In our own household, I confess we do a great deal of hand-holding, especially with Older Daughter (now in her first year of high school at Friends Omphalos.) She needs a lot of help to get through her assignments, which often look like this: "Here's a whole bunch of material. Figure it out." Typically, she has no idea how to begin these projects, and the prospect fills her with dread and anxiety.
When Older Daughter was younger, she made a bunch of claymation videos. Did I hold her hand? Not a bit of it -- I got her some modelling clay, lent her my camera and tripod, and let her have at it. Did we have to hold her hand to get her to read Harry Potter, or watch Doctor Who? No.
It seems to me the missing link is intrinsic motivation. If Older Daughter is genuinely interested in something, she tackles it head-on, no problem. If it's an assignment from school, designed and imposed by the teacher, with the looming threat of grades, she balks at the starting gate.
Teachers need to recognize the powerful demotivating effects of assignments and grades. It's not reasonable to ask students to behave as if they're intrinsically motivated while you're wielding the grade book.
As Alfie Kohn, whom I agree with sometimes, says here: Education's Rotten Apples:
Grades almost always have a detrimental effect on how well students learn and how interested they are in the topic they're learning.I count myself lucky that in both my teaching efforts this year, tutoring math and teaching catechism class, I don't give grades.