Homework – What does that mean exactly?

The following is an extract from a post written by Scott Thornbury, who is an internationally recognized academic and teacher trainer in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT). Some time ago he explained his feelings regarding ‘Homework‘ or as he calls it ‘out-of-class-work.’

How important is homework? – Scott Thornbury

Scott Thornbury


Scott Thornbury

March 5, 2012  Posted in: Homework

‘Two or three hours of English is just not enough. Even studying in a classroom for several hours a day, you’re unlikely to achieve a high level if you do nothing in between.

As Leo van Lier put it, ‘The students’ minds must occupy themselves with the language between lessons as well as in lessons, if improvements are to happen’.

Maybe what happens between lessons is as important – or more important – than what happens in them. Think of the classroom as a kind of ‘pit stop’ where learners come in to be re-fuelled and change their tyres. The real action is happening outside.

But I don’t like to call it ‘homework’. To me it’s more like ‘out-of-class work’. Or ‘between-class’ work.  Confining it to the home is to limit it unnecessarily (not to mention all the negative connotations that are associated with the term ‘homework’).  We need to take homework out into the street.’

I decided to start working on this blog for this specific reason. I wanted to create a space where students could go for a ‘pit-stop’; to listen, read, watch and have contact with English. I’ve said to learners many times that they don’t necessarily have to use my blog per se, but the internet should be used to watch subjects that students could find interesting, such as 5 or 10 minute video clips, short articles, grammar exercises etc. Regular contact of this kind will aid improvement.

The video below is a pecha kucha presentation Thornbury recently did at a conference in Seoul.  His pronunciation is from New Zealand. Although the Australian and New Zealand accents are different they do have many similarities. He speaks quickly but clearly and as such it’s a good comprehension exercise. He talks about fundamental aspects of 2nd language learning. The ‘noticing‘ part is interesting with regard to homework and how it could be perceived.