Homework: what for?


Many teachers and families consider that the school tasks that are prescribed to be done at home serve to consolidate knowledge and review what has been worked on in the classroom.

But in reality, well-planned homework contributes to achieving core objectives of the current curriculum of our educational system, beyond the consolidation or review of what is explained in class.

In order for the tasks to be presented effectively and to be useful, not only their content must be taken into account, but also the way of prescribing them (and here the language we use to order the homework is important, as we explain below) ) how to correct them.

The autonomous commitment of the student

As an educational resource, homework has a singularity: it embodies the autonomous commitment of the student. For this reason, a thoughtful prescription of tasks should encourage autonomy, self-regulation and the involvement of students.

Indeed, we have empirical evidence that shows that the student who does homework ends up organizing his or her materials and study time better, shying away from their academic obligations less and staying more committed to the teaching activity at school than the one who does not. duties are prescribed.

A school-home axis

Students and their families, and even many teachers, may not trust the long-term benefits of doing homework, or question the sheer necessity of homework when it is prescribed for review or practice.

However, proposing quality homework that aims to favor school commitment and promote the autonomy and self-regulation of the student in their learning process has a second use. You can pay for a true shared school-home space, where each of the agents develops her role in the same direction.

How are the quality duties ?

For homework to really promote autonomy, a sense of responsibility and commitment to school, it is essential that it meets these requirements:

  1. Be perceived by students as useful and valuable for their academic progress.
  2. Have a clear purpose and be sufficiently varied.
  3. Help students self-assess.
  4. Contribute to improve the planning and management of resources such as time.

Beyond the review

Implementing these principles assumes that the prescription of homework is not limited to revision tasks.

Traditional revision tasks include:

  1. Select.
  2. To recognize.
  3. Differentiate.
  4. To identify.
  5. Write definitions, concepts or procedures.

The idea is to tend to balance the type of tasks by including similar proportions of organizational tasks:

  1. Order ideas/types.
  2. describe sequences.
  3. Build leaderboards.
  4. Develop diagrams, step diagrams or sequences.

And crafting tasks of the type:

  1. Paraphrase.
  2. Exemplify.
  3. Solve novel problems.
  4. Prepare explanations for others.
  5. Build stories or problems.
  6. Assume non-explicit information.
  7. Solve new situations.
  8. Argue opinions or defend positions.

It is also important to take into account the pre-topic tasks, which favor the curiosity of the students and inform the teacher about their previous knowledge.

The importance of words

On the other hand, the tasks that are sent to be done at home should be described in terms of the mental work that they imply: writing, solving, marking, revising. Also, the content they address (adjectives, problem of equations, amphibians, historical periods).

For this purpose, it is important to go beyond the common practice of prescribing tasks as follows:

“Exercise 2 on page 32 of Language”.

Instead, it is better to opt for the explicit description of the cognitive operation that is required (exercise of differentiating) and of the content that is worked on (adjectives and adverbs).

We must make sure that students know its usefulness, interest, importance and applicability. That is to say: this task is used to calculate areas or to speak in public, it counts for the final grade, it enters the exam, the best will be exhibited, etc.

Correct to motivate

Finally, in order to give learners the opportunity for self-knowledge and management of their own resources, the tasks should be prescribed and corrected on a weekly basis.

The ideal is to explicitly establish a correction that is as individualized as possible. The informative feedback must make clear the aspects to be improved. But it is also important that it serves to motivate, and that the praise and criticism focus on issues that the student can control, such as effort or dedication.

Time management

Carrying out school tasks at home requires skills to organize the environment, administer and manage time, concentrate attention and control motivation and emotions. This set of skills is often assumed, but rarely tested or taught.

In this sense, the weekly cadence of homework serves to favor both the awareness of the use of the apprentices’ time and its organization.

To mitigate the intrusion of the school in the non-teaching hours of the students, they should be encouraged from the classroom to particularize the time slots for working at home.

Specifying objectives by committing dates and times not only increases the number of strategies that can be used to tackle tasks, but also creates opportunities for the learner to detect difficulties and arbitrate solutions. This will help plan time and work environment at home.

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