Homework is loved by some, loathed by others (and that’s just the teachers). History teacher, Emily Folorunsho, makes the case for homework and how it could be implemented in your department too.

In some schools, there has been a decline in homework being set, due to the increased workload it brings in terms of marking, chasing students and setting detentions. However, there are tremendous benefits that homework can bring and there are ways to work around some of the issues it can have on teachers’ workloads.

When I think of my own education and the most effective teachers that I had, they all set regular homework and ensured it was done. To master anything in life we need hours of practice therefore I am here to make a case for homework as it ensures that students get the opportunity to further practice what they learnt in school.

What does research say about homework? Inner Drive stated that Students who were set regular homework by their teacher performed significantly better than those who were set it occasionally.’ It also found that The frequency that homework was set was found to be more important than the amount of time students spent on it.

Research has also shown that doing homework independently encourages autonomy, which has been linked to developing self-regulation. The Education Endowment Foundation has also found that homework has a positive impact (on average +5 months) particularly with pupils in secondary schools. It was also found that homework that is linked to classroom work tends to be more effective.

In particular, studies that included feedback on homework had higher impacts on learning. This is why at KS4 & 5 we set students exam questions to do for homework, as they see it as worthwhile due to further practice and the feedback they know they will receive, as it provides students with further practice in terms of exam technique and structure, as well as application of knowledge. (It is important to note that students also have the opportunity to practice writing in exam conditions during in-class assessments which act as our summative assessments.)

The EEF also found that The quality of the task set appears to be more important than the quantity of work required from the pupil’. There is some evidence that the impact of homework diminishes as the amount of time pupils spend on it increases. The studies reviewed with the highest impacts set homework twice a week in a particular subject.

As we can see above, homework is important. Tom Sherrington writeshomework is a vital element in the learning process; reinforcing the interaction between teacher and student: between home and school and paving the way to students being independent autonomous learners.

What is our intent for setting homework in my department?

We want to use homework to enrich, consolidate and give students the opportunity to practice knowledge & skills they have gained in lessons. We plan homework into the design of our curriculum. We also want to use homework as a means to nurture a love for History.

Particularly at KS3, we want homework to build discipline among our students so that by the time they reach their examination years they have developed the skills and characteristics required for learning independently at home.

Furthermore, the building of students’ historical frameworks and their sense of period, to enable access to future learning has been disrupted due to covid; therefore, our hope is that our homework booklets at KS3 will fill in those gaps and strengthen studentssense of period.

Implementation: How does my History department set homework?

KS3:

Homework booklets which compromise of the following tasks for the whole year for each unit:

  1. Scholarship Reading
  2. Meanwhile elsewhere tasks

3. Revisit tasks: Quizzes

4. Improving assessments

5. Revision tasks/explicit practice of study skills

We set a variety of tasks within the homework booklet as research has stated that pupils… want interesting, challenging, and varied tasks that are clearly defined and have adequate deadlines.

KS4 & KS5:

1. Show My Homework quizzes

2. Exam questions

How have some of the issues of homework been combatted?

Many teachers are less inclined to set homework due to the problems that are commonly associated with it. However, I have identified some of those issues below and provided ways in which I have attempted to combat these issues in my own classroom.

Issue 1 – The disadvantage gap

It is common knowledge that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have a quiet working space, are less likely to have access to a device suitable for learning or a stable internet connection and may receive less parental support to complete homework and develop effective learning habits.

These difficulties may increase pupilsabilities to do homework and do it well. As a result, these are the ways in which we have tried to combat the issue and close the disadvantage gap in our department:

KS3: Students with a physical booklet do not require a computer or the internet as all the information they need to be able to do the tasks are within that booklet.

KS4/5: Show My Homework quizzes need an electronic device and a reliable internet connection. However, students know they can come up at break, during lunch or after school to the History rooms to use either a device or facilities in the school library.

Furthermore, when writing exam answers we enforce that all answers should be handwritten therefore a device is not required.

Issue 2 – Marking

Another reason why some are hesitant to set homework is due to the marking load implication. However, there are ways in which we can work around this as we can  see below:

KS3: Homework is commonly self or peer-marked at the beginning of the lesson. However, if I do not have time for this, I would live mark studentshomework whilst they are working independently on the main task.

KS4/5: Quizzes are marked by Show My Homework and students get to see what score they achieved automatically, accessing immediate feedback. I always check who got the highest in the class and then I reward them accordingly the following lesson.

Nevertheless, Exam questions are marked by teachers to provide detailed feedback on their application skills of the knowledge. I work in a school whereby departments get to set their own marking policy under the three pillars of quality presentation, feedback and response.

In my department, as HOD I have banned the marking of classwork but what must be marked is all exam questions and assessments. As a result of a workload-friendly policy, marking exam questions done as part of homework does not act as an additional load.

Issue 3 – Chasing students up & setting detentions

Chasing students that have not done homework is my biggest bugbear however there are ways we can minimise the chasing and the consequence implication of not doing the homework.

In my school we have centralised detentions, which means individual teachers do not need to use their own time to conduct a detention. If your school does not have a centralised detention system maybe have a departmental centralised detention, whereby each person each week conducts the detention.

We used to have departmental detentions before our school adopted centralised detentions, which work perfectly.

Issue 4 – Lack of motivation & discipline

If we can deal with the problem of lack of motivation, then issue 3 almost becomes non-existent. Being able to do work at home is a key skill students need to develop, there will be times in their career whereby they will need to finish off work at home.

However, they will be more inclined to do this due to the reward of pay at the end of the month as well as having greater maturity. Nevertheless, at this present time students need to be able to practice delayed gratification and know that the feeling of motivation may not always be present but that is when discipline kicks in.

Discipline is doing what you know you should do in the absence of feeling motivated. But how can we help students become more disciplined & motivated to do homework? I believe it is in helping students build good habits. Here are a few tips that I got from Harry Fletchers book: Habits of success:

How to encourage students to start?

  1. Give clear instructions that make starting sound easy
  2. Help students commit to a plan of doing homework by planning WHEN and HOW they will act e.g. I will do homework immediately after school. I will study alone in the school library or join homework club. If I am invited to go out and see my friends, I will wait until have finished my homework. I will share this plan with my parents to keep me accountable.
  3. Share models e.g first examine the model, then see if you can do the similar task.
  4. Set a default e.g if you are unsure about what to do then use your how to guide.
  5. Revisit past successes e.g your homework task is almost identical to what we did in class today, the one where you got all the questions right.

Once you get them started how can you keep them going?

  1. Highlight intrinsic rewards e.g what has been satisfying in completing your homework
  2. Surprise students with rewards e.g giving students merits/points for the habit of completing homework.
  3. Build a community through collective activity e.g celebrating when 100% of the class has completed the homework.
  4. Empathise students success and its significance e.g asking students what they achieved this term as a result of completing homework and how its increased their progress in your subject
  5. Check what the barriers are to give a more targeted form of solution

In conclusion, although there are recognisable barriers in the setting, completing, and following up on homework there are ways we can dismantle these barriers. Homework is worth setting, reflecting upon & refining and is a vital component in every curriculum.

Author

Emily Folorunsho is Head of History in an inner-city 12 form entry school in London and is also a Lead Practitioner, SLE and governor. Emily co-authored the Collins Black British History Teacher Resources and is passionate about promoting diversity in the curriculum and making History meaningful and relevant to students.

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