Homework is a key component of Cognitive Therapy (CT) for depression. Although previous research has found evidence for a positive relationship between homework compliance and treatment outcome, the methods used in previous studies have often not been optimal. In this study, we examine the relation of specific aspects of homework engagement and symptom change over successive session-to-session intervals. In a sample of 53 depressed adults participating in CT, we examined the relation of observer-rated homework engagement and session-to-session symptom change across the first five sessions. Within patient (and not between patient) variability in homework engagement was significantly related to greater session-to-session symptom improvements. These findings were similar when homework engagement was assessed through a measure of general engagement with homework assignments and a measure assessing engagement in specific assignments often used in CT. Secondary analyses suggested that observer ratings of the effort patients made on homework and the completion of cognitive homework were the numerically strongest predictors of depressive symptom improvements. Patient engagement with homework assignments appears to be an important predictor of early session-to-session symptom improvements. Future research is needed to identify what therapist behaviors promote homework engagement.
6. Even the title of their article reflects this: They ask “When Is Homework Worth the Time?” rather than “ Is Homework Worth the Time?” This bias might seem a bit surprising in the case of the study’s second author, Robert H. Tai. He had contributed earlier to another study whose results similarly ended up raising questions about the value of homework. Students enrolled in college physics courses were surveyed to determine whether any features of their high school physics courses were now of use to them. At first a very small relationship was found between the amount of homework that students had had in high school and how well they were currently faring. But once the researchers controlled for other variables, such as the type of classes they had taken, that relationship disappeared, just as it had for Keith (see note 2). The researchers then studied a much larger population of students in college science classes – and found the same thing: Homework simply didn’t help. See Philip M. Sadler and Robert H. Tai, “Success in Introductory College Physics: The Role of High School Preparation,” Science Education 85 : 111-36.