The youngest students had the least contact with the teacher during home schooling

A recent survey shows big differences in how much contact the oldest and youngest students had with their teacher.

Home schooling

The results of a new survey show that one third of the primary school level students communicated with the teacher once a week or less during homeschooling (Illustration photo: Colourbox). 

QUINT Researchers Astrid Roe, Marte Blikstad-Balas and Kirsti Klette at the University of Oslo together with Cecilie Pedersen Dalland at OsloMet have conducted a survey with more than 4,500 parents with children in primary education who were home schooled during the Covid-19 school closures. The survey shows major differences in how much the children had contact with their teacher, the attendance requirements and the extent to which schools used digital tools.

Varying degrees of contact with the teacher

– While a large majority of students at the lower secondary level communicated with teachers up to several times a day, a third of the students at the primary school level only communicated with their  teacher once a week or less, QUINT researcher Astrid Roe says.
Just over a half of the primary level students had contact with the teacher at most three times a week, although many only had contact once a week or never. At the lower secondary level, 71 per cent of students had contact with the teacher at least once a day. 
Associate Professor Cecilie Pedersen Dalland explains that some of the parents describing challenges with home schooling in the study, had children both at the lower secondary and earlier stages, and reported that the oldest child received much closer follow-up from the teachers than the youngest.

Different requirements for attendance

The researchers say that the most common way to show attendance was to log in at a fixed time each morning. In the lower secondary stage, three out of four pupils were required to confirm attendance, and in the intermediate stage two out of three students. But at the primary school level, this was only a third, and here for 27 per cent of the students it was enough to deliver assignments, while 23 per cent had no routines for showing attendance at all.
– I think it is surprising that less than half of the pupils at the primary school level were in contact with their teacher daily and that they did not have to show that they were doing school work during the school day, Astrid Roe says.

– One out of four students at the primary school level have not actually had to show attendance at all, Astrid Roe says.

However, the study does not reveal to what extent teachers may have tried to make contact with students without success.

Digital teaching up to the individual teacher

Digitisation of teaching has often been up to each individual teacher, even before, QUINT Researcher Marte Blikstad-Balas says. 
While some parents report that the Showbie app was filled with various practice sheets in all subjects, others report that their children are doing very well with home schooling and receiving thorough follow-up several times a day, good tasks and having good conversations with each other. However, the last group is probably in the minority, especially at the primary school level.
– It is especially the youngest children who generally receive the least follow-up, Marte Blikstad-Balas says.
It not surprising for Blikstad-Balas that the schools and teachers were very differently equipped to do all teaching digitally.
– Research has long shown that there is a great deal of variation in the extent schools choose to digitise - and how this is done. Within each school digitisation was entirely up to each teacher.

– Homeschooling was a surprising situation for everyone and it was resolved very differently, Blikstad-Balas says.

Digital technology enhances individual working methods

QUINT Centre Director Kirsti Klette reports that teachers used very little of the social spaces that the different digital platform facilitate. 

– Our findings, based on the parents' responses, show the same patterns that we have seen in other classroom studies on digital technology use in schools - namely that technology is often used to reinforce individual working methods in the subjects.
Klette explains that she has together with Blikstad-Balas investigated how digital technology is integrated into Norwegian teaching in a new study and found very little digitally facilitated collaboration.
– The students worked a lot individually on writing - and it seems that this way of using technology also characterised home schooling.

Parents positive to gain insight into children's school life

A large majority of the parents of primary school aged children spent more time than usual helping the children and gained more insight into the children's school work, which many reported as positive.
– When the parents themselves describe the benefits of homeschooling, almost one in five (19 percent) mention that they have gained a completely different insight into children's schoolwork, what kind of academic level the child is at, and what academic challenges the children meet in schoolwork, Cecilie Pedersen Dalland says.
Dalland explains that while there is an equal proportion of those who express that they experienced it as frustrating to juggle homeschooling with working from home, they also mention many positive factors.
– We see that 17 percent report it worked better with home schooling than with regular school. They believe the learning outcomes have been higher than usual and that the students have become more involved in the work, Cecilie Pedersen Dalland says.
The researchers emphasise that it is important to bring out the variations in the material. There are big differences in how the parents experienced home schooling, as well as to what kind of training the children actually received. Several of the parents who were satisfied point out that they were impressed with the teachers' efforts.

Demanding to combine home office with home school

One of the negative factors most parents mentioned was that it was difficult to combine their own work from home whilst helping children.
15 per cent pointed out that it was very challenging and demanding to act as a teacher for their own children, and of these, several reported that the situation often resulted in quarrels. 20 per cent mentioned that the challenge of combining own work with helping children often meant that they had to work a lot with own work in the evenings.
Some also mentioned that the students did not want any help. One parent described it like this: "It is difficult to get the child out to move; he doesn't want any help from us and preferably not even talk about what he is working on".
– Several of those who found it challenging to teach their own children, did not feel competent in the role of a teacher, either professionally or educationally. They did not necessarily have the same credibility as the teacher on how things are done, which they describe as demanding.
– They feel it is difficult to initiate and motivate their own children, as well as to teach professional subjects they are unsure of. For example, some reported that it was demanding when the child needed help with a foreign language that the guardians do not master themselves, Marte Blikstad-Balas says.

The survey was developed and conducted by Astrid Roe, Marte Blikstad-Balas, Kirsti Klette and Cecilie Pedersen Dalland. It was opened on 20.04.2020, and closed 27.04.2020. The researchers are now working on analysing the findings, and these will eventually be published in scientific journals. Interested parties should contact Astrid Roe.


Kirsti Klette, Fritjof Sahlström , Marte Blikstad-Balas , Jennifer Luoto, Marie Tanner , Michael Tengberg , Astrid Roe og Anna Slotte (2018): Justice through participation: student engagement in Nordic classrooms. Education Inquiry, Volume 9, 2018 - Issue 1.

Marte Blikstad-Balas og Kirsti Klette (2020): Still a long way to go. Narrow and transmissive use of technology in the classroom. Narrow and transmissive use of technology in the classroom. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy 01 / 2020 (Volum 15).

Facts about the survey

The questionnaire was answered by 4642 guardians from all over the country. A total of 262 of the country's 365 municipalities are represented with good geographical distribution, and the different categories of big cities, medium-sized cities, small towns, large towns and small towns are also well represented.
50 per cent represented pupils in the primary school level (1-4), 30 per cent pupils in the intermediate level (5-7) and 19 per cent pupils in the lower secondary stage (8-10). 96 percent had children in public school and 4 percent in private school. If the parents had several children in primary school, they chose one of the children, and the gender distribution showed 46 per cent girls and 54 per cent boys.
The findings show, in part, major differences between the primary, intermediate and lower secondary levels, but also between schools in general.

Pie chart showing that 51 per cent of survey results were from primary school level, 30 per cent from intermediate level and 19 per cent from lower secondary.
Responses divided between the different school stages within primary education.

Access to and knowledge of digital platforms and equipment

65 per cent of younger students received digital equipment from the school, compared to 71 per cent of the intermediate and 88 per cent of the lower secondary stage.Therefore, many students were dependent on using own or parents' equipment. But also many of those who got equipment from the school also used their own. Mobile phones were used for school work among half of the pupils at the lower secondary level and over a third at the intermediate level. 36 per cent of the pupils at the primary level were not familiar with the equipment or the digital platforms beforehand. This was only true for 10 per cent of pupils in the lower secondary stage, of whom 66 per cent were well acquainted.

Chart: 65 per cent of the younger student were provided equipment by the school, compared to 71 per cent of the intermediate and 88 per cent of the lower secondary students
In total, only 65 per cent of the younger student were provided equipment by the school, compared to 71 per cent of the intermediate and 88 per cent of the lower secondary students.

Teaching, attendance and communication with teacher

Only 15 per cent of younger pupils had direct instruction (i.e. via skype) with the teacher, compared to 35 per cent at the intermediate level and 60 per cent at the lower secondary level. Around 30 per cent of all grades received recorded videos from the teacher. Four out of five pupils at the lower secondary level and three out of four at the intermediate level communicated with the teacher and fellow pupils via chat, as did half of the younger pupils. The results do not showt how often this happened or what the communication has consisted of.

The results show that the students have mostly sat and done individual tasks during most of the school day. At the primary level, 98 per cent of the parents reported that individual work on tasks had dominated school work. In the intermediate stage this was 94 per cent and in the lower secondary stage 88 per cent. Half of the parents at the primary level reported that the children spent less time than usual for school work. This also applied to 40 per cent at the lower secondary level, where at the same time, 23 per cent responded that the students spent more time than during a regular school day. This may mean that the students had been given a lot of assignments related to teaching material that they had to read. With little or no teaching, the textbook largely replaced the teacher. However, textbooks for elementary school are not designed for self-study, which very few students were mature enough for. Without a teacher to explain the subject matter and talk about it with the students, the tasks may have been heavy and time consuming for many.

Less physical activity especially among the older students

When the students didn't have to travel to and from school and did not spend time outside during the breaks, there was a lot more sitting during the school day, especially among some of the oldest students.  Twenty-three percent of pupils at the lower secondary level were physically active for less than 15 minutes of school time daily, with the exception of any physical exercises in the physical education subject. This was only 10 per cent at the primary level, with 43 per cent being physically active for more than 60 minutes during a regular home school day.

Access to parental assistance

86% respondents stated that at least one of the guardians had been largely home during the daytime.

10% said guardians had been at home to some degree.

4% had been home to a small degree or not at all.

As many as 86 percent of guardians stated that they had largely been home during the day. Only 4 per cent had been home to a little or no extent, and these represented the lower secondary stage to a greater extent. At all stages, slightly greater problems were reported in getting the boys started with school work, compared to the girls.
The majority of the parents who were home had a home office and therefore had no opportunity to help the children all of the time. Several of the parents had trouble understanding some of the tasks given to them by students, especially at the lower secondary level, the survey shows.
Especially at the primary stage, the guardians had to get the children started with the work and constantly help them along the way, which regularly interrupted their own work tasks. 86 per cent of the parents at the primary level stated that they spent 1-2 hours or more daily helping the children with school work, while this was 55 per cent at the intermediate level and 24 per cent at the lower secondary level.

Better insight into children's school work

When the parents mentioned what had been positive about the homeschooling situation, things such as "Better insight into children's schoolwork", "Less stress" and "More family time" received the greatest support overall, especially with the parents with the youngest children. Parents with a home office and higher education also mentioned these factors to a greater extent than the other parents.

By Elise Koppang Frøjd, UV/UiO and Ida Vikseen Larsen, OsloMet. Translation: Larissa Lily, QUINT/UiO.
Published May 13, 2020 11:09 AM - Last modified Aug. 2, 2021 10:09 AM