Sébastien Boucher-Gaudry read the work once, in one go, without having to correct anything because it was so close to perfection. He read it a second time, fascinated. “I said to myself: This is the best work I have read in my life. It doesn’t make sense how good it is. »
Teaching sociology in a CEGEP outside of Montreal, Sébastien Boucher-Gaudry asked his students to write their final evaluation at home, and send it to him in electronic version.
However, the student in question had “fairly average” grades until now. Not only was the language level of the work at university level, but the presentation standards of the document were those taught at university. It smacked of cheating.
What’s more, in the properties of the Word file sent by the student, the author’s name was a woman’s name – the name of the student’s mother. An educated woman, with a master’s degree in education. Was she the one who wrote the work?
“We decided to set up an evaluation committee to see if we accused the student of cheating,” says Sébastien Boucher-Gaudry, but this was ultimately not the case. The student was even able to keep the (perfect) grade that the work was worth.
Philosophy teacher Olivier Provencher also corrected student work that had probably been improved by a parent. He remembers two cases in particular. And both times, he says, it was the student himself who spontaneously claimed to have received help from his parent. “My dad helped me, my job can’t be that bad. »
The parents involved do not necessarily do the work from start to finish, notes François Larose, education researcher and professor at the University of Sherbrooke. Most often, he says, they will try to revise the assignment and fill in holes, to the best of their ability. “It actually makes the work quite fun to read,” underlines Mr. Larose.
The younger the children are, he says, the more parents have the capacity to step into the shoes of their children. There are many reasons for giving in: to raise a plummeting average, so that their little one has the most beautiful PowerPoint presentation in the class, to compensate for homework deemed too difficult, to soothe the child’s anxiety…
Geneviève Émond remembers very well the homework period when her distracted brother was in elementary school. “My mother spent a lot of time helping him, but sometimes, after an hour, two hours, even three hours, she ended up just giving him the answers. It was to relieve him and relieve her too. »
French illustrator Céline Bailleux was able to represent this reality well last year in a drawing that she published on Instagram. Her daughter has attention deficit disorder, and Céline spends a lot of time helping her in the evenings, to support her and reassure her. The French system is very selective, and students’ grades, she says, remain on file.
Montrealer Sandrine Marty also let herself be tempted. One Thursday evening, her 12-year-old daughter came home from school with a mission to write a poem in Alexandrines for the next day. The little girl was tearing her hair out. Sandrine Marty and her partner uncorked a bottle of wine and took out a pen and a sheet of paper. “But it’s not a recurring thing,” she says.
Is it a big deal to do homework for your child? “It is not the best support for learning, it is even the opposite, but it can be situational,” believes Professor François Larose. It becomes problematic when it is systematic and purely to ensure optimal performance. »
François Larose has a good idea of the profile of parents inclined to make it a systematic habit with the aim of performance: highly educated parents, who see education as an object of social advancement and who value performance indices. It’s also a lot quicker for a parent to dictate answers to their child rather than supervising trial and error, he says.
Too controlling help from the parent (intervening frequently and for a prolonged period, without it being requested by the child) can have a negative effect, both on the parent-child relationship and on the child’s academic motivation, underlines Roch Chouinard , professor emeritus at the faculty of educational sciences at the University of Montreal.
However, this is the “natural” reflex of parents when their child is in difficulty: wanting to compensate. “But it’s not the right thing to do, firstly because it’s done in a climate of tension,” says Roch Chouinard. When control is too tight during homework, it has the effect of reducing the child’s engagement in their homework, and ultimately, worsening their academic difficulty and increasing their feeling of incompetence. » The child also loses the opportunity to acquire skills, he says.
For parents who find the load too heavy, Roch Chouinard advises instead to contact the teacher or the school principal.
What posture should you adopt as a parent during homework time? It is not so much the number or duration of parental interventions that can have a beneficial effect, but rather the nature of these interventions. “Beneficial interventions are interventions which consist of helping the child to organize himself with respect to homework, to help him out when he is having difficulty with his homework and to find help resources,” explains Roch Chouinard.
Parents from well-off or more educated socio-economic backgrounds are better able to support their children during homework time. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, homework can have the “unintended consequence” of widening the gap between students from different backgrounds.
This is exactly the conclusion that teacher Sébastien Boucher-Gaudry came to, at the end of the experiment with his student having probably requested the help of his mother for his final evaluation. In the process, he learned with astonishment that colleagues were doing the same thing for their children or their study partner.
“If your parents are highly educated, or if you come from a very privileged background, you will have advantages that others do not have,” summarizes Sébastien Boucher-Gaudry, who now only has this type of work done. in class.