Sunday, 15 September 2013

Academic Stamina

A couple of weeks ago I posted about "No more Homework" and had quite a mixed response from a lot of people since that time, and also a lot of comments that I think missed the real point of the post. Yes, I do believe homework in the junior grades should be completely taken out. But, there are certain areas and times when homework is beneficial and this is where we need to draw the distinction. As students progress through school, the skills and understanding required increases incrementally. There will be periods of time when they get to 13yrs plus that they will be required to do work at home, but before this age it should be evaluated to see if there is real benefit to their learning. The message from the Alfie Kohn article I posted a few weeks back was that 'no homework' should be the default and any work given needs to benefit their learning/development.

This past week colleagues and I discussed some aspects relating to homework, but the essential part that one of them mentioned was that a lot of students lack academic stamina when they get to the senior grades. Essentially it means that they just do not have the work ethic and dedication/commitment to sit down and study for an exam or work on an assignment for extended periods of time. So to do away with all schoolwork at home would be completely counter-productive and set the students up to fail. Any work they do at home needs to be for their own learning and development, not just worksheets and tasks for the sake of it. I like this term, academic stamina, and I have seen the evidence this year with my senior students that have built up this academic stamina with the work they put into assignments and preparation, versus the students that have not developed it successfully. I'm also grateful for the work my teachers assigned me in the 1990s, the work I had to do at University so long ago, because this has prepared me for the life of a teacher. As a teacher we need stamina, we work from 8-3:30, but most evenings consists of another 2-3 hrs of work each night and plenty more other times. Ans this is the case for all teachers that care about this profession, their students and own teaching. It requires commitment, dedication, perseverance and essentially stamina.

So my goal is to build academic stamina with students I teach in the middle school years whenever possible, but not give any homework where possible. It will require more self-evaluation, reflection on units/tasks and individual students needs. They need to be ready for senior school, university and life. This means assignments that require them to think, evaluate, constructs, develop, engage and create. It should be a challenging environment where they have the intrinsic motivation to work home on tasks and their own learning.

Have a read of this interesting article on 'When homework is a waste of time' . Some key points include:

  • A recent study, published in the Economics of Education Review, reports that homework in science, English and history has “little to no impact” on students’ test scores. (The authors did note a positive effect for math homework
  • When we work hard to understand information, we recall it better; the extra effort expended signals the brain that this knowledge is worth keeping.
Any school work needs to build academic stamina and expand their thinking by being meaningful and challenging. This is key to making a lasting change in a student's academic performance and success.