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Getting Homework Back on Track: A Case Study

By: Kate Simpson BA, MA - Updated: 23 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
Homework Problem Homework Troubles

Homework helps students to develop as independent learners, teaches them time management and organisation skills and acts as a bridge between the home environment and the school room. So what happens when a student begins to lack motivation and homework assignments go uncompleted? How can students and parents work together to remedy the situation? Rose Stroud, aged fourteen, struggled with her homework schedule for around six months but, together with her mother Yasmin, got things back on track.

Rose, can you tell us about the difficulties you were having with your homework?

R. It all started when I moved up to secondary school, really. I suddenly started getting a lot more homework than at primary school. I wasn’t used to having a different teacher for each subject and I was studying a lot more subjects than I had been the year before. Some nights I didn’t have much homework at all but on others I had far too much too handle. I found it all quite overwhelming and I suppose I gave up. I stopped trying to hand work in on time. I either wouldn’t do the work or I’d copy from a friend at break time.

So how did falling behind with your homework affect your progress at school?

R. I started to feel lost in lessons. Quite often, teachers would set us tasks to help us prepare for the next lesson, so I ended up feeling pretty clueless. I was always getting told off and for a while I gave up trying in class too.

Yasmin, what was your experience of that period of time?

Y. In many ways, I felt hopeless as well. I’d ask Rose if I could see her homework diary but often she didn’t write tasks down which meant I had no reliable way of keeping track of her homework schedule. I knew something was up so I called the school and made an appointment with Rose’s tutor. She helped us to turn things around. She arranged for Rose to get her homework diary signed by each subject teacher, to show that they had checked that she had written down any homework tasks and handed them in. I then signed the dairy each evening and her tutor signed it each morning. That one small step made a huge difference.

What other steps did you take?

Y. Rose and I had a serious talk about copying homework. She agreed that it was a waste of time because nothing can be learnt that way. We talked about the benefits of completing homework and created a quiet area in corner of the sitting room where she could concentrate. We would have a quick chat about each of her homework tasks and together we would think about when each as due in and when it would be wise to do them. There’s no need for that now as Rose has learnt to manage her own time and is a real homework whizz these days.

Rose, how do you feel about your homework now?

R. I don’t think anyone loves homework but I suppose I do enjoy aspects of it now. I’ve noticed that I keep up far better in class now that I’m putting in the work at home. I like doing personal research, particularly when we have to present it nicely. Recently, I made a leaflet about Australia. The homework project was spread out over three weeks so I enjoyed getting my teeth into it and I was proud of my work at the end. Maths homework is my least favourite, so I do that first to get it out of the way!

Of course, every family’s experience of homework troubles is unique. Despite this, there are key steps that can be taken to turn the problem around. Communication is vital. Parents should talk to their children about their workload and encourage them to manage their time independently. They should also get in touch with a teacher to voice their concerns and agree a plan of action. Whilst homework isn’t a firm favourite amongst students, if approached with enthusiasm it can be a source of enjoyment and pride.

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