The controversy over homework is not new. Too much or too little? Useful or a waste of time?
I struggle with this issue of homework every year. I have parents who complain about too much homework. Students are not always very happy, either.
I am committed to the belief that homework must be used as an authentic learning tool toward the development of skills and is necessary for amassing knowledge of history. I also agree that play and family time is extremely important to young adults.
How can homework and classwork be conducted most effectively? How can a student build up a deep foundation of history knowledge?
Most of my students are ESL (English as a 2nd Language) learners: listening, reading and writing exclusively in English. Some of my students have dyslexia or have other reading challenges. I have students who never read a book or a long article on the Internet. I have students who never read/listen to the news, no matter how long or in what media. I have students who come to me with low academic skills or with little self-confidence in those skills.
YET, all my students are pre-university students. Half of my students are IB Diploma students (grades 11 and 12) who will be taking IB finals at the end of 2 years.
All of my students pass their IB exams and receive an IB Diploma. BUT, I give all of my students homework. Reading, note taking and some writing. Sometimes they watch a movie as they answer guiding questions. Sometimes they work on a project. But, the primary goal is to help them absorb and remember information so they can process that information at the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
In an uninterrupted week, my students are in classes 25 hours a week. They attend my classes 2.5 to 4 hours a week.
Yet, in order to do well in the IB History final exams, my IB students must develop an in-depth knowledge of and ability to manipulate and analyze: the results and consequences of Wars (WW I, WWII, Spanish Civil War, Chinese Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War), the causes, results and consequences of the Cold War, the Interwar Years (1918-1939), the history of China and Japan from 1839-1945. Students do not have text books. They must read from the best scholars in the field in order to have an understanding of and be able to evaluate the perspectives of multiple historians. Class time is taken up by discussions of readings, learning source analysis skills, learning higher-level history essay writing skills and a 6 week “historical investigation.” Many of my students also spend one year doing rigorous research and writing for a 4000 word “Extended Essay.”
How and when do students have time to acquire the needed skills and knowledge required to become young history scholars? Is there a Matrix type fast learning process out there? Neo, plug me up!