Homework: The Beast

Homework is such a pain! When I asked around; teachers, students and parents had the same opinion.

Considering how much a part of homework is, it is fascinating how much everybody hates it.  Teachers continuously complain about the amount of time they spend checking and grading homework. And as the parent supervising homework, I alternate between fury and tears.

One day I asked my children’s teacher why she grades homework. And she answered – “That is only way to get them to do it!”

Nowadays a lot of teachers and educators still think the same way and have same attitude as it was in the 70s and 80s.

Some teachers like the myth about homework – more work means getting closer to mastery.

We should understand that:

  1. Pupils learn at different rates, so those who take a little longer to master new ideas are penalized when home work is graded.
  2. Most work is repetition and practice: 25 math problems to practice a procedure, or multiple questions at the end of the textbook section to go over the content again.

If students already know the material, the practice has some reinforcement value, but boredom is the most frequent result.

For the student who still does not conquer the material, the practice and repetition reinforces his or her misunderstandings and causes further frustration.

What is the problem with homework in my description? As you might see – homework is not learning. Students separate learning and homework! They actually like learning very much.

So how can we transfer homework to learning?

Most effective way is to create a learning environment which is connected to the students. Learning environment is a set of possibilities to learn – school, lessons, teachers, parents, friends, community. So let’s place the student at the centre of the learning and start with collaboration. Students come to us with their knowledge and understanding about the world and phenomena with their subculture. I as a teacher should be able take into account this subculture and help them to develop /construct new knowledge which is possible to implement in reality.

In order to start thinking differently about homework and make homework as learning, I offer a few suggestions:

  1. Do NOT grade the learning curve on new subjects. Use the homework as an opportunity to identify students who need additional help, NOT additional homework.
  2. Assign homework to empower learning through projects that allow creativity and expansion of ideas.
  3. Less is more. More homework does NOT mean more learning! Increase the quality of the homework not the quantity.
  4. Give every learner a chance. Audio, video, posters, oral presentations should be used, draw assignments from students own aspirations and interests.
  5. Listen to what your students (and their parents) say about the homework. Are they saying “I have done this a million times” or are they saying: “While I was doing this work I thought about……”, or, “I had question(s) about…..”
  6. Use lesson time effectively, teach students how to manage time effectively. Let students continue with application or investigation of topic outside the school, and after that teach students to deliver questions and thoughts when they are back to the classroom.
  7. When I started to use Student-Centred facilitation in classroom I began assigning projects that required the students to APPLY their knowledge learned in class. I understood that homework should be an opportunity for students to engage in creative, exploratory activities. Homework also should have a focus.
  8. Instead of filling in the blanks on a worksheet I requested that students find materials at home and produce electricity and make a short educational video.
  9. Or I ask students to investigate about development of numbers which we use in mathematics today.
  10. I asked my students to plan a trip to Spain. I had them creating Spanish menus, trip itineraries and illustrated dictionaries. I assigned groups of students to create reader’s theatre, re-enactments of historical events, game shows, detective who-done-it similar to CSI, newspapers, fashion shows, sidewalk art, food bazaars, travel agencies, restaurants, and department stores.

 

The homework became meaningful and learning became interesting for students. This is the meaning of “homework” in Student-Centred classroom.

 

Guest contributor: Prof Ingvar Stål is an Academic Leader for IELTS GROUP Sweden Branch. Research group is located in Stockholm, Sweden. I am a practicing professor, it means he is working at school – as a teacher. He teaches Science and Maths Only 3 Days in a week.

Published and Edited with permission from Creative Minds Education Foundation (CME)

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