Problem of Practice: Empathize Mode

My problem of practice is students not completing their homework.  My focus is my caseload of 17 students including 8 freshmen, 5 sophomores, 3 juniors, and one senior.  When I first defined this issue, I thought it was very complex and that it would be difficult to narrow down the “why” of why the homework was not getting done.  As I studied different ways to gather information through methods of empathy, I decided it would be best to employ two different techniques.

First, I checked their grades from the first semester and made notes about missing assignments.  For many, there was a correlation between the two.  The more missing assignments they had, the lower their grades were.  I pulled their IEPs, reread what teachers and parents had reported in terms of homework completion, and tried to draw some conclusions.  I have held twelve IEP meetings either this fall or winter.  Therefore, I have built some strong relationships with my students and parents already.  I reflected back on how those meetings went and if there was any conflict between the parent and child in terms of why homework was not being completed.  I used this information to help create the five-question survey that I used in the second method of empathy.  It helped me narrow down my problem and focus for my questions, especially in giving my reasons as to why the homework was not getting done (survey question 4).

Next, I created a survey to give to my caseload students, gathering more information on the topic.  I told them it was not for a grade; I was just doing some research for a class.  I mentioned they should think about all of their classes when answering the questions and not just focus on Geometry.  Since one of my students was absent all week I have data from a total of 16 students.

The results of the survey were pretty interesting:

Question 1: Question 2: Question 3: Question 4:
Always: 5 Always: 7 Multiple times/day: 1 I forget I have it: 9
Most of the time: 10 Most of the time: 8 Daily: 4 Don’t have time: 6
Seldom: 1 Seldom: 1 Weekly: 8 Don’t understand: 4
Never: 0 Never: 0 Rarely: 3 Forget materials: 4
Never: 0 Forget to turn in: 6

Question 5 responses:

  • Always looking in my bag at the end of the day
  • Reminders to check my grades
  • Plan out the day for what work I have
  • Stay after school for help
  • Check my homework folder before bed
  • Write reminders in my agenda
  • More time in class to do work

Analyzing this data was a challenge.  Just as I predicted when I first defined my problem, this is complicated.  There is no one size fits all.  Each student is unique and has their own home situation, class schedule, level of organization, motivation, and knowledge of the material.  One week they could turn everything in and the next week turn nothing in.  Their reason for not turning in homework could change from one day to the next.  That is what makes narrowing down this issue so difficult.  Question four’s responses were significant because there were many students that answered, “I forget I have it.”  For that question they could check off as many boxes that apply to them and 9/16 students surveyed had that first box checked.  Other conclusions I made after analyzing were:

  • Freshmen were more likely to put that they don’t have time
  • Older students answered that they check their grades more often than the younger students
  • Many reported that they use their class time wisely AND complete homework most of the time or always (15/16 surveyed)
  • 3/4 of the students that left #5 blank were freshmen

I look forward to using all that I learned in empathizing with my students as I continue to delve into this problem of practice.