Monday, March 28, 2011

Homework Overkill

Teacher:     Alex, do you have your homework today?
Student:      No, I didn't understand it.
Teacher:     Can you show me your work?
Student:      No, I left it at home, because I didn't understand it?
Teacher:     What didn't you understand?
Student:      All of it.
Teacher:     Did you try any of it?
Student:      Not Really.

This is an all too common discussion in schools today. 

Students willingly admit to not completing their homework.  But, admitting that they did not even attempt it
is even more troubling. 

Their world is one where, video games are a thumb touch away,  www.bffs around the world are a mouse click away, music downloads, online shopping, movie uploads, you tube, facebook, twitter and the list goes on, are simply to teen friendly to pass up,  How, can homework compete with anything else in their lives?

Educators must understand the teenage mentality. 

Students have grown up in this world of political correctness and building self-esteem, most students find less discomfort in not doing the homework at all rather than doing something they may not do correct.  When a character in a video game dies, the game just gets reset and they try again.  Video games are mastered in the privacy of their own room and they are graded only against their own expectations for success and failing several times is not stigmatized by a grade, check or label.

Homework that is overkill, rote and monotonous becomes a strain for both the good student and the struggling student.  The good student looks at that list of ninety math problems and thinks, why should I do all of these if I know how to do this after the first five?  The struggling student thinks, if I don't understand the first five, why should I torture myself with eighty five more? Where is the value in this type of assignment for either of these students?  Both of these students are being programmed to despise the subject while destroying any possible value for skills of orgnaization and self-discipline that may have been developed.

Homework must be effective as a measurement tool for the student to monitor their own understanding of the material covered while allowing them to reinforce this knowledge and prepare for future use of the information. Therefore, homework should include just enough practice and review that students can validate their understanding or determine where they may need to review or relearn.  Homework should also include material that allows students to apply information learned in the classroom to real life practical problems.

The most effective homework assignments, are those that provide both the student and the teacher, feedback concerning the effectiveness of the learning path travelled and the possiblities for the learning path ahead.
Students should value homework as a necessary part of the learning process and a validation of the knowledge gained.


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