Martin Stuart, a learning support teacher, at Talbot SNS in Dublin, wrote an insightful piece on his research surrounding homework in the January / February 2019 edition of the INTO’s Intouch magazine, titled “Homework – is it worthwhile”?
He raised many interesting points, such as:
There is no homework policy or practical guidance from the Department of Education and Skills.
- The 2018 Action Plan for Education does not mention homework.
- 38% of children do not find homework beneficial (NCP, 2016).
- 8% of 5th and 6th class students enjoyed doing their homework (NCP, 2016).
Stuart highlights how something that 97% of Irish children are doing 4 nights a week (ESRI ‘Growing Up in Ireland’) receives very little questioning and warrants further exploration.
We agree with him!
Research from the Education Endowment Fund (2018) echoes the sentiments of Stuart’s article and goes on to give teacher’s practical advice based on their research.
Two pointers posed to teachers are:
- Parents can have a positive effect on homework completion and help children to develop effective learning habits. How can you support parents to encourage good habits for homework?
- The broader evidence base suggests that short focused tasks or activities which relate directly to what is being taught, and which are built upon in school, are likely to be more effective than regular daily homework.
There are a range of arguments for and against homework, but it is increasingly clear that the tasks must have tangible value for learning, as opposed to being “the way we have always done things”.
Certainly schools should look at examples like Talbot SNS in Dublin who have taken an action-research approach to their homework policy to ensure it is effective for teachers and students.
Homework is touched on in the Rahoo Summer Course “Work Smarter, Be Happier” as something that should add value, not stress! This applies to both teachers and students. We offer a range of ideas of how to do this.
Here are 3 ways to make homework meaningful:
1. Engage family with homework tasks like “Be a Gossip”. The student must explain a specific aspect of what they learned at school, for example, a mathematical process, to an adult at home. They must use formal language, as if they are speaking to Michael D Higgins! The family member can write feedback in their book using the ‘2 Stars and a Wish’ format. This task allows homework to be a worthwhile family activity centred around learning and promotes parental engagement.
2. Give students a choice using templates such as the Supermac’s Takeaway Menu. This allows the child to decide on the task which suits them, and also encourages them to challenge themselves and step outside their comfort zone in a supportive way.
3. Build the homework into the lesson in a collaborative way with activities like “Find a Friend and Discuss…” Students partner up with one or two others and have structured conversations based on their homework. For example, explain your thoughts on x. How did you come to that conclusion? In pairs, can you agree on the best use of personification in the writing and be ready to share? This gives students the opportunity to make sense of their homework and peer assess their work.
At Rahoo, we advocate for teachers to empower themselves and question their current practice by asking: Is it effective? Is it efficient? Is it worth it?
If you would like to learn about more ways to “Work Smarter, Be Happier for Teachers”, check out the options HERE.
If you would like to read Martin Stuart’s article in full: https://www.into.ie/ROI/Publications/InTouch/Archive/
If you would like to read the Education Endowment Fund research: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/homework-primary/