Homework Assignments- Can we make them more Valuable and Effective?

Homework Assignments- Can we make them more Valuable and Effective?

Homework wars- how much and how often? – is still a hot topic of discussion to both the parents and the teachers. Some teachers are dead against the concept of homework; while others see it as a necessity. However, the question lies – it is not about the quantity, but whether homework that teachers do give advances learning?

A recent research reports that, enriching student’s classroom learning requires making homework not so longer or shorter, but smarter. A few teachers found that homework in Science, History and English has little or no impact on student test scores. However, they did notice a positive effect for math homework. In recent times, educational psychologists, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists discovered three new disciplines to explain how human brains learn. These include- Mind, Brain and Education to help understand how children absorb, retain and apply knowledge. These disciplines are simple to understand and easy to carry out.

Few educationists have talked about some specific practices that have positive impact on learning. They talked about ‘space repetition’ where instead of focusing the study of information in single blocks as homework assignments do, reading about a topic and reconstructing it later help learners come across the same study topic in briefer sessions spread over a longer period of time. This approach help students get re-exposed to information about a topic and reconstruction of the same throughout the semester.

Similarly, they also talked about ‘retrieval practice’ which employ test that does not assess what students know, but to reinforce it. Education system often encourage students conceive their memory as a tank and test a kind of dipstick to check how much information they have put in there. But that’s not exactly how our brain works. Retrieval practice make learning stronger and lasting so that test doesn’t just measure, but changes learning.

According to teachers, to implement these practices, students must be motivated to do their homework in the first place. Here are a few factors that can make homework a practice and extension of what happens in the class and in our daily life and not a ‘new learning’ altogether.

Make homework a ‘requirement’ and not a choice

Make your child believe that doing homework is just the preparation for next class. It is a revision of work done in that day’s or previous classes. Homework is a mean of acquiring further language and style from receptive skills and allows them to work at their own pace. Most importantly, children must understand that homework is a diagnostic tool to identify gaps in student’s knowledge.

Homework with smudged and error-filled worksheet

This technique is called interleaving applied in homework. Interleaved assignments mixes up different kinds of situations and problems learnt in the classroom to be practiced at home. When students cannot quickly solve the problems and answer questions, their brains have to work harder to come up with the solution. The ultimate outcome is that, students learn the material more thoroughly.

Creating homework that relates to real life

First step towards making homework more meaningful is to take a look at our daily lives. For instance, you want your student to understand measurement. To make the assignment more valuable, ask your students to choose a recipe and prepare something with their parents. In completing their homework, they would be practicing different skills, including measuring, following directions, or working on fractions and of course reading. After finishing their assignments, students could write their experience, and discuss why they chose that particular recipe? Most importantly, they could learn measurement via an activity and not via academic books. They can share the experience with the class.

Using technology to motivate doing homework

Getting students to read isn’t always easy. Some students love reading while a few others find it too difficult. You have to understand that students don’t like to read for a variety of reasons- may be they don’t find interesting books or they find it difficult. So if making students avid in reading and encouraging this practice at home is your sole aim, you have to find ways to motivate them. Technology does help you. Ask your students to generate a list of things they are interested in, and help them look for books about these topics. They can search on internet that has lists of children’s book separated by topic. You can utilize this list to assign weekly reading homework.

In addition, to make homework more interesting, you can allow them to show mastery of subject in a creative way. For instance, if you teach them about planets, encourage them to prepare a short PowerPoint regarding what they have learned.

It is important to augment homework assignments with interesting projects and activities and not just by books.

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