Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Self-correction for homework

Great Dr. Kathie Nunley shares the following:

TEACHER TIP # 1: When assigning math problems for homework, always send an answer sheet too. Have students self-check after every problem or two. Doing 20 - 30 problems incorrectly and not knowing until the next day, does more harm than good.
(You too can send your favorite teaching tip at

I'm convinced this tip applies not only to math problems, but to any process in which logics is involved (for instance, grammar practice, many cases of word formation, stress patterns). However, I've learned through several discussions in staff rooms that practically all of my colleagues believe asking students to self-correct their homework will simply lead to cheating or lack of purpose for homework in the student's eyes.

I believe it's all up to how you deal with the following session. Of course, the idea is not to go over the homework asking for the answers, but to ask students to share which they got wrong, and account for their mistakes. "What if they say they faced no difficulties?" many teachers may ask. In that case, I can simply ask them to take turns to discuss how they got to the right answer in the cases I consider worth discussing! ;-)

To encourage self-correction is, in my view, a perfect way to foster autonomy among our learners, and I can honestly tell you it's always paid off in my classes... Now, what has your experience been?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

On discovery learning and giving students choices

Kathie Nunley reports:

HOT TOPIC # 1: ...A new study compared unassisted discovery to explicit instruction and then compared assisted discovery techniques to explicit instruction and other teaching methods. They found in the 580 classroom comparisons, that unassisted discovery does not benefit learners. Classrooms which allowed enhanced discovery, using feedback, worked examples, scaffolding and some explanation were most successful in learning outcomes.
Alfieri, L et al. (2010). Does discovery-based instruction enhance learning? Journal of Educational Psychology, (Nov issue preview).

HOT TOPIC #2: More research now out supporting the perception of student choice in classroom assignments. In this study, half the classes received a choice in their homework options, half did not. In the following unit of study, the options were reversed. Results show that when students received a choice of homework activities, they reported higher intrinsic motivation to do the homework, were more likely to complete the homework, felt more competent in the work, and performed better on the unit test.
Patall, E. et al. (2010). The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol 102(4), 896-915,

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