Homework Realities: A Canadian Study of Parental Opinions and Attitudes
Study Context. The purpose of this study was to obtain a Canadian perspective on the issue of homework. Growing societal concern with Homework since the educational reform efforts in the 90’s reached a new height in the summer of 2006 with the publication of books by Kohn and by Bennett and Kalish presenting a US perspective. Linda Cameron and Lee Bartel, Associate Professors at OISE, University of Toronto, perceived a lack in Canadian research and so initiated this study in October of 2006.
Method, Sample and Demographics. A 40 item questionnaire was created on a website, an invitation to participate and access to the questionnaire was “seeded” across Canada with emphasis on Ontario, and “snowball” technique was used to obtain a volunteer sample of respondents. The final analysis included 1094 responses from care-givers of 2072 children. The response from Ontario was the heaviest with 950 responses representing 1800 children. Analysis focuses on Ontario data. The Ontario sample represented all 5 major postal code regions, was somewhat skewed to higher educational and income levels, balanced in gender of children, adequately represented all grades, and public, separate, private and home schooling types.
Amount and Type of Homework. Type of homework as well as amount is important to reaction. A significant number of children now receive homework in kindergarten, 28% in Grade 1 and over 50% in Grade 2 report more than 20 minutes of homework a day. Children in Ontario receive statistically significantly (p .001) more homework than the sample from the rest of Canada. From Jr K – Grade 6 “drill and practice” homework is the dominant form and between Grade 7 and 12 it is “projects.”
Parents’ Comparison of Homework Amount. About 75% of parents believe that their children now have “somewhat” to “much more” homework than they did as a child. There is a significant difference based on educational level with those with less income perceiving children to have much more homework than they had (p<.0005).
Help with Homework Given to Children. Parents give much help to their children with homework. Over 80% say they help a Kindergarten to Grade 2 child “usually or always” and this continues at around 77% through Grade 4. There is a very strong positive relationship between parental attitude toward the child’s homework and how frequently they help the child (more positive the attitude the more they help (p <.0005). There is also a strong relationship between Parental feeling of competence to help with homework and (a) the frequency with which they help the child (p < .0005), (b) how positive they feel the affect of homework is on family relationship (p <.0005), (c) the effect they feel it has on the child’s achievement. Those whose language is not English or French help more frequently (p = .02). than those who report English and French as their language.
Resources used by Child for Homework. It is no surprise that Internet is reported as the most frequently used resource for homework – with no significant difference across income levels. There is some difference in gender with girls using all resources more frequently. Those with incomes below $40K use the public library and resources at home more than other income levels. School resources are used most heavily in private schools.