With half term on the horizon, many teachers will be starting to think about the homework they are going to set for their students in order to keep their brains ‘ticking over’ during the holidays. However, there is much debate amongst educators as to the efficacy of homework. So, what does the research show us, and how can approach the homework that we set to ensure that it has the greatest impact possible on the learning of our students?
Research from the Education Endowment Foundation shows that, overall, homework does have a positive impact on children’s outcomes, with a positive impact of around 3 months for primary children and 5 months for secondary- these figures increase to around 6 months when the homework involves digital technology or requires collaboration with their peers. The research also shows that homework should be meaningful, linked to classroom learning and is best when the tasks are relatively short. Additionally, it has the biggest impact when meaningful feedback is provided for the work. The difficulty arises, however, when you consider the implications for students from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not have the same levels of support, materials or space at home, compared to some of their peers. This can make it more difficult for them to be able to feel the benefits of homework that has been set, and can cause added stress at home. It is important, therefore, that schools take this into consideration and offer support through things like homework clubs that students can attend out of school hours, where they can not only complete their work but can also receive adult support with it.
Ideas for Setting Meaningful Holiday Homework
Little and often: think about setting short 5 minute tasks that can be completed each day so that the support and space required for students is minimised. These are particularly useful for recall tasks, especially for subjects like maths or retrieval questions in reading.
Promote reading for pleasure: gives students a choice of tasks they can complete based on a book that they’re reading. These could include designing a new cover for the book, writing a review for it, writing a new ending or creating an advert to encourage their peers to read it too.
Technology: if your schools buys into learning apps, use these to set different tasks for them to complete. You could even get them to think about designing their own educational app where they think about the different types of questions and games that could be included for their chosen subject.
Set project based learning: This can be something that directly relates to and builds upon the topics that they have been learning in the previous terms, and could even be something that students could collaborate on (if they wish to do so).
Skills based: think about how any work that is set can build upon the skills that you have been practicing. By regularly practicing these, students will be able to further embed and retain their learning. For such tasks, think back to the ‘Little and Often’ principle: short bursts of regular practice are more likely to engage students and prevent a ‘loss’ of learning that can often occur during the holidays.
Answer Free Assignments: limit the amount of support that is required for students to complete their work at home by setting them tasks that already have the answers complete. For example, you can provide a set of maths questions that have already been answered correctly and the student’s job is to prove that answer is correct by using their mathematical skills and the methods they have been taught. If they do not reach the same answers, this will immediately show them that they need to go back and have a look at their working out. Or, for reading, you could provide comprehension questions that have already been answered, with the student’s having to use their text marking skills to show, explain and justify how those questions were answered.
Provide models: for any piece of work that you set, especially when they require certain skills or methods to be used, provide a model for students to refer to in order to limit the support they may require at home. If they are receiving adult support, this will also have the added benefit of ensure that they are using the same methods that you have been teaching, rather than being taught something new.