Just repeating something did not
automatically strengthen crucial
learning, students said. They also had
to pay attention to what they were
repeating, and how. Like hitting a
tennis ball again and again over the
net, effective homework asked students
to practice new skills and knowledge
as problems came at them in different
My economics teacher gave us worksheets
every night. I did the graphs so many
times, I know them backwards and for-
wards. With some subjects, you need the
repetition to really understand it, to be
able to do it any which way. —Bridget
Students often had the hardest time
engaging when teachers asked them
to learn information by heart. Memorization was easier, they said, if they
could connect material to something
meaningful to them. When Christian
Students realized that academic subjects could elicit the kind of absorbed attention they gave to favorite activities outside school.
In This Learning Situation…
Instead of This
You introduced new material
Assigning a question set so we
will remember the material.
Ask us to think up a homework task that follows up on this
material and to explain our choices.
You want us to read an article
before a class discussion.
Making us answer questions
that prove we read it.
Ask us to write down two or three questions we have after
reading the article.
You want to see whether we
understand a key concept
(such as literary irony).
Making us complete a worksheet.
Ask us to demonstrate the concept for the class in small
groups, using any medium.
You want us to see how a
math procedure applies in
Assigning 10 word problems
that involve this procedure.
Ask small groups to choose one word problem that applies
this procedure in a real-world situation, solve it, and present it
to the class.
You want us to memorize
facts (such as dates in
Handing out a list that we will
be tested on.
Ask each student to share with the class a memorization trick
(such as a visual cue) that works with one item on this list.
You want us to remember
what you taught last month.
Assigning a review sheet.
Give frequent short pop quizzes about earlier material.
Go over each quiz, but don’t count the grade.