Monday, January 22, 2018

I Still Don't Give Homework Anymore...

As we head into a new year many teachers are thinking about how to keep everyone happy around the issue of homework, and it's never an easy task.  We know from all the research that it doesn't really work and yet we still give it, either to keep the school happy or, more often than not, to keep the community happy.  It is seen as something that is expected and that if it's not given then the world may just come to an end!

I have also travelled this well-worn path, giving homework which I thought was engaging and spending hour after hour writing very specific feedback to each of my students about their completed homework.  Most of my class completed the work because they liked the messages I wrote - or so they told me, but was the homework really engaging and targeted to meet their individual needs? No, not really.  It was to a certain extent in terms of maths and reading but, overall, it wasn't. It was just given to meet expectations. To mark it thoroughly used to take me all weekend! Completely crazy!!

In about 2007 I started to really think deeply about what I was doing and started to have conversations with the students about what I could be doing better. I started to make small changes but it wasn't really until 2010 that the changes became big ones after listening to speakers such as James Nottingham talk about being prepared for learning prior to showing up in class I started to have a few 'lightbulb moments'.  The presentation below is the end result and explains what it's all about...

I Don't Give Homework Anymore - changing thinking to motivate and engage students, teachers and parents. from Justine Hughes / Deputy Principal/ Teacher

I first presented this at an online global conference - RSCON5 - in 2014.  I had at that stage been trialling this strategy in different formats with different age groups for around 3 years with success at all levels.  Engagement was much higher in class and parent/caregiver/whanau involvement was also much higher and far more enthusiastic. The learning became more relevant and students were achieving at higher levels.  It's all about being prepared for your learning and being actively engaged in that learning at all times.  There's no opt out.

One of the main questions I am asked about it is around the use of technology for families who don't have access to the internet or computers. I worked in a school where this was a concern but this didn't stop the learners.  They were coming to school earlier, (some had had issues with truancy up until then) and many were using the computers before school, at break times, staying after school while I supervised and I also gave them extra time in class.  All of this was so worth it as they became so passionate and enthusiastic about their learning.

This is just one way of changing things up and making a difference to the engagement of our learners. It's a way of making the issue of homework more relevant and meaningful and connected to real world learning.

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