14 SES 01 B, Homework and Home Learning Environments: Challenges for inclusion
Homework is a widespread educational activity that has been long viewed as an important part of the teaching-learning process (Xu, Wu, 2013); in Italy in recent years this topic has been at the center of the school debate not only among those working on the inside and scholars alike but also in public opinion as highlighted by the increasing attention placed on it by the media. However, due to this emphasis, a superficial approach and a simplistic reading of the question have often prevailed (Montalbetti, 2017). The different interventions carried out at a political level have had the merit of drawing further attention but they do not seem to have had any real effect.
At the scientific level, the reflections on homework seem to lack an approach that allows us to grasp the implications of this school practice at educational level. In national literature there are a few studies examining more thoroughly this topic; on the contrary, we need researches to describe current practice and also to question the practice in general, bearing in mind the Italian school system, which has gone through multiple transformations at a normative level i.e. the “Good School” law. The school cannot be left to its own devices insofar as it need to be provided with tools to support this change.
In international literature, instead, we notice that homework has been investigated from different perspectives and in relation to several factors e.g.: the impact on students’ motivation to learn in particular for drilling tasks; the effects on the quality of children’s lives in particular on their leisure and extracurricular activities; the relationship between homework and the specific courses; the impact on the promotion of students’ educational success and well-being.
Nevertheless, as regard to their beneficial effects the available data in literature do not converge (Chouinard, Archambault, Rheaul 2006; Núñez, Suárez, Rosário, Vallejo, Valle, Epstein, 2015; Bas, Sentouk, Cigerci, 2017). There is a general consensus in considering family factors as important in the context of the general influence on learning and school success (Spera, 2005, Green, Walker, Hoover-Dempsey, Sandler, 2007; Orkin, May , Wolf, 2017; Doctoroff, Arnold, 2017; Castro, Expósito-Casas, López-Martín, Lizasoain, Navarro-Asencio, Gaviria, 2015). According to these data, some scholars have pointed out that tasks can be discriminatory because they are indiscriminate (Kralovec, Buell, 2001). There are students who face them without problems or have parents who are culturally able to help them; others may encounter some difficulties and the lack of family support can generate frustration and bring to failure those who would most need to be accompanied and supported. In other words, homework risks amplifying existing inequalities (Rønning, 2010) and ends up generating exclusion in particular in primary school (6-11 years) when children need parental support more than after. Younger pupils in fact have less well-developed study habits (Dufresne & Kobasigawa, 1989) and may be less able than older children to ignore irrelevant information in their home environment. The extent to which they learn from homework may therefore depend also on how much help they get from their parents. Are teachers aware of this? Maybe not or at least not enough! Their beliefs and perceptions are important factors in determining their practices making homework successfull or not.
For this reason, the study seeks to answer the following research questions:
- In teachers’ opinion, which students benefit from homework? All indistinct or not?
- Have teachers ever thought about homework as a resource to promote inclusion?
- How can the homework favor or otherwise hinder the collaboration between school and family?
- How can they act to promote an alliance with parents about homework?
This explorative study represents the first step of a wider research design aimed at involving direct interlocutors (students, teachers) and the main stakeholders (e.g. school principals, parents) for both giving voice to each of them and promoting dialogue. In our opinion subgroups (teachers, parents, students, school principals) must first become aware and reflect individually on the issue before starting exchange and sharing; for this reason, in this research phase the teacher’s perspective has been chosen. Our study focuses on teachers’ homework conceptions, that is, how teachers think about or perceive the nature and purpose of homework and how they design and implement it; in particular, we want to get teachers reflect at the effect of homework (opinions and practice) on pupils’ inclusion/exclusion taking into account the family - school relationship. According to a qualitative approach we expect to involve a limited number of teachers (20/25) – purposefully chosen - working in primary school of a delimited context (Lombardy, Northern Italy); for data collection we expect to use non structured instruments: 1) open interview (individual) because it offers the possibility to investigate the issue in broad terms, leaving the subject free to express his/her point of view without conditioning; 2) collective interview (e.g. focus group) in order to give the teachers the opportunity to share their concerns and discuss their practices. In this perspective, the data collection is functional both to generate knowledge about what teachers think and how they act and to gain awareness at individual and collective level contributing to their professional growth.
This research is ongoing, but it is expected that outcomes will provide more detailed information about teacher perceptions of the link between their homework practices and the effects on pupils’ inclusion/exclusion. We hypothesize that Italian teachers probably have never thought systematically about this topic; they may have very different ideas about it even in connection with generic/specific training carried out (initial and in service) and relational style used in the family-school interaction. During the first phase the teachers will have the opportunity to formulate their concerns, explicit their opinions and describe their practices. The data emerging from these interviews will allow us to construct a semi-structured questionnaire for a larger-scale survey (second phase). At the same time we will use our findings to promote training opportunities for teachers and schools involved in the project (action-training-research) in order to ensure that teachers could improve their competency in designing and using homework in an inclusive perspective. We hope also that our national findings may be useful to further develop research and to promote the debate at international level.
Amiryousefi, M. (2016). Homework: Voices from EFL teachers and learners. Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research, 4 (2), 35-54. Bas, G., Sentouk, C., Cigerci, F.M. (2017). Homework and academic achievement: a meta-analytic review or reserach. Issues in Educational Research, 27 (1), 31-49. Castro, M., Expósito-Casas, E., López-Martín, E., Lizasoain, L., Navarro-Asencio, E., Gaviria, J. L. (2015). Parental involvement on student academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 14, 33-46. Chouinard, R., Archambault, J., Rheault, A. (2006). Les devoirs, corvée inutile ou élément essentiel de la réussite scolaire? Revue des sciences de l’éducation, 32 (2), 307-324. Doctoroff, G. L., Arnold, D. H. (2017). Doing homework together. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 48, 103-113. Dufresne, A., Kobasigawa, A. (1989). Children’s spontaneous allocation of study time: Differential and sufficient aspects. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 42, 274–296. Green, C. L., Walker, J. M., Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Sandler, H. M. (2007). Parents’ motivations for involvement in children’s education: An empirical test of a theoretical model of parental involvement. Journal of educational psychology, 99 (3), 532. Kralovec, E., Buell, J. (2001). End homework now. Educational Leadership, 58 (7), 39-42. Montalbetti, K. (2017), Dalle evidenze di ricerca alle prospettive per la formazione degli insegnanti: i compiti come spazio di lavoro. Formazione & Insegnamento, 15 (3), 93-102. Núñez, J. C., Suárez, N., Rosário, P., Vallejo, G., Valle, A., Epstein, J. L. (2015). Relationships between perceived parental involvement in homework, student homework behaviors, and academic achievement: differences among elementary, junior high, and high school students, Metacognition and learning, 10 (3), 375-406. Orkin, M., May, S., Wolf, M. (2017). How Parental Support During Homework Contributes to Helpless Behaviors Among Struggling Readers, Reading Psychology, 38(5), 506-541. Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C. (2008). Parent involvement in homework: a research synthesis, Review of educational research, 78 (4), 1039-1101. Rønning, M. (2010). Who benefits from homework assignments?, Economics of Education Review, 30, 55-64. Spera, C. (2005). A review of the relationship among parentig practices, parenting styles, and adolescent school achievement, Educational Psychological Review, 17 (2), 125-146. Tam, V. C., Chan, R. M. C. (2016). What is homework for? Hong Kong primary school teachers’ homework conceptions, School Community Journal, 26 (1), 25-44. Xu, J., Wu, X. (2013). Self-Regulation of Homework Behavior: Homework Management at the Secondary School Level, The Journal of Educational Research, 106 (1), 1–13.
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