A fortnight after my first Homework blog things have gone a long way and I have you all to thank for that. The support with questions made me delve deeply into the question of what Homework is and who it is for. It made me really think hard about what changes needed to be taken to improve it.
As much as I would like to scrap the whole concept of homework, it’s a fact that it is there in expectations from parents, a definite need with some students (basic literacy and numeracy) and in most schools it is part of policy. I find myself in the very lucky position of having a principal who is of a like mind and thinks a good homework task is sitting under a tree and jotting down your sights, sounds, feelings and experiences in preparation for crafting a piece of writing the next day.
So after my last posting I looked at the evidence, read and responded to comments and looked at my existing homework model. I shared the post with a colleague and we began the discussion around what we liked and disliked about the the homework – a good old PMI discussion over several coffees.
Positives included the more creative and reduced stress homework where activities in the community were rewarded and there were no fill the gaps worksheets or put you spelling words into sentences and we had tied the learning experiences back to the schools pillars of learning.
On the negative side we discovered that the way we had set out the tasks sometimes lead to the need to create tasks to make up the numbers. By setting them out under headings we had to make sure that there was enough tasks in each section and if one section was low the task that filled the gap was not always to the standard that we wanted. Secondly by working on a numerical point system we were facing the same problem as there had to always be enough points available to achieve the highest award.
The really interesting discovery happened when we had a parent evening about our homework programme. We put off handing out the new terms homework as it was still in development and held a parent evening explaining our reasoning around why there was not the traditional model. At the meeting we discovered that we had not keep parents aware of the thinking behind our different homework. We had introduced it 3 years ago, but then failed to reintroduce in the depth that it required to parents in subsequent years.
Now, other than reading, spelling and basic facts, the homework is goal based. We will unpack the homework in class over the next week and while younger students may work closely with parents and teachers to set their goals the older students will have the opportunity to take control of their learning.
While still falling under the umbrella of our pillars of learning, they are not specific to a set pillar and most tasks actually cover several pillars. The point system has changed from a set numerical goal to a percentage goal and with this we hope to remove the need for adding unworthy tasks to make up the numbers.
Lastly at the beginning of the homework sheet there is a brief synopsis about our homework and the journey that we have been on. We hope that this will get parents having a shift in thinking around homework and coming to us with their questions and wonderings.
So now we have released Homework 2.0 and hopefully fixed all the main bugs, but like Apple we are sure that there will be v2.0.1 sometime soon, as we are sure that there is still a way to improve it. As learners we know that what works for learners today will not always work for learners tomorrow.
Thanks to Jodie for joining me on this journey and hopefully we have made it better for our learners.