I have to admit, I am rather grateful that there was a cap on the number of surveys that could be submitted. For the past two weeks I have been trying to organize and analyze the data from these 100 surveys. I was feeling slightly overwhelmed by the avalanche of information but it is pretty exciting stuff! (and this is the point where my husband would say "nerd-alert!")
I have to make a disclaimer that I am not a statistician so I haven't run any regression tests on the data. I thought about it, but for now I am rather busy with my cute husband, our insanely adorable 6 month old baby, and my high caseload at work. Also I don't really feel like delving into my old Research Statistics notes from grad school to figure out how to properly analyze the data. I am only reporting raw data with basic percentages for each variable. Someday I'd love to go back and get a Ph.D. and maybe do some more focused research but this is not that day. So without further ado, here are the most interesting raw data results of this survey filled out by 100 speech language pathologists across the country.
I'm going to add some opinions in here that should be separated from the facts of the survey. My opinions will be in italics, like this.
One of the major points the survey confirmed is that a majority of SLPs report that their homework programs are unsuccessful. So if you are feeling frustrated and discouraged with your homework programs YOU ARE NOT ALONE! The criteria for the categories was determined as follows 0-20% homework returned was defined as unsuccessful, 40-60% of homework returned was defined as less successful, 60-80% of homework returned was defined as more successful, and 80-100% of homework returned was defined as most successful.
Here is a quick comparison of variables between the most successful group (those reporting 80-100% homework returned) and the least successful group (those reporting 0-20% homework returned).
Though I haven't run any statistics besides calculating simple percentages, the comparisons between the two groups seem to be pointing to some key elements.
CONSISTENCY in assigning homework seems to be playing a major role in the success of our homework programs. If we are consistently giving homework, the students are more likely to be consistently doing it. Successful homework programs sent homework at least one time each week. Interestingly, it appears that assigning homework every other week or once per month is not effective. Being assigned homework one week and not the next week might be confusing the students and their parents. It is easier for them to remember if it is a consistent expectation.
The Use of CONSEQUENCES when homework is not returned was another big variable between successful and unsuccessful homework programs. Successful homework programs had a set consequence. Here's an interesting note: the type and severity of the consequence did not appear to make a difference. Most of the consequences were a simple withholding of the child's homework sticker, prize or game. As long as the consequence was well defined and consistently enforced it seemed to do it's job. Another very interesting note was that withholding "extra" prizes did not appear to be very motivating to students. For example, many SLPs report that they give their students prizes (or stickers, or other reinforcements) just for coming to speech or behaving well during speech sessions. Then on top of those rewards the student can earn even more rewards for doing their homework. While these systems may help control behavior during the speech sessions, they do not appear to be very effective in encouraging completion of homework. Try to think like your students, if you know that you'll get a prize no matter what, why do your homework?
Many SLPs left comments that said "if I gave a consequence for not doing homework, my students would hate coming to speech." I feel like this is an unfortunate attitude among SLPs in general that may getting in the way of success with our speech homework programs. Many SLPs do not believe students are responsible enough to do it, and it may be creating a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don't believe in them, or don't expect them to do it, then why would they do it? I loved a comment from one SLP that said "homework and good behavior are just expected of my students, they know what I expect of them and they expect things of me as well."
Here is my personal thought on consequences. They do not have to be "terrible" but they need to be strong enough that the child is at least aware that it's a consequence. Give the consequence but continue to be a happy and encouraging therapist during your sessions. I have my students call home and ask their parents to help them remember to do their homework. I don't get mad, or give them a lecture I just point to the phone. It's just something that they know they have to do. If they forget their homework one week, I don't give them a hard time the whole session, but I also don't feel like I need to let my students get away with things just so they will like coming to speech. I try to make it enjoyable and productive.
If you are using rewards to encourage good behavior in speech I would suggest trying to keep your behavior reinforcement system completely separate from your speech homework reinforcement system. Maybe if they behave well or come on time they will be able to participate in the therapy game, but if they forget to do their homework they do not get their homework sticker.
The SLP's Belief in the Importance of Homework also appears to be a key player in success of homework programs. 100% of the SLPs who had successful homework programs said homework is important for their students' progression. Whereas, only 58% of those with unsuccessful programs said homework is important.
SLPs with successful homework programs often had a set system to keep track of homework they had sent in the past. These SLPs in general reported more organized homework systems. Some of the great suggestions for keeping track of previous homework included writing it down in your data logs, using a homework tracker, leaving all previous homework pages in the child's homework folder (which is awesome because the student can review it at a later date and you do not have to reprint it) and other similar suggestions.
The TYPE of Reinforcement does not appear to make much of a difference in success of homework programs. Most of the reinforcements reported for both successful and unsuccessful homework programs were exactly the same and often included small stickers, prizes, candy, or steps toward a prize. There did not appear to be any "super rewards" that the kids were just dying to get. However, a good percentage of the unsuccessful homework programs reported that they did not have a DEFINED reinforcement for homework.
The Socioeconomic Status of the area did not appear to effect success of homework programs. The distribution of SES for the surveys is shown in the graph below. It was interesting to me that some of the most successful programs were in areas where the majority of the families were very poor, while other very successful programs were in areas where families were average middle class to very well off.
The TYPE of homework assigned did not appear to significantly effect the success of homework programs. The most commonly reported types of homework included: worksheets, suggested activities, suggested books to read with parents, and packets. Some of the least successful types of homework were websites and packets given over breaks.
Other interesting notes from the survey.....
- almost all people surveyed reported a significantly faster rate of progress for students who practice homework versus those who don't.
- notebooks with secured papers appear to be more successfully transported from school to home and back again compared to loose leaf papers and packets.
- an open communication relationship with the parents seems to play an important role in the parent's willingness to help their student with speech homework. There were a lot of great ideas to keep good communication with the parents including: a communication log in the student's homework folder, email correspondence, phone calls, a good clear homework description page in the student's homework folder, attending parent-teacher conferences and others. Any communication with the parents, no matter how small or big, seems to help.
- homework assignments that were only 5 to 15 minutes were the most likely to be completed.
- elaborate and overly creative homework is time consuming and draining. Conserve your creative energy for your therapy sessions. Have a simple, but consistent homework program and I think you will be so much happier with your homework outcomes.