The effects of parental involvement in homework on student achievement in Portugal and Luxembourg.An ongoing debate about the importance of homework and its relevance to students' achievement raises questions about the type of homework that is most conducive con·du·cive
Tending to cause or bring about; contributive: working conditions not conducive to productivity. See Synonyms at favorable. to students' learning, and the role parents should play in their children's homework activities. The author conducted research in Portugal and Luxembourg to investigate whether well-designed homework activities can positively affect students' second-language acquisition and literacy skills, and whether parental involvement in these homework activities enhances students' learning. The research findings strongly suggest that this is so.
The Homework Debate
Students do not all learn at the same rate or in quite the same way. Traditionally, time has been considered a crucial factor in learning because different learners need different amounts of time to master materials and skills. Rosenshine (1976) studied time on-task, and its effect on reading and mathematics achievement for primary grade students from low socio-economic backgrounds. His findings indicated that although total time in school is an important variable related to achievement, the actual time a student spends engaged in particular academic activities, such as reading and arithmetic, is more strongly associated with achievement gains in these particular subjects. Time exposure also has been considered an important factor in language acquisition (Krashen & Terrel, 1983).
If it is the case, then, that theories on learning, in general, and theories on language acquisition, in particular, consider time to be a critical factor for learning, then measures should be taken to explore time on-task. Learning does not take place only in classrooms. Many students also need an after-school period of independent work. Homework may help address students' individual and varied amount of time needed for comprehension comprehension
Act of or capacity for grasping with the intellect. The term is most often used in connection with tests of reading skills and language abilities, though other abilities (e.g., mathematical reasoning) may also be examined. , allowing students to learn at their own pace.
The fact that homework can expand the time spent on a learning activity, and that it always has been an integral part of school life, is not enough to make it useful. Studies have shown, however, that in specific situations involving activities such as feedback, individualized in·di·vid·u·al·ize
tr.v. in·di·vid·u·al·ized, in·di·vid·u·al·iz·ing, in·di·vid·u·al·iz·es
1. To give individuality to.
2. To consider or treat individually; particularize.
3. enrichment enrichment Food industry The addition of vitamins or minerals to a food–eg, wheat, which may have been lost during processing. See White flour; Cf Whole grains. assignments, the use of human and physical resources not available at school, and parental involvement, homework does indeed make a difference for student learning.
Many studies have found that homework, combined with parental involvement, positively affects student achievement (e.g., Maertens & Johnston, 1972). In fact, Epstein's (1995) framework of the six types of parental involvement includes "learning at home" (Type 4) as an important component of school-family-community partnerships. Epstein suggests that schools should provide information and ideas to families "about how to help students at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities, decisions, and planning" (p. 704). Although the practice of parental support of their children's homework is "probably the most widespread and acceptable form of cooperation between school and home" (OECD OECD: see Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. , 1997), questions have been raised about who benefits from it.
A socio-cultural point of view assumes that students from families with higher levels of education (likely from higher socioeconomic so·ci·o·ec·o·nom·ic
Of or involving both social and economic factors.
of or involving economic and social factors
Adj. 1. backgrounds) are more likely to benefit from homework than students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Research suggests, however, that all students, regardless of background, can benefit from well-designed homework. Studies of migrant mi·grant
1. One that moves from one region to another by chance, instinct, or plan.
2. An itinerant worker who travels from one area to another in search of work.
Migratory. children's education and cultural development emphasize that homework is beneficial when it is supervised su·per·vise
tr.v. su·per·vised, su·per·vis·ing, su·per·vis·es
To have the charge and direction of; superintend.
[Middle English *supervisen, from Medieval Latin either by teachers or parents (Cetinsoy, 1983; Olmos, 1983). Some homework can provide appropriate support for children and improve parents' own education. Indeed, even high-achieving students are more academically successful when they do homework (OECD, 1997). The literature concludes that homework should not be abandoned, but rather that present practices should be evaluated and improved.
Opinion surveys show that students want less conventional types of homework exercises, and appreciate challenging and engaging activities. Furthermore, drill-and-practice, or reinforcement reinforcement /re·in·force·ment/ (-in-fors´ment) in behavioral science, the presentation of a stimulus following a response that increases the frequency of subsequent responses, whether positive to desirable events, or , activities are not necessarily related to an improvement in pupils' skills (OECD, 1997). In many classrooms, the "read-summarize-review" type assignment has been replaced by the independent study project. Teachers more frequently request that children produce something creative, and students may be learning a great deal more in the process. Some educators are developing interactive homework activities that not only are engaging, but also can involve the entire family in children's learning.
The Role of Homework in Second Language Acquisition: A Portuguese Project
Krashen and Terrel (1983) point out that learners can speak a second language fluently flu·ent
a. Able to express oneself readily and effortlessly: a fluent speaker; fluent in three languages.
b. if their comprehensible com·pre·hen·si·ble
Readily comprehended or understood; intelligible.
[Latin compreh input is one stage ahead of their developing grammar. They emphasize the importance of receptive receptive /re·cep·tive/ (re-cep´tiv) capable of receiving or of responding to a stimulus. skills, and the direct relationship between the amount of time a student spends on listening and reading activities, and the student's fluency flu·ent
a. Able to express oneself readily and effortlessly: a fluent speaker; fluent in three languages.
b. . Although comprehensible input is a necessary condition for second language acquisition, affective affective /af·fec·tive/ (ah-fek´tiv) pertaining to affect.
1. Concerned with or arousing feelings or emotions; emotional.
2. prerequisites may also influence the intake. Parental attitudes not only help to promote a positive attitude to the target language, but also help develop students' self-confidence.
The first project described in this article involved 77 6th-graders from an urban preparatory school preparatory school: see school.
School that prepares students for entrance to a higher school. In Europe, where secondary education has been selective, preparatory schools have been those that catered to pupils wishing to enter located in metropolitan Lisbon, who were learning English as a foreign language. Study participants included boys and girls boys and girls
mercurialisannua. age 11 to 12, from lower- and middle-class homes. The education level of the parents also varied. The students were assigned randomly to two experimental classes (Classes A and B) that received the homework treatment, and one control class (Class C) that did not. The homework treatment was designed to enrich and expand upon classroom learning, and to develop vocabulary, listening, reading and writing skills in English. In addition to the homework treatment, parents of students in Class A received information and instruction on how to be come involved in their children's learning at home. Thus, Class A enjoyed enriching homework and guidance for parent involvement, Class B received the homework treatment only, and Class C received only "regular" homework assignments.
The following are examples of activities assigned for homework in the experimental English classes three times a week:
Watching English-speaking series on television
* Watch the television series "The Love Boat" on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Then, make a list of 20 English words that you recognize. Ask your family to join you.
* Watch the television series "Little House on the Prairie prairie
Level or rolling grassland, especially that found in central North America. Decreasing amounts of rainfall, from 40 in. (100 cm) at the forested eastern edge to less than 12 in. " on Saturday, at 2:00 p.m. Then, please answer the following questions:
Q1: What are the names of the three main characters?
Q2: What nationality nationality, in political theory, the quality of belonging to a nation, in the sense of a group united by various strong ties. Among the usual ties are membership in the same general community, common customs, culture, tradition, history, and language. are they?
Q3: Use as many adjectives as you can to explain what the characters are like (for example: old, young, fat, slim).
Q4: What do they do?
Listing English words students are able to recognize
* List English words that the Portuguese use, like "football." Ask your parents to help you.
Labeling objects in the house and using those words
* Label in English as many objects as you can in your house. Then, ask everybody in the house to use only the English words for those objects for 48 hours.
Drawing a plan of your house
* Ask a parent to help you draw a plan of your house.
* See where your family members are at the moment. Ask them what they are doing. Then describe it all in English.
Writing advertisements, recipes and interviews
* Select one of your possessions that you would like to sell. Discuss the issue with one of your parents.
* Then, read the classified advertisements under the title "Merchandise for Sale" and write, in English, a 4-line advertisement that will appear in the school newspaper.
* Think about a question you would like to ask the new English New English
See Modern English. teacher. Ask your parents' opinions. Then, prepare the interview in English.
* Select your favorite cake. Ask your mother for the recipe. Then, write it down in English. (The best cake will be cooked in school.)
All of the students' parents attended a session that explained the experiment, and outlined the goals and procedures that would be followed during the school year. The parents of the children in Class A attended an additional 60-minute session that was led by the researcher. The purpose of this session was to explain how home factors affect children's learning in school, and ways to encourage and support children's work at home. Parents were instructed to become involved in their children's work at home in the following ways: 1) asking what the homework was about, 2) discussing the subject of the homework in the native tongue and 3) learning with their children. These parents were contacted by phone periodically to ensure that they were following the program.
Pre- and posttests were administered to the three groups to identify any achievement differences among the students before and after the treatment. Data were statistically analyzed an·a·lyze
tr.v. an·a·lyzed, an·a·lyz·ing, an·a·lyz·es
1. To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations.
2. Chemistry To make a chemical analysis of.
3. , using T-test analysis and analysis of variance. The results of the study, summarized below, supported the study's hypotheses.
* Significant differences were found in the achievement scores of the students in the experimental groups (Classes A and B) following an intervention program of regularly assigned homework, compared to the students in the control group (Class C).
* Significant differences were found in the achievement scores of students who were guided to involve their parents (Class A), compared to other students.
The results indicate that well-designed homework, particularly homework combined with parental involvement, has a significant effect on the performance of students learning English as a second language. Although the control group (Class C) scored higher than one of the experimental groups (Class A) on the pretest pre·test
a. A preliminary test administered to determine a student's baseline knowledge or preparedness for an educational experience or course of study.
b. A test taken for practice.
2. , the posttest post·test
A test given after a lesson or a period of instruction to determine what the students have learned. scores of both Class A and Class B were significantly higher than those of Class C (T = 3.66, p [less than] .001).
The data further indicate that the most significant gain by Class A was made on the listening test (T = 2.432, p [less than] .01). The homework activities designed to develop listening skills consisted of television viewing. Television, when used properly, can be a powerful supplement to classroom instruction on listening proficiency pro·fi·cien·cy
n. pl. pro·fi·cien·cies
The state or quality of being proficient; competence.
Noun 1. proficiency - the quality of having great facility and competence . Moreover, we expect that because parents and children enjoy television, they are more likely to continue the activity by themselves.
The Role of Homework in Literacy Development: Projects in Luxembourg and Portugal
The study described above suggests that homework activities designed to foster literacy skills should help children to acquire vocabulary in meaningful situations. Vocabulary expansion plays an important role not only in the language acquisition process, but also in topic expansion. Only a limited range of topics can be covered during classroom time. Homework may be especially important for migrant children, who, at one time or another, may have experienced school difficulties because of language barriers.
As the family acquires language, literacy also improves. Therefore, the language spoken in the home, the cultural background, availability of books, print awareness Print awareness refers to a child's understanding of the nature and uses of print. A child's print awareness is closely associated with his or her word awareness or the ability to recognize words as distinct elements of oral and written communication. , adult reading habits, knowledge of the world and metalinguistic met·a·lin·guis·tic
Of or relating to a metalanguage or to metalinguistics.
meta·lin·guis skills (Menyuk, 1988) all influence the child's literate environment, the development of literacy and the child's reading skills. Parental involvement can encourage vocabulary enrichment and increase exposure to sight words and to a wide variety of children's literature children's literature, writing whose primary audience is children.
See also children's book illustration. The Beginnings of Children's Literature
The earliest of what came to be regarded as children's literature was first meant for adults. , all of which is necessary for developing comprehension.
Two additional projects were conducted to help immigrant parents foster their children's literacy acquisition - by helping them become involved in homework activities, and by increasing their contacts with the school. Both were three-year projects that included a homework intervention program, which was followed for approximately two years. Both projects involved primary school immigrant students: Portuguese immigrants in Luxembourg, and African immigrants in Lisbon.
Luxembourg. The Luxembourg sample consisted of 160 students, selected from nine public schools. Economically disadvantaged and socially segregated, the Portuguese community in Luxembourg now constitutes about 10 percent of the population. While these families are eager for their children to be educated, the failure rate among Portuguese students in Luxembourg is high (38.4 percent) and many children simply give up going to school by age 14. Part of the problem is a lack of literacy skills. In their multilingual mul·ti·lin·gual
1. Of, including, or expressed in several languages: a multilingual dictionary.
2. environment, most children switch from one language to another without attaining the level of linguistic competence in either language that is commonly associated with reading readiness This article or section needs copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone and/or spelling.
You can assist by [ editing it] now. .
As part of a project to encourage students' literacy acquisition, parents were requested to come to school for regular meetings with their children's Portuguese teacher. (In addition to following the regular curriculum, Portuguese students also were learning to read and write in their mother tongue mother tongue
1. One's native language.
2. A parent language.
the language first learned by a child
Noun 1. with the help of a Portuguese teacher.) They also attended a special session in Portuguese led by the researcher, who discussed suggestions parents could use to improve students' learning. Parents also received a report calendar on which to document their involvement activities. A continuous, qualitative evaluation followed every intervention activity. Parents' and teachers' opinions were recorded, and the researchers analyzed the feedback in order to introduce new ideas "New Ideas" is the debut single by Scottish New Wave/Indie Rock act The Dykeenies. It was first released as a Double A-side with "Will It Happen Tonight?" on July 17, 2006. The band also recorded a video for the track. or correct the intervention program.
Interview and observation data suggest that the great majority of parents came to the meetings and participated with enthusiasm. Teachers said that some parents were excited about working with their children at home. About 50 percent of the parents regularly completed the report calendars and returned them to the teachers. Teachers reported that parental support was a decisive factor Noun 1. decisive factor - a point or fact or remark that settles something conclusively
causal factor, determinant, determining factor, determinative, determiner - a determining or causal element or factor; "education is an important determinant of influencing children's reading development and fluency.
Lisbon. The Lisbon sample included 47 children (20 boys and 27 girls, 6 to 7 years old) from a primary school located in the suburbs of the metropolitan area. A majority of students in this area come from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa. Some of these students were learning Portuguese as a second language. The failure rate among these students is very high (about 60 percent in the 4th grade), mainly due to difficulties in reading and writing. All the students come from working-class families who live near the school - many in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The parents' formal education levels and income are generally low.
Analysis of the data from interviews conducted with parents reveal a number of factors affecting students' literacy development. These include: 1) limited time for parent-child interactions; 2) relatively low degrees of structure and routine in the home; 3) low academic aspirations aspirations npl → aspiraciones fpl (= ambition); ambición f
aspirations npl (= hopes, ambition) → aspirations fpl , although the parents are concerned about their children's future and appear open to receiving help; 4) the unavailability of books, newspapers or magazines in the home; 5) home communication in Criolo, a variation of the Portuguese language Portuguese language, member of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Romance languages). It is the mother tongue of about 170 million people, chiefly in Portugal and the Portuguese islands in the Atlantic (11 million ; and 6) limited home-school home·school or home-school
v. home·schooled, home·school·ing, home·schools
To instruct (a pupil, for example) in an educational program outside of established schools, especially in the home. relationships.
The students in the experimental group were assigned interactive homework activities that were designed to improve their literacy development and involve parents in learning situations at home. The three types of homework activities aimed at: 1) developing children's linguistic awareness, 2) enriching their vocabulary and 3) fostering reading and writing. Children were asked, for example, to complete rhymes or identify morphological mor·phol·o·gy
n. pl. mor·phol·o·gies
a. The branch of biology that deals with the form and structure of organisms without consideration of function.
b. or syntactic Dealing with language rules (syntax). See syntax. errors, do matching games or drawings that involved the knowledge of the alphabet alphabet [Gr. alpha-beta, like Eng. ABC], system of writing, theoretically having a one-for-one relation between character (or letter) and phoneme (see phonetics). Few alphabets have achieved the ideal exactness. , and use comics from the newspaper to complete a variety of writing activities.
As part of the project, parents attended seven sessions led by the researcher and the teachers in the school. The first session emphasized the importance of family involvement in children's learning, while the following sessions disseminated disseminated /dis·sem·i·nat·ed/ (-sem´i-nat?ed) scattered; distributed over a considerable area.
Spread over a large area of a body, a tissue, or an organ. information about each type of homework activity. These activities were assigned on Fridays so that families might have time to work with their children over the weekend. Information on the results of the project was gathered from three sources: 1) parental participation in the sessions, 2) homework completion and 3) children's test scores.
Parents' attendance rates at the sessions varied from 50 percent to 73 percent. Teachers were surprised by the levels of attendance and family involvement. Teachers were also surprised by the number of students completing their homework assignments, which increased over time from 60.8 percent to 65.1 percent. A strong correlation existed between parents' attendance at orientation sessions and children's homework completion. In addition, literacy development was assessed at the start and at the end of the study for the experimental and the control groups. The Test of Early Reading Ability (Reid, Hresko & Hammill, 1981), designed to measure a child's ability to construct meaning from print, was adapted to Portuguese culture and administered individually to all students. The pre- and posttest analyses indicated that the experimental group improved on the literacy test Literacy Test refers to the government practice of testing the literacy of potential citizens at the federal level, and potential voters at the state level. The federal government first employed literacy tests as part of the immigration process in 1917. significantly more than the control group.
Discussion and Implications
Each project described in this article involved some families with very few years of formal education and/or from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Consequently, homework interventions were designed precisely to involve those families who most needed encouragement and support. Each of the projects successfully involved many of these families in their children's learning at home, and also promoted student achievement.
Some parents feel reticent about contacting schools because they have limited formal knowledge about the learning process. They are not used to being contacted by the school for positive reasons and, consequently, they may have some difficulty in understanding their role in encouraging their children's school work. They may lack confidence in their capacity to help their children. It takes time for schools to enlist en·list
v. en·list·ed, en·list·ing, en·lists
1. To engage (persons or a person) for service in the armed forces.
2. To engage the support or cooperation of.
v. parents' cooperation, to give them confidence and even to help them supplement and strengthen teachers' classroom efforts. Nevertheless, it is well worth the try.
The results of these projects in Portugal and Luxembourg suggest that it is important for teachers to take the initiative to contact parents - who, after all, share the responsibility for students' learning. The projects indicate that parents can help produce significant results that benefit their children.
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CDCC Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee
CDCC Canadian Deaf Curling Championships
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Adelina Villas-Boas is Instructor, Psychology and Science of Education, University of Lisbon The University of Lisbon (Universidade de Lisboa, pron. IPA: [univɨɾsi'dad(ɨ) dɨ liʒ'boɐ]; latin Universitas Olisiponensis) is a public university in Lisbon, Portugal. , Portugal.