Science Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999–Eighth Grade




CHAPTER 4: Students’ Backgrounds and Attitudes Towards Science

How Much of Their Out-of-School Time Do Students Spend on Homework During the School Week?

One of the main ways for students to consolidate and extend classroom learning is to spend time out of school studying or doing homework. Well-chosen homework assignments can reinforce classroom learning, and by providing a challenge can encourage students to extend their understanding of the subject matter. Homework also allows students who are having trouble keeping up with their classmates to review material taught in class.

To summarize the amount of time typically devoted to homework in each country and Benchmarking jurisdiction, TIMSS constructed an index of out-of-school study time (OST) that assigns students to a high, medium, or low level based on the amount of time they reported studying science, mathematics, and other subjects. Students at the high level reported spending more than three hours each day out of school studying all subjects combined. Students at the medium level reported spending more than one hour but not more than three, while those at the low level reported one hour or less per day.

Exhibit 4.6 shows the percentages of students at each level of this index, and their average science achievement, for Benchmarking participants and comparison countries. On average across all the TIMSS 1999 countries, 38 percent of eighth-grade students were at the high level of the out-of-school study time index, and a further 48 percent were at the medium level. Only 14 percent, on average, were at the low level, with just one hour of homework or less each day. The United States was one of the countries with relatively little emphasis on homework, with just 22 percent of students at the high level and 23 percent at the low level. Among Benchmarking participants, the jurisdictions that reported the greatest amount of out-of-school study time included the Jersey City and Chicago Public Schools, and the Academy School District, which each had more than one-third of their students at the high level of the index.

On average internationally, and in many of the Benchmarking entities, students at the low index level had lower average science achievement than their classmates who reported more out-of-school study time. However, spending a lot of time studying was not necessarily associated with higher achievement. In many of the Benchmarking entities, students at the medium level of the study index had average achievement that was as high as or higher than that of students at the high level. This pattern suggests that, compared with their higher-achieving counterparts, the lower-performing students may do less homework, either because they simply do not do it or because their teachers do not assign it, or more homework, perhaps in an effort to keep up academically.

More detailed information on the amount of time students reported spending on science homework is presented in Exhibit 4.7. The results reveal that while students on average across all the TIMSS 1999 countries spent one hour per day doing science homework, students in the Benchmarking jurisdictions and the United States spent less. The exhibit also shows the percentages of students that reported spending one hour or more, less than one hour, and no time at all studying science or doing science homework on a normal school day, together with their average science achievement. On average across all countries, 36 percent of students reported spending one hour or more per day doing science homework. None of the Benchmarking entities reported this much homework. The highest levels of science homework were reported in Massachusetts, the Academy School District, and the public school systems in Chicago, Jersey City, Miami-Dade, and Rochester, where more than 20 percent of students reported spending one hour or more. The lowest levels were reported in Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, the Delaware Science Coalition, the Fremont/Lincoln/Westside Public Schools, and the Project smart Consortium, where at least one-fourth of the students reported spending no time at all doing science homework on a normal school day.

Further detail on the student data that underlie the out-of-school study time index appears in Exhibit R1.9 in the reference section. In comparison with the one hour each day spent on science homework, the TIMSS 1999 countries on average reported 2.8 hours of homework in total. None of the Benchmarking jurisdictions reached this level, the highest being 2.7 hours in Chicago and Jersey City, and the lowest 1.8 hours in Texas, the Fremont/Lincoln/Westside Public Schools, and Project smart. To provide a fuller picture of how students spend their out-of-school time on a school day, Exhibit R1.10, also in the reference section, gives students’ reports on how they spend their daily leisure time. The two most popular activities internationally were watching television or videos and playing or talking with friends (each about two hours per day). Among Benchmarking participants, students generally reported spending a little more time on these activities and on sports, and less time reading for enjoyment. For example, in the four jurisdictions with the lowest average science achievement – the public school systems of Rochester, Chicago, Jersey City, and Miami-Dade – students reported watching television or videos for about three to three and one-half hours (as well as playing computer games for about one hour).

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TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking is a project of the International Study Center
Boston College, Lynch School of Education