From September to December, Wilmslow High School’s history team piloted a new homework concept with their year nine classes. This concept was adopted to allow student choice and autonomy when completing on their homework which, in turn, hopefully encouraged students to take ownership of their home studies and increase the quality of work produced.
To get some background on how this little experiment was designed to work, please read Helena Clarke’s initial post from September 2012 here. Below is a picture of the homework sheet each student used to choose their history tasks from:
Now that the initial experiment is complete, Helena has now offered her team’s thoughts on this new homework process with one eye on its future development:
Overall the reaction from our year nines has been really positive. I was surprised that when I asked for feedback most of the class shouted out positive comments – a rare moment when linked with homework! The overwhelming message was that they really enjoyed having the choice of a variety of tasks. One student said that he preferred written tasks and found he was able to choose homework that played to his strengths. Commenting on the points system, where there was a target of points to be achieved, the students liked the challenge – many tried to beat the minimum points set. They said they felt motivated to push themselves more. They also liked the idea of being able to choose a shorter task on a week when they had a lot of other homework, so they could manage their workload more effectively.
In terms of our thoughts: I have liked the fact that they have a homework sheet in their books so it has taken less time to set tasks. I have been able to say that they need to choose from task 2 and then just quickly explained my expectations. When homework has been poor I have awarded less than the set points. I have also been pleasantly surprised by some of the quality of homework that was produced – not only by students I would expect but also from some of the quieter middling students. Andy also commented on some exceptional work he received on tasks that he would not have been happy to set for the whole class.
It did not solve the issue of engagement with homework for a couple of persistent offenders – but I didn’t really expect it to. It did provide a challenge and a variety of tasks and it was often more interesting to mark homework. We did give ourselves too much homework to mark and would balance it out with a little more time set aside for research. We would change some tasks that we felt did not yield positive results and we must be wary of using the same sheet year after year – it needs to be altered and kept fresh.
We are planning on designing another sheet for year nine after Christmas and we would certainly broaden out the experiment across key stage 3.
Helena (and Andy)