Tonight’s 15 minute forum was led by Company Leader and history teacher Chris Runeckles. The session explored the idea of homework and how we can make it more meaningful for learning. The above quote is taken directly from the OFSTED handbook. Now whilst we don’t do things to satisfy OFSTED, it’s a pretty good summary of what homework should be doing. At Durrington, we have spent a great deal of time discussing what homework should aim to achieve and have come up with the following priorities:
- Homework should either embed, extend, improve or apply. It should not require learning without the input of a teacher before or after.
- Homework should be specific and work on the mastery of a particular skill or section of content.
- Feedback, and the application of that feedback, should always inform what homework is set.
Using these principles, each department has then set out what homework should look like in their subject, in their own subject specific policy. Rather than having a ‘one size fits all’ approach to homework, this allows subjects to decide what purposeful homework looks like in their subject. It does this by addressing the following points for each year group in that subject:
- What form does the homework take? e.g. worksheet; website etc.
- Where do they do it? e.g. exercise book; booklet; sheet’ online
- How frequently should it be done?
- How will students get feedback on it? e.g. teacher marked; self-checked; peer-assessed; computer checked if online etc.
We then wanted a method to log and share homework with students and parents/ carers. We decided to use the excellent SchoolApps Ltd to build us a bespoke website that would do this for us.
A key focus for us has been to make homework purposeful. In order to so, we think that homework should do at least one of these four things:
This provides teachers with a useful framework, when planning their homework tasks. Does it do one or more of things? If not, it’s probably worth thinking of another task.
We’ll consider each one in turn and look at examples of good practice, that have been shared on the connect website.
Consolidate learning that has taken place in the classroom, e.g. revision for assessment or learning key knowledge. We know that we need to come across information 4 or 5 times, if we are going to embed them into our memory. So, it’s worth setting some homeworks that do just this.
This is good for a number of reasons:
- It refers students back to a resource that produced in a lesson, that they will need to use to do the homework.
- It is very specific i.e. you need to learn 2 quotes.
- It also tells them that they will be tested on it…and when.
Refine and develop skills and knowledge learnt in the classroom based on feedback from the teacher, e.g. DIRT activities. This is demonstrated by these two examples from history and maths:
In the maths example, the student is reminded to look back over their notes from the previous lesson, to help them with the task.
Move the understanding beyond what has been achieved in the classroom, e.g. adding breadth to their existing knowledge. This requires care to do it well! There is a real danger that the student will just to Wikipedia and copy/paste large chunks of information – without really giving it much thought. So students need direction with it. Look at the example below from geography:
Ben has given very specific guidance about what extra information to find out e.g. find 3-5 places to stay; 3-5 places to eat etc.
Use learning from the classroom to complete a specific task, e.g. writing a practice exam question based on content covered in a lesson. This is a common homework as we approach the summer exams – useful too as it provides students with the opportunity for exam practice. However, done well this requires specific feedback from the teacher, as it’s vital students know when and why they have lost marks.
Both of these examples give students very specific ‘feedforward’ before they attempt the questions e.g. ‘include all your reasons why?’; ‘do not smudge your pencil with your fingers’.