University of Sussex
Leith, Georgia C.pdf (3.43 MB)

‘Overlapping spheres’: factors related to children’s home learning and school experience

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posted on 2023-06-09, 01:29 authored by Georgia C Leith
A child’s early academic learning experiences take place at home as well as at school. These two ‘overlapping spheres’ have unique roles to play for the child, and affect them in different ways. In this thesis, I focus on the child’s home life, and mother-child interactions nested within the home, and investigate how individual and dyadic characteristics of child and of mother may have a bearing on the quality of children’s academic and non-academic learning experiences at home, and on their experience of school. The first three papers used data from eighty-five families of Year 1 children in South-East England. This data was collected using questionnaire and interview measures and videotaped observations of mother-child interactions during home visits. Paper 1 explores personal and social factors in Year 1 children relating to their self-reported school adjustment. Results from interviews showed that family and home life were important for academic self-concept, but not for school engagement, further reinforcing existing research showing that each distinct environment within the child’s microsystem affects their experience of the other. Paper 2 focused on homework: an area of children’s formal education outside school. Most homework interaction research uses researcher-set activities; my study tested the validity of this by comparing genuine homework and a researcher-set task. In observations of 85 families of year 1 children, mother’s and child’s affect during genuine homework did not correlate with their affect during the non-homework tutored task, and were related to different personal and social factors. Taking this further, Paper 3 investigated whether maternal beliefs about education predicted how she scaffolded her child during Year 2 homework. This paper used data from eighty of the families, visited a year after the original visit. Results showed that instruction quality during homework was predicted by mothers’ earlier learning attribution beliefs, but not by their attitudes or expectations. Homework is believed to help children refine their self-regulation skills. Paper 4 examined maternal scaffolding interactions through the conceptual lens of ‘transfer of regulation’. Using a different dataset of home visits with seventy-eight families of children aged 8-11, the fine-grained coding method sheds light on aspects of tutored interactions typically missed by traditional scaffolding coding schemes, identifying various aspects of self-regulation and other-regulation, and mapping increases and decreases over the course of the task, thus providing rich information about the interaction quality within each mother-child dyad. In conclusion, both social (transfer of regulation: Paper 4; parenting styles, mother-child relationship: Paper 1) and individual (maternal beliefs and personality: Papers 2 and 3) factors within the home context play a role in the child’s learning and school experience – as assessed by academic self-concept, self-regulation, and the positivity and cognitive support received during homework. This thesis further reveals the interlaced nature of home and school, highlighting the value of unpacking the role of the home environment on children’s education.


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University of Sussex

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