Is busywork bad?

We have been discussing the issue of "busywork" the context of our "Total Immersion Learning" aka

"unschooling" paradigm at home.

Figuring out what is best for our kids and their future is never easy.

And we're always trying to fuel the passion for learning for its own sake, but also know there is a bigger goal of preparing our kids for meaningful employment.

We were just talking about whether or not a a person can be prepared for a career without mastering the art of completing busywork and then this article was published last week.

Meaningful Busywork: Parsing the Oxymoron: The upsides and downsides of "busywork" by Christopher Taibbi tackles this question of busywork expertly.

Taibbi specializes in teaching gifted students and this question of busywork is a common one.

Parents: "Teachers need to stop giving my child boring busywork and turning them off to learning!"
Photo source
Teachers: "Kids need to understand that some work is tedious and not fun!"
Photo source

Taibbi agrees that some work that might feel like busywork is definitely needed to practice and acquire some skills.

But meaningful busywork has these characteristics (from what I gleaned from his article):

(1) Purposeful toward a goal that meets a need for the student
(2) Respectful*
      (a) Appropriately challenging, not something already mastered
      (b) Engaging
      (c) Honors the strength of the student

Taibbi posits that too much irrelevant busywork for the gifted student can lead to a vicious cycle of disenagement in which feelings of boredom become generalized to all schoolwork.

Since gifted learners tend to need less repetition to achieve mastery (depending on their learning modality and how the material was presented, e.g. visually, auditory, kinesthetic) their busywork can turn repetitive and have less purpose more quickly.

Hopefully kids, parents, and teachers can all work together to be on the same page!

*See  Carol Ann Tomlinson, How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms, ASCD, 2001.


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