Rethinking Homework Expectations

How can we set purposeful work AND support the reduction of workload?

A blog from Mrs Martin

At the end of last half term, I wrote about getting into good habits with homework.

Below is a reminder of the criteria I suggested with regards to setting tasks, focusing on work that leads to progress.

Criteria:  Purposeful; Progress; Positive Study Habits.

Below are some suggestions about what this might look like. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but hopefully gives some indication of how the criteria could be met:

Purposeful Progress Study Habits
Further, similar work to class work to consolidate a concept or method. Re-drafting work using feedback. Clear, defined deadline that is shared and stuck to.
Research to inform content in following lesson. Rehearsing skills with a set focus. Organisation/presentation expectations are explicit.
Revision of key knowledge with a set focus. Reflecting on strengths or weaknesses in work. Potential sources are shared to model research skills.

 

I still believe the suggestions above are worthy and purposeful tasks, but one further question has been on my mind recently- does all homework need to be marked?

This week I challenged a group of teachers about this after discussing top workload pressures, and presented them with (perhaps) a surprising response- ‘No’.

I’m not saying we should stop marking homework altogether, or ignore that pile creeping up if it would benefit from feedback, but I do think we should be aware of the time it takes to complete pointless marking (ticking; comments such as ‘Well done’ etc) and focus on marking work that will have an impact on progress. Lastly, consider ways we can shape tasks to ensure workload is manageable.

One way of supporting this is to simply set something that doesn’t require marking.

Here’s some suggestions as a starting point:

Knowledge Revision for Starter Test

Avoid “Revision (FULL STOP)” when setting this up as its definitely unhelpful, but what better way to check for understanding and the retention of knowledge then to test pupils in a low stakes quiz at the start of next lesson?

Top Tip: Be specific in what areas they need to revise; give suggestions of where they can independently find answers to any questions they may have; offer opportunities to check with you if they are unsure on a concept or method and set 5-10 simple questions that will challenge their understanding as your ‘Do It Now’ task.

 

Re-drafting Work (that you have already marked, or given feedback on!)

This is essential to consolidating good practice and to support pupils in a strong study habit of reviewing and refining their work.  There may be a piece of work you have recently marked, or have perhaps conducted whole class feedback on (or even peer or self-review in class), but importantly: if the pupil has the information to make changes, corrections or refine work to further their understanding then this is a worthwhile and purposeful task.

Should you mark it again?

I’d argue that there is more value in the pupil conducting a self-review at the start of your next lesson (another potential DIN task!) or even writing a comment after the re-draft that states the areas they have changed and why this work is now more secure (I’ve seen some teachers ask for the changed sections to be highlighted and annotated, which also works really well). The engagement the pupil has with the mark criteria and the specifics of their work has huge power.

Top Tip: This can work at KS3, but works especially well at KS4 and 5 where there are clear criteria (or a mark scheme) for the work that’s been marked.

 

Preparation for a Specific Task

This could be research, fact finding or pre-learning ahead of taught content (see ‘flipped learning’), but could also include tasks such as creating a plan or method ahead of an extended piece of writing, or experiment, or rehearsal…

Top Tips: Be specific about what you want pupils to bring with them. This strategy can be used effectively with the challenge of researching something useful to simply share in discussion- although there is less physical evidence of the work done. However, if you want the preparation to be referenced more thoroughly then be careful as to what this should look like.

 

If you have any other ideas that work well in your department, or might work across subjects, then please share!

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