20 Mar

To Set Homework Or Not?

One of my students tends to understand a topic one week but forgets most of it the next. Should I administer more regular homework so concepts I teach in class are not forgotten?

Homework is quite a specific matter. While some students are open to it others are not, the same goes for their parents. It is important to establish a mutual understanding between yourself, the student and the client regarding homework expectations. When this discussion takes place you should ascertain more carefully the students goals and based on this advise what you think is a necessary amount of homework. Support your conclusions with examples of the student forgetting a lot of content. It is important that there is agreement on this so that a regular pattern of homework can be established as you suggested.

Most certainly, at least some homework is recommended, otherwise progress will be challenging and retention will be diminished. Also, consider these two ideas for increasing retention – they are both simple and require very minimal effort.

  • Get the student to make notes in a notes book after each tutoring session. Perhaps they will only do it 4 days later or just rush through it without thinking much. Either way, retention will still be increased considerable. The process of explicitly expressing the concepts on paper with colours and examples goes a long way to create stronger associations in one’s mind. This makes the concepts more concrete and less abstract and hence the ideas are easier to recall. You can even set note-taking as a homework task.
  • At the end of a lesson take five minutes to do a review of the tutorial. Everything that was covered that tutoring session should be very quickly revised. Ideally the student should just talk you through everything that was done in that tutorial, explaining the basics to you along the way. This will have an effect of tying together some of the concepts and put them in a wider context with several of the ideas being related to each other. This in turn will create greater comprehension and retention.
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