Friday, July 27, 2012

Journal #6: Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives)

Spencer, J. T. (2011, September 19). Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives). Retrieved from 

While reading the article above regarding homework I kept having little flashbacks to different homework assignments I was forced to do and at the same time I thought about things that I decided to teach myself.  The entire article points out many powerful reasons why giving out homework is a bad idea, most of which claim that homework is counter productive.  At one point in the article it talks about how if a student wants to learn something, he or she will do informal homework for the study of that subject.  When reading this I thought about how when I was learning guitar I practiced hours a day.  I had no instructor telling me to do so, and if I had I probably wouldn't have practiced.  Most of the time it wasn't fun for me to practice as much as I did but at the same time I wanted to learn and develop.  The actual learning is what was exciting to me.  When I took up jiu jitsu the same thing happened.  I met with a friend of mine, studied more than what was required in the class, practiced and developed past my classmates in my technical skill.  At the same time, I have always loved math and working through problems, but when I was forced to complete homework assignments there was suddenly unneeded pressure which made me less productive and I spent many nights hating the practice of math because I was so concerned with getting things right and worrying about my grade in the class.  

5 alternatives to homework:

1.  Have all work done in class but offer alternative options of independent study outside the classroom where students can put what they have learned into practice and if desired, share it with the class or reflect regularly with the teacher about it.
2.  Have classwork always be working towards an actual goal, whether it be a website or project etc.  Something that the students can chose to build on their own time and explore various aspects of the project with peers.
3.  In the beginning of the year take the time to find out what each student is interested in and how they would want to explore concepts and build curriculum around that.  This could maybe be done through surveys or even meetings with the parents.  This way the student can feel that they are working in a field they are happy in and get to incorporate their studies into that subject.
4.  Create blocks of time that students visit with the teacher to discuss different concepts related to the given subject.  Often professors in math and science classes offered to stay after and talk to students about research they were doing and various topics other than the classroom assignments and the excitement and energy to learn was enhanced by building that relationship.
5.  I don't know if this would work but in a way, work backwards.  Start with what needs to be learned and show what the goal, whether it is prepping for a test, completing a project etc.  And provide avenues to complete the task at hand.  We do this in our EDUC 422 class with various assignments.  We show what we are aiming to complete and then we are left to work to get to that point.  Some will come in early, some follow step by step tutorials, some work during class or work past the class, etc.  All to reach an end goal.  And we are given the opportunity to turn in work multiple times so there is no pressure of screwing up when you go off on your own to figure something out.
'homework.' photo (c) 2008, anthony kelly - license:

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