Look at the pic here and then ask yourself if you are one of those parents who end up being punished for helping your kids with their homework. How many of us remember ‘learning our times tables.’ That method is called rote learning meaning that kids recite them over and over until they can remember them. For the short term they will be able to recall most of the information but over the long term not so much. For those who are able to remember most of it they won’t be able to tell you how to prove the answer is correct. Quick–25X25=?
I remember someone? once said to me that it would be better for us to teach people how to fish rather than just bring them food every day. This is the same principle. Our kids need to learn how to think for themselves, how to apply some of the strategies they have learned from other experiences and discover the process of how to get the right answer rather than trying to remember the right answer. They will remember what works for them. Obviously this isn’t always the case. There are times when memorization is a must. For example, medical students need to remember the parts of the brain and where they are located. This would be a time when rote learning works best.
I used to be a solid believer in rote learning and having to do homework. I am no longer a believer. I couldn’t help my kids with their homework because I didn’t understand the goal. I had to admit that I didn’t get the ‘how to’ of the work. And they didn’t know how to find the answers. They couldn’t think through the problems they were being asked to find.
I now understand that homework should be done at school. The only benefit of doing homework at home is that the kids and the parents actually work and talk to and at one another until the wheels fall off. At least they are spending some time together instead of isolating themselves in different parts of the house watching some mindless TV.
I see the benefit now of providing a learner with an assignment of some kind that entails researching a topic or having to discover why certain things happen as they do. Most kids have access to a lap top or a PC so it also becomes more interesting to look things up and to explore so many different web pages in order to gain information and evidence to support a report that the child will need to make when he returns to school. If he/she should get stuck then they can come back to school and ask what they could have done differently. It’s not the assignment that is important but rather the process by which the learners justify their research-the answers. They can hear how their classmates went about finding pertinent information. They can and will learn from each other faster than they will learn from a talking head at the front of the class. Understanding the research process also becomes part of a child’s learning experience. Once he/she learns how to find information they will always be able to find information so no problem becomes problematic. All that is necessary here are the resources.
Other jurisdictions are catching on to this idea of ‘no homework’ and it seems to be working just fine. Recently Texas joined the parade and many other states are ready to follow suit. Quebec has stopped the practice of assigning homework, Alberta schools have nearly all stopped assigning homework and apparently Ontario will soon follow this lead. I have included an excellent article (click on highlighted text) in order to have more to read on this topic.
In a November 2015 article for Macleans Magazine, Anita Acai an expert in Memorization Learning answered this question as part of the interview:
Q: You’ve written that memorization in learning hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. What do you mean by that?
A: “A lot of the teaching we’re doing is relying on old, old things. There are incorrect assumptions that these things still work, but, in reality, there’s lots and lots of evidence out there that lots of these things aren’t effective for learning. Memorizing isn’t that effective for learning, but people still do it. That’s still the way we’re taught, primarily. Although the literature has evolved and the evidence has evolved, our teaching practices themselves haven’t.”
It’s time for us to look at the educational model being used today and demand a spirited discussion on how to develop a new philosophy and model concerned with preparing our children to compete for the new and challenging careers some of which have yet to be created. They can become the innovators, creators and thinkers of the next generation. How do we create a model that allows for the learners to be at the center of their learning experience instead of being told what they will learn and how they will learn it?
If we are at all interested in lowering the fast climbing drop out rates of students, lessening the stress and mental health problems that our kids are developing on a more regular basis partially because of their disinterest and boredom with school, increasing their sense of self respect and lessening the plague of entitlement, to actually have the confidence that they can compete for good jobs, that they can go to school and graduate without the concern of having a huge debt load to carry with diminishing chances of having a job when they graduate then we need to start lobbying for a much better system and do it now while there is time to get it done.
Anyways, that’s how I see it. All the best, Jim
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