jueves, 17 de mayo de 2018

Is Doing Homework a Must?

                                                                                                                                                                           By Zarela Cruz

 When this topic arises, we may harbor mixed feelings: as teachers we do know that doing homework is beneficial: as parents, we may not want to add another item to our kids’ or our own long daily to-do list.

There is not a single answer to this question. Children, teenagers and adults all have different routines and different schedules as we well know.

      Let’s start by children: nowadays children stay long hours at school and most of them take part in different extracurricular activities.

      Besides, we all know that when arriving  home from school , children do need a break. On the other hand, research shows that it is best to create study habits since childhood. Most children do homework before dinner, after dinner or before going to bed.

When parents arrive home, probably the last thing they want to know about is the loads of work their children have pending for the next day. However, they want their children to be considered compliers and responsible students. So, some of them actually do the homework for them. This is not good at all. At any rate, what parents should do is supervise, lead, advise, but not carry out the assignments themselves. When exam time comes, this kind of parents is more stressed than ever, since they feel as if it were their own exam time! And the real students don’t get any benefit from the homework done!

What about adults? Most probably they have a fulltime job. If they take daily courses, it is unrealistic to expect them to do homework; if they take classes twice or three times a week, things do not look much brighter. They prefer to come to class some minutes earlier to take a quick look at what was done the previous class or to catch up if they were absent.

   Now, let’s analyze some reasons why it is convenient that homework
   SHOULD be done:

1. It allows teachers and students to stay tuned with the topics viewed in class.
2. It can bring the family together since support is given when needed not only by parents but also by siblings or other members of the family. There will always be a helping hand when needed.
3. Practice makes perfect.  The more we  practice, the  more we learn
and master.
4. It helps learners develop and assume responsibilities. It also helps them to work on their punctuality by handing on assignments on time.
5. It is an excellent way to perceive how our kids learn and what the teaching style is.

    Let’s take a look at some reasons why homework SHOULD NOT be assigned:

1. We all need time to relax and to refresh mind  
     and body.
2. It restricts the family time both parents and children can spend together.
3. It can be a source of strain for the members of the  family.
4. It can end up in cheating as a shortcut  to finish all the assignments 
    on due time.
5. Teachers may be too busy to grade homework  promptly, so
     feedback  may be delayed  and the  work turn useless.

   Nowadays there is a strong controversy about this topic. You may have seen letters on the social media asking parents to get more involved in their children’s education as well as parents demanding teachers not to add more stress to their lives. For the time being it all depends on the school, institute or university our children or we ourselves are attending.

And now your turn:
               Is doing homework necessary to learn?
              Are we overloading children with assignments?
              How much homework do you assign to your students?

Retrieved from:

Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her master’s studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in the Teaching of English and Spanish. She has also completed some online certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor for more than 25 years. She is currently studying a master’s degree in Translation. This article aims to reflect on the convenience of doing homework to optimize the student’s learning process.

miércoles, 9 de mayo de 2018

Is Memorizing Analogous to Learning?

By Mayra Yaranga

The role of memory in foreign language learning has always been acknowledged. Hardly anyone would argue that there are elements of language which need some rote learning, However, does memorization guarantee effective learning?

Those of us who grew up in our traditional education are probably familiar with the idea that certain items have to be learnt by heart. This is the case, for example, of lexical set phrases (“Nice to meet you”, “What do you think about…?”) which enable communication and yet require no explanation at the level when they are taught. Another area in which memorization is crucial is grammar; it is hard to ignore how students strive to learn irregular past tenses, the order of adjectives, the correct prepositions, among others, by means of old-fashioned rote. And there is little to support another way of internalizing this type of content: explanations matter little, if at all, and so these bits may, we hope, remain in the learners’ repertoire in the long term. Do they?

At this point, I would argue that not enough is being done to ensure real learning beyond mechanical, detached repetition. Testing the students on verb tenses or words helps little in this respect. In order to ensure that the memorized bits of language are effectively retrieved later and truly help communication, it is absolutely essential to provide learners with the opportunity to turn this input into something meaningful. Here, we may have to push the boundaries set by our educational system and consider carefully how to go further.

Let me provide an example: if students are to learn the irregular past tenses, they also need to know the kind of nouns they collocate with and need to see them in a relevant context. If all of this information is provided, students should be more likely to produce – can we argue that fostering production is a less effective way of guaranteeing learning than memorizing? Another very similar situation occurs when students are being trained to take international tests. They may have thousands of learnt expressions to ‘interact naturally’ during a speaking test. However, factors such as social meaning, register, communicative function or paralinguistic devices are meant to play an important role as well. There is nothing more unnatural than to use expressions for agreement without any accompanying non-verbal language, for instance. Are we working on those elements too?

To some extent, it is true that sometimes teachers and students may forget they are not teaching/learning the language as a system, but as a means to enable communication in said language. Blaming robotic memorization for unreal communication would certainly not solve the mistakes memorizing may bring but working on further real interaction and a realistic use of language could, I am sure, prevent learners from deriving a false sense of achievement from parrot-fashioned learning.
It’s your turn

What do YOU think?

Does memorization guarantee effective learning?

Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ; Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London) revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education - UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada - IPNM. Currently she is Cambridge Oral Examiner and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and Pre-University Centre Director at UNIFÉ.