In June 2013, I did 5 group discussions on Homework – with students in Pune, Dehradun, Ludhiana, Yamunanagar and Jammu. My role was that of a documentor rather than a mentor. Most students understood the importance of Homework. As a student in Pune, who is also a Company Secretary, mentioned – How can a lawyer argue a case without going through it beforehand?
There were a few students in Jammu who thought that they were quite diligent in doing Homework. But the majority of students confessed to not being able to do their Homework. ‘The moment that I see Homework I feel sleepy’. What were the reasons?
There is a lack of interest in Homework. Most students believe that Homework is a waste of time – or put more poetically – ‘An Enemy of the Innocent Student.’ Homework is monotonous. Homework sacrifices play time. One even went to the extent of labeling it as an ‘interference with our studies’. And another had a very insightful question: Adults are supposed to have a healthy work-leisure mix. Their bosses advice them not to carry their work home. So why make exceptions of students?
Says Neha, a Pune student. ‘I do Homework only when the teacher is strict. Most times it gets done in starting phase of the course. After that the teacher also finds other things to do than following up on Homework.’ A few blame teachers for not covering concepts. They feel that teachers use homework as threats to control kids. So in the spirit of things – students start hating teachers. Students have a feeling that teachers inhabit a world in which the student devotes 100% of her time to the study of the teacher’s subjects. Rare is a teacher who has an overall perspective of the entire Homework of a student.
Not only does a student have other subjects to study, but she also has to juggle family obligations and social relations. The unintended result is that copying is rampant in Homework. Also students feel that their work is done the moment Homework is done – and they do not look beyond Homework to do work based on own initiative.
What amazed me was the creativity shown by students in the Action Points for getting Homeworks back-on-track. Most of the action points were suggestions for teachers and how they can improve on their teaching. ‘We nod our heads in class – but are not able to work at home because concepts were not clear in class. Teachers never ask if concepts are clear.’ One student suggested that doubt sessions should be held before Homework is given. Teachers should motivate students to ask doubts and questions. Teachers should find time to spend one – on – one with students.
Students confess to being lazy, so it is the task of a teacher to make learning fun. Here are some suggestions for getting fun in classwork and Homework:
- Make students understand how the topics and theory apply in their everyday lives.
- She needs to treat learning as a game. Make it fun, give timelines.
- It would be enjoyable for students if Homework is given to them in groups.
- Students of today belong to the TV generation – and the challenge is to make the Idiot Box useful in removing some of the idiocies of a student. Audio-Visual learning is better than only audio. A teacher can increase interest in a topic by creative means – using books, internet and other resource material in her teaching.
- Homework could be assigned as a project or activities.
Teachers should not be threats. Teachers should be open. Teachers should be friendly. There should be no pressure. If we are allowed to choose our Homework, then we should not be scolded. A teacher can extend class hours and get the Homework completed in class. A question posed by a student: Are teachers doing their Homework before coming to class?
A Chandigarh student, on transfer to Dehradun, mentioned one incident from her school days. ‘Our functional English teacher said that do anything – write anything or do anything but do that and come. Then everyone did the Homework.’ Here are other comments expressing the same idea: ‘Everyone should not be given the same Homework – base it on their interests.’ ‘Students should decide their own Homework.’ ‘Homework should allow a student to present his own point of view.’
A recurring theme was ‘Quality not quantity’. ‘Homework should be limited – and solid – more of a thinking process’. ‘I don’t need to do all 25 questions, 5 are enough.’
A brilliant student from Jammu, Nipeksh, who is studying for his Commerce Honors from Delhi University, thought that the root cause of the problem is because most students do not have clarity on goals. Time management plays a very strong role. Students are able to appreciate Homework by looking at our future benefits.
‘If I make a goal for the day – then things happen.’
‘We need to make a routine and manage time well. Make a Time Table.’
‘If you take one and a half hour instead of one hour it is Ok, but you must complete the task at hand.’
‘Divide Homework into small slots that we can manage.’
‘Set reminders on phone to do Homework.’
‘FaceBook, Cell phones are distractions – student should be focused. Don’t get internet pack recharged on your cell.’
It would be interesting to debate which of these action points raised can we as teachers actually implement.