Redefining approaches to homework.

Today one of my colleagues sent out a virtual presentation encouraging the staff at school to reflect on their approach to setting homework at our school.

Having just read the homework policy to my tutor group I had already begun to consider my own homework which is set at ‘the discretion’ of the teacher and is based on the students learning needs.

Our department, in the middle school, use drama books with key questions and exercises set out for the students to complete. I have been finding it difficult to maintain integrity/motivation in myself with setting the homework in these books. They are well structured and the layout supports learners with difficulties structuring their own work, which is a good thing. However I feel that they reduce the creativity of work I can set the students. There isn’t as much chance as I would like to create homework which reflects on ‘the moment’ created in the drama room; rather they are an excellent tool for ‘capturing’ knowledge and reflection of the work done.

Four key questions are posed in the presentation in terms of students homework:

  • Are they being creative?
  • Do they have choice?
  • Is their homework authentic in the wider world?
  • Does it engender a spirit of curiosity?

There are questions in the educational community at the moment about the need for homework to even exist. There is debate that instead the students should use this time at home to reflect, recharge and re-energise for the following day.

I think this is an interesting question but I wonder, especially given the technological distractions at home, how much reflection would take place without the boundaries of homework. I wonder instead what would be the impact of replacing highly structured question and answer homework with open, unstructured refection where the students are asked simply to reflect on their day… or using deep speak questions to encourage authentic reflection.

I really enjoyed reading the table of ‘alternative homework’ in the presentation which offer more creative solutions to traditional methods of checking homework. For example when asking the students to read a passage (or in our case a play) instead of setting the group tasks/questions to assess their understanding of what they have read, ask them to email in questions they have on the play, to the teacher before the class. This can be followed up by sharing of responses in class to deepen, authentically, students understanding of key concepts/elements of the play.

I have asked for homework to be added to our next team meeting to discuss with the department how we feel our homework set has choice, creativity, curiosity and authenticity. I have also started to use deeper thinking questions with my classes in their reflections. This is helping them to think more about the work as an authentic learning experience.