Culturalizing Homework

Culturalizing Homework

Research on homework during the last few decades has revealed the extent to which homework is related to teachers and students’ development of self-regulatory skills (Bembenutty & White, 2013; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006; Dent, Cooper, & Koenka, 2012; Ramdass & Zimmerman, 2011; Trautwein & Köller, 2003; Xu & Corno, 2003). Findings from a recent meta-analysis found support for the association between self-regulation and homework (Dent, Cooper, & Koenka, 2012). For instance, Cooper (1989) found that high school students who have done homework had higher academic performance than students who did not do homework and Cooper and Valentine (2001) found that homework has positive causal effects on enhancing retention of information, understanding of course materials, and increasing study habits.

According to Zimmerman, Bonner, and Kovach (1996), homework is a process through which learners could acquire and develop self-regulation skills. Accordingly, during the process of completing a homework assignment, learners could assess their level of self-efficacy beliefs, set goals, select strategies, monitor their progress, seek help from appropriate sources, and self-reflect on homework outcomes. Despite findings supporting the association between homework and self-regulation and teachers’ efforts to instill the value and importance of self-regulation of learning and instruction, some parents, students, and teachers remain concerned about the utility of homework. In this contribution, it is argued that at the forefront of these challenges is the lack of the culturalization of homework. Some research on homework reveals a simplistic or a general focus on the individual or the behavior and others confound ethnicity and culture, culture and socioeconomic status, culture and gender differences, culture and parental support, or culture and personality. It is proposed that the culturalization of homework could enhance teaching effectiveness and learners’ development of self-regulatory skills.

To understand the culturalization of homework, the recent work of Zusho and Clayton (2011) reveals processes and challenges that could help educators and researchers conducting research on homework. Zusho and Clayton argue that culturalizing achievement goal theory and research could help improve assessments and aid in the interpretation and generalization of research on achievement goal theory. They argue that there is a need to examine how cultural factors relate to motivational processes for non-White learners while providing a more contextualized-based sociocultural view of motivation. In order to support their arguments, Zusho and Clayton adopted the perspective of Berry, Poortinga, Segall, and Dasen (2002), who proposed three meta-theoretical orientations: absolutism, relativism, and universalism.

Zusho and Clayton argue that the absolutist approach assumes that psychological processes are essentially universal and culture-free, contains that individual differences are largely a function of biological and personal factors, and assesses culture with a focus on race and country. The relativist approach assesses highly contextualized psychological processes and examines people’s values but avoids comparative studies across cultures. The universalist approach combines the principles of absolutism and relativism and assumes the existence of universal psychological principles, recognizes the role of contextual and social factors, and uses instruments that vary culturally. Derived from the work of Zusho and Clayton, it is argued here that culturalizing homework will involve adopting a universalist approach to research. Bembenutty and Karabenick (2013) made a consistent argument related to culturalizing academic delay of gratification.

Adopting a universalist approach in order to promote the development of self-regulatory skills during homework requires the culturalization of theory and research on homework. Research and theory on homework will need to consider both universal psychological factors associated with homework. Research in this direction has been conducted (Bembenutty, 2010; Bembenutty & White, 2013; Dent, Cooper, & Koenka, 2012; Cooper & Valentine, 2001; Trautwein and Köller, 2003; Xu & Corno, 2003; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 2005), but more research is needed. Research also needs to consider both individual and contextual factors and the situation in which learners engage in homework. In this vein, the work of Zimmerman, Bonner, and Kovach (1996), Stoeger and Ziegler (2008), and Bembenutty and White (2013) are somewhat in line with the universalist approach because they use homework logs where the individual, contextual, and situational factors are concomitantly assessed. Further, from the universalist approach, the culturalization of homework would involve placing more emphasis on the development of culturally-valid assessments and differences in homework processes across groups and cultures.”

The culturalization of homework requires the development of new methods for assessing homework processes, ones that will consider the cultural factors that influence these processes. Researchers are invited to develop assessment tools that will be sensitive to learners from diverse cultural backgrounds, which could include microanalytic assessments, such as homework logs, computer traces, and cognitive interviewing. Consistent with Trautwein and Köller (2003), a universalist approach of homework requires assessing homework at the individual, classroom, school, and cultural levels. In sum, in order to promote the development of self-regulatory skills during homework, researchers and theorists will need to adopt a universalist approach to theory and research on homework. Culturalizing homework is a potential approach to end the debate on homework.

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