How homework can help kids feel happier – The Irish Times


Later this month, a conference on education with a difference is taking place. ResearchED, a teacher-led gathering that focuses on evidence-based classroom practice, will be hosted by St Columba’s College, Rathfarnham on September 24.

“Conferences in Ireland tend to be organized by professional bodies, whether management or unions,” says Julian Girdham, teacher and one of the organisers. “But [ResearchED] it is the teachers who direct things for the teachers.

The one-day event provides a platform for dozens of speakers to share their research and experience. We spoke to a few to give you a taste of what to expect on the day.

Homework can help children: “Getting rid of homework is contrary to helping students”

Dr. Barbara Oakley, educator, writer, engineer, and distinguished professor of engineering at Oakland University will share her insights on how teachers can use evidence from neuroscience to inform their teaching.

“What I’ve learned is that many of the methods that are traditionally taught to educators today, on how to teach, are actually completely contrary to what we know from neuroscience to be effective in helping learners,” says Oakley. “So I wrote a book about the neuroscience underlying how we learn effectively.”

One of the key strategies teachers should employ is the practice of retrieval. “It helps you understand really complicated things that you can’t explain,” says Oakley.

Every day new neurons are born in your brain and if you don’t learn anything new there is no reason for them to stay, so they die.

Teachers can use simple techniques, such as “think, match, share”, to incorporate retrieval practice into their day. “When we have students talking to each other to describe or discuss something, they’re often just using retrieval practice,” says Oakely.

It’s also an inexpensive way for students to check their knowledge, and by doing so, information has a better chance of reaching long-term memory. This, says Oakley, may be more difficult than we think.

“I am a learning expert. I can look at something on the page and think, ‘I’ve got this,’ and then the next day I try, and I can’t,” says Oakley, “My working memory tricked me. It was in front of me, and I thought I had it in my long-term memory, but it wasn’t. It’s only when I verify through retrieval practice that I can know for sure that it’s in my long-term memory.

Learning to learn has benefits that go beyond passing tests. “Learning in itself is positive therapy. Every day, new neurons are born in your brain, and if you don’t learn anything new, there’s no reason for them to stay, so they die,” says Oakley, “but those new neurons are what helps you feel better.

It’s one of the reasons Oakley believes homework is an integral part of student well-being.

“Homework is a form of recovery practice, a form of helping these new neurons survive, thrive, grow, and help us feel better,” Oakley explains. “So no matter how students may complain, getting rid of homework is antithetical to helping students develop a positive attitude and maintain a fresh, optimistic outlook on life.”

Let’s talk about spelling: “We confuse children”

Neil Almond, deputy head of the Step Academy Trust, says the experience many of us have had learning to spell – usually a list on Monday and a test on Friday – hasn’t always been productive.

The first step to success is recognizing the complexity of the English language, he says, because there are many ways to spell the same sound.

Almond emphasizes the symbiotic relationship between reading and spelling. “Reading and spelling are two sides of the same coin. To become a very good speller, it’s very important that you learn to read very quickly,” says Almond. This connection relies on a process known as statistical learning to help children increase their chances of spelling words correctly. “You learn statistical frequencies and probabilities from the English language,” says Almond.

When it comes to teaching spelling, Almond recommends that teachers avoid certain strategies. He thinks using a blank ‘word form’ doesn’t reinforce spelling and says teachers should avoid asking students to identify a correct spelling from a multiple-choice list containing options. incorrect. “That doesn’t seem like a good idea if we want statistical learning to take place,” says Almond. This strategy, he says, will only confuse students.

“Must do better”: how to teach boys to accept your feedback

Mark Roberts, an English teacher, writer and director of research at Carrickfergus Grammar School, says research shows boys tend to receive a lot more “negative management feedback” from teachers.

“Put simply, it’s the kind of feedback that the presentation obsesses over,” says Roberts. “Things like spelling, punctuation, and grammar, even though they’re not the focus of the lesson.”

He believes teachers need to be aware of the impact this type of feedback has on boys’ desire to learn.

“Research shows very clearly that when boys receive this kind of feedback, it not only impacts their motivation, but it also harms their long-term relationships with their teachers,” Roberts says. Research shows that girls reacted similarly to these types of comments.

Roberts recommends shifting the focus of the presentation to what will help them improve in future tasks. “Really think about how you communicate that and what kind of tone you use,” says Roberts. “Try to find the positives first.”

He suggests modifying the approach taken to correct spelling and punctuation errors. “You can do it in a way where you can have a little fun, so it’s less about them as individuals and more about the learning process.”

When providing feedback, it is important that teachers make it clear that there is care behind them. “Once students know you’re doing it in their best interest, it creates a safe environment where they aren’t afraid to make mistakes,” he says.

Responding to the needs of refugee children: “Welcome flags or signs can be very performative”

Annie Asgard, primary school teacher and president of the English Language Support Teachers’ Association, has spent much of her career focusing on how schools can meet the cultural and linguistic needs of refugees and asylum seekers .

Asgard, adviser for primary EEL (English as an additional language) with the Professional Development Service for Teachers, says schools can improve this response by demonstrating “cultural humility”.

“For example, if you have a lot of flags in your school, or a lot of welcome signs in different languages, or if you have an intercultural day, it can sometimes become very performative, it ticks a box,” says Asgard.

Schools can adopt a “culturally competent mindset” by engaging with the multicultural nature of their community in more tangible ways. Asgard suggests learning phrases for welcoming new parents, translating registration forms, and being aware of different cultural events and holidays.

“Then we move into cultural humility,” Asgard says, “which looks at the big picture of myself within that structure of a school and how does that family or that child fit in terms of power differential that exists?”

Asgard suggests that schools can do this by reflecting on how they reacted to newly arrived Ukrainian students.

“The principal or teacher may ask them to pose in a video to promote the inclusiveness of the school,” says Asgard. “How are they able to say no?” Schools, she says, need to ensure that there is ongoing reflection on why they are doing something if they wish to practice cultural humility.

Schools must also have ongoing engagement with families and communities to be truly culturally appropriate, Asgard says.

“They’re integral to developing understanding and recognizing that we can’t generalize about a group of people,” Asgard says.

Learning by YouTube: “Time is running out”

Olivia Derwin, a post-primary biology and science teacher at Skerries Community College, Co, Dublin, has been creating video lessons since 2015. They are intended, she says, to serve as tutorials for students who may have missed content, or Finding it difficult.

One of the best platforms to use — because students use it all the time — is YouTube, says Derwin, creator of tthe Biology Bugbears course video series.

“Research indicates that the video should be no longer than six minutes and ideally if you could break your topic up into a number of shorter videos, no longer than three minutes, that would be great,” says Derwin, “those where I made them very short, views and likes go through the roof.

Derwin advises teachers not to change their voice or alter their accent. “The biggest thing that turns teachers off is their own voice. Smile when you speak, as it will make your voice more pleasant,” says Derwin, “but keep your accent.”

The videos helped Derwin evaluate and reflect critically on his own teaching. “It helps the students, but it helps you see what you said. You [might] think you have explained something very clearly when in fact you have not.


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