“Reduce teacher workload by taking a different approach to homework.”
Charlie Liu argues here that homework can be more effective and dramatically reduce teacher workload if a few changes in appraoch are made.
Teacher workload has become a much discussed topic over the past few years, in particular due to the issues with recruitment and retention of teachers in the UK.
But all over the world, teachers have been arguing about whether pupils should do homework or not. Is it effective? Is marking work a few days later appropriate or effective? Triple marking? How to deal with conflicts when students don’t do their work?
In reality, it is very hard to know the real impact homework has on learning outcomes since supporters on each side can provide strong evidence to support their opinion. However, there is actually one thing that we do know for sure, which is that the life of both teachers and pupils are already jammed packed with activities, problems and things to do.
Then why does the idea of homework even exist?
Roberto Nevilis, an Italian educator who came up with a punishment to his students in 1905, is supposedly the real inventor of homework. The idea has been accepted by people all over the world, and the reasons for giving out homework have been “polished” for centuries.
Nowadays, homework is used for two reasons:
1. For pupils to practise what they learnt during the day. Some children will forget what they have learned in the classroom almost the minute they step out and they arguably need reminders to reinforce their learning.
2. As an indicator for parents to see how their child is doing in class. Parents don’t generally have a lot of time to review their children’s work from school, and so homework has become one of the best ways for parents to feel that a teacher is doing a “good job”.
(We’re ignoring the Flipped classroom concept and the idea of homework to show to the SLT for my ease.)
Despite these ideas, the disadvantages of having pupils do homework are also very obvious.
1. Home environment – Not every family cares about education. While some parents are highly invested into their children’s education, some parents just put the responsibility of teaching solely on the teacher. So do the more supported pupils just keep advancing away from their less supported peers?
2. Huge workload burden for teachers to allocate and mark work. As a teacher, you would always want to have the most appropriate work for your pupils to learn from or practise with. This could mean activities that stretch those working at greater depth, reinforcing activities for others or pre-emptory introductory activities. However that’s not an easy task at all. Finding the right work, printing them out, waiting for pupils to turn them back in and marking produces a large amount of work for the teacher.
By not having homework, it actually allows children to spend more time with their friends and family, and it also provides more time for them to explore and enjoy other interests. If teachers have a lower work burden, does it allow them to deliver better & more impactful lessons? (I’m really keen on this point but have struggled to find any evidence to support my idea here.)
So how do we find the balance?
1. Activity-based homework – Instead of the traditional paper-based homework, teachers can try to find some fun activities that pupils can do with their family or classmates, that are beneficial for their study at the same time. Physical exercises, simple scientific experiments, reading a book or even grocery shopping can help pupils in their daily lives and contribute to their learning.
2. Game-based homework -Finding reliable and relevant work is time consuming. Teachers could take advantage of digital resources and tools. Good digital resources determine the ability of the learner and deliver appropriate games and activities. They then deliver results in a meaningful way to the teachers. As the learner receives corrections during the gameplay, they will self correct. If for example a student answers 200 questions on the four times tables and receives instantaneous feedback, then by the end they will know their four times tables by heart.
Of course “Learn with Emile” resources meet all these requirements and more. All the questions from Emile’s games are closely aligned to the national curriculum, and its’ fully automated “Assess – Practise – Achieve” process really helps stimulate and progress learners. The game will automatically assess the currently ability of each individual pupil on the strand of their choice, allocate games and activites that are engaging but also challenging to pupils, and teachers can take advantage of auto marking and comprehensive tracking tools.
Everything that we educators do is aimed at helping pupils. No matter if it’s homework, exams or lessons, it is our duty to help learners without destroying ourselves. A tired teacher will not perform anyway near as well as a rested and supported teacher. I hope all members of SLTs keep this clearly in mind.