Academic journal article School Community Journal

Doing Homework: Listening to Students,' Parents,' and Teachers' Voices in One Urban Middle School Community

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Doing Homework: Listening to Students,' Parents,' and Teachers' Voices in One Urban Middle School Community

Article excerpt

Abstract

An increasing amount of scholarship has focused on the roles of teachers and parents in the homework process, as well as on student homework behaviors and whether or not these behaviors affect student success in school. However, research explicitly comparing students' attitudes toward homework with those of parents and teachers has been minimal, at best. This study examines student, parent, and teacher attitudes toward homework through open-ended interviews with teachers, students, and their families from diverse cultural backgrounds in one urban middle school community. The study reveals that these three participating groups shared considerable consensus on the importance of homework and the purposes of homework. It further reveals a number of disagreements between child and adult viewpoints, as well as between parent and teacher viewpoints, related to their primary concerns in doing homework in the home context. Implications from the study are discussed in the light of these findings, particularly relating to how to address homework-associated conflicts resulting from these disagreements.

Key Words: homework, parent involvement, collaboration, middle school.

Introduction

Viewed at the intersection of home and school (Hoover-Dempsey, Bassler, & Burow, 1995; Nicholls, McKenzie, & Shufro, 1994), homework is a common and well-known educational activity across cultures, grades, and ability levels (Chen & Stevenson, 1989; Warton, 2001). It has long been an active area of investigation among educational researchers (Cooper & Valentine, 2001; Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001). This is evident in the fact that literature on homework has often become a topic of synthesis or meta-analysis, typically every five to ten years (Cooper, 1989).

It is surprising to note that the voices of students, the principal participants, are noticeably absent from much contemporary homework literature (Bryan & Nelson, 1994; Bryan, Nelson, & Mathur, 1995; Leung, 1993; Warton, 2001). Most research examines what students do, and whether and how the completion of homework or time spent affects student success in school (Cooper, 1989; Paschal, Weinstein, & Walberg, 1985). Other research examines the roles and views of teachers (see Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001) and of parents (see Hoover-Dempsey, Battiato, Walker, Reed, & Jones, 2001) in the homework process. Yet, what students do in the homework process and to what extent they comply with the expectations of teachers and parents is largely influenced by their own views toward homework (Bryan, Nelson, & Mathur, 1995; Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998).

What is particularly missing from much contemporary homework literature is the line of research that explicitly compares students' attitudes toward homework with those of parents and teachers (Warton, 2001). This line of research is important to better understand the complexities of the homework process, to provide relevant "information about possible agreement, or lack of agreement, with the adult viewpoints" (Warton, 2001, p. 158), to better address frequently reported homework-associated conflict at home, and to ultimately optimize learning opportunities in the homework process.

Related Literature

Several studies are informative, in some ways from multiple angles, in examining the views of students, parents, and teachers toward homework. However, in these studies, this examination was either not the focus or was conducted largely using pre-structured quantitative measures. Chen and Stevenson (1989) reported a series of studies that examined cultural differences in attitudes about homework among more than 3,500 elementary school children, their mothers, and their teachers. In Study 1, first and fifth graders from the cities of Minneapolis (United States), Taipei (China), and Sendai (Japan) were asked to indicate how much they liked homework by selecting among five faces with expressions ranging from a deep frown to a wide smile. …

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