Reduce educational materials, increase pastoral care to reduce e-learning stress, say psychologists

Psychologists from the University of Sussex have penned recommendations to boost learning outcomes and reduce parents’ stress in the home schooling process

Psychologists from the University of Sussex have today (5 February) published recommendations to help reduce the burden of home schooling on families across the UK, advising that reducing the number of additional materials sent to learners and increasing pastoral support could greatly reduce stress levels among parents and students alike.

According to research conducted by the university’s Dr Matt Easterbrook, Vladislav Grozev and Lewis Doyle, who surveyed 3,569 parents of school-age children between 5 May and 31 July last year, schools should provide daily schedules, regular feedback and live one-to-one interactions with teachers to keep pupils focused and engaged while e-learning.

The report also explores the link between the amount of home learning resources provided by schools and the time pupils spend on homework, how motivated they feel towards their studies, and how stressful or manageable their parents found home schooling.

“Teachers are working incredibly hard to provide home learning resources for their pupils who aren’t in school, while also teaching face-to-face those who are. And parents are often juggling busy jobs with trying to teach their children. This is a challenging time for everyone,” said Dr Easterbrook, senior lecturer at the university’s School of Psychology.

“We found that providing a schedule for pupils to follow throughout the day, giving feedback on their work, and enabling them to interact online with teachers can really make a difference to both pupils and parents”

“Our survey of more than 3,500 parents allows us to offer some recommendations regarding what schools and teachers could prioritise to help children learn at home and to support parents in managing home schooling.

“We found that providing a schedule for pupils to follow throughout the day, giving feedback on their work, and enabling them to interact online with teachers can really make a difference to both pupils and parents.

“Overall, it seems that it’s important for primary schools to offer broader pastoral support – by, for example, providing an opportunity for peers to interact and by contacting parents – whereas secondary schools should focus more on providing educational materials and support.”

For primary school pupils, the psychologists’ recommendations for effective home-schooling includes:

  • having a daily schedule – pupils with a plan to follow throughout the day were spending, on average, an additional 25 minutes on their school work
  • receiving regular feedback – encouraged pupils to study for an additional 19 minutes per day
  • live interaction with the teacher – inspired an additional 18 minutes of learning per day
  • peer interaction – associated with an additional 14 minutes of daily educational activity

For secondary pupils, the psychologists’ recommendations are as follows:

  • submitting work online – linked to an additional 50 minutes per day of home learning
  • live interaction with teachers – associated with an additional 32 minutes of school-related activity per day
  • teacher feedback – inspired an additional 30 minutes of learning per day
  • daily schedule – encourages an extra 29 minutes of daily study

Vladislav Grozev, doctoral researcher at the university’s School of Psychology, commented: “Clearly, home learning can be a stressful challenge for parents. Our research found that – across both primary and secondary schools – receiving lots of home schooling materials was associated with higher levels of stress.

“On the other hand, receiving feedback on submitted work, more information about home schooling, and a schedule to follow were associated with lower stress levels.

“For primary parents, contact from school staff and the ability for their children to interact with teachers via live videos were associated with lower stress scores.”

The results are based on the responses to an online survey for teachers and parents of school-aged children in the UK. Respondents were recruited mostly via social media advertising (Facebook and Twitter). The sample of parents was boosted with low incomes and of ethnicities other than White British through paid panels.

In other news: Digital employment opportunities launched to combat youth unemployment in four UK cities


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