Assignment choice: Do students choose briefer assignments or finishing what they started?

Meredith L. Hawthorn-Embree*, Christopher H. Skinner, John Parkhurst, Michael O'Neil, Elisha Conley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Academic skill development requires engagement in effortful academic behaviors. Although students may be more likely to choose to engage in behaviors that require less effort, they also may be motivated to complete assignments that they have already begun. Seventh-grade students (N = 88) began a mathematics computation worksheet, but were stopped before completing the assignment. Students were then given a choice of completing the assignment they had already begun or a new assignment containing approximately 10% less work. Significantly more students chose to complete the lower-effort assignment. Those who choose the lower-effort assignment indicated that this choice was influenced by the amount of work required. However, those who chose the assignment that they already started indicated that they chose this assignment because they wanted to finish the assignment that they had begun. These results suggest that students are more likely to choose an assignment that requires less effort than one they have started but not yet finished. Discussion focuses on enhancing basic skill fluency and directions for future researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-151
Number of pages9
JournalSchool Psychology Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Assignment choice
  • Effort
  • Fluency development
  • Learning history
  • Partial-assignment completion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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