As part of my push to drive the standards of homework setting and getting in my own classroom, I thought I would share Ten (10) reasons why you should love homework as a teacher.
The concept of homework will never disappear. For the past 2 years, I have set homework as a professional goal to improve in my own classroom practice. The reason for this focus, is that I’ve been teaching in 4-6 classrooms in each academic year and have been teaching in 2-3 subject-areas to help support the needs of students in under-allocated faculties. This is challenging enough, even without the demands of setting and collecting meaningful homework that contributes to learning and progress!
But, do your students value the homework you set?
The challenge of setting homework is ultimately about raising standards. It is about developing a quality framework for setting homework, linked to medium-term schemes of work. One that should also consider the actual process of how you set homework as a classroom teacher.
What homeworks below are ‘activity or learning’ focused?
- Which homeworks focus on learning?
- Which homeworks focus on recall or an activity?
- How could these homeworks be improved to grant equal access for all?
- How could they be modified from a ‘next-lesson collection’ to an ‘open-extended learning’ homework over 2-3 weeks?
- How would you make these homeworks more enticing for students at both ends of the academic spectrum?
4c: Teachers will plan and teach well-structured lessons. Teachers will set homework and plan other out-of-class activities to consolidate and extend the knowledge and understanding pupils have acquired. (England 2012)
10 reasons to love homework:
- Be different: Homework provides opportunity for students to continue learning at their own pace and provides varying levels of challenge. Offering different homework can be matched to extended learning time. Teachers should set differentiated homework and offer choice. This makes the outcomes even more exciting for you.
- Plan ahead: Homework enables students to develop self-regulation. Homework should always be planned and not a last-ditch attempt to fill up lesson time. It should never be used to meet the demands of a curriculum homework timetable or to appease parents. Plan homework with love and attention. If you value the homework, students will too!
- Get creative: Homework is all about timing. Set homework at the start of a lesson. This gives you the rest of the lesson to clarify gaps in understanding. Give students open-extended deadlines and offer more freedom for creative responses. Does homework always have to be handed in for the next lesson? Next week? And in one format? Really? … Homework give the teacher and the child the opportunity to be creative.
- Break down barriers: Homework builds a bridge between home and school. This link can (and should) also be between subjects, teachers and students. Consider linking up homeworks with other subjects across the school, so that medium and long-term planning is considered in all schemes of work. With careful planning, two teachers can have a two-pronged input which will lead to greater impact. Breaking down barriers to learning is why we teach, isn’t it?
- Consider environmental factors: Not every child will have the home environment to be able to complete homework safely, never mind complete homework to the required standard. Teachers and teacher clarity can make all the difference! If you can build in factors to compensate for poor socio-economic factors and entice students to complete homework whilst on school premises, bravo!
- Feedback: Homework should be marked (but not always) and students should receive feedback. Do not set homework if you are not going to mark it! And by marking I do not mean tick-and-flick. Consider setting less homework so that you can mark at a deeper level, and by setting reduced amounts of homework tasks, you give students time to redraft and act on feedback. Consider alternative ways of feeding back.
- Add capacity: Setting methodical homework around your schemes of work adds capacity to the learning process and enables students to build up their skills repertoire. Consider using SOLO taxonomy as the cognitive-process behind homework planning and setting.
- Think differently: How can homework involve individuals with their out-of-class-learning? In groups? Or to involve other teachers? Some of the attached stigma regarding homework is that homework does not add value. Some view homework as an inconvenience to teachers and that students have better things to do when at home. Yes, but [homework] doesn’t actually! Not if the homework adds value and is thoughtfully planned and assessed. Homework should relate to learning outside of school. Set (a wide variety) of homeworks that match student needs and interests. My solution is here.
- Make homework a valuable commodity: Homework echoes the values of you as a teacher and of the school. Make homework valuable and give students ‘high’ reward through hard work completed out of the classroom. This can be achieved through detailed feedback and meaningful dialogue that encourages the student to complete work and even re-draft it again. These conversations will instil values that we all aim to inspire in our students. Reward great effort too!
- Be reflective: If you manage to achieve all of the above, homework can offer a further opportunity for students to consolidate what they have / have not learnt. Give students time to complete homework well. Allow them to reflect on their work and self/peer-assess in and out of class.
“Homework which is planned is more beneficial than routine homework and not linked with what is being learned in class. It should never be used as a punishment or penalty for poor performance and that a variety of tasks with different levels of challenge is likely to be beneficial. The quality of homework is more important than the quantity. Pupils should receive feedback on homework which is specific and timely. Teachers should also ensure that the purpose of homework is made clear to children.”
(Source: Education Endowment Foundation)
With the above in mind, and it is just one source, the evidence suggests that a moderate effect on student progress can be made for very little cost. Using the 10 reasons I have listed above, may add even more.
What do you think? Only you will know what works in your classroom.
Leave a comment below.
*this is a blog and not a publication. Therefore it may contain factual and literary inaccuracies.