Tonight I had a brief and thoughtful conversation with a mother. This weekend, I watched over her house, her dogs, and her two sons. I’m not sure how we got on the topic, but it might have started with the topic of her children not having any homework for the weekend or her one son doing his homework on the bus ride home. Either way, we began discussing what happens when developing children are under-stimulated. It seems that like me (at that age and now), her youngest son, does not have what one might call the “best” studying habits.
Studying habits, what a great topic. Why should we study? How should we study? What should we study? Where should we study? Hell, should we study?
One of the key points she made was that there were times that her son lost points on exams simply because he would provide the answer without showing his work (perhaps because he just sees the answer … perhaps not). As I told her, I can understand his reasoning. As a youth I would often simply provide the answer to a problem, not understanding the need to demonstrate my methods for reaching the correct conclusion. Only later in life (and still) did I begin to understand the various reasons for keeping a record of the method. It is good to keep track of your work to be able to walk through it should you reach the incorrect answer (find where you misstepped) or to help others to see new ways for solving a problem. Most have seen this in the realm of science and mathematics, but because of my field of study, I have experienced this with my visual/spatial problem sets.
These “processes” tie back in to the idea of homework because homework is intended to stimulate our minds as we are developing. Should the teacher provide the same problem set to all the pupils then there will be a spectrum; some will find it terribly hard (over stimulating); some will find it moderately hard (stimulating); and, some will find it terribly easy (boring). As one of those who more often found myself in the later grouping, the only recommendation I can make for the system is to stop teaching to the middle. Nor can we segregate ourselves, because so doing is just as detrimental to development (as a society) as we tend to provide the best with better resources. If there is one problem in the realm of education that I wish to see resolved in this century … this is most certainly it.