What parents need to know
The literature regularly highlights that students (of any age and stage of schooling) tend to rely on the low-utility triad of cramming, re-reading and rewriting notes.
Students will rely on these default strategies because they:
- Are easy to use
- Require little effort/thought in getting started
- Symptomatic of poor planning and time management skills
- Have the appearance of doing something but are doing little as all require little real effort.
The low-utility triad typically gains a foothold in the early stages of secondary schooling. They worked for students for assessments and curricula that required low cognitive demand. However, the inconvenient truth is that these low demands mean that any strategy would work. As a result, any success creates an illusion of learning and a false perception of their efficacy.
As students progress through their schooling, both the assessment and curricula demands grow, and the low-utility triad’s efficacy unravels. Despite experiencing difficulties with increased demands, many students persevere with what has worked for them in the past. Furthermore, the continued use and reliance on these low-utility strategies require students to invest more and more time to achieve commensurate learning gain. This increased time investment becomes too great for students as they struggle to balance increased academic commitments with social, sporting and work endeavours. Collectively, these various factors pool together and are a crucial contributor to the increased incidence of academic disengagement, stress and failure.
How can parents help?
The Toolkit aims to present students with reliable, high-utility strategies to build their academic competence. The toolkit strategies represent the most efficient, effective and reliable study strategies. Importantly, students are more likely to engage in those learning behaviours that will build their self-efficacy through their application. As their self-efficacy grows, students are more likely to put forth the effort and persistence, moderated by critical emotions, to become more resilient learners. The aim is to build these behaviours and traits throughout their schooling to better place our learners to absorb, circumvent and work through the various challenges and situations.
Difference between Homework and Study
Homework and Study Many students and teachers often prioritise homework tasks at the expense of studying; however, homework is a study component. The purpose of homework should be to consolidate the material covered in that day’s lesson. While consolidation is an essential element of the learning process, it is not enough to build the requisite knowledge frameworks for establishing deep and flexible understanding. Homework, focusing on the short-term retention of work covered that day, is an example of massing or cramming. If the set homework does not enable concepts to be connected and retrieved over time, the invested effort and time can derive limited long-term benefits.
For homework to better aid the learning process, the integration of spacing and retrieval practice can have significant benefits. Homework must be more than a compliance mechanism that sees students complete a set task.
The characteristics of effective use of homework within the notion of study include:
- Ensuring that the work taught in class is understood, learnt and practised
- Giving practice that connects previously learnt material
- Providing time for reinforcing the basics such as memorising facts and applying formulas and simple processes
- Providing time for retrieving knowledge already gained to test one’s understanding
- Providing the opportunity to learn to work alone, struggle with academic problems and learn academic self-discipline (although some aspects of study may be better suited to small groups)
- Revealing gaps/weaknesses in knowledge and understanding early. Early identification of minor gaps in knowledge and understanding is more likely to circumvent later issues.