The other day I had a Skype call with another teacher who works in a traditional classroom. Part of our discussion touched upon the challenge of getting adult learners to do their homework. I’ve personally worked with a couple stay-at-home mothers in the past, and those experiences led to some ideas for students with children. I’ve also suggested five ways to encourage adult learners to complete assignments.
Perhaps since my live instruction in recent years has mostly been one-on-one, I may have had an easier time getting students to do assignments. One factor is the pressure of being the only student. It’s their time, their lesson, and their opportunity. Also, I can really tailor an assignment to the individual’s needs, so the appeal is quite strong and the objective is clear.
Today I’d like to suggest we brainstorm a little more and generate additional strategies. Let me start with three ideas I have for making the assignments more doable in the first place. Please feel free to add on!
- Be flexible with the schedule. Some years my children have received weekly homework packets rather than daily assignments. As the one who coordinates all the family activities and appointments, I appreciate having the freedom to focus on different tasks at the times that are best for us. If you work with a group that meets a few times a week, are you able to assign tasks that can be done at any time during the given week? This kind of flexibility might increase with the use of digital resources. As an online teacher, I appreciate the convenience of apps and sites that allow students to do exercises and complete tests at their leisure (but by a deadline). Automatic scoring takes care of the feedback and scores can usually be sent to teachers who are registered. What sites do you know about? Some free ones include ESL Video, USALearns, and VocabularySpellingCity (my children’s school first introduced me to the free features on this site).
- Be flexible with the format. There are mobile devices for a reason. People today need to be mobile. How many of your assignments can be done via a cellphone, smartphone, or tablet? Tools like Twitter and Remind (Remind101) allow for text communication, so tasks can be assigned this way. In the case of Twitter, tasks can be assigned and performed on the platform. Also, consider assignments that must use a smartphone. With short tasks, can students have different options for submitting their work: writing by hand, emailing, perhaps texting (if no fees apply), or even sending a brief voice memo?
- Consider collaboration among students. Pair work and group work can strengthen a student’s resolve to get a task done. There can be support from one’s peers, but there is also some pressure to carry one’s weight. Can some independent tasks be a project that requires contributions from more than one student? I’ve shared pair activities in the past as well as group activities. Can a part of such an activity be done outside class?
Related link to post on how not to overwhelm students with a writing assignment.