It’s another of those mornings in the classroom. An assignment that has been given several weeks prior is due, and when you walk around the classroom holding out an expectant hand to collect them, you find more than one-fourth of the class has not met the deadline. You get back to your desk and as the class settles down you take a quick inventory of what has been handed in. If you’re particularly lucky, most are in some sort of order, with title pages and names clearly marked, written out clearly or typed, complete at least in terms of major headings you had recommended. Some, even on cursory examination, are hastily put together with nonclear beginning or end, while others are just so perfect you know that an adult had a hand in them.
Homework and assignments are given for a reason. As teachers we know that, and perhaps the more enlightened students discern that too. But somewhere along the line, the benefit that is meant to be derived from classwork or homework remains unrealised. They become reduced to mechanical activities, often downloaded directly from the web or with very obvious adult assistance. The homework – or what passes for it – is just another manifestation of an educational system gone horribly wrong, where there is little or no understanding of what learning is all about, where the entire responsibility for transfer of content and skill is laid on the teacher. The student then is a passive recipient of teaching, not realising that a considerable effort has to be made if ‘learning’ is to happen.