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Why Students Hate Homework – And How Digital Games Can Help

Filament Games | Educational Game Developer

We’ve previously discussed how modern institutional K-12 education commonly instills fear of failure among students. This phenomenon – largely driven by the rise of standards-based testing regimes – has conditioned learners to fear being wrong, rather than viewing mistakes as a necessary step in the process of learning something new.

Homework assignments are a perfect illustration of this – typically, students complete this work at home, wait several days to receive feedback in the form of a rigid letter grade, then immediately move on to the next topic without any opportunity for reflection or revisions. In this sense, homework assignments serve as more of an assessment than an opportunity to learn – get the answer right on the first try, or receive punishment in the form of a bad grade. And no matter the outcome, it is likely that the class will quickly move on to the next topic.

In their video titled Education: An End to Fear – Why Students Hate Homework, YouTube Channel Extra Credits compares this approach to that of completing a challenging level or quest in a digital game. Rarely is failure permanent in the context of a video game – rather, games challenge players to learn from their mistakes, experiment with new solutions and tactics, and iterate until success is achieved. Extra Credits succinctly describes the two differing approaches to learning as follows:

Homework: “Do you know the solution?”

Video games: “Can you find a way to solve this?”

Clearly, the cycle of failure, feedback, and iteration made possible through video games is far more effective in helping learners develop a growth-oriented mindset – a key extension of teaching future-ready, 21st century skills like problem solving, creativity, and collaboration. In a recent blog post on the future of game-based assessments, CEO Dan White writes, “we can’t teach 21st century skills with 20th century pedagogies.” If this is true, then to help students learn to approach failure fearlessly, we must reevaluate how we teach and assess learning – and as Extra Credits argues in their video, digital games may be part of the solution:

More insights from our friends at Extra Credits:
Tangential Learning: What Can Commercial Video Games Teach Us?
Gamifying Education – How to Make Your Classroom Truly Engaging
Planet Mechanic Classroom Study