The future of homework design? A lesson from history…

This following post is going to be the first of many posts by Wilmslow High School’s teachers, showcasing great practice from across our teaching community.  Thanks to the WHS History department, in particular Helena Clarke and Andy Ingham, for sharing their new Year 9 homework design and their rationale behind it.  If any teachers, both within and outside of Wilmslow High School, have any thoughts, feedback or ideas on how to improve our students’ homework experience we would love you to share them through commenting below.  Over to Helena…

We are currently trialling a new style of homework design for our Year 9 history students. After being passed some action research on providing more choice for homework, Andy Ingham and I formulated the sheet below:

We felt that with a chronological framework to our current scheme of work it would be difficult to have a totally free choice of homework for a half term, so we have set tasks according to the areas being covered. We know from current practice that offering students a choice of tasks often yields pleasing results.

Our current aims are to increase engagement with homework tasks, raise the quality of  homework being submitted and encourage students to stretch and challenge themselves through independent study.

There are a couple of compulsory tasks, but most weeks there are at least three choices of homework with each allocated a number of points.  If the homework is not completed to a personally high level, no points will be awarded.  Vitally, the success criteria for each piece of homwework is shared with the students beforehand.  Students must achieve 25 points by the end of the cycle – this has been calculated so that they cannot always choose the perceived easiest task. Students who significantly exceed the points target will receive some form of reward (to be decided).

Initial reaction from our young historians has been very positive. One of my students has completed all three homeworks on triangular trade and I have been impressed by the thought the students have put into their mini museum exhibits. The interesting observation from the first couple of weeks is that only three students in my class asked for the lowest level task sheet. These students feel that they are taking the easy option, but this is a homework which some students not keen on writing too much normally find quite challenging!

So, initial thoughts are very encouraging.  There will be a follow up post after the October half term to summarise our findings.

A great big thank you to Helena Clarke for being WHS’s first guest blogger on ‘Lookout for Learning’.  Keep your eye out for more action research from across our teaching community.

8 thoughts on “The future of homework design? A lesson from history…

  1. Hi all.
    Looks like a well planned homework schedule with plenty of choice. I quite like the way you’ve accepted that sometimes, there have to be set tasks that everyone does.
    I’m pretty sure you’ll find that the points system works well.

    Any chance of a word version I could share with my history faculty?

  2. I really like the idea of providing students with so,e freedom and choice. I have been doing something similar in my classroom this year and I have been so impressed with the ingenuity and creativity of the students.

  3. Another great way to differentiated homework yet challenge at all levels. Are the tasks set each week as in TASK 1 = First homework TASK 2 = Second homework etc. Do you give the pupils the whole sheet and then each week/ or when setting homework say right this week is task (….).

    Kind Regards

    • Both English and history students get an A5 copy of the homework tasks to glue inside their classwork book. These are just trials at the moment. If they are successful (increase in the quality of work produced and engagement with homework) we will share with all departments. The history department are slightly more prescriptive of which task to complete and when due to the way their schemes of learning work. The English department allow their students to choose when and which tasks to choose at any point. As noted in the post, some students do all the homework in the first couple of weeks so they can organise their learning for when it suits them. Both departments encourage extra students to complete extra homeworks to stretch and challenge their students if they have finished the required amount. Hope this helps!

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