When setting homework, you want to make sure the tasks you are setting are of a high quality. You want it to be engaging, thought provoking, and you want both your students to enjoy completing it and you marking it. A key thing to remember when setting homework is that if your proposed task doesn’t interest you, it certainly won’t interest your students.
Homework should not be set to complete unfinished classwork, or simply just for the sake of it - it is additional learning and should contribute to your students’ education just as much as your lessons do. When putting together your homework task, you want to ensure it ticks 5 significant boxes and enables your students to:
- Build stronger work habits such as time management, organisation, and so forth
- Strengthen responsibility and increase autonomy amongst your students
- Reinforce important skills that have already been taught in subject lessons
- Boost academic achievement
- Ensure that learning occurs outside the classroom and is a lifelong activity
Here are some of the main factors we’ve outlined, that will help you to ensure that you’re consistently setting high quality homework:
It covers material previously taught
When students receive a piece of homework, they should already be fully equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to complete it to the standard you desire. Bearing this in mind means that your students will be fully capable at completing the work you set and not out of their depth. In addition to this, you should always take into account your students’ learning capabilities; for mixed ability classes you can address this by differentiating your homework tasks and catering to their skillset so that you see the best results from them.
It includes clear and precise instructions
Homework tasks should be prepared in advance so they’re ready to be set prior to the lesson. They should have a clear set of instructions, and the description should be straightforward so students are sure of what is expected of them. The quality of homework that is submitted will only be as good as the quality of your instructions. A strong description can engage your students and enable them to understand your expectations, allowing them to gain an understanding of what is required for them to achieve a good grade.
It provides a reasonable time limit
As well as making certain that the description of your homework task is detailed, it’s also important to outline to students exactly how you expect work to be turned in, the due date and also how long you want them to spend on the task. One of the added benefits of assigning homework is that it helps students to manage their time effectively and become independent learners. By telling them an amount of time you want spent on your homework task not only better helps them when it comes to managing their time, it also means they’re fully aware of how much time they should dedicate to your task so you know the right amount of effort is being put in.
It uses information and resources that are readily available
Any materials that are needed for your student to successfully complete their homework task should be readily available to them. Textbooks, additional texts, computer programmes or even calculators should all be resources that students have access to, whether it be at the school, public library or online. Making sure that your students have access to these resources will ensure that they are able to put as much effort into their homework as possible and give them the best chances of receiving a good grade.
It’s interesting, meaningful, and enforces further or in depth learning
For every piece of homework you set, your ultimate goal should be that your task is interesting enough that it sparks a sense of intrigue from your students that makes them want to complete the task at hand and explore it even further. In other words, you want your homework task to be the Hamlet of all tasks - not something that they’ll never learn the true answer to, but something that keeps them thinking. The Sutton Trust states that quality homework can provide up to an additional 5 months onto a student’s learning and this is achievable if the homework task is relevant and enforces further learning.
Ultimately, you want your students to enjoy their homework. This can be done by setting research tasks or project based homework where students are given more variety and autonomy so they can explore and come up with their own findings that link back to the task at hand. When homework set is made to be interesting, learning is heightened and students will want to pursue the subject even further. Using multimedia resources such as Youtube videos can also aid in encouraging students to do extra work at home/immerse themselves more in their subjects.
Gives timely feedback to your students
Not all homework needs to be marked, but when it does, it’s important that feedback is communicated in a timely manner. If homework is marked a long time after it’s completed, it can be difficult to engage students in something that isn’t fresh in their memory. It’s crucial to provide your students with positive praise and constructive criticism. This way they will know where they’re doing well, but also how to avoid making the same errors in the future so they can continue to develop. Having students make a record of their progress gives them a visible reminder of their learning and enables them to feel positive about school and homework.