"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, March 23, 2015

Parents and Homework

A child's success in education is every parent's dream. Parents are often willing to do as much as they can to help prepare their children for the future. In India, where stakes in standardized tests are so high, some parents apparently go as far as handing out answer sheets to their children during the exam.

Above copied from Quartz India
These are definitely extreme cases of parental involvement in a child's education but there is one aspect of basic education in which parental involvement is expected and normal: Homework.

But even with homework, it is only logical to assume that there is a range in the quality of parental involvement. Dumont and coworkers in a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology have used the following criteria to assess parental involvement in their child's homework.

Above copied from
Quality of parental homework involvement: Predictors and reciprocal relations with academic functioning in the reading domain.
Dumont, Hanna; Trautwein, Ulrich; Nagy, Gabriel; Nagengast, Benjamin
Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 106(1), Feb 2014, 144-161
How a parent helps a child do his or her homework is categorized according to three types based on self-determination theory. From the above list, control corresponds to actions that are often viewed as intrusive, dominating and demanding. The opposite, which can be regarded as positive, responsiveness, is characterized by a simple readiness to guide or assist a child only as needed. Lastly, structure is deemed as providing the correct environment or setting that may support a child's homework. Using this qualitative assessment of parental involvement in homework, the study, which includes 2,830 fifth graders from 225 classes in 86 secondary schools in two German states (Saxony and Baden-W├╝rttemberg) finds no statistically significant associations between any of the three dimensions and parents’ occupational status or parents’ educational background. There are controlling parents among the rich. There are responsive parents among the poor.

What apparently predicts the type of parental involvement is what parents perceive as their child's academic record and behavior. For instance, a child who is deemed not to be reading proficiently eventually sees greater control from the parents.  A child who is regarded by a parent to be not exerting full effort on studies receives more control and less responsiveness. These relationships are summarized in the following figure:

Above copied from
Quality of parental homework involvement: Predictors and reciprocal relations with academic functioning in the reading domain.
Dumont, Hanna; Trautwein, Ulrich; Nagy, Gabriel; Nagengast, Benjamin
Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 106(1), Feb 2014, 144-161
A negative number on an arrow describes a negative association (or inverse relationship). For example, responsiveness in 5th grade is negatively associated (-0.12) with homework procrastination in 7th grade. Students whose parents were highly responsive in Grade 5 showed less homework procrastination 2 years later. In contrast, students whose parents were controlling in 5th grade procrastinate more in 7th grade. This therefore signals the beginning of a vicious cycle where procrastination leads to lower achievement triggering even greater control which causes more procrastination.

Structure shows a significant relationship with increased reading effort. No arrow connects this academic functioning to either control or responsiveness. What this means is that all of the effects on reading effort from either control or responsiveness are mediated through procrastination. Similarly, the absence of a significant relationship between parental involvement in homework in 5th grade and a child's reading achievement two years later does not mean that homework does not make a difference. It only demonstrates that a child's reading achievement is facilitated by parental involvement in homework through an improvement in the child's academic functioning (more effort and less procrastination). Thus, a controlling parent leads to a poorer reading achievement because it only increases procrastination which has a direct harmful effect on reading proficiency.

Clearly, not all parental involvement is good even in the seemingly innocuous and "low stakes" homework activity.




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