Saturday, April 4, 2009

Homework Today For Tomorrow

Kia ora tātou – Hello EveryoneClassroom Easel
Virginia Yonkers, friend and fellow blogger, will often think nothing of leaving a comment as long as a post on my blog. I welcome her thoughtful comments for they are often incisive and force me to think, which is always useful.

She is a parent who, like me, has children attending school. Her blog’s persona is one of a thinker, so it’s not surprising that she waxed the eloquent against my recent post on Home Study and Homework.

Virginia reports of homework being used as a means of learning content. I empathise with her when she recoils at the lack of time learners appear to have today, to consolidate what they learn in class.

Are kids getting too much homework? Are teachers pushing the learning of content out of the classroom and onto kids as homework? What do you think? Here’s our conversation:

I have given this matter a great deal of thought lately as my kids have constant homework 7 days a week. In New York State, homework is mandated from primary school to high school, at least 15 minutes per night per year of education. As a result, by grade 4, students should be doing 1 hour and 15 minutes of homework per night.

The question is, when do children get the chance to decompress and let their minds soak in what they have learned from the day. Having 6 1/2 hours of constant input, they are NOT computers and do need some time to process what they learned.

On the other hand, homework gives parents the chance to see what their children are doing (if the parent is responsible enough to do this).

On the other hand, this year my daughter has had a teacher who uses homework as a way to "get through content" that they don't have time to do in class. They are expected to be able to do the work on their own and not given the chance to ask questions (they are graded on what they handed in) rather than using the homework as a way to identify those areas they may need work in.

So I feel that, yes, there is a place for homework, yes, grading does give students the ability to identify areas they need to work on, but not at the expense of giving them some time to process what they have learned nor to use in place of good teaching.
Kia ora Virginia

The parents (I believe) are probably more important than the teacher when it comes to attitude towards learning. They are the cultural background of the learner in most instances. Their influence, as much as it wanes in the teenage years of the learner, has a powerful influence on the way these precious people think.

Getting through content is another matter. I think the teachers have been the subject of much misguided advice where content is concerned and it's still going on.

A teacher who knows well that content is essential has to weigh this against the current belief that content is not what's wanted. This applies to all the past (and successful!) techniques that were used in the classroom to convey such content as was necessary to the learner. They cope with this by removing content from their classroom and relegating it to homework. Content is dealt with by a "Learn this."

So-called rote learning has been eschewed by many and still is. So much so that anything that smacks of rote learning gets the same treatment. Poor learners I say, for they get to the crossroads in their learning, only to find that they cannot understand concept or theory because they simply are not familiar with the content that's required - sigh.
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Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes


V Yonkers said...

Actually, this conversation has made me review the "homework" I give to my own students to make sure I have given them time to reflect. One of the students' favorite homework assignments has been a self evaluation in which they tape themselves doing a speech and then reflect on how they did. For some it is painful, for others it has built their confidence. Some have said they will do this for their final speech, even though it is not required. I know then that this was useful at reinforcing the content in my class.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora and thanks for extending the conversation Virginia!

Interesting, isn't it, how the role of parent affects and effects the role of teacher - that the parenting sometimes lends itself to the pedagogy.

I've always believed that the other way around was a less natural occurrence - that the teacher as a parent was less likely to inject pedagogy into the parenting.

Catchya later