NEEDS ANALYSIS: FRENCH IMMERSION HOMEWORK HELP

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NEEDS ANALYSIS: FRENCH IMMERSION HOMEWORK HELP
NEEDS ANALYSIS: FRENCH IMMERSION HOMEWORK HELP PROGRAM
Report submitted to Canadian Parents for French (Ontario)
Doug Hart, Sharon Lapkin, Sara Mison, Stephanie Arnott
Centre for Educational Research on Language and Literacies
(formerly Modern Language Centre)
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto
August 18, 2010
Table of Contents
Executive Summary ......................................................................................................................... i
Introduction .................................................................................................................................. i
Method ......................................................................................................................................... i
The literature ................................................................................................................................ i
Findings: Characteristics of samples ............................................................................................ i
Findings: Parent survey ............................................................................................................... ii
Findings: Teacher survey ............................................................................................................ ii
Possible pilot project .................................................................................................................. iii
Conclusion .................................................................................................................................. iii
Needs Analysis: French Immersion Homework Help Program ..................................................... 1
Introduction ................................................................................................................................. 1
Research Questions ..................................................................................................................... 1
Method ........................................................................................................................................ 1
Sample selection issues ........................................................................................................... 1
Literature review component ................................................................................................... 2
Consultations with stakeholders .............................................................................................. 2
Development of survey instruments ........................................................................................ 3
Types of analysis ..................................................................................................................... 3
Literature review ......................................................................................................................... 4
Findings: Characteristics of samples ......................................................................................... 10
Parent sample ......................................................................................................................... 10
Student sample ....................................................................................................................... 10
Teacher sample ...................................................................................................................... 11
Findings: Parent survey ............................................................................................................. 11
Parents’ open-ended comments ............................................................................................. 14
Findings: Teacher survey .......................................................................................................... 18
Teachers’ open-ended comments .......................................................................................... 22
Possible pilot project ................................................................................................................. 23
Conclusion ................................................................................................................................. 24
References cited ........................................................................................................................ 26
Other references consulted ........................................................................................................ 26
List of attachments .................................................................................................................... 27
Attachment A: Environmental Scan – Needs Analysis for FI Homework Help (prepared by
CPF Ontario) ......................................................................................................................... 28
Attachment B: Parent Survey ................................................................................................ 35
Attachment C: Teacher Survey.............................................................................................. 49
Attachment D: Representative open-ended comments made by parents .............................. 58
Attachment E: Representative open-ended comments made by teachers ............................. 60
Executive Summary
Introduction
This study was undertaken at the request of Canadian Parents for French (Ontario),
henceforth CPF Ontario, with funds provided by the Ontario Ministry of Education. The central
research question is: What are the needs related to homework of French immersion parents? We
also address teachers’ views, in particular where they differ from those of parents. The full
report outlines the research questions, the method, a review of relevant literature, findings in
terms of (1) characteristics of our sample of parents, students and teachers, (2) parent survey
findings, and (3) teacher survey findings. We then propose a design for a possible pilot project to
be undertaken by the Ministry.
Method
From the CPF Ontario database of 1985 parents who were contacted, 605 were retained
for a response rate of 30.5 percent. The teacher sample of 153 was a sample of convenience
composed of teachers known to CPF Ontario. Aside from an electronic literature search, we also
contacted researchers across Canada to uncover studies that were relevant to the focus of the
present study. A focus group of six elementary French immersion teachers was held to inform
the development of the survey instruments (one for parents and the other for teachers). Once the
survey data were collected by CPF Ontario, we produced frequency tables and conducted
appropriate descriptive statistical analyses.
The literature
The literature reviewed in this report suggests that parents may gain a greater
appreciation of schooling as a result of involvement in their child’s homework (Cooper, 1989).
Homework may also function as a way for parents to demonstrate an interest in the academic
progress of their child, resulting in a positive connection between the school and the home.
In the studies specific to French immersion, one important theme is that parents felt
unable to help with homework because of their inability to speak French (Eagle, 1996; von
Mende, 2000). They feel unable to track their child’s progress for the same reason. The advice
Eagle (1996) gives to parents mirrors what can be found in the CPF guide Yes, you can help! It
includes the suggestion that children read to parents in French even if the parents themselves do
not understand, and that parents continue to read to their children in English even during the
early years when English is not yet taught. von Mende (2000) suggests that reading logs be kept
to document the time spent at home reading in any language. She also notes the positive effects
of parental involvement on children’s attitudes towards work done both inside and outside of the
classroom.
Findings: Characteristics of samples
The characteristics of the parent sample suggest that the households are largely middle to
upper-middle class Anglophones in two-parent families. Parents were divided on their awareness
i of the school’s policy on homework but the majority were aware of the teacher’s expectations.
Those who responded seemed quite confident in their ability to assist their child with homework.
The student sample suggests that the majority are in primary school from medium-sized
schools of 301-500 students. Generally, parents report that the average time spent on homework
per night is between 11-30 minutes.
Most teachers in our sample have taught for at least 10 years and the majority are
currently teaching in the primary/junior divisions. Almost half teach in medium-sized schools of
301-500 students.
Findings: Parent survey
Parents reported that free writing, reading, and vocabulary/spelling were the most
common exercises assigned for homework in a typical month and that the most frequent reason
for assigning homework was for ‘practicing skills or tasks to reinforce what was done in class’.
Seventy-five percent of parents reported that their child were very or somewhat positive in their
attitudes towards homework, with almost all children completing their homework most nights.
The top three most commonly cited resources used by parents and their child(ren) in a
typical month were internet resources, resources from school, and materials from home, with
online translators being the most frequently used electronic resource and dictionaries being the
most frequently used print resource. Two-thirds of parents felt that ‘some’ to ‘a great deal’ of
additional support was required in their household to help their child deal successfully with
homework in French immersion. Specifically, they expressed a need for better internet resources,
a ‘how-to’ guide for parents without French language skills, and better communication about
homework problems.
From the open-ended comments, we learn that the most common resources that parents
and their child(ren) currently use to assist with homework in French are the internet, including
general use of online materials, online translators, French search engines, online dictionaries,
French lesson sites, and pronunciation sites, as well as print dictionaries. The most common
additional resources flagged by parents as those which would be helpful for homework help were
more or better resources (e.g. online resources, improved access to resources, print resources,
and audiovisual resources) and help beyond the classroom in the form of after-school programs,
tutoring, and extracurricular activities where the child(ren) can practice French outside of the
classroom context.
Findings: Teacher survey
More than half of teachers reported assigning 20 minutes or less of homework each night.
Two-thirds felt that about a tenth of their students had access to a French speaking person at
home. The top three most frequently assigned forms of homework, as reported by the teacher,
were reading, written translation, and grammar exercises. (The survey did not address subject
areas of the curriculum other than French language arts; however, math was mentioned
frequently in the ‘other’ category of several items.)The majority of teachers listed ‘completing
ii work there wasn’t time to finish in class’ and ‘practicing skills or tasks to reinforce what was
done in class’ as the motivation behind most homework assigned in their class.
Resources from the school and internet resources are the top two resources used by
parents and their child(ren), as perceived by the teachers. This is not a direct match with what
teachers recommend, namely general online resources, grammar checking websites, and the CPF
website. Dictionaries are the most recommended print resource. Over three-quarters of students
respond ‘positively’ or ‘somewhat positively’ to homework, according to the teachers.
Contrary to parent survey results, 59 percent of teachers said that at least a tenth of their
students fail to complete their homework assignments, and another 29 percent says that about a
quarter of their students fail to do so. The majority of teachers felt that ‘some’ to ‘a great deal’ of
additional support was required for parents and students. Most teachers thought that better
internet resources, better school library resources, and a ‘how-to’ guide for parents without
French language skills were the most helpful forms of homework help. Nearly all teachers felt
that parents had a ‘medium’ to ‘high’ level of involvement in supporting their child.
The teachers’ open-ended comments reflect the quantitative findings of the survey.
Possible pilot project
On the basis of the findings of the surveys, we recommend that the Ministry consider
piloting and internet-based homework help service for French immersion students and their
parents. The service would be similar to the existing math online homework help pilot currently
in place in several school districts in Ontario. In fact the math pilot should also be translated into
French for French immersion students, as a recurring theme in the survey findings was the need
for help in math and other curricular areas taught in French.
The French language arts-related site would incorporate ‘best sessions’ where key online
chat sessions are recorded and made available for others to benefit from, interactive audiovisual
tutorials on important concepts, a glossary of critical terms, a grammar checker, translation tool
and list of useful materials/resources.
We also suggest doing an updated, revised issue of Yes, you can help! to be made
available online and in print. In additional, basic French tutorials could be available online to
parents so that they can acquire some knowledge of French. Similarly, French activities to
engage parents and their child(ren) could also be available online.
Conclusion
In highlighting the key findings of the survey, it is important to bear in mind the nature of
both the parent and teacher samples. The parents surveyed are members of CPF Ontario, and as
such, may not be fully representative of French immersion parents in Ontario. The teacher
sample is even more skewed, as it is a sample of convenience, comprising teachers to whom CPF
Ontario had relatively easy access.
iii With respect to the research questions, there is a lot of consistency in parents’ and
teachers’ perceptions, so we refer here only to areas of discrepancy between the views of two
groups. Similarly, the open-ended responses mirror the findings of the two surveys.
Resources for homework help in French that parents report using most commonly are the
internet, resources from the school, and materials from home, while teachers reverse the first
two, stating resources from the school (including the teacher him/herself) as most common,
followed by the internet. Given that more than half of teachers (57%) have been teaching for
more than ten years, if they are less familiar with the internet than younger teachers, this many
influence their perceptions of the resources most useful to parents. It is also possible that teachers
are dissatisfied with currently available internet resources.
With respect to resources most needed, parents report that they need better internet
resources, a ‘how-to’ guide for parents who do not speak French, and better communication
about homework problems. Teachers’ views echo the first two of these; teachers also cite better
school library resources.
It seems clear that the possible pilot project involving online audiovisual homework help
in French language and content areas of the curriculum (particularly math) would address most
of the needs expressed in the surveys and the open-ended comments.
iv Needs Analysis: French Immersion Homework Help Program
Introduction
This study was undertaken at the request of Canadian Parents for French (Ontario) (henceforth
CPF Ontario), an association that receives many inquiries from French immersion parents
relating to homework help for their children. The report consists of the following components:
1. Introduction
2. Research questions
3. Method (including sample selection issues, literature review, consultations with
stakeholders, development of survey instruments, and types of analysis)
4. Literature review
5. Findings: characteristics of sample (parent sample, student sample, teacher sample)
6. Findings: Parent survey
7. Findings: Teacher survey
8. Proposed design for pilot project
9. Conclusion
Research Questions
The principal research question is reflected in the title of this report: What are the needs
related to homework of French immersion parents? Other questions include:
•
What resources do parents of immersion students (grades 1 through 8) use to help their
children complete their homework?
•
What resources do immersion parents perceive they need to help them assist their
children with homework?
Underlying these questions is the frequently reported parental perception that they cannot assist
their children with homework when they do not know the language of instruction. Answers to the
research questions comprise the summary of findings in the final section of this report.
With respect to the teacher survey, we ask: Are there areas where teachers’ views differ
from those of parents? In the case of teachers, as we will see in the sample selection section
below, those included cannot be said to be representative of a distinct population.
Method
Sample selection issues
An initial random sample of 750, stratified by region, was drawn from the Ontario CPF
database. When the response rate was low (about 24 percent), a second sample of 250 (also
stratified by region) received the survey. It was necessary to remove from the sample anyone
who did not qualify, that is, any member with no child(ren) in grades 1 through 8 at a publicly
1 funded elementary school. The second sample response rate was also low, so all of the names
from which the second sample had been drawn were contacted for a total of 1235 CPF Ontario
members. Thus the final sample size was 1985.
The survey was conducted and data collected by CPF Ontario. Invitations to respond
were sent by e-mail, followed where necessary by multiple e-mail and telephone reminders.
Telephone interviews were conducted where respondents indicated that was preferable until the
deadline of June 28th. The initial response rate for the parent survey was 42 percent; in numbers,
848 parents responded. After cleaning the data to remove respondents whose children were not at
the elementary school level or not in immersion, the final response rate was 30.5 percent or 605
parents.
With respect to the teacher survey, CPF used a sample of convenience, distributing it first
electronically to 294 teachers, including French consultants; it was also sent to teachers who had
volunteered at the Concours d’art oratoire, and who attended the CPF Ontario workshop at the
2010 OMLTA spring conference. The link to the survey was also posted on the OMLTA and
CASLT websites. One hundred and fifty-three eligible elementary immersion teachers
responded.
Literature review component
To locate studies on homework in second language (L2) and specifically immersion
contexts, we contacted researchers across Canada (Monique Bournot-Trites, Diane Dagenais,
Joseph Dicks, Fred Genesee, Roy Lyster, Miles Turnbull, Larry Vandergrift and others). We also
contacted representatives on the National Council of the Canadian Association of Second
Language Teachers (CASLT) who come from each of the provinces and territories, as well as
members of the CASLT Board of Directors. Some of these individuals forwarded the request for
information on to their networks. Relatively little information was uncovered in this fashion,
although one valuable master’s thesis was brought to our attention through these contacts.
Our library search included a thorough search of the following databases: Proquest
Digital Dissertations and Theses, Canadian Business and Current Affairs, ERIC, Education Full
Text and Repère. Very few relevant titles were uncovered using descriptors such as: immersion,
French as a second language, homework, parent engagement and several others.
In addition, CPF Ontario undertook an environmental scan to document resources
available in the community to help immersion students with homework in French. The extensive
information obtained is available in Attachment A.
Consultations with stakeholders
Since CPF is an association of parents interested in French second language (FSL), we
sought the perspective of immersion teachers. We conducted a focus group with elementary
immersion teachers from a school board in the Greater Toronto Area. Six immersion teachers
participated in a discussion lasting close to two hours. Three researchers listened to the tape,
stopping it where necessary, and noted themes arising from the discussion. Findings from the
focus group were used to inform the development of the survey instrument.
2 Development of survey instruments
Based on the literature review, analysis of the focus group discussion, and consultations
undertaken by the research team and CPF Ontario, a survey instrument for parents was
constructed and piloted. Contacts from CASLT and CPF Ontario vetted the first draft before it
was distributed in a limited way as a pilot. The instrument was then refined and finalized so that
CPF Ontario could administer it in May- June 2010. The same instrument was adapted so that it
would be suitable for teachers. The questionnaires are included in this report as Attachments B
and C.
Types of analysis
As an initial step, we produced frequency tables summarizing responses to the surveys
relevant to our research questions. Correlational tables allowed us to explore relationships among
the variables. Our research questions guided the descriptive statistics (e.g., cross-tabulations) that
we computed. Where needed, we conducted other analyses to contextualize the main findings.
3 Literature review
We reviewed relevant literature on homework to inform the development of our survey
instruments and to ensure that we were aware of any research pertinent to the French immersion
context. Studies addressing the topic of homework in French immersion are virtually nonexistent. This literature review begins by summarizing the meta-analysis of the homework
‘guru’, Harris Cooper. We then consider Canadian studies, one based in Quebec (Deslandes,
2009) and another in Ontario (Bartel & Cameron, 2008). Next, we summarize two key studies,
both unpublished master’s theses. The first concerns French immersion parents who decided to
remove their children from immersion (Eagle, 1996), and the second presents an action research
project in which a grade 1 French immersion teacher set out to increase parental involvement in
her classroom (von Mende, 2000). Finally, we include a short, practical summary of a guide
developed by CPF to help parents with aspects of supporting their children in French immersion,
including homework in French.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, there has been an ebb and flow in the
popularity of homework, mainly due to constant shifts in perspective of its purpose and
effectiveness. Cooper’s book aims to consolidate literature on homework for the 50 years
leading up the book’s publication in 1989, favoring “results from studies with the soundest
methodology” (p. 6). Cooper defines homework as “tasks assigned to students by school
teachers that are mean to be carried out during non-school hours” and does not include in-school
guided study, home study courses, or extracurricular activities (p. 7). Homework is classified by
amount, purpose, skill area utilized, degree of individualization, degree of choice permitted the
student, completion deadline, and its social context. Positive effects of homework are divided
into four categories: immediate academic effects, long-term academic affects, non-academic
affects, and parental involvement effects. Homework may result in increased appreciation and
involvement in schooling on behalf of the parent. It may also function as a way for parents to
demonstrate an interest in the academic progress of their child, resulting in a positive connection
for the child between home and school. Negative effects of assigning homework include satiation
(students becoming overexposed to academic tasks), cheating, increased difference between
high- and low-achievers, denial of access to leisure-time and community activities, and parental
interference. Parental interference includes both a pressure to complete homework and perform
well, as well as possible confusion that could arise should the parent be unfamiliar with the
content or possess a different approach to the material.
Cooper looks to Coulter’s (1979) temporal model of the homework process which states
that there are three phases of homework, which include the initial classroom phase, where
teachers motivate, structure, and facilitate the completion of assignments, the home-community
phase, where factors such as the home learning environment and the child’s abilities influence
the student’s actual performance on the task, and the final phase of classroom follow-up. For the
home-community phase, Cooper reviewed eight studies on parental involvement and concludes
that “there is as yet no reliable evidence on whether parent involvement in homework affects
student achievement” (p. 140). He noted the fact that, while six of the studies reviewed yielded
conflicting results, the authors all claimed that their results supported parental involvement.
Cooper warned that “the generally poor internal validity of the studies…makes it unwise to draw
4 any conclusions about the strategy’s effectiveness” (p. 171). Homework hotlines, another form
of the home-community phase, were assessed as popular and useful to parents, students,
teachers, and administrators. Cooper concluded that the growing literature on families as
educators highlights “the importance of viewing homework as only one avenue of cooperation
between school and home, viewing the school as only one of many sites for learning, and
viewing the teacher as only one conveyor of knowledge” (p. 142).
The relevant Canadian studies echo some of the themes raised in Cooper’s book.
Deslandes (2009) conducted a study in the province of Quebec focusing on teachers’ views of
homework. She pointed out that the Quebec Ministry of Education directs the teacher to
communicate expectations about “the quantity and type of work the student must do at home”
and how parents “can support their child” (cited in Deslandes, p. 129). In this study, Deslandes
explored homework characteristics as seen by teachers, their homework management strategies,
and how teachers understand their own and parents’ responsibilities, and how they communicate
with parents. Several focus group discussions with teachers suggested that the preferred method
of communication was via the child’s agenda. Absent from the discussions was any reference to
tailor-making homework assignments to fit the individual student’s needs or interests. Parents
should ensure homework is completed, but should not act as their child’s teacher. Teachers seem
to be quite aware of characteristics of the child’s home and refer children to a homework
assistance program if they feel it is necessary to do so.
In response to a lack of Canadian research on parental attitudes towards homework and
growing debate between those for and against assigning homework, Cameron and Bartel
(2008) conducted a study “designed to get a sense of what parents’ perspectives were on the
amount of homework children received at all levels, how this homework was affecting the
children and the home, what factors were affecting this reality, and related data” (p. 8). An online
survey was distributed in English only with a snowball sample approach that was seeded towards
OISE graduate students and faculty and Music Education graduate students at the Faculty of
Music. The invitation to participate in the survey included a request for further dissemination to
all appropriate/interested individuals. The final analysis included 1094 responses from caregivers
of 2072 children (JK-12), with 76 percent of responses relating to children in Grades 1-8. Since
87 percent of responses were from a scattered sampling of most regions of Ontario, the analysis
focuses on Ontario data.
Results indicate that time spent on homework increases with grades, with students in JKSK receiving less than 10 minutes of homework a night. Seventy-five percent of parents believe
that their children receive “somewhat” to “much more” homework than they did as a child, with
those from lower-income homes believing that children today receive “much more” homework.
Students in Grade 1 receive on average 17 minutes per night, which rises to 57.5 minutes in
Grade 8. Completion homework rate increases from Grade 1 through Grade 8. Drill and practice
homework is a major component of homework beginning in Grade 1 and through Grade 8.
Projects begin to become a significant part of homework in Grade 2 and grow in prominence
through Grade 6. Studying for tests is more periodic as homework up to Grade 6.
Over 80 percent of parents with children in JK-2 “usually” or “always” assist their child
with homework but this decreases with nearly 60% of parents “sometimes” or “rarely” assisting
their child in homework by Grade 8. Allophones assist their children with homework more
5 frequently than English- or French-speaking families who help somewhat less. There is a very
strong positive correlation between increase in grade level and friends helping friends with
homework. Conversely, there is an inverse relationship between grade level and siblings
assisting with homework. The internet is the most frequently used resource for help with
homework with girls using all homework resources more frequently, and lower income families
relying on materials from the public library or at home more frequently than other socioeconomic groups.
According to the study, student attitudes towards homework “permeates the emotional
climate of the classroom and become an inhibiting factor not only for the student personally but
for others in the group” (p. 31). The more time required for homework the more negative the
attitude of both parents and children towards homework. As the grade level increases, so does
the child’s resistance to homework. Both parents and children have a more negative attitude
towards completion homework. Children then become less negative towards projects, even less
negative towards studying for tests, and have the least negative attitude toward drill and practice.
Conversely, parental attitudes are least negative concerning projects, a little more negative
concerning studying for tests, and somewhat more negative toward drill and practice homework.
Parents feelings of competency decline as the grade level increases with nearly 80
percent of parents feeling “completely confident” in helping their child with homework in Grade
1 compared to just over 43 percent feeling the same way by Grade 8. Parents’ feelings toward the
positive effects of homework on achievement decreases with grade level, with nearly 60 percent
of parents believing that homework has a very positive effect on achievement in Grade 1
compared with only 24 percent feeling the same way by Grade 8. Parents were most clearly
aware of class teachers’ and school homework policy vs. board or provincial policy.
The open-ended survey questions highlighted some parental concerns that homework
expectations and quantity were too high, with unclear instructions, and inadequate
accommodations for ELL/LD. Possible negative effects were student burnout, low self-esteem,
added stress to family relationships, and unhealthy competition between parents. Positive
responses included parents valuing homework when it “contributes to a home/school connection
and a positive extension of learning in the classroom” (p. 56). Homework was also seen to
promote a good work ethic and increase time management skills.
In her thesis, Eagle (1996) reported her research concerning the program-related
perceptions of parents (N=48) who removed their children from French immersion during
elementary school covering a span of three years (1991-1994). She concentrated on their initial
reasons for enrolling their child in French immersion, the child’s experiences while in the
program, and the process of and reasons for withdrawing the child from the French immersion
program. A questionnaire was developed specifically for this study, as no other parent
questionnaire developed by the Ministry of Education was deemed suitable for the scope of the
thesis. In addition, nine teachers from the two elementary French immersion schools in the
school board were given an informal survey in order to gain their perspective on why parents
chose to remove their child from the program. Their views reflected, for the most part, the
concerns of parents.
6 A literature review highlighted the common difficulties experienced by students in French
immersion including learning disabilities, a lack of or minimal progress in English and/or French
language skills development, transportation, location of French immersion schools, classroom
size, and the opportunity to use French outside of the classroom context. It was noted that no
research had been conducted at that time on the question of “whether parents felt that they were
adequately prepared to assist their child with homework and would be better able to monitor
their child’s progress in an English program” (p. 25).
The results of the study found that 35 percent of those surveyed had children with a
learning disability, and 64 percent of this group was unsatisfied with services available for
students with special needs in the French immersion program. Forty-three percent of parents felt
their child had trouble with writing in English, 54 percent felt their child had trouble with
spelling in English, and 23 percent of parents believed their child had trouble understanding
English. Fifty-eight percent of parents felt that their child was spending too much time on the
bus, while 48 percent of parents felt that the class size was too large for a French immersion
setting.
With respect to homework help, half of the parents felt that they were unable to assist their
children with their homework since they did not speak French, while over half of all parents
surveyed felt that it was necessary to understand all homework and assignments that their
children completed while in French immersion. Of those who felt unable to assist their child, the
majority felt that they were unable to track their child’s progress due to a language barrier and
were dissatisfied with the level of communication between parents and teachers. Nearly half of
all parents agreed that communication between teachers and parents was lacking. Eagle
suggested making parents more aware that French immersion is designed for students who do not
speak French at home and that French language skills on the part of the parent(s) are not
required.
For those who wished to have more involvement, Eagle suggested that support groups be
set up by the board or school, that parents be directed to courses offered in French or even have
the school/board offer such classes to parents, that a lending system from the school library be
put in place in order to increase parent’s knowledge of the French language, that children read to
parents in French even if the parents themselves do not understand, and that parents continue to
read to their children in English even during the early years when English is not yet taught. Eagle
stressed the importance of public relations and an open-door policy in reducing homework and
assignment-related stress for parents since “parents evidently lacked a clear understanding of
program expectations and units of study that their children would be working through” (p. 44). A
proposed solution was increased communication of deadlines, specific expectations of
assignments, clear definitions of homework, and possibly a brief outline of long-range plans sent
to parents early in the year.
In her unpublished MA thesis, von Mende (2000) conducted research within her grade 1
classroom (N=23) to determine if instructing French immersion parents on ways to help their
child in reading, writing, mathematics, and science at home (in English) would increase the
parents’ feelings of being connected with their child’s education and, in turn, have an impact on
the students’ attitude towards school and learning. von Mende highlighted a need for parental
involvement in students’ education, both within and outside of the classroom, particularly for
7 those with children in a French immersion program since such parents often “express a feeling of
alienation as the language tends to put a barrier between the parent and the child” (p. iii). She
argued that keeping parents informed is not the same as keeping them involved, and that parents
serve as an often untapped educational resource that can benefit all those involved (students,
teachers, and the parents themselves).
A literature review tracks the role of parents in their child’s education, dating back to
Ancient Greece and concluding at the approach of the new millennium with the conclusion that
researchers “no longer argue whether parents should be involved or not, but the new topic of
interest is the extent of parental involvement and the form it may take” (p. 19). von Mende
highlights the four different types of parental involvement in education as identified by Epstein
(1986), which include: basic obligations (such as support and providing a place for homework),
receiving information disseminated by the school, involvement at the school (including
fundraising, field trips, etc.), and involvement with learning activities at home. The last of these
is the focus of von Mende’s research. With minimal literature on the possible roles of French
immersion parents, von Mende looks to the manual written by CPF (1996) entitled “Yes! You
can help!” that gives practical advice to parents, encouraging them to get involved with their
child’s education on a regular basis. This manual fails, however, to provide insight or steps as to
exactly what parents can do at home to support their child’s learning. The two main findings of
the literature review are that when “activities are done in the parents’ own language, they are
more productive and more enjoyable for all concerned” and that the “success of the activities
conducted at home depends not so much on the amount and level of involvement but rather on
the amount of enthusiasm the involvement generates from the part of the parents” (p. 45).
Parents were eager to be involved, with parents of the research group divided into three
different types of at-home parental involvement: those who already saw themselves as a teacher
of their child and simply appreciated more materials, the majority who required guidance to
complement the school goals as they did not feel overly confident choosing suitable materials or
strategies, and those for whom strong support was essential since they lacked the know-how and
confidence to get started (p. 148). von Mende encouraged parental involvement in the form of
reading English books of varying difficulties with their children, and keeping reading logs for
time spent reading at home either alone or with a family member. She also provided, literacy and
math hints that went out to parents in a monthly newsletter, and science kits to be taken home
and done with the family. Parents were made aware of these materials initially at the “Meet the
teacher night,” and then on an ongoing basis through informal discussions, parent/teacher
interviews, newsletters, and a student-led conference in February. Results were derived from a
survey on the activities completed by 16 parents and one 30-minute interview conducted with
another parent, as well as documented informal conversations, classroom observation, the results
of the reading logs and the science kit record sheets.
von Mende’s research concluded that French immersion parents “wanted desperately to
help their children but were also not confident that they could do that, especially because of the
language barrier” (p. 119). The result of the dissemination of at-home materials was that parents
“were relieved that they could actually do their part in English and could be of great support
without deep knowledge of the French language” (p. 86). Overall, parents found the at-home
English educational materials useful, easy to use, though sometimes overwhelming in quantity,
and would welcome such materials in the future. Over 80 percent of parents felt more confident
8 in their contribution to their child’s education. Overall the impact of the parental involvement
positively affected the child’s attitude. von Mende concluded that academic improvement took
place; she had not documented progress from past classes to act as a control, but relied on
experience.
von Mende reported having met her literacy goals for the class a month ahead of her
objective. There was an overall greater motivation in the class to read and write, particularly
creative writing. The classroom math centre was used more frequently, with a particular focus on
computation. Interest in science was sustained to a higher degree than in years past, with more
students checking out science-related materials from the library, making better use of the science
corner in the classroom, and the science kits gaining in popularity as the school year progressed.
One source von Mende turned to in her research on homework was Yes, You Can Help!, a
guide written in collaboration between Canadian Parents for French (Alberta) and the Language
Services Branch of Alberta Education. The manual provides information about the French
Immersion program in Canada and assistance for unilingual parents of French Immersion
students so that they can fulfil a supporting role in their child’s education. The section titled “I
Want to Help, But It’s in French!” provides guidance on how to support a child with their French
homework, even if the parent does not speak French, such as encouraging good study habits,
providing appropriate French resources, designating a quiet study space and homework routine,
and effective communication with the child’s teacher and school. The section entitled” Lire et
Ecrire” provides a general overview of the main differences between written and oral French and
English, describes the importance of encouraging the child to read and write in any language, as
well as ways of incorporating both French and English reading and writing into the home
routine. The “French Resources and Opportunities” section provides contact information
pertaining to French materials, camps, clubs, contests, cultural events, entertainers, pen pals,
software, and travel/tourism.
9 Findings: Characteristics of samples
Parent sample
Half the households reported having one child in immersion, with 40 percent reporting
two children. In 86 percent of cases the mother was the responding adult in the home.
Overwhelmingly, English is the language of the home, with 86 percent of respondents
reporting this. Under 1 percent speaks French at home. A wide variety of international languages
are reported in a small numbers of homes. Sixty-nine percent of respondents were born in
Canada. An unusually high percentage of respondents (91%) are in two-parent homes, with
under seven percent being single-parent families. Respondents tended to be well educated, with
72 percent having at least one university degree, and 23 percent reporting a community college
qualification.
The person responding to the survey also reported being the person who most frequently
assisted the child (in 76% of cases) with homework. Well over half the respondents (58%)
reported inadequate French skills for helping with homework in French, and most (72%) said
that no one else in the household helped the child with homework. Just over one-fifth of the
respondents availed themselves of tutoring services, and of those, 28 percent purchased fewer
than 10 hours, with an equal percentage purchasing over 60 hours of help.
Responses were divided on whether parents are aware of the schools’ policy on French
immersion homework, with 45 percent reporting ‘yes’, and 55 percent reporting ‘no’. However
80 percent of respondents reported being aware of the teachers’ expectations regarding
homework. One-third communicated with their child’s teacher face-to-face, by e-mail or
telephone 3-5 times over the school year; just over one-fifth did so over 10 times.
Fully 82 percent of respondents rated their child’s progress in French immersion during
the academic year as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ and 76 percent assessed their own or their household’s
support for the child’s progress as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.
Student sample
Most of the children in the reporting homes who attend the immersion program are girls
(55%). Most are enrolled in grades 1 through 4 (about 62%), with 38 percent enrolled in grades 5
through 8. Most children (47%) attend medium-sized schools of 301-500 students; eighteen
percent are in smaller schools and one quarter in larger schools.
Just under half the parent respondents report that their children spend either 11 to 20
minutes or 21-30 minutes on homework daily; about a fifth report either less than 10 minutes or
from 31-60 minutes daily. Thirty-one percent report that their children spend 11-20 minutes of
total homework time on French homework.
10 Teacher sample
The teacher sample consisted of 153 French immersion teachers teaching in publicly
funded schools in Ontario (see Method section above for details on how this sample of
convenience was selected). Eighty-seven (57%) have taught for more than 10 years. Thirty-nine
percent have taught in French immersion for more than ten years. The remaining teachers were
distributed almost evenly among the categories ‘less than 2 years’ teaching in French immersion,
‘2-5 years’ and ‘6-10 years’. Across the sample, in the academic year 2009-2010, 84 teachers
reported teaching in the primary grades, 85 in the junior grades, and 58 in the intermediate
grades.1
Forty-seven percent of the responding teachers teach in schools housing between 301 and
500 students; nineteen percent teach in smaller schools with 101-300 students and a similar
percentage in larger schools housing 501-700 students. More than one-third (35.3%) of the
teachers report that none of their students come from homes where neither English nor French is
the first language; about one-third (35%) say that about one-tenth of their students come from
such homes.
Findings: Parent survey
We asked parents what types of homework their children had in a typical month, and
which types were most frequently assigned. Figure 1 presents the findings for these related items.
All the homework types listed were selected, although pronunciation practice was selected by
only 7 percent of parents. According to parents, the homework types most commonly assigned
were free writing2, reading exercises and vocabulary/spelling exercises.
Our survey instrument did not target areas of the curriculum other than French language
arts. However, in the ‘other’ category provided in the item asking about types of homework,
math was frequently cited.
1
These numbers do not add to 100 percent because some teachers’ assignments cover more than one division
(primary, junior, intermediate).
2
Parents may have been interpreting ‘free writing’ as though it involved any form of homework that is written.
11 In many homework studies, four categories of homework are identified: (1) completing
work there wasn’t time to finish in class, (2) doing preparation for work to be undertaken in class
later, (3) practicing skills or tasks to reinforce what was done in class, and (4) doing additional
new activities for which there was no time in class. Of these, (3) was ranked first most frequently
(by 58% of respondents), followed by (1) (41% of respondents). The next most frequently cited
were (2), by 31 percent of respondents and (4), by 27 percent of respondents.
In terms of children’s response to homework, 75 percent of respondents said that their
children were very or somewhat positive in their attitudes towards homework. Almost all (94%)
reported that their children completed their homework each night. Over half (53%) chose ‘about
right’ when they were asked whether there was too much homework in French most nights, with
31 percent responding ‘too much’.
Parents perceived that their children received ‘about the same’ amount of homework that
they had when they were of school age (25%), with the rest quite evenly divided between the
other scale points (‘much less’, ‘somewhat less’, ‘somewhat more’ and ‘much more’). Fully 84
percent of respondents found that homework was very or somewhat helpful in ensuring the child
was doing well in French immersion. Two-thirds of parents thought that they were somewhat or
very competent in helping their children with homework in French, and almost all (90%) felt
competent in helping with homework related to school subject areas.
12 The most commonly cited resources used in a typical month for French homework were:
•
Internet resources
•
Resources from school
•
Materials from home
•
Community library.
Table 1 displays the percentage of respondents who report using a series of specific resources in
helping their children with homework, in descending order of frequency for online and print
resources. Online translators are the most frequently listed electronic resource, while dictionaries
are the most frequently listed print resource.
Table 1: Percentage of respondents using specific resources
Online resources
Online translators
Wikipedia in French
Other online resources
CPF website
Ask.com in French
E-resources such as Bon Patron (grammar checker)
Online tutoring (e.g., Cyberpapy, Brain Mass)
Print resources
Dictionaries
Library books in French
Grammar books (e.g., Bescherelle)
Other
Percentage citing this
63
30
23
21
14
9
2
83
60
45
5
Item 24 of the survey asked parents how much additional support they required to help
their children deal successfully with homework in French immersion. Taken together, the scale
points ‘a great deal’, and ‘quite a lot’ were selected by 28 percent of respondents, while 35
percent selected ‘some’ additional support. The relatively small number of parents indicating a
significant need for additional support is somewhat surprising, given that over half of
respondents indicated that their French skills were inadequate to help their children with
homework in French and just over one third indicated that there were ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’
competent in this area. This suggests that parents have evolved coping strategies to deal with
their own limited French skills. Even among those who reported very limited competency to help
their children with learning French, less than half indicated that they needed ‘a great deal’ or
‘quite a lot’ of additional homework support. It is worth noting that the relationship between
perceptions of own French language competency and felt need for additional homework support
does not strengthen as we move from lower to higher grades. In other words, those whose
children are attempting to learn higher-level French skills are not more likely than parents of
13 younger children to feel that their own lack of French competency makes additional supports
necessary.
Figure 2 shows the form of help that could be provided and the percentage of respondents
checking off ‘somewhat’ or ‘very helpful’.
All of the types of homework help listed in Figure 2 were considered somewhat or very helpful
by the majority of respondents. Among the very helpful aids, the top three were better internet
resources, ‘how to’ guides for parents without French language skills, and better communication
about homework problems.
We did additional exploratory analyses and found no systematic differences in the pattern
of responses by region of the province or by other potentially relevant variables.
Parents’ open-ended comments3
Parents had two opportunities to make open-ended comments. They were asked “what
supports or resources are you finding most useful in helping your child with French immersion
homework?” Figure 3 presents an overview of the findings.
3
Representative comments can be found in Attachment D of this report.
14 Figure 3: Resources found most useful by parents for homework help
The x axis along the bottom of the graph represents the number of comments made. In
fact 504 parents responded to this question and they made a total of 885 comments. Most
comments (about 29%) related to internet resources and a single print resource, the dictionary
(19% of comments). The internet refers to general use of online materials, online translators
(e.g., Google Translate and Babelfish), French research engines (e.g., Google, Wikipedia, and
Ask.com), online dictionaries, French lesson sites (e.g., grammar tutorials in French, Anti-dote,
Tell Me More, www.quia.com), pronunciation sites (e.g., Forvo.com and www.at&t.com).
Figure 4 presents a breakdown of the above internet resources. Aside from general use
(49% of open-ended comments related to the internet), the next most frequently cited resource
was online translators.
15 Figure 4: Internet resources found most useful by parents for homework help
In response to parent questionnaire item 27, “what additional supports or resources would
be most useful to you in helping your child with French immersion homework?” Three hundred
and ninety-six parents responded with a total of 526 comments to this item, as shown in Figure 5.
The two most frequently cited needs were ‘more or better resources’ (34% of the comments) and
‘help beyond the classroom’ (27%).
16 Figure 5: Additional resources that would be helpful to parents for homework help
‘Resources’ refers to online resources (e.g., pronunciation websites, live support, online
tutoring, French science website, online homework helper, audio dictionary, grammar checker,
French games etc.), improved access to resources such as libraries, print resources (ex. leveled
readers, dictionaries, textbooks), and audiovisual resources (pronunciation CDs, French DVDs,
books on tape, French music). Figure 6shows the breakdown of ‘resources’ (i.e., the longest bar
in Figure 3); the most frequently cited are online resources (59% of the 169 coded comments)
and improved access.
Figure 6: Resources that would be helpful to parents for homework help
17 ‘Help beyond the classroom’ refers to extracurricular activities where the child can
practice French outside of a classroom context (e.g., watch TV, movies, go see plays, travel, field
trips etc.), personal tutoring, and after school help (such as homework programs, French clubs,
and tutoring). In Figure 7, we see that after school help garners 59 percent of the open-ended
comments, while tutoring accounts for 33 percent.
Figure 7: ‘Beyond the classroom’ resources that are helpful to parents for homework help
Findings: Teacher survey
The responding teachers were asked how much homework they assigned on average each
school night. Most assigned less than 10 minutes (25%), 11-20 minutes (29%), or 21-30 minutes
(30%), with a relatively small percentage assigning more than that. We asked them how many
students had access to a French-speaking person at home, and most teachers (64%) replied that
about a tenth of their students did.
Figure 8 presents the types of homework teachers reported assigning in a typical month
and the most commonly assigned in a typical month. The three most commonly assigned types
are reading exercises, written translations4, and grammar exercises.
4
Teachers may be referring to the fact that sometimes students have to translate homework instructions in order to
know what to do.
18 In terms of the relationship of work done in class to four major categories of homework,
almost the same proportion of responding teachers (55-56%) listed ‘completing work there
wasn’t time to finish in class’, and ‘practicing skills or tasks to reinforce what was done in class’
as the most common type of relationship. ‘Doing additional new activities for which there was
no time in class’ was cited by 33 percent of the responding teachers, and ‘doing preparation for
work to be undertaken in class later’ by 10 percent.
Table 2 presents in descending order of frequency the types of resources perceived by
teachers to be used most often by students and their parents. Most teachers (65%) cite resources
from school and many (44%) also cite internet resources.
Table 2: Types of resources used by students and their parents: Teachers’ views
Type of resource
Resources from school
Internet resources
Materials other parents have shared
Materials already at home
Materials other students have shared
Community library
Percentage of teachers citing this
65
44
35
21
16
15
19 Teachers were asked which resources they regularly recommend to parents and students.
Table 3 presents the findings in descending order of frequency within two categories, online and
print, for this item. Teacher recommendations are dominated by print resources – dictionaries,
library books in French and grammar books; internet resources are much less likely to be cited.
Notice that this contrasts somewhat with teachers’ perceptions (Table 2) of what parents and
students are currently using. While resources from school are the most frequently cited type,
internet resources ranked second. It is also worth remembering that among parents, internet
resources were the most frequently cited item under the heading of additional supports that
would be helpful (Figure 5). It is worth speculating why teachers infrequently recommend
internet resources, and in particular, whether this reflects dissatisfaction with what is currently
available.
Table 3: Resources recommended to students and their parents
Online resources
Other online resources
E-resources such as Bon Patron (grammar checker)
CPF website
Online translators
Wikipedia in French
Ask.com in French
Online tutoring (e.g., Cyberpapy, Brain Mass)
Print resources
Dictionaries
Library books in French
Grammar books (e.g., Bescherelle)
Other
Percentage citing this
31
26
20
18
18
9
6
83
60
45
5
Over half of the students are perceived to respond ‘somewhat positively’ to homework,
with a further quarter perceived to respond ‘very positively’. Only one-fifth are perceived to
respond somewhat negatively. Fifty-nine percent of the teachers report that about a tenth of their
students chronically fail to complete homework assignments, while 29 percent say that about a
quarter of their students fail to do so. Many teachers (45%) perceived that students and their
parents require at least ‘some’ support to deal successfully with French immersion homework,
with 25 percent perceiving that ‘quite a lot’ of support is required.
Teachers were asked how helpful various forms of homework help would be to students
and their parents. Figure 9 shows the form of help that could be provided and the percentage of
respondents checking off ‘somewhat’ or ‘very helpful’. Most teachers thought that better internet
resources, better school library resources, and ‘how to’ guides for parents without French
language skills were the most helpful forms of homework help.
20 A subset of items on the teacher survey dealt with communication with parents. Teachers
were asked what forms of communication were used by the school regarding its homework
policies. Three main options were offered: newsletter, student agenda, parent information nights.
From the responses it is clear that multiple means are used to communicate about homework
with parents: 63 percent of the teachers checked off newsletters, 66 percent checked off student
agenda, and 62 percent checked off parent information nights.
The teachers were asked whether parents understood their approach to homework. Onethird of the responding teachers perceived that ‘all or almost all’ of the parents understood their
approach, and half thought that most parents did so. Teachers report communicating with parents
during the school year quite often: 39 percent do so ‘3-5’ times a year, 16 percent do so ‘6-10’
times, and 34 percent do so ‘more than 10 times’. With respect to students who are not doing
well, the percentage of teachers reporting in the above categories (3-5 times, 6-10 times, more
than 10 times) is almost evenly divided between these categories. This suggests that
communication is (appropriately) more frequent when students are experiencing problems.
Teachers perceive that parents are involved in supporting their children: 47 percent of the
respondents perceive a ‘high’ level of involvement, and another 47 percent perceive a ‘medium’
level of involvement.
21 Teachers’ open-ended comments5
There were 222 open-ended comments made by 126 teachers in response to the question:
“Currently, what supports or resources do you find are most useful to parents in helping their
child with French immersion homework?”As shown in Figure 10, the two most frequently
occurring comments related to the support that teachers themselves provide (34% of comments)
and the internet (27%).
Figure 10: Teachers’ views of resources most useful to parents for homework help
‘Teacher support’ includes teacher-parent communication of expectations, due dates etc.,
resources sent home by the teacher (including photocopies, phonics work, verb charts, "help"
sheets, leveled readers, etc.), in-class support to the students by doing/starting homework in
class, extending what has been done in class to help student, teaching homework strategies,
teachers websites with homework and links to French resources, teachers translating instructions,
questions, phonetic translation of French words or providing an English version of the textbook,
teacher-student communication about homework expectations and purposes, and homework
support for parents generated by the teacher (e.g., a step-by-step guide for helping your child
with homework).
‘Internet’ refers to general use of online resources by parents, online dictionaries and
translators (e.g., Google translate), grammar websites (e.g., Bon Patron), research (using sites
such as Wikipedia and Historica), and pronunciation sites (e.g., AT&T and Xpress lab).
A second open-ended question asked “What additional supports or resources would be
useful to parents in helping their child with French immersion homework?” One hundred and
5
Representative comments made by teachers can be found in Attachment E.
22 twenty-nine teachers made 184 open-ended comments in responding to this question. As shown
in Figure 11, ‘more or better resources’ garnered 41% of the comments, while ‘support for
parents’ accounts for 25% of the comments.
‘Resources’ refers to resources both online (e.g., list of useful websites, online
support/tutors, internet forums, SOS Devoirs, French immersion specific website, pronunciation)
and in print (dictionaries and grammar books such as the Bescherelle), as well as greater access
to resources in the school and community and more or better audiovisual resources (CDs, DVDs,
Books on tape/CD, hearing French being pronounced on CD).
Support for parents includes a need for parents to know how to help with their child’s
French immersion homework, French language support for parents (including French language
classes and translations), a help line for parents to assist with homework, and a parent network.
Figure 11: Teachers’ views on additional resources most useful to parents for homework help
Possible pilot project
The parent data gathered in this project, including survey responses and open-ended
comments, point convincingly to the usefulness of internet-based homework help. It would seem
desirable, then, to mount a real-time French language arts online service similar to the math
online homework help pilot currently in place in several Ontario school districts, but designed
especially for French immersion students.
In fact, since French immersion is a content-based program, the help required is not
confined to French language arts, but includes all school subjects taught in French. Aside from
French language arts, according to parents math was the most frequently mentioned area of the
curriculum in need of attention. Therefore an adaptation of the current online math homework
23 help so that students can get real-time math help through the medium of French would be
extremely useful. Although our questionnaire did not directly target subjects other than French
language taught in French, the ‘other’ category in some items drew many comments that were
math-related. To our knowledge, there is no French immersion equivalent of SOS Devoirs,
developed in 1997 for the French language schools.
Returning to the issue of supporting the development of French language skills, any
online tutorial service mounted by the provincial government should include an audio
component; this is easily done given the general availability of software like Skype. Parents
mentioned the need for accurate pronunciation; even those with some French skills feel the need
of first-language oral models for their children.
Several features of the existing math online homework help pilot project, would be ideal
to incorporate into a new French immersion pilot. These include pre-produced:
•
best sessions: where some of the most engaging and illuminating online chat sessions are
recorded and made available for all, covering frequently asked questions
•
interactive tutorials: fun and engaging audiovisual animated tutorials on various concepts
dealing with French language learning, where students interact with the tutorial and have
the opportunity to take a comprehension quiz upon completion of the workshop
•
glossary of critical terms
Incorporating a grammar checker, translation tool and list of other online and print
materials/resources into the site would provide many of the tools that parents currently use and
find useful conveniently accessible in one location for all.
In terms of a ‘how-to’ guide for parents, a resource that was flagged by both parents
(60%) and teachers (65%) as an effective homework help tool, the CPF Yes, You Can Help!
manual for parents could be revised and made available online and/or in print. An online version
would allow for printable hints and activities, similar to those produced by von Mende for her
grade 1 French immersion class; this could include curriculum content by grade in English (and
possibly other languages). Parents would then be able to better engage with their child in
curriculum content-specific activities that would increase their connection to the work done in
class; moreover, students would be practicing skills and increasing knowledge and understanding
that mirrors what they do in class. Basic French tutorials could be available online for parents to
create a base of French language knowledge. French activities could be provided as well, with
instructions in English (and possible other languages), where parents and children could engage
in activities in French that reflect grade-appropriate content.
Conclusion
In highlighting the key findings from the surveys, it is important to bear in mind the
nature of both the parent and teacher samples. The parents surveyed are members of CPF
Ontario, and as such, may not be fully representative of French immersion parents in Ontario. In
fact, the data show that students generally come from two-parent families and that the parents are
24 very well educated. The teacher sample is even more skewed, as it is a sample of convenience,
comprising teachers to whom CPF Ontario had relatively easy access.
In this concluding section, we review the research questions and the findings that relate
to each of them. A full summary of the findings is available in the Executive Summary at the
front of this report. The overriding question was: What are the needs related to homework of
French immersion parents? Sub-questions were (1) What resources do parents of immersion
students (grades 1 through 8) use to help their children complete their homework, and (2) What
resources do immersion parents perceive they need to help them assist their children with
homework? Finally, with respect to the teacher survey, we asked: Are there areas where
teachers’ views differ from those of parents.
There is quite a lot of consistency in parents’ and teachers’ perceptions, so we refer here
only to areas of discrepancy between the views of the two groups. Similarly, the open-ended
responses generally mirror the findings of the two surveys.
Resources for homework help in French that parents report using most commonly in a
typical month include the internet, resources from school, materials from home and the
community library. Teachers’ perceptions reverse the first two of these; they cite resources from
school (including the teacher him/herself) as most commonly used, followed by the internet. In
explaining this discrepancy, it is interesting to note that most teachers (57%) have more than ten
years of experience in teaching; if they are less familiar with the internet than younger teachers,
this may influence their perceptions of the resource most useful to parents. It is also possible that
teachers are dissatisfied with currently available internet resources.
With respect to resources most needed, parents report that they need better internet
resources, a ‘how to’ guide for parents who do not speak French, and better communication
about homework problems. Teachers’ views echo the first two of these; teachers also cite better
school library resources.
The clear priority is for materials (particularly online) that parents and their children can
work with autonomously; more teacher support is clearly secondary. In terms of the relationship
with teachers, better communication between school and the home is cited as ‘very helpful’ as
frequently or more frequently as more labour-intensive initiatives such as after-hours homework
programs.
It seems clear that the possible pilot project involving online audiovisual homework help
both in French language and in content areas of the curriculum (particularly math) would address
most of the needs expressed in the surveys and the open-ended comments.
25 References cited
Brehaut, P., & Gibson, J. (1996, revised 2002). Yes, you can help! A guide for French immersion
parents. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Education.
Cameron, L., & Bartel, L. (February, 2008). Homework realities: A Canadian study of parental
opinions and attitudes. Toronto, ON: Bartel, Cameron, & Associates Inc.
Cooper, H. (1989). Homework. New York: Longman.
Coulter, F. (1979). Homework: A neglected research area. British Educational Research Journal,
5, 21-33.
Deslandes, R. (2009). Elementary school teachers’ views of homework and parents-school
relations. In R. Deslandes (Ed.), (2009), International perspectives on student outcomes
and homework (pp. 128-140).
Deslandes, R. (2009). International perspectives on student outcomes and homework. London:
Routledge.
Eagle, T. (1996). A study of program-related perceptions among parents who remove their
children from immersion French. Unpublished M.Ed. thesis, University of Windsor,
Windsor, Ontario.
Epstein, J. L. (1986). Toward an integrated theory of school and family corrections. Report No.
#. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.
Von Mende, S.P. (2000) Stepping up parental involvement in a French Immersion classroom.
Unpublished MA thesis, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.
Other references consulted
Commission de l’education prescolaire et de l’enseignement primaire. (2009). Pour soutenir une
reflexion sur les devoirs a l’ecole primaire. Quebec: Gouvernement du Quebec.
Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Battiato, A. C., Walker, J. M. T., Reed, R. P., DeJong, J. M., & Jones,
K. P. (2001). Parental involvement in homework. Educational Psychologist, 36, pp. 195209.
Kohn, A. The homework myth. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press.
Kralovec, E., & Buell, J. (2000.) The end of homework: How homework disrupts families,
overburdens children, and limits learning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Trautwein, U., Schnyder, I., Niggli, A., Neumann, M., & Lüdtke, O. (2009). Chameleon effects
in homework research: The homework-achievement association depends on the measures
used and the level of analysis chosen. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34, 77-88.
Turcotte, M. (2009). Everything you wanted to know about French homework. Toronto, ON:
Scholastic Canada Ltd.
Warton, P. (2001). The forgotten voices in homework: Views of students. Educational
Psychologist, 36, 155-165.
26 List of attachments
Attachment A:
Environmental scan
Attachment B:
Parent survey
Attachment C:
Teacher survey
Attachment D:
Representative open-ended comments made by parents
Attachment E:
Representative open-ended comments made by teachers
27 Attachment A:
Environmental Scan – Homework Help Providers and Services
Prepared by CPF Ontario
August 25, 2010
Canadian Parents for French (Ontario) conducted an environmental scan of the current
organizations offering a myriad of services and delivery methods for administering homework
help with a focus on French as a second language and subjects taught in French.
A summary of the findings is found here in narrative format. A spreadsheet was also prepared
providing key information on each business model and service, with immediate access to each
website via live links. The spreadsheet format allows for easy comparison from one service to
another using the following criteria: Organization; Type of service; Area served; Help for FI
students; Support for students or parents; Grades serviced; Volume (peak time per month); Cost
of service to user; Staff (paid or volunteer) and Credential; Site management; Partners; Funders;
Top needs of students; Help on French language content or subjects taught in French; Language
of the service (spoken and/or text); Hours of operation; Live telephone homework hotline;
Online real time interactive communication (text chat / voice chat system); Other methods of
delivery being considered; How “interactive”?; Technology required by user; Advertising
method.
The spreadsheet is available on the enclosed CD.
Tutoring
One-on-one and group tutorial services
One-on-one and group tutoring is offered across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) by
companies such as Tuteurs of Toronto, Brampton Bilingual Tutoring Centres, Ecole Napoléon,
and French Solutions and offers educational assistance. The tutoring services are available for
students, including French immersion students, from K-12, with some centres focusing solely on
elementary school students (SK-6) and others offering adult help as well. There is a per-hour fee
beginning at 20$/student (some discounts for group or semi-private sessions), with bursaries
available through select companies. Tutoring takes place after school Monday-Friday; some
centres offer before-school and weekend programs. Peak times are typically during the fall and
after report cards are issued. The tutors are predominantly Ontario certified teachers, often
retired and/or from French-speaking countries, who assist students either at home or on-site in a
French-only environment (English only if necessary). The top needs from students who
participate in tutoring sessions are grammar, reading and comprehension, writing, math, and oral
communication. Some tutoring services offer supplementary resources to complement students’
homework and needs. The method of advertisement is mainly by word of mouth, networking
with the parent and school community (visits to schools, distribution of promotional brochures),
28 and through their websites. For the most part business traffic is slow due to parents not willing
to pay the fees.
Virtual tutorial services
Online tutoring services, provided by www.teachercertifiedtutoring.com based in Nova
Scotia, offer one-on-one instruction through a virtual classroom and online French reading
program to students across the country, including French immersion students. Focusing on
phonetics, fluency, accuracy and comprehension, certified teachers communicate over the
internet via whiteboard, text, voice, and digital pen with students grades 1-6. The fee is
$30/session. Business peaks after report cards are issued and during the last few months of the
school year. Due to the online nature of the service, a computer with a DSL/Cable connection, a
minimum of 128MB of RAM, speakers, and a microphone are required. Installation and
technical support are available.
Peer tutoring and homework help clubs
Select CPF Ontario Chapters (Durham and Mississauga West) offer an after-school
homework help club where local French immersion students in elementary school can receive
educational assistance on homework, reading, and grammar in French from older students.
Planned French activities that support the curriculum are available for students without
homework.
The French homework club is a free service held, in partnership, at the Ajax Public
Library. Donations are requested to purchase French resources for the public library. French
immersion high school students are recruited to volunteer as tutors in lieu of community hours.
They assist a maximum of 20 pre-registered elementary French immersion students one night per
week for a ten-week session during the school year. Parents, through the Chapter, volunteer to
serve as adult supervisors. Since this is a volunteer-based service, the program is not offered
consistently.
One-on-one peer tutors are selected by French immersion middle school teachers (with
parental consent). A list of peer tutors from grade 7-8 is forwarded to the Chapter which, in turn,
connects younger students with their tutors. The parents of both the student and tutor mutually
choose a location (i.e. home or local library) and agree to the service fee (ranging from $1020/hour). This program has become quite popular. Success is due in part by the Chapter
volunteer’s effort in organizing the program at the beginning of each school year.
29 Interactive Telephone and Multimedia Assistance
Telephone assistance
Live telephone assistance is available in French free of charges (toll-free number) to
students and parents from francophone populations in specific provinces across the country. SOS
Devoirs, funded by the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program Agreement, provides one-to-one
homework assistance to francophone elementary and secondary students and parents from the
Yukon, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the North-West Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and
New Brunswick by experienced, certified, and often bilingual teachers, between 4:30-9:00 pm
Monday-Thursday during the school year. The volume of calls peaks from September to
November, and before EQAO testing, resulting in long waiting periods. Math, science, French
and English are the subjects students most frequently ask to get help with. This service is costly
to operate due to the number of teachers required to service all the regions and their time zones in
Canada. Allô Prof provides a similar service to francophone residents of Quebec from 5:00-8:00
pm Monday-Thursday during the school year.
Online homework help and support
French online homework assistance and support from experienced and certified teachers
is available to students from select provinces across the country, with some websites providing
assistance to students world-wide. Most online forums are free and funded by various Ministries
of Education and federal funds. Due to the online nature of the services, computer and internet
access are required and some websites require specific software/hardware.
SOS Devoirs (www.sosdevoirs.org), funded by the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure
Program Agreement, provides real time online chat and whiteboard services to francophone
elementary and secondary students and parents from the Yukon, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the
North-West Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick by experienced,
certified, and often bilingual teachers, between 4:30-9:00 pm Monday-Thursday during the
school year.
SOS Learn (http://www.learnquebec.ca), financed by the Quebec-Canada Entente for
Minority Language Education, and governed by a board of directors representing the educational
milleu, provides real time online French tutoring, Wimba live classroom support (interactive
online classroom tutoring) and E-learning is provided to students, teachers, and schools from
non-francophone communities in Quebec. Services are offered Monday-Thursday from April to
June by paid experienced teachers. Specific technology is required by users to participate in the
Wimba classroom (at least a 56k Internet connection and Windows 98, 2000, XP, Vista or Mac
OS 10.2+ or Linux, Internet Explorer 6 +, Firefox, Netscape 7.0+, Safari 1.1+, 128 MB RAM
(256 MB recommended), and sound card (unless using a telephone for audio). For full
interaction a headset with an integrated microphone, or a headphone with separate microphone,
or a telephone near your computer is required. A username and password are provided by
schools. Registration is required for some online programs. A toll free number is provided only
for technical assistance from Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4pm.
30 Allô Prof (www.alloprof.qc.ca), funded by the Quebec Ministry of Education, provides
online chat forums, cyberclass, and a French virtual library to francophone residents from
Quebec for free, Monday-Thursday 5:00-8:00 pm. A username and password are provided
online. This website also offers live links to a virtual community assisting students and parents
to access multiple services (i.e. employment). Allô Prof is staffed by a paid team of 50 qualified
and experienced teachers. Their partners include Education, Loisir et Sport Quebec, La Societe
Grics, and Bell.
Learn BC Now (www.learnnowbc.ca), funded by the British Columbia Ministry of
Education, provides students, parents, and educators with online homework help in English only,
including live chat tutoring, talk online, and use of whiteboard, Monday-Friday from 8:30 am 4:30 pm. Virtual tutorials are available in French. Learn BC Now also provides a support desk
accessed by a toll free number Monday - Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm. A username and
password are required for some web pages. The Virtual School Society manages the website.
Cyberpapy (www.cyberpapy.com ) from France, funded by La Fondation Boulanger,
provides free French tutoring and online forums for students world-wide from all grades. This
service is not offered in real time, posted questions are usually answered within 24 hours.
Cyberpapy is unique in that it connects primarily seniors (pensioners), who have time and
experience, with juniors who need help with their assignments, ensuring a form of educational
sponsorship. Since its inception in 1997, they have had more than 300,000 users. The website
averages 50,000 visits per month, 5,000 questions/responses per month, with a 90% response
rate. As of 2004 teachers have assisted during peak times ("SOS BAC", school exams). Login
and password is required. Questions & answers are constantly monitored by a team of
professionals. The website is powered by phpBB (free flat-forum bulletin board software
solution) and translated by phpBB.fr.
BrainMass (www.brainmass.com) provides secondary and post-secondary students with
grammar help, and the opportunity to post questions and interact with an online global
community of Teaching Assistants who are graduate-level students, teachers and professionals.
One third to two-thirds of staff are based in India. The top requests from students is help (in
English) in Business, Economics, Mathematics, and Sciences (a total of 52 broad subject areas).
There is a low volume of questions regarding French language studies. Users are required to pay
for their "Post-A-Problem" service at $3.99 per unit and the "Solution Library" (resale of
previously responses) at 96 cents per unit. BrainMass has over 230,000 visitors per month,
displaying more than 700,000 monthly page views. Their volume peaks from March to May,
from the afternoon to late night hours. 75% of users live in the USA, 15% in Canada.
Assistance in real time is not offered. BrainMass relies on search-based marketing and
advertising through word of mouth.
There also exists an Ontario Ministry of Education initiative that provides real-time tutor
chat sessions for students, grades 7-10, who require math homework help. The site is in English
only and uses a chat-style interactive session where students ask questions and receive responses
using whiteboard visuals and sometimes audio (depends on the tutor’s/student’s technological
access). Live help is available during the school year, Sunday-Thursday 5:30pm-9:30pm, while
the Best Sessions, Listen & Learn workshops and Interactive Tutorials are available 24/7.
31 Ontario students have free access to the site and parents, educations, and the general public can
access the site as a guest, but cannot ask questions, only observe.
Online Resources
Interactive online resources
Interactive online resources exist in French that allow students, parents, and educators of
all grades to check grammar, spelling, play education games, increase vocabulary, access online
textbooks, workbooks, audio and pronunciation guides, often free of charge.
Bon Patron (www.bonpatron.com) allows anyone world-wide to check the grammar and spelling
of a large paragraph of text for free. Assistance is for French language content, using a processwriting approach to learning. There is no human interaction, only software interaction that
targets typical errors made by second-language learners of French. Services are not offered in
real time. The feedback provided assists users in correcting their own errors, corrections are not
delivered. An upgraded version is available for a $15 fee (“Pro” version), which includes
additional exercises, integrated vocabulary tools, no imposed limit on text length, and more.
BonPatron is compatible with both PCs and Macs. BonPatron sells licences to schools (mostly
in Canada, also U.S.A., U.K. and Australia). The majority of individual users of the free
program are from France. Their paid staff members are educators who formerly taught French as
a second language. Every month BonPatron accessed by more than 260,000 users from over 152
countries with an average of approx. 50,000 page views daily (stats taken from article "Learn
French with the click of a mouse", The Daily News, Nov. 14, 2007, McMaster University. They
are at their busiest during the school year, especially in November. They currently promote their
services through pedagogical conferences, meetings, and promotional flyers. Their source of
funding mainly comes from banner ads (i.e. Google) and through their online school
subscriptions. BonPatron is looking at a stand-alone version of BonPatron for personal
computers. They would also like to secure partnerships, however, there is a lack of full-time
staff to work on this initiative.
The Ontario Educational Resource Bank (http://resources.elearningontario.ca), funded by
the Ontario Ministry of Education, provides interactive multimedia resources, predominantly for
Core French students, including vocabulary, grammar, and interactive exercises. Students in
grades four and up can receive free access through logins from the school boards. Moving
forward on adding content for French Second-Language learners is gradual. The challenge lies
in getting teachers to be seconded as writers.
Learn Alberta (www.learnalberta.ca), funded by the Alberta Ministry of Education,
provides free digital learning and teaching resources including phonics, vocabulary, interactive
games and exercises, mini videos, expressions, and more. This website is for students, parents
and educators in all grade levels. Some materials are available to anyone while others require the
use of a login for Albertan teachers or students. Digital Design and Resource Authorization
Branch (DDRA) of Alberta Education manage the website.
32 2Learn.ca (Alberta) is produced by 2Learn.ca Education Society, a non-profit
organization, providing free online French resources for students, parents and educators.
Funding is mainly through the Alberta Ministry of Education, 2Learn.ca Education Society
applies for grants for additional revenue. In February 2010 they received 7 million hits, with the
majority of hits during the school year. Many were from outside of Canada. They have nine
paid staff members, some are teachers. Their partners include the Government of Alberta, the
Alberta Teachers' Association, and Studio Works. Login is required to participate in chat
forums. They would like to add more French content once more funds are available. Outreach is
achieved through newsletters sent to schools on an on-going basis. The many levels of service
are offered as follows: (a) Pour Apprendre, for francophone & French second-language learners,
(b) Ready 2learn.ca - Gr. 1-2, (c) Kids Love 2learn.ca - Gr. 3-6, (d) 2Learn.ca For Teens - Gr. 79, (e) Parents Want 2Learn.ca.
Schoolwax.com (Alberta) provides free nation-wide access to online textbooks and
educator approved online video/animations that explain complex topics for homework help, all
web-based and “Smart”-ready with no login required. Created by Etraffic Press, under the
umbrella company of Etraffic Solutions, their partners include Etraffic Press, Canadian Parents
for French, Yes BC, The Master Teacher, etc. This bilingual website gives access to interactive
websites.
Let’s Discover French (www.letsdiscoverlanguage.com) provides multimedia and
multimodal language learning resource for beginners of various French immersion programs
across North America. For a one-year licensing fee, students receive a textbook and workbook
that promote communication in French, with additional online resources and activities. Audio
content and audio tracks are the strength of program. Best for early French Immersion students
and for the first few years of middle/late French Immersion programs starting in grades 5-7.
Volume peaks in the fall. Let’s Discover French is produced in partnership by Etraffic Press,
Alberta Distance Learning Centre and endorsed by Canadian Parents for French. This resource
is best suited for students in the beginning stages of the early French Immersion or the
middle/late Immersion program. Their interactive software requires the following technology by
the user: Web Browser: Internet Explorer version 7.0 or higher, Internet Connection: High speed,
Browser Plug-in: Flash Player version 10.0 or higher, PDF Reader: Adobe Reader version 7.0 or
higher, speakers or headphones. Regions with dial-up service may purchase CDs and hard copies
of workbooks. Telephone calls are only for technical support and login IDs.
Online library resources
French-English bilingual online library resources are available where students can find
French research support and chat or text online with qualified bilingual librarians.
Virtual Reference Library (www.bibliovirtuelle.ca), funded by the Ontario Ministry of
Culture and the Toronto Library System, provides free librarian-selected websites, self-guided
research support, library information for students and the general public in Ontario. Some access
requires a library card. Contributions have been made to their website by the following partners:
public libraries of Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener, Milton, Ottawa, Timmins and Windsor. Paid
public librarians operate Monday – Thursday from 9am-8:30pm, Friday from 9am-6pm,
33 Saturday from 9-5pm, and Sunday from 1:30-5pm (Sept. - June). Real time chat interaction is
available.
ONdemand (www.ondemand.ca), funded by the Ontario Ministry of Culture, provides
instant chat service (texting) with live bilingual librarians during set hours between OctoberNovember and January-June. Login is required but the service is free for all Ontario students and
the general public. This program is operated by bilingual public librarians who offer their
service as a contribution in kind to ONdemande while at work in their public library.
ONdemande's management team is paid by the Ministry of Culture. Their partners include the
public libraries in Ontario and Knowledge Ontario. Operating hours are from Monday –
Wednesday from 12:30pm-7:30pm, Thursday from 12:30pm-6:30pm, Friday from 12:30pm5:30pm and Saturday from 12:30pm-4:30pm. Peak months are from October to November, and
from January to June.
34 Attachment B: Parent Survey
35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 Attachment C: Teacher Survey
49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 Attachment D: Representative open-ended comments made by parents
Parent Question #26: Currently, what supports or resources are you finding most useful in
helping your child with French immersion homework?
Comments relating to the internet
-
I find online translators quite helpful for me with my limited knowledge of French
-
Mostly internet because I don’t speak French at all so there is no help from me.
-
The internet but obviously we didn’t know about some of the sites you’ve mentioned in
this survey. Even a list of resources would be helpful.
-
The online translators are very useful. The school websites where teachers post class
materials.
Comments relating to teacher/school support
-
The communication between my child’s teacher and my child: the goals and the steps are
clear so my child can do it by herself with minimum guidance from me. The dictionary
which was recommended by her teacher and other dictionaries. Books in French from her
school library and public library.
-
The best support that can exist is when assignments and/or projects have been clearly
explained and students have been shown an exemplar and know how the work will be
assessed.
-
I already have good communication with my child’s teachers. There is never any problem
accessing the school and its resources.
-
The school website where teachers post class materials.
Parent Question #27: What additional supports or resources would be most useful to you in
helping your child with French immersion homework?
Comments relating to more or better resources
-
A website that shows how to pronounce the word in English. For example, how to
pronounce “aille” endings of French words and how it sounds in English.
-
I wish my child’s teacher would use the available teacher website to post homework and
ideas to support our children.
58 -
More French books in the library – keep them interested in reading in French by having
choices of books that they enjoy reading.
-
How about a class website or blog with homework posted and links to helpful resources?
-
Online tutoring or a toll-free number to access a certified French immersion teacher.
-
Lists of good French websites from teachers, including password-protected encyclopedia
and other credible websites.
-
Dictee words, phonetic sounds list for me to practice saying the words to ensure that I am
saying them correctly to him and that he is saying them correctly.
-
Online chat or phone chat for immediate support specific to grade and school community.
-
An on-line Children’s Encyclopedia in French, perhaps with graded entries so children
can get info at a suitable vocabulary and depth for different grade levels or ages.
-
An online resource where we can send questions regarding pronunciations or grammar
with a French expert responding. And online community made up of people with French
language experience to answer questions.
Comments relating to beyond the classroom
-
I would like to see more free activities offering opportunities for my daughter to use her
French in a fun setting, similar to the Fun Avec French programs but without having to
sign-up for many weeks at a time and pay so much to attend.
-
It would be great to have a French tutor available after school to assist students with their
homework in all subjects. Unfortunately, if the student is struggling with French, it
affects all of their subjects, not just French. This makes it difficult to determine whether
they are having difficulties in French, in the other subject, or in both.
-
It would be wonderful if there was a drop-in French immersion centre at the school for
children before school, during lunches and after school for children who have trouble or
need advice on French subjects. Math is particularly difficult for non-French speaking
parents to help their children with.
59 Attachment E: Representative open-ended comments made by teachers
Teacher Question #17: Currently, what supports or resources do you find are the most useful to
parents in helping their child with French immersion homework?
Comments relating to teacher support
-
Teacher-created materials with questions in both French and English so parents can
understand and help. The expectation is that written work is completed in French.
-
Constant communication with parents about the expectations of the assignments. After
school help would not work because we are in a rural area and transportation is
sometimes difficult for students who stay after school.
-
The support and resources most helpful is the support I have created in my class. We
have a homework tree and buddy system set up to complete homework. Also, I have
brought in many resources that I have made and share with the students. Plus websites.
-
I have a simple website that parents can check daily and I find many use this often,
especially if their child has been away, they can check to see what was missed.
-
I send the “words of the week” and “3 useful words or phrases” home each week
including the French word and the English translation and my version of how to
phonetically say the words and phrases (in ways an Anglophone parent can understand –
so no real phonetics – just how to interpret what an Anglo parent needs to say the words
and phrases). Parents love it!
-
Parents appreciate receiving the instructions for homework in English. I recommend that
this be provided on a sheet separate from the one the student will be doing the homework
on in order to maintain the integrity of doing homework in French.
Comments relating to the internet
-
I find that internet resources are more helpful since they go beyond what a print resource
can do (i.e. reads books for students, corrects their grammar, etc.).
-
Some carefully vetted online resources as many are unreliable at best. Students are too
young to assess the quality of information and have a tendency to become dependant on
translators and the internet, a fact I find depressing.
Teacher Question #18: What additional supports or resources would be most useful to parents in
helping their child with French immersion homework?
60 Comments relating to more or better resources
-
A French immersion website that would have a whole series of websites to help students
with grammar, writing, and reading comprehension (on-line dictionaries, short stories,
etc.).
-
Internet sites specifically targeting French immersion students as opposed to
francophones, i.e. high interest, easier vocabulary and grammatical structures. An online
tutoring site and audio related sources would also be very helpful. I feel that students,
especially from more rural areas where there are few opportunities to experience
authentic interaction with francophones, would really benefit from a greater variety of
audio opportunities, i.e. hearing francophones speaking in everyday situations.
-
More oral resources where the children can listen to and read the words along with the
CD program or whatever.
Comments relating to support for parents
-
Many parents ask if they could take French lessons to help them feel more comfortable
with helping their children with homework.
-
A guide targeted to parents of French immersion students and how best to help their
children and promote French in their home.
-
After school homework club, internet forums for FI parents to share experiences and
strategies, how to guides for parents without French language skills, better internet
resources.
-
Tips on how to help their children even if they do not speak French (e.g. questioning
techniques to determine the nature of the assignment their children are working on so
they can help direct them and check the quality of their work).
61