When it comes to education, two more “R’s” need to be added to the three of reading, writing, and arithmetic. These are repetition and reinforcement. Repetition is just the act of doing something over and over. It is the principle behind practice in sports. Reinforcement in education is when students are exposed to the same concept from different perspectives.
Almost all school text books are constructed to expose students to both of these ideas. Each section and chapter is designed to reinforce previous concepts by stacking the new material on top of what has been previously presented. By doing this, the curriculum writers intend that by the end of the book, materials covered in the early chapters will seem easy and second nature to the students.
Homework is the tool that the teacher uses to preserve what is presented in the text book and discussed in the classroom. If the assignments are made correctly, homework should both give the student the repetition needed to learn and cover enough variety to reinforce the learning. In arithmetic and higher math classes this is relatively easy to accomplish because the practice problems provided in the lessons give students vast amounts of repetition when assigned as homework. The key is that the student actually does the homework assignment.
In classes like those related to science, the repetition is achieved mostly through questions. The questions create thoughts so that the student has to go over the information again and again to understand it enough to uncover the answers. In literature, writing, and grammar, the same idea is put to work. By using the rules or examining the characters and situations, the learner is compelled to rehearse the material numerous times. Often, the same type of methodology is employed for history and government classes.
Beyond the mere act of repeating the same information or methods over and over, homework should extend the understanding of the material. It accomplishes this by using the same concepts in various applications. This reinforces the learning because it drives the student to understand more than just to memorize.
By doing homework each time the class meets, learning is not only increased, but its rate can be accelerated. Homework allows the student to master material faster so that new information can be introduced each class period. The key to successful learning is to do at least the homework assigned. Doing additional homework will only give the student an edge on higher grades and a shortened learning curve.