an exam the marker would understand what you’re trying…not understand but they would know the word you’re trying to write whereas in educake…’

One such example (shown in figure 1) where the question requires a particular word. Students stated that if they were stuck they would use the internet, most often BBC Bitesize. Exploring this you are given the word ‘accuracy’ in response to the question above (see figure 2 and 3 below). And so this poses a problem that can lead to confusion for the students.

Figure 2 Internet search

Figure 3 BBC Bitesize

Another technicality that arises causing confusion is that the exam board the students are following also gives marks for working out shown when calculating although final answer may be incorrect however the online system educake does not provide any such option and only marks based on final answer. To overcome these technicalities of the site an open line for communication between teacher and student is not only convenient but necessary and beneficial.

Students stated that they found using the system for revision and exam practice valuable and teachers also intended on students doing the same by setting such homework’s. However again both students and teachers noticed that although there was a variety of questions on all topics it lacked in the area of long response questions. This bought up the question of ‘does revision format matter to the extent that an online tool for a paper exam is not a useful enough tool?’

One teacher, RA, argued that the technicalities of marking responses incorrect can discourage students and that they were not getting the necessary exam practice when all their exams were in a written format. Another teacher, SA, also indicated this suggesting a mixture of formats was necessary for the students to get the required exam practice.

RA. ‘Precisely but the exam board that we use, in fact all exam boards say the phonetic spelling is okay so that for one is an issue for example imagine a child that is set 4 or 5 in English but set 1 in science and his spelling is not up to scratch and if he is going to be getting them right but educake is telling him no then he is going to be discouraged’

Interviewer ‘So they are not getting that exam practice because of format of work and they definitely don’t get any long response questions?’

RA. ‘Precisely’

 

RA. ‘Yes it’s good for recall, excellent for recall or if you are going to teach analysis but exam technique is where it lacks’

 

SA. ‘I think it depends on the teacher because it serves the same purpose to a degree I still want them to do some written tasks because you know their handwriting and what they think they are telling me and what they are write is a lot different. A lot of those questions are short answer questions which are good because they need that too but I would like a mix’

One suggestion to counteract this dilemma is the use of multiple response format questions. Kastner and Stangla (2011) concluded multiple response format measures more complex thinking skills than conventional multiple choice questions and so educationalists can still benefit from consistent grading and greater coverage of the curriculum using these systems while students still benefit from timely feedback and better preparation for exams.

Most teachers stated that students being able to sit with each other and complete their homework was a downside of the system however most students not only said they completed homework alone but that they also completed homework at home and so did not collectively do homework. Bruffee (1995) explored the difference between collaborative and co-operative learning and determined that one disadvantage was that in cultivating the educational recompenses to be obtained from self-governed student peer relations, it sacrifices certain culpability. In these cases teachers adapted their way of setting homework some opting to give students links to help them access information so not to rely on others and one teacher set revision homework over the school holiday when most students would not spend time with their peers. Another option that the other two teachers opted for which educake itself provides is a randomise function where questions can be put into differing orders for every student.

In another study, learning via ISLE helped students develop positive attitudes toward school science and also positive attitudes toward using and learning about computers, regardless whether it was in collaborative or individual settings (Chiu, 2002). One potential reason for students’ positive attitude toward the ISLEs was the fact that those learners were able to control their learning pace in ISLEs (Chiu, 2002; Shin, 2002).

During one of the focus groups (see appendix. 7 group 2) a student stated that it was possible to copy and paste and another chimed in saying it that the system did not allow it. The general sentiment in the room was disagreement towards the possibility although in response to worries of students copying and pasting Snyder (2001, p19) stated ‘being literate in the context of these technologies is to do with how the different modalities are combined in complex ways to create meaning’. Although teachers and students alike may worry about this you can reason that coalescing different textual resources to create ‘a new voice’ is an important feature of mastery today, like a resourceful renovation.

‘Self‐efficacy’ typically refers to an individual’s beliefs, expectations, and perceived capability to perform a task (Bandura, 1993, 1996). Students’ beliefs of self‐efficacies in ISLEs may include their perceived capabilities for the use of the Internet (i.e., Internet self‐efficacy), perceived capabilities for learning achievement or school performance (i.e., academic self‐efficacy), and perceived capabilities for self‐regulated learning (i.e., self‐efficacy for self‐regulated learning). Researchers suggested that Internet self‐efficacy may be an indispensable variable to forecast students’ information‐seeking in ISLEs. Two studies supported that Internet self‐efficacy was pointedly positively connected with students’ sophistication of adopting online information searching strategies and achievements as well as their search‐based learning performances in science (Joo et al., 2000; Tsai & Tsai, 2003).

Many students referred to using BBC Bitesize when questioned about sources and validity when using the internet. This showed that although overtly they were not looking for valid websites they still however subconsciously gravitated towards a known website to find correct information. Tsai (2009) understood that internet‐based learning environments may challenge students because of their plentiful resources, variety of interactions, dynamic interfaces, and diverse categories of online learning tasks. And so students need to be wary of validity and sources that allow time spent on homework to be efficient. Educake does provide teachers with the opportunity in the form of adding sources (links) when setting homework (Appendix 10. Figure 1) to assist students in being careful. Accessing online learning materials is one of the most frequently performed learning activities on learning management systems (Lust, Elen, & Clarebout, 2013; Lust et al., 2012)

All of the students interviewed were from higher ability classes however not all students expressed an inclination for educake although some did. Simons and Klein (2007) found that high‐achieving students in their study expressed more positive attitudes toward working on the problem‐based Intelligent Simulation Learning Environment (ISLE) than low‐achieving students. Conversely Cole and Todd (2003) found high logical‐thinking ability (college) students expressed less enthusiasm for online science homework while low ability students were more positive. Whilst all students had something constructive to say about the system some still made it clear that they preferred paper homework over the use of the system. The reasons for such preferences varied and in some cases no clarity was given even after probing for a reason.

Teacher ‘So if you were let’s say given the exact same thing that you are given on educake on a piece of paper, you would prefer that?’

RA. *Pauses* ‘Yeah’

Two studies reported no significant differences in college science learning performance between the student group using online homework and the group using traditional paper‐based homework (Bonham, Deardorff, & Beichner, 2003; Cole & Todd, 2003). Both studies suggested that simply changing the homework media from traditional paper and pencil to the Internet, without further modifications in the pedagogical content such as providing additional support or feedback, resulted in no better conceptual outcome. This conclusion suggests that on the one hand, traditional methods with appropriate pedagogies can still be effective if implemented properly. On the other hand, ISLEs with little implementation of sophisticated pedagogies may produce no better results than traditional learning environments. This provides support that although some students may be resistant to change of format of homework it is not simply the content that provides them with supplementary benefit but the additional factors of links, student/teacher communication and instant feedback that educake can provide.

At least half of the students mentioned high percentages was a motivating factor for them to either spend more time or put in more effort and that it was about being in competition with the rest of their class. Students’ attitudes about a particular topic or domain of study can greatly impact their performance and future choices within that discipline (Alexander, Jetton, & Kulikowich, 1995; Krapp, et al., 1992; Schiefele, 1996).

In general, as a person’s interest in a domain increases, so does their achievement and their motivation to continue learning in that area (Lawless, Brown, Mills, & Mayall, 2003; Schiefele, 1996).

Teacher ‘because it keeps it interesting that way? Isn’t what you’re looking at so the content of the work interesting in comparison to the format? Which obviously the format is online or paper’

NO. ‘It is but it depends what subject like physics biology chemistry like for me I like biology more than both of the other subjects so if I got biology more I would spend more time on it and I’ll actually enjoy doing it whereas if I got physics I would do it but I wouldn’t do it out of like…’

Majority of students found not being able to change their answers or redo a homework quite frustrating. Some narrowed their reasoning to wanting more of a challenge and others wanted a variety of homework to keep the challenge ever-present.

NO. ‘No…Yeah I think a mixture of homework would be good’

Teacher ‘Why is a mixture good?’

NO. ‘It would motivate you more to do the homework and it would be engaging I think’

 

AM. ‘Because like, not harder but then it’s like…’

Teacher ‘More of a challenge?’

AM. ‘Yeah more of a challenge to think about’

Teacher ‘So when you are doing educake you don’t really find it that challenging?’

AM. ‘No not really. Some obviously like some parts of science I do but then like others not really’

Although no conscious choice was made to choose participants and analyse findings based on gender, no distinction was made during the analysis of findings between male and female when it came to preference of homework format. Many other researchers found that their consistent observation was that utilizing online learning resources in ISLE’s was equally favourable, or in some cases more so, to learning for female students compared to male students (Cantrell, Pekcan, Itani, & Velasquez‐Bryant, 2006, Herman & Kirkup, 2008, Joo, Bong, & Choi, 2000, Mayer‐Smith, Pedretti, & Woodrow, 2000)

Mayer‐Smith et al.’s study indicated that secondary school female students performed as well as or better than male students while learning in ISLEs in a self‐paced collaborative way. Joo et al. (2000) even found that junior high school female students were superior to male students in self‐regulated learning and cognitive strategy when engaging in ISLEs and also outperformed males on written examinations, although in this same study males reported having used computers for longer periods compared to females. One student confessed to using the internet for entertainment purposes but did not enjoy using online homework systems whereas others stated that it made it easier when homework was set online because they already used the internet often.

Teacher ‘Is it because you use the computer a lot otherwise and you just find prefer not to spend more time on it doing homework?’

RA. ‘Yeah’

Teacher ‘So what do you tend to spend your time on the internet doing?’

RA. ‘A lot of things like watching movies, homework for help if I don’t understand anything’

Out of the ten students interviewed, four female students stated a preference for educake and three male students, the remaining three students chose paper homework. Chuang et al. (2008) found that male students preferred to be involved in the process of discussion, preferred to show critical judgments, enjoyed the process of negotiation, and engaged in reflective thoughts more than female students and thought that male students seemed to demonstrate better adaptability to the constructivist‐oriented ISLEs. Many of the male students admitted to finding educake easy to use and described it as more efficient use of their time. Although all students bar one female student also described educake as a more efficient use of their time and easier format (typing) to complete homework. When analysing student feedback from homework set more males on average leave comments than female students and when looking at review feedback more females left constructive feedback (see appendix 11. Figure 11 and 12) whereas males often left feedback that was nonsensical so the task could be completed (see appendix 11. Figure 13 and 14).

3.1 Suggested changes

Although overall response to the use of educake was positive many students and teachers offered their suggested changes so that the system was better utilised and/or more user friendly. Many students made comparisons to other sites and proposed that there should be an automatic reset option so that if they scored below a certain percentage their homework was automatically reset.

HA. ‘One main downside I can think of is that once you submit the homework on educake you can’t go back and change anything now we used to use easyclass for science homework before and that had, it didn’t, once you submitted the whole thing it didn’t let you change it but once you pressed finish it came up with all the questions and it asked you once more do you want to have a review of all of the questions, that’s something I haven’t found in educake which would be quite helpful if it was in there’

 

NO. ‘Yeah or sometimes you might get it wrong and you can’t actually try it again…that’s the only downsides I think there are to it. If you could try it again and again like mymaths and stuff like that I think it would be better…’

 

IH. ‘I like mymaths because you can redo it and it’s like once you redo it you already know how to structure the answers’

Teacher ‘So if you are given the answer are you not then likely to just type in the answers given because you know they are correct’

IH. ‘No with mymaths its different questions every time you redo it’

 

Teachers also expressed this sentiment explaining that although they could and did reset if scores were below a certain number, it was something that became time consuming and quite difficult to track. Hargis (2000) highlighted the fact that the internet can improve the aptitude of students go over their earlier work and to individualise their study based on the mistakes that they have made.

KR. ‘If they all got low marks so it was like across the board I would reset it and I have only had to do that once with year 10 and that was quantitative chemistry topic where they all scored less than 50%. If it’s individual students then I didn’t really have routine other than them asking for it to be reset and half of them would ask and I would do it that on top of whatever their homework was for that week. But if I was routinely resetting it we’d end up potentially with 3 homework’s a week and I just couldn’t manage…’

Interviewer ‘to keep track?’

KR. ‘to keep track of that yeah’

Many students and teachers also recommended that site make an addition of long response questions so that all question types were covered by educake. Palmer and Devitt (2007) argued that well-constructed multiple choice questions should be considered a satisfactory replacement for essay questions if the essay questions are not designed to adequately test higher order skills.

AB. ‘When you have long response questions I prefer educake’

Teacher ‘Because there are no long response on educake?’

AB. ‘Yeah’

 

Interviewer ‘So you’re still setting long response questions and then you’re still setting educake?’

SA. ‘Yeah’

Interviewer ‘Because educake doesn’t have any long response does it?

One teacher recommended that an app for educake could be beneficial and that it could send out notifications to the student when homework is set and also back to the teacher when homework has been completed or a message has been sent. Kitsis (2008) also suggested that episodic feedback was key so that students also invested the appropriate amount of time. Students intermittently need to be nudged to give more constructive feedback as the system has the feature to review which the students were not utilising well.

SI. *pauses* ‘that it doesn’t notify you when there’s a change, you know when you disagree with your mark it doesn’t notify you that the teacher changed the mark’

 

RA. ‘Exactly I don’t think it has an app and if it had an app it could buzz you when a student has done his homework’

RA. ‘Yes when a homework is set. So for example the child he’s notified and he can immediately go and complete it and then when the child has done it we get a notification’

Another teacher discussed that she did not find the website very user friendly for both teachers and students and that more consideration needed to be made.

KR. ‘So from my perspective as a user I don’t think some aspects of the platform are particularly user friendly so I’ll give you an example, when you want to sort your tests by year group so you want to filter them, they’ll have all your year 10 tests, let’s say I want to change something on all of them and I click on to it and do it and click back and it takes me right back to the very beginning and I have to go through the filtering process again so some of it is not particularly user…some of it is time consuming and I also say sometimes I have year 10 and I only want top level answers but you can only group them grades 1 to 4, 3 to 5 and then 5 to 9 and I might just want 7 to 9 and I can just click the ones near the bottom but it doesn’t tell you when it becomes from a level 5 to a level 6 to a level 7 and sometimes you will click all the level 5 to 9 questions and you will get 154…’

Interviewer ‘And that can become really time consuming?’

KR. ‘yeah and you end up randomly picking questions and you’ll find that chunks of questions are very similar so you’ll get look at the diagram what is a? And look at the diagram what is…’

Interviewer ‘repetitive?’

KR. ‘…and you sort of think actually where’s the… and I’m not sure how they would make that better but its ensuring the spread of the questions you pick are assessing…’

Interviewer ‘Give them more of an idea of exam style questions?’

KR. ‘Yeah and that’s another thing some of the questions they ask aren’t in ‘exam speak’, they aren’t specific to AQA and also some of the language they use is not something we would use so for example in quantitative chemistry it was using litres rather than

dcm3 and it’s not a huge big deal but…’

A more interactive nature to the homework was another suggestion made by a teacher. He contended that this would allow for the students to get more ‘real world’ practice which was in reference to students sitting exams on paper and in many cases working out being required when answering calculation questions. Another teacher also mentioned calculations to be one the pitfalls of students when it came to completing homework online so creating space for students to type in their working out may counteract this. One option to do this is to section the calculations into steps.

RA. ‘Er … not really erm it is what it is and perhaps if it were more interactive where instead of typing the child had a sketch pad or something he could use the mousepad as a writing devise, not to help me but it would give them real world…and I could see the working out…’

 

KR. ‘So I would say the calculations side of things was definitely the biggest barrier for them because they actually had to sit and work stuff out and I think they sit down at a computer and expect just to type in answers, as soon as you expect them to do any calculations…’

 

KR. ‘Well what I found with the calculation is you had a big long question, the question itself is almost a paragraph and they just couldn’t…they needed it to be broken down into step 1 calculate Mr’s, step 2 do this, giving them this paragraph of questions and then one little space to write it in they just couldn’t…you know not giving them the equation and things like that, which they need to be able to do but I think that was their own barrier as opposed to a problem with the actual program’

Attempts to incorporate game‐based learning with internet based science learning could be made as homework sites for other subjects have done successfully.

Teacher ‘What kind of things does mymaths have?’

NO. ‘It has the like you can learn from it without teacher setting homework’

Teacher ‘So you’ve got this kind of …’

NO. ‘There’s games on it like maths games and you can redo it as many times as you want and it always gives you the best percentage you’ve done on it’

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