Homework : point and purpose

by Beth Hewitt

Homework: “Do we want them to do it because they are compelled to do it… or do we want them to do it because they are excited to do it?” (Claudia Pesce, no date)

What are the pros and cons of homework?

Pros

  • Homework has been statistically proven to raise academic achievement.
  • It helps to develop independent learning and problem solving skills, comprehending what is being asked of them, how they will plan their work and solve any problems.
  • It develops student responsibility, time management skills, perseverance, ability to prioritise, self-confidence and feelings of achievement.
  • It can develop and promote students’ talents and skills which they may not have learnt in school.
  • It helps teachers to determine how well pupils understand topics and thus can be used to influence the planning of future lessons.
  • It provides parents with an opportunity to find out what their children are learning in school.
  • It gives pupils the opportunity to develop their range of research methods through investigating new topics.
  • It prepares them for assessed work they may complete in Key stage 4 or 5 which requires them to be working independently e.g. controlled assessment.
  • It gives pupils the opportunity to demonstrate and practice skills learnt in class independently.
  • It can prepare pupils to future lessons by ensuring they are prepared for the next topic, thus broadening their knowledge and increasing engagement.

 

Cons

  • If too much homework is given it could affect students’ health and intrude on family life.
  • If homework is given which is inappropriate in terms of task or challenge, it may have little or no benefit to the pupil, and may actually decrease student achievement (Marzano and Pickering, 2007).
  • It may remove the enjoyment from tasks, for example, reading journals or logs may detract away from reading for pleasure.

 

Setting a good piece of homework:

Quality not quantity – plan homework tasks carefully to make sure that they will be effective and are worth taking the time to set and mark. Don’t set homework for the sake of it, if it has no benefit to the pupil.

Benefit/purpose – consider the reason you are setting the piece of homework, for example, it is needed:

  • To consolidate learning
  • To introduce new content to prepare the student for new learning to increase participation, engagement and success.
  • To conduct research to extend a pupils knowledge of a topic.
  • To revise, practice or memorise new skills and learning e.g. practice something they already know how to do independently to improve.
  • To use their knowledge and apply it to real life situations and problems.
  • To investigate own interests through giving pupils the opportunity to explore topics of their own interest, thus increasing engagement and enthusiasm for learning (From Good to Outstanding, 2013).

 

Suitability/appeal – Make sure you have created a homework which is pitched at the right level of difficulty, or provides a choice of challenge level. This increases the likelihood of students completing the piece of work. The aim is to achieve the right balance between designing a homework which most people can complete independently successfully, whilst still making the homework challenging enough to be interesting (Marzano and Pickering, 2007). Use Bloom’s taxonomy to guide any questions and tasks set, to help to differentiate the homework.

Ownership/choice – It is good practice to consult students in deciding what homework and how much they should do (Kohn, 2006). This can be achieved through offering flexibility in terms of the format students can complete their homework in, e.g. PowerPoint, poster, leaflet, radio script, menu, cartoon strip, facebook profile, blog, podcast, video, interview, mood board, board game, song, rhyme, poem, diary entry, story, question, quiz, advert, cake etc… This can also increase motivation, enthusiasm and promote creativity. Incorporating an element of choice of homework tasks can also give teachers a chance to differentiate and can increase the appeal of homework tasks. An example is setting core and optional tasks, the optional tasks being ones which are designed to extend and deepen knowledge whilst not being as crucial as the core tasks (From Good to Outstanding, 2013). Below are some example of choice homeworks.

Challenge menu: E.g. Green, red, blue and black ski slopes, menu A, B or C, or bronze, silver and gold, or beginner, intermediate and advanced..

menuhomework

Task: Choose a special diet e.g. lactose free.

Beginner

Make a list of foods a person with this special diet would not be able to eat.

Intermediate

  1. Make a list/brainstorm of 10 sweet and savoury dishes a person with this special diet would not be able to eat.
  2. Choose three of the dishes and show/explain how they could be adapted to make them suitable for a person with this special diet, e.g. “Swap the beef burger with a Quorn, soya, or vegetable burger to make it suitable for vegetarians”.

Advanced

Write a diary entry/blog/record a video diary as if you have this special diet – How is your day to day life affected by your diet? What impact does it have on your choices, for example if you eat out at a restaurant? What are the consequences if you eat unsuitable foods? What would be your perfect meal? How could adapt a meal to make it suitable for you?

Or…

Create a multiple choice quiz for your class mates to complete with questions about the diet, e.g.

Q: Which one of these foods can’t people with lactose intolerance eat?

  1. Vegetable cous cous
  2. Strawberry yoghurt
  3. Orange jelly

Prepare:

Share the success criteria with pupils to make sure they can achieve the highest marks/grade for their piece of work. You can even encourage students to create their own success criteria, or predict what you will be looking for in a good piece of homework. Make sure you set clear deadlines of when homework will be set and due in – you may which to share a term overview with them so they can be prepared for homework tasks.

Review/Reflect:

Ensure each task provides an opportunity for feedback for example, feedback from peers, the student who has completed the homework, and the teacher who has marked it. Review the homework tasks you are setting regularly in order to form a basis for adapting and improving tasks, for example, in order to gain pupils’ feedback on homework tasks you could give tasks a star rating for pupils to use to indicate how beneficial they’ve found the task (From Good to Outstanding, 2013).

References

From Good to Outstanding (2013) Ofsted 2013: Appropriate Homework. Available at: http://www.fromgoodtooutstanding.com/2013/09/ofsted-2013-appropriate-homework (Accessed: 2 September 2014).

Kohn, A. (2006). The homework myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing. Massachusetts: Da Capo Press.

Marzano, R.J. and Pickering, D.J. (2007) ‘Special Topic – The Case For and Against Homework’, Responding to Changing Demographics, 64(6), pp. 74-79.

Pesce, Claudia (no date) 5 Most Creative Homework Assignments: Homework That Works. Available at: http://busyteacher.org/4204-5-most-creative-homework-assignments-homework.html (Accessed: 2 September 2014).

 

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