Rethinking Homework

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Unless you are working in one of the small minority of schools currently
trialling removing homework, you will be obliged to design, set and
moderate meaningful homework tasks as part of your weekly planning. It is
easy for teachers, parents/carers and pupils to fall into a negative mindset
when it comes to the ‘h’ word and presume that life would simply be better
without it. However, with a little bit of rethinking and consideration of
purpose, outcomes and creativity, homework can become a valuable and
even enjoyable tool for learning. Here are a few questions to ask yourself
as you plan your homework tasks over the coming term:

1) Could homework in your department be wholly or partly centralised?
This is a risky suggestion as autonomy and creativity are such crucial
elements in outstanding teaching, however there may be times when
homework tasks can at least be suggested or pooled within the resources
for a scheme of work to allow all members of the department to at least
have a starting point from which to work.

2) What is the purpose of the homework task?
Getting the purpose right and sharing it is absolutely crucial for everyone
involved. Is it a project, preparation, revision, learning or research task?
You should be able to identify the purpose of every homework task you set,
otherwise it is literally a waste of time to both set and do it. It is usually
helpful to share this purpose with the pupils too (and if you use an online
homework platform this is also shared with parents/carers automatically
too). Most of us need to know the value and purpose of a task in order to
fully buy into it and children are exactly the same.

3) Does it have to be marked?
Once you’ve established the purpose of the task, you need to decide on its
exact structure. Do you really need to set an essay question every week
which massively increases your workload? Or could another task which can
be easily checked take its place some of the time? If you do have a
homework sharing platform, it provides a wonderful opportunity to have a
glance at what types of tasks other staff are setting and may provide you
with some marking-light ideas. Alternatively, a good old-fashioned
conversation with a colleague is just as effective!

4) Are you setting a variety of tasks?
Following neatly from question 3, it’s good to remember that most people
become easily bored by repeating the same task over and over and over
again. Try to ensure a variety of tasks for your class which allow for
different learning styles.

5) Who are the pupils that could struggle with this task?
Before you click the ‘set’ button on your homework tasks, have a glance
down your class list for your key groups. How will SEND pupils cope with
the task? Do they need a little more scaffolding? Your SEN department are
a fountain of knowledge on these particular pupils and should be happy to
help you set appropriate homework. What about your more able pupils?
Are they getting enough challenge in the homework across a unit of work?
Do any of your pupils struggle to access a computer at home? How will
they cope with the turnaround time you have set?

As time goes on, these questions will become embedded in your homework
setting practice and you should see your engagement levels increase. Lots
of pupils enjoy homework when they know why it’s being set, when it is part
of a varied diet of tasks and when they are given adequate time and
opportunity to complete it to the best of their ability.

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