Date of Award

8-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

School Psychology

Major Professor

Robert L. Williams

Committee Members

Chris H. Skinner, Brian E. Wilhoit, David F. Cihak

Abstract

Homework is one of many factors thought to improve students’ academic performance, given that homework provides a means for students not only to master course content, but also to develop valuable study habits, improve their time management, and learn to work independently. Unfortunately, college students commit considerably less time to homework than is conventionally thought necessary, and their answers to homework questions frequently indicate an erroneous and/or incomplete understanding of the course material. The current study examined relationships between potential predictors of and trends in exam performance in a large undergraduate educational psychology course. The relationship between homework completion, homework accuracy, and exam performance was examined, as well as a potential methodology to improve the accuracy and thoroughness of students’ homework.

The first study evaluated data collected over the past seven years to identify patterns of exam performance, critical thinking, and GPA among students across years in school (N = 3,591). The results showed a distinctive pattern of exam performance across units in the course and significant differences in critical thinking and exam performance between students at the beginning and end of their undergraduate careers. The results also supported a relationship between critical thinking, GPA, and exam performance. The second study (N = 167) evaluated the relationships between critical thinking, participation in class discussion, the accuracy of student homework responses, and exam performance, and examined a methodology for evaluating student homework responses. The results indicated a significant relationship between homework accuracy and exam performance, in some cases proving to be a stronger relationship than between critical thinking and exam performance. The results of the third study (N = 71) showed that course credit contingent on the accuracy of students' homework answers increased both accuracy and thoroughness of homework. Improved accuracy of homework contributed to improvement in exam scores overall, and broke a historical pattern of decreasing exam scores in the most difficult units in the course. Although other factors, such as a critical thinking, GPA, and year in school, also significantly predicted exam performance, they did not interact with the homework contingencies in changing scores on homework or exams.

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