Work for Home, Not Homework

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My thinking on assigned homework:

There is very little value in assigning homework. The only way a student will learn anything unless their understanding of the HW topic jells because of the practice – highly unlikely!!! If they can’t do the homework, assigning more of the same is wasted in terms of learning. If they know how to do the material assigned, they will finish it quickly with very little learned. And if those not knowing find a student to copy from (or an answer book or some other source), no learning there.

So what happens if the homework is graded? Whether feedback is given or not, most will see only the grade. Those copying are rewarded for cheating themselves of learning. Those knowing how to do the work will get a good grade and probably not see the feedback, not review for improved understanding. Those totally lost will only get more desperate, cheat themselves more, and give up – slamming the course and/or teacher. ELIMINATE GRADES!!!

What is needed is NOT HW but WORK FOR HOME (WfH) – not the same thing! Students need to learn to assess their needs for effectively learning a topic: From teacher-facilitated work, teacher feedback, personal and study-group learning efforts (WfH?), personal gathering and considering of extra material (WfH?), assess what’s understood and what help is needed. Then the teacher can recommend extra efforts the student can do to improve – again, WfH!!!

Note the following: This approach to effective learning requires a number of efforts: (1) students helped to understand and accomplish effective learning; (2) teachers facilitating the skills of effective learning and self-assessment of accomplishments: (3) teachers providing useful and honest feedback; (4) teachers facilitating student skills for documentation of efforts made, analyzing those efforts, determining level of accomplishment, and knowing what additional teacher assistance is needed; and (5) working patiently with parents in order that they support this approach that is so different from their experiences.

No grading for this WfH – for the same reasons still applicable. I suggest the use of a student e-portfolio. Each student documents all efforts made to effectively learn the topic AND how the student self-assessed to determine that the learning has occurred. That e-portfolio (for all topics of course) is then utilized by the student to justify her/his proposed course grade – with grade determined by the teacher of course!!!

What We Do/What We Get to Do

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One of the blogs I hate miss, learn from, and quite often post comments to is “Leadership Freak” written very capably by Dan Rockwell. Today’s post was particularly interesting to me. I clearly agreed with the topic of the post, gratitude, and its importance to effective leadership.

But my attention was drawn to another sequence of short statements transitioning from what we do to what we get to do next – the opportunities we are offered. As I considered it further, I understood the attraction to this portion of the post and posted the following comments:

“No question that gratitude EXPRESSED is so important to trusting relationships. But there’s another part of this post that grabbed my attention and Consideration:

“You become what you repeat.

Repetition is consistency.

Consistency is predictability.

Predictability is reliability.

Reliability creates opportunity.”

Thoughts and concerns (these ALL fit together):

1. Your REPUTATION is from what you repeat. To me, at least, there is only ONE repetition that leads to that produces the consistency that at least I would find worthy of predictably: considering new and previous options when dealing with situations.

2. Consistency is predictability. Really?? Not always. Favorite Einstein quotes: ‘We can’t solve the problems of today with the same knowledge and skills with which they were created.’ And ‘Insanity: Doing the same things over and over, expecting different results.’

3. Predictability creates CONFIDENCE (most times). That impacts reliability but reliability should require more – e.g., considering new and previous options when dealing with situations.

So how about a rewrite on the part of your post copied above:

You reputation comes from what you repeat.

Reputation for repeated sound problem solving is valuable consistency.

This consistency is useful predictability.

This predictability is worthy reliability.

Reliability creates opportunity to address meaningful situations.

My key point (and the reason I repeated  these thoughts here) is the process we use to deal with situations faced: Everyone must expect new approaches will be necessarily considered. And only then should what is done previously lead to additional opportunities.

Parallels Between Success in Sports & Effective Learning

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It has been my thesis that successful sports teams (having excellent coaches) have much in common with effective learners (having excellent teachers). Here is an example that I believe illustrates this quite well.

From the Manchester Journal Inquirer of Thursday, November 12, 2015; article by Carl Adamec titled “WINNING FORMULA” on Page B4:

“So many times teams that put the focus on ‘Refuse to lose’ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to win,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to lose. Who goes into a game saying it’s OK to lose? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to win.

“Some have a greater will to win. To do that, you can’t be afraid to lose. Sometimes teams are their own worst enemies. Coaches are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about losing. We know that losing is part of the game. Any time they keep score, you might lose. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to be successful?’ It works for us.”

[Aside: For those of you who don’t follow NCAA Women’s Basketball, Geno Auriemma is the head coach of the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball program. They have won ten national championships since 1995 and will be seeking their unprecedented fourth national championship in the season beginning for them on Monday, November 16, 2015.]

Let’s take the excerpt from the Jounal Inquirer and change / add just a few words (italicized and underlined):


“So many times schools that put the focus on ‘Refuse to make mistakes‘ would be better off putting it on ‘Desire to learn,’ ” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “No one wants to make mistakes. Who goes into a situation saying it’s OK to make mistakes? Nobody. But not everybody goes in with the will to learn and get the best outcome.

“Some have a greater will to learn and get the best outcome. To do that, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes teams of learners are their own worst enemies. Teachers are their own worst enemies. At Connecticut, we don’t talk about making mistakes. We know that making mistakes is part of the learning / doing process. Any time they assess learning, you might make mistakes. If it happens, it happens. You focus on, ‘What do we have to do to learn from our mistakes and be successful?’ It works for us.”

Two thoughts: First, Coach Auriemma could talk about his team and his coaching style using the alternate version I concocted and his players might wonder about the lack of basketball terminology; but they would understand the message I think. Second, I believe this alternate version should be the goal of all schools and teachers for their students: take risks, learn from your mistakes, don’t focus on not making mistakes, and you’ll have greater success.