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June 2016

Do Children Need Homework?

dogatehomeworkHomework is a topic of serious debate among educators and education stakeholders, with little consensus. From my own experience, I clearly remember Korean parents demanding that we give their 6 and 7 year-olds hours of homework each night. We tried to tell them that their kids needed to spend time playing in order to develop things like executive function and a host of other skills. Nope, they weren’t having it. Their tiny little guys and girls needed to become fluent in English and homework was the an intricate part of that. Madness.

This article talks about some research on the topic. Looking at a dataset from a large number of countries, it finds that homework is nearly ubiquitous, though the amount varies wildly. What interests me in this research is that there is little or no correlation between high test scores and the amount of homework assigned. In the Netherlands, for example, there is very little homework most nights, but their students perform extremely well on tests.

The article also noted that the drive for data, the increasing significance of standardized tests, packed curricula, and a host of other factors push teachers to dump work on students not because the teachers think it is meaningful, but because they feel they have to. That’s not a great reason.

This study wasn’t able to look at the quality of the homework or indeed many factors. However, I think it is one more interesting nail in the coffin of daily, look-busy homework.

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Games, Learning, and the Brain

A cool infographic from the MIND Research Institute looking at brain chemistry and how games play a role in learning.

 

Dopamine_and_learning_infographic

How to Learn a Language

learningIn the field of second language acquisition, Stephen Krashen is something of a guru and leading light. For whatever reason, this four year old piece from the Washington Post popped up on my news feed today, a response from Krashen to someone else’s explanation of how to learn languages. The person he’s refuting, a certain Andrew Eil, claimed that he learned to speak four language through ‘boot camp’ style, intense grammar and vocab study with forced production.

Not so, Krashen proclaims. What’s actually needed is not grammar and vocab study – that’s not how we learn our native tongues, after all – or uncomfortable speaking. No, the answer is “comprehensible input”, namely reading and listening. The more we take in and understand, the better our overall grasp of the language will become. We need to internalize rules, not have them fed to us.

What do you think? Is Krashen right? Is Eil? Neither, both, something in between?

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