The controversy about the value of Homework

There is controversy about the value of homework, with critics saying it is either ineffective or potentially harmful if the extra work is so dull that children switch off.

Few years ago, a group of French parents and teachers called for a two-week boycott of homework in schools, saying it is useless, tiring and reinforces inequalities between children. They say homework pushes the responsibility for learning on parents and causes rows between themselves and their children. And they conclude children would be better off reading a book.

This is a representative sample of what the detractors argue against having homework, but we can add others arguments opposed to homework: The school day should be long enough to allow the child to learn and write everything they need to” homework, whether good or bad, takes time and often cuts into each student’s sleep, family dinner, or freedom to follow passions outside of school”. “Not all families have the time or the necessary knowledge to help their offspring”. “Teachers don’t realise the unbelievable pressure they are putting children under”.  (should children have to do homework? comments)

And what the students have to add to this scenario against homework. For too many students, homework is too often about compliance and “not losing points” rather than about learning: “…it’s worksheets and problems at the end of the chapter. Just busywork”, “It doesn’t matter how I get the homework done, just as long as it is done before the teacher checks it. Right?” . “If I haven’t succeeded in doing the exercise at school, I don’t see how I’m going to succeed at home”.

From another standpoint, there’s pressure from external sources to set homework and a lot of teachers see that as if they must be setting homework all the time, even if it’s not necessary. There is also a parents’ common misconception that teachers and schools giving more homework are more challenging and therefore better teachers and schools. This is a false assumption. The amount of homework your son or daughter does each night should not be a source of pride for the quality of a school.

These are not good news for “homework”, but if so why it is so popular and widely applied. Maybe what we need is a new word instead of “homework”, how about “continued learning” or “ongoing growth activities”?

We want children to understand that they are always learners even outside school. So it makes no sense to even advertise a “no homework” policy in a school. It sends the wrong message. The policy should be, “No time-wasting, rote, repetitive tasks will be assigned that lack clear instructional or learning purposes.”

As a teacher, we know that by assigning homework, the teacher significantly extends the classroom learning time, that a teacher should never assign homework on a topic that has not been practiced first in the classroom. It should be difficult enough to challenge a student, but not so difficult that the student feels overwhelmed. Assignments should be graded and feedback should be provided.

Homework will be extended learning time if the students are inspired enough to want to practice the skills obtained class. Then make homework worth doing so they will want to do it.

What about Blended Learning? In Blended Learning teachers set up learning management accounts (LMS) on places like Moodle. They assigned students work and research projects through the LMS and students did the work at home. When they came to class, the teacher would either review what they had done individually, or step up the learning by providing further opportunities to apply their knowledge in group projects.

Children should be encouraged to read, write, perform arithmetic, better understand the world around them in terms of civics, science, and the arts, and, of course, develop their people skills: their emotional intelligence. This encouragement should be part of everyday family interactions outside of school, and the school should provide developmental guidance to all parents, in the appropriate languages, to help them do this. Experts agree on the value of parents taking an interest in their children’s intellectual and academic life.

Above all, schools should remind parents to never lose sight of modeling for their children the value of close relationships, support, caring, and fun. That is the most important “home work” of all.

Reference

Two hours’ homework a night linked to better school results

Homework guidelines scrapped to give headteachers greater freedom

EDUTOPIA BOOKMARKS

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Learning to Think, Thinking to Learn.

Thirty years ago, some theories about teaching and learning were based on training exercises and drills. The idea was that if facts were repeated enough, then students would memorize them, and this was learning. Under this concept learning is shown by a change in behavior as a result of experience, but nothing is mentioned about what students believe, what process they use to solve problems, or their own awareness of their thinking.

This post is based on the idea that teaching means teaching students to think. It assumes that teaching is not just about communicating facts or mechanical skills like Math rules (of course, you must have facts in order to learn), but is a process of coming to understand how you think.

The idea that all students should learn how to think critically is a relatively new one (certainly since the turn of the 20th century) and one for which most schools are not well prepared. The point is how we teach thinking, and how to make students aware of their thinking.
vtVisible Thinking is a flexible approach to integrating the teaching and development of thinking with your content and curriculum. This is a project of Harvard University. The essence of this project is a series of routines for thinking. They are simple and to the point.

The idea of visible thinking helps to make concrete what a thoughtful classroom might look like. At any moment, we can ask, “Is thinking visible here? Are students explaining things to one another? Are students offering creative ideas? Are they, and I as their teacher, using the language of thinking? Is there a brainstorm about alternative interpretations on the wall? Are students debating a plan?”

The central idea of Visible Thinking is very simple: making thinking visibleWe learn best what we can see and hear, although thinking is pretty much invisible. Mostly, thinking happens under the hood, within the marvelous engine of our mind-brain.

Visible Thinking includes a number of ways of making students’ thinking visible to themselves, to their peers, and to the teacher, so they get more engaged by it and come to manage it better for learning and other purposes.

In DEEPdt, visible thinking is a game changer. Thankfully, Harvard's Project Zero has created some pretty awesome routines that can easily be utilized in the DEEPdt process. In trying to visualize ...

Here are some of its key goals (extract from his website www.visiblethinkingpz.org):

  • Deeper understanding of content
  • Greater motivation for learning
  • Development of learners’ thinking and learning abilities.
  • Development of learners’ attitudes toward thinking and learning and their alertness to opportunities for thinking and learning (the “dispositional” side of thinking).
  •  A shift in classroom culture toward a community of enthusiastically engaged thinkers and learners.
    Structure.

The routines are structured well and only take a single page for each. It covers:

• The thinking routines itself
• Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?
• Application: When and where can it be used?
• Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?

pageshot

Visible Thinking Routines: SEE THINK WONDER

If you go to the Visible Thinking website you can download these in zipped packages of PDF files. I have also upload these and you can get them from here. The Routine cover the following aspects of Thinking:

This visual features a number of key thinking routines together with examples of how to use them with learners:

visible-thinking

Resources:

Creat_pdfs.zipCreat_pdfs.zip 472 KB

Fairness_pdfs.zipFairness_pdfs.zip 544 KB

Truth_pdfs.zipTruth_pdfs.zip 357 KB

Understand_pdfs.zipUnderstand_pdfs.zip 701 KB

AERA06ThinkingRoutines.pdfAERA06ThinkingRoutines.pdf 238 KB

Mind mapping

This post introduces one of the simplest and most useful of all the systems thinking tools, the mind map.  There are many variations of this tool, including concept mapping and spider diagramming but they are all generally used to view multiple, complex (non-linear) relationships in a system.

You can use mind maps for:

  • Making notes during a lesson
  • Planning for an essay
  • Illustrating a process
  • Brain storming
  • Revising

To get started, you simply pick a topic and depict it either in words or a symbol in the middle of a page.  Here is a well-known mind map of how to mind map.

1000px-MindMapGuidlines.svg_

Viewing this graphic you can easily get a sense of what a mind map is all about rather quickly.  How to get started:

  1. Start in the center with a description of the topic or theme
  2. Write whatever comes to mind next as a “sub-topic” and draw a connecting line, do it again, and again….
  3. Use images and symbols as much as possible
  4. Select key words and print clearly
  5. Each word/image should sit on its own line or inside its own bubble
  6. The lines should be connected, starting from the central image.  Important connections between concepts in different sub-section should be indicated
  7. Use colors to code for key ideas or sub-systems (sections of the map)
  8. Use thinker lines to indicate more important connections
  9. Put the most important ideas are near the center (its a hierarchy of ideas)
  10. Do it your own way!

In the classroom, mind maps are often used as a tool in the planning stage for writing exercises, as learners can structure ideas and discuss how they are related, but you can also use it to revision and to find out what they have learned.

Mind maps work visually. They stimulate your brain, helping you to:

  • Think of more ideas.
  • View multiple, complex (non-linear) relationships in a system
  • Recall information more easily.

To begin, for the first time, is best to start with a brainstorming of words based around the topic. The teacher writes the list of words which came out of the brainstorming on the board. Learners organise the words in a mind map and then compare ideas on how they have grouped words and related them.

Let’s start with a simple example:

1.- Begin at the center of a clean sheet of paper and write the name of your topic/title. In these case “mind mapping”.

2.- For each main idea draw a branch from the centre, using a different colour. Write key words along the branch.

Publicación1

3.- Now use smaller branches to represent linked ideas. Use the same colour as the main branch.

recalling-vocab-mind-map1

4.- You could also use images or symbols to illustrate your ideas.

how to mind maps

Thanks for your time, I hope it used to try to start making a new mind map and if you are a teacher to introduce this new thinking tool in the clasroom.

FrankTudela2012