Today’s Frustration: Why don’t students do their homework?

I am frustrated. Probably not the best time to write an insightful blog post, but I need to get this off my chest. And maybe your ELTers out there will have some calming wisdom for me!!

Today I went off to teach my (C1, EAP) essay writing class. We are doing ‘features of formal language’ at the moment, and they had had homework to look online or in relevant textbooks and find various tips for making their written language more formal and academic. The homework was posted on our online platform and had been there for two weeks (since last week as a kind of ‘half term’ holiday). My plan was for the students to share what they had found out, and to add any more points I thought were important, before practising identifying features of formal writing in an example text, and then writing their own text as homeork for next time. To my utter frustration, though, only about five of them had done the homeork, and about twenty had not. Of those twenty, about half had printed out the homework sheet but not done it, and the others hadn’t even downloaded the worksheet! So that was the lesson plan done for!! 😮

I gave them a bit of a pep talk, trying not to sound as angry as I felt, and then asked them for the honest reasons why they had not done the homework. Here’s what they said, well those that answered and didn’t simply stare at their desk/out of the window/into space!!  (Oh, and in brackets are my, often not said outloud, responses!)

I didn’t think to check the online platform (but we use it every week, and I even said at the end of the previous lesson that the homework was posted there…!)

–  I forgot to do it (really? although there is homework every week, and I reminded you last lesson?!)

The document wouldn’t open on my PC (OK, a problem, but not unsolveable – the uni has plenty of computers and printers you can use. And you could have emailed me about it and asked to have the document in a different format…!)

I thought it was a worksheet to do together in class (really? Although it was labelled on our online platform as ‘Homework’, with the information ‘Complete by week 07 and bring your notes to class?!)

– The homework is too easy, just repeating what we did at school, so I don’t feel that I need to do it. (This would be an indicator of bad judgement on my part, if only the student who had said it would prove that she could do these things by producing good written work or contributing insightful points to the lesson. Which she can’t.)

So what do you think, my dearest ELTers?? Am I over-reacting? Are these valid reasons? And how can I encourage them to do their homework and take it seriously in future?? Heeeelp!!! 🙂


5 thoughts on “Today’s Frustration: Why don’t students do their homework?

  1. Hey Clare,
    I know where you are coming from! I would be frustrated as well. Sometimes students just don’t do their HW. What can you do? They are adults. They know they should be putting in some work at home as well.
    Maybe next time you can get them to form study groups and do the work in pairs? I often even get mine to record themselves while they are in study groups and then we go over their HW/research process!! I have given candy and stickers to learners who did do their HW. I have told them how their HW connects to their studies etc etc. Sometimes they don’t care. You cannot win them all as they are big kids!!!
    I think it’s all about motivation. See what motivates them I guess, and go from there…..
    Good luck!!!!
    Get some cookies… they always help 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanna! It’s hard trying to treat them like adults and not like school kids when it comes to reward/punishment (Although they do seem to act like kids sometimes…!!) Hope today will be better…!! Clare

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not a teacher, but a student:
    In my opinion, ” I forgot to do it” is a valid reason because It’s not like you would forget things on purpose. And as long as the student won’t forget about the homework every time this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
    Another valid reason would be “I had no time to do it” or even “I don’t like the tasks. They seem to be unnecessary [and I have no time for that].”
    I myself am attending university classes four days a week from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. When I am home I have to to homework for every class. Most university lecturers expect their students to do their preparations for about two to three hours. As long as you are not a vampire (in this case you wouldn’t care if you had the time to sleep or not) this means very little sleep time. The remaining three days of the week I have to work part time. 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes even more. And because I am not able to say “no” to anyone, I end up helping friends (or even strangers) in different matters all the time, which is often also really time-consuming and exhausting.
    Sometimes I just can’t stand all this stress anymore, but there is nothing I can do about it.
    Except, well.. not doing all of my homework sometimes.

    (Of course I understand that you are frustrated. I myself are teaching German to two foreign students and I know that it takes a lot of time to prepare notes and working sheets and that it’s a pity if they do not use or acknowledge it. But why don’t you just continue your class with the people who did their homework?


    1. Thanks for your comment! It’s nice to hear a student’s view on things. I am understanding of the points you mention; it’s just frustraing when hardly anyone finds time to 30 mins of homework in 2 weeks and my lesson plan is based on that (so continueing the class with those who had done the homework, in this case, would mean kicking out 20 people and running a class with 6 students…!) 🙂


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