Saturday, June 6, 2009


I just read this interesting article about homework and its negative points. The one that was most true for me, in teaching at my uni here in Korea is the quantity vs. quality thing. I give 3 pages of homework each week, to correspond with the unit that we've studied in class. And the students, with the exception of 3 or 4 in each class don't take it seriously. They do a half-ass effort, or just copy off the good students before the class begins. But, for the ones who do take it seriously, I think it can actually help reinforce what they've learnt in class. Essentially though, it's not a matter of quality, it's just about getting it done.

And, so I wonder about some other way to do homework. Like homework tailored to each students, where they could explore what they're interested in. Or they do little projects each week. But I know the reality, my students are lazy and many of them probably wouldn't do it. And I worry about how to explain this to people who speak only a very basic level of English.

Any ideas? Please help!

1 comment:

Robin Hudson said...

The most important point in that article is #6. "There is no evidence that spending more time on schoolwork or homework actually leads to increased achievement. The issue of quality taking precedence over quantity is missed." I find that the students who do assigned homework are the "good" students who would get an A anyway. The "bad" students aren't going to bother.

Another thing is that Koreans are so test conscious that the only thing that will motivate everyone equally is testing. Now, I absolutely hate testing and I wouldn't do it at all if my school didn't require it. I'd rather students enjoy class time and get in a little practice speaking rather than sweating over daily tests that make them hate English with a passion.

Instead of homework, I give my students the opportunity to do extra credit. Some might say that the "bad" students won't bother, just like with homework. However, I find that if the assignment is fun, they'll jump at it.

This semester I have been giving students an extra points for watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a total Whedon fangirl and will do anything I can to expand the fan base.:D) If they write a half-page summary and a half-page on their thoughts on an episode, I give them 1 extra credit point which I put toward their Midterm and Final. There is no limit to the number of episodes they can watch or papers they can write. Of course, it must be written in their own words. I've had a few students try to get copy/pasted articles past me, but word get around pretty quick that teacher ain't no dummy.

This semester, I'd say about 60% of my students have taken me up on this offer and watched at least one episode. Most of those get hooked and watch more. One student watched all of Season one and handed me 12 papers! LOL!

The episodes are available at and although they have Korean subtitles, I think my students have really gotten a lot out of the experience.