A descriptive case study of the beliefs of three mathematics teachers who choose not to assign homework
Brooks, Tonya Christine
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Research indicates that most students have to complete homework on a regular basis. In addition, studies suggest that assigning homework can have an impact in the classroom because teachers spend class time going over homework, assigning homework, and letting students work on homework. Research on mathematics teachers’ beliefs have indicated that teachers typically believe mathematics is a set of rules and skills, that learning mathematics consists of memorizing and repeating processes, and teaching mathematics is believed to be a process of transferring knowledge to students by showing examples and telling students how to work problems. Teachers’ beliefs have also been shown to impact their teaching practices, even with respect to specific instructional strategies. The purpose of this study was to investigate the beliefs about mathematics and teaching and learning mathematics of mathematics teachers who choose not to assign homework. This study investigated the teachers’ rationales for their homework policy and the challenges they faced because of their decision to teach without assigning homework. This study investigated the cases of three mathematics teachers. Data consisted of two consecutive days of observations, lesson plans, and three semi-structured interviews. Ernest’s (1988) framework for investigating teachers’ beliefs was used to understand the teachers’ views of mathematics, mathematics teaching, and learning. Thematic analysis, as described by Braun and Clarke (2006), was used to analyze the data. The findings suggest that the teachers held different views about mathematics and its teaching and learning and that their beliefs had no apparent link to their homework policies. The teachers’ no-homework policies were related to their beliefs about students and students’ needs in general. Findings also suggest that teachers adjusted their class time to support students’ learning without assigning homework and that they made a distinction between homework and work students chose to do on their own. The challenges the teachers faced because of their no-homework policies varied but included helping others, such as parents, administrators, and students, understand the reasons they chose not to assign homework and encouraging students to do mathematics on their own.