DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: HOMEWORK

A major presence at this year’s Bett conference will be Show My Homework, where the online homework software will be announcing publicly, for the first time, their new partnership. Visiting teachers will be able to meet the Show My Homework team at Stand C449 from 20th - 23rd January at the ExCeL London. The company has been shortlisted for three Bett awards: ICT Leadership and Management Solutions, Secondary Digital Content and ICT Innovator of the Year.

Despite the frequent, outstanding advances in edtech we see daily, there are still certain areas of education that have stayed mostly unchanged for some time. Here, veteran teacher Jim Baker discusses the problem that he sees with the traditional lesson format, and how it can easily be changed for the better.

From my biography, you’ll see I’ve been in the classroom for 43 years so am speaking from first-hand experience, not to court votes or to agree with what is ‘flavour of the day’. My presentation ‘The Way Forward’ will give you an idea of what my passion is: to educate students into becoming independent learners. I don’t like the word ‘teach’ so I avoid it whenever possible. When asked my profession I say I’m an entertainer. Check out comment #42 in my guestbook by a former colleague back in 2005, who was pleased to see I was “still blurring the boundaries between teaching and entertaining”.

Homework is often an emotive and divisive issue in primary schools. How much is appropriate for a certain year group? What forms should it take? How much parent involvement is required? To what extent should it be tailored to individual children? And so on.

With flip teaching being discussed and debated frequently, different methods of employing homework are being looked at. A group of teachers are revolutionising the issue from a school in Desierto de los Leones, Mexico. Founded in 1963 by Welshman Edward Foulkes and Canadian Ronald Stech, The Edron Academy (an IB World School since 1995) is currently looking to get the most out of after-school exercises. Michael Flynn, an expat who used to teach in the UK, now teaches English at the Academy.

At the risk of sounding unprofessional, homework has always been a thorn in our side. The children dislike it, teachers can have workload issues around it, and both the school and the parents can have unrealistic expectations of it. It is an entity in which no one has a common opinion. It is also an incredibly emotive subject; if you open any teaching publication there are hosts of opinions for and against homework. In research completed in 2006 Cooper, Robinson, and Patall noted:

'With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant. Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement'

In order to test the hypothesis that omitting a grade when marking a student's work will ensure he or she pays more attention to comments and suggestions, Jon Tait conducts an experiment with his class and notices quite a distinct change in atmosphere when their homework is received.

For some time now I have been toying with the idea that grading student work might just be one of the biggest barriers to improving student performance. Sound strange? Let me explain.

My theory is that we have all been programmed by society to look for a grade, result or classification on anything important we do in life. This system informs us of our level of success. What we aren't good at processing, however, is appreciating what to do to improve.

Take for example your driving test – when you heard the words 'passed', did you pay any attention to your 'minor faults' or what you weren't that good at? Or did you just want to grab the keys and get going? My point is that students rely too heavily on their grades and view these with far more importance than their comments and suggestions for improvement.

When work is marked, it usually only includes a single grade with a sentence of constructive criticism. However, the benefits of using categorised marking ensures that the student is totally clear on where his/her strengths are, where they need to improve, where they lack understanding and any parts of the exam criteria that they have missed.

Using different colours or symbols will also ensure that students take more notice of specific comments as they are given a thorough analysis and a clear and plausible route for improvement. Who knew just one piece of work could hold so much insight?

Ah, the dreaded red pen. Students, parents and SLT often cringe at the sight of the red ink used by a teacher. Maybe because it's a symbol for blood?

I think it's more likely to be linked to the idea that teachers from a previous age would use just a red pen to mark work and would be likely to mark negatively; pointing out mistakes or circling poor work.

However, when a teacher marks their books now, they are usually (or hopefully) better trained into what marking works and what will benefit their students' learning.

Having students identify for themselves where they think they need to improve and then comparing this to their performance on a task will give an accurate insight into which parts of the criteria they do not understand how to satisfy. The teacher can then point this out and explain how it can be achieved. A good method to conduct this is by using 'predictive grids':

Too often, students see the grade that they receive and do not take enough notice into the written feedback that is given during marking. Dylan Wiliam's suggestion of not giving the grade to the students works but I've been wanting the students to engage with the success criteria when it comes to their exams and they really are incredibly motivated by seeing the grades, or even a number.

Something suggested by a colleague, which I've started to implement with exam classes, is 'predictive grids'. These are success criteria grids (usually using the exam board language as much as possible) which the students highlight according to what they think they achieved in the piece of work. This can either be done directly after the piece of work is finished or the lesson after which is what I usually prefer to do. When the work is marked, the teacher can then see where specifically the students are not achieving, but also see if the students know if they are not achieving in that particular area.

 

Isn't it curious that all of you and and all of your students use the internet daily but none of you exploit its potential for teaching, learning and creativity? Isn't it curious that schools force their students to inhabit this alternative reality for six or seven hours every day where the internet doesn't exist?

Earlier this week I led a seminar for PGCE students at Nottingham University on the use of the internet and its potential for encouraging pupils’ creativity. To start, I asked those present to put their hands up if they used the internet daily. All hands went up. I then asked them to keep their hands up if their pupils used the internet on a daily basis. After a moment’s thought, all hands stayed up.

However, when I asked the PGCE students – who had all finished their first teaching placement – to keep their hands up if they planned or been encouraged to plan lessons, sequences of lessons or homework that required the use of the internet, all hands went down. Isn’t it curious, I asked them, that all of you and and all of your students use the internet daily but none of you exploit its potential for teaching, learning and creativity? Isn’t it curious that schools force their students to inhabit this alternative reality for six or seven hours every day where the internet doesn’t exist?

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