As my marking pile grows ever larger just 3 and a bit weeks into the term, it's natural to query what is the point of it all. But with our prospective 'flipped learning' experiment in the pipeline, I really do need to reconsider where homework / homestudy fits in with this new model of teaching and learning.
Having read a little around the topic online (don't be silly, it couldn't possibly be extensively... where would I find the time?) it seems the great debate around homework is setting a task for the sake of it, or actually setting something that consolidates the learning in the classroom and has a measurable impact on progress. How we measure that progress is perhaps another question all together. Our school has recently redesigned our Virtual Learning Environment and with the introduction of the fancy new site this September came the chance to purge all the rubbish that had accumulated on the old one. In MFL we took it upon ourselves to not only redesign our homework tasks for KS3 (our policy is to have all tasks pre-prepared online for students to access at any time, avoiding 'finish this at home' type tasks) but also to rethink assessment of a unit of work. We came up with a three pronged approach - Learning, Preparation and Drafting. Pupils will complete 3 homework tasks each half term, in preparation for an end of unit assessment. Learning tasks will consist of learning vocabulary for an in-class mini test, Preparation tasks will require pupils to complete a worksheet of consolidation activities designed to test vocabulary recall, reading and writing skills and the Drafting tasks give pupils the opportunity to submit a practise piece of writing and receive formative feedback before the final assessment. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the process will affect the quality of the writing of our KS3 pupils because, as the department discussed, correcting adjective endings for what seems like the bazillionth time is soul destroying.
But in considering 'flipping' my teaching and learning, how am I going to approach homework? The system we have in place is working, is great preparation for our assessments and will hopefully have the desired affect on writing skills. But it won't work with the flipped learning model. Am I going to simply be able to swap this around and bring the homework tasks into my classroom for completion? I suspect this is a lazy way out and I won't get off that lightly. Likewise, flipped learning ought to provide me with more opportunity to differentiate for more able pupils and those with particular learning needs. Every pupil in my classroom needs to leave having felt a sense of achievement from the flipped learning task - I can't afford to have a pupil complain the homework was a 'waste of time' and to the same end I don't particularly want to feel the same way when marking the outcome! The problem I have with homework is probably the same one the pupils have - unless properly and carefully planned out, it feels pointless a lot of the time. We are all led to believe that it's a necessity, that it has to be done, that it proves a point. Yet all to often it achieves the opposite - nothing more than to prove that the thing you thought you had taught... 32 of your pupils didn't get it. Not a great self esteem boost for teacher or pupil. Will research based tasks feel more worthwhile? Will pupils gain more from the independent enquiry that flipped learning demands of them? Will this in turn be building those resilient learners that Ofsted beg to see in our classrooms? Time will tell, but I'm hoping it's a big fat yes.