Homework has many outcomes. It reinforces the lessons of the classroom, gives the student practice in mastering methods, tests them in facts, requires they work alone – and sometimes together – organizing themselves to do so, helps them engage in deep learning and challenges them to go beyond classroom learning.
Successful homework assignments mean the student’s learning is progressed – in facts and content – and that you are able to measure this. It also means that they grow in organizational abilities like completing work in a given time frame and finding the resources they need to do so.
Setting homework is no easy task for the teacher! Here are just 5 tips for setting successful homework assignments.
1. Motivational for the student. Successful homework assignments will motivate students to do the work. As a teacher try and make sure the student is motivated and has some reason for trying and completing the work. For very young primary students this might mean they get a sticker or small prize for completing the work; middle school students might get points towards a certificate when work is completed to a certain standard, while senior students could be rewarded by classroom or school privileges at the end of term for completed good work. Adult learners – and more mature children – will also be rewarded by seeing progress towards their learning goal, so help relate the homework to learning goals for young and old alike so progress can be seen.
2. Reinforcing classwork. Successful homework assignments will always reinforce classroom material. Whether the youngest student is doing practice questions identical to those done in class, or the more independent learner is going deeper into material beyond that done in class, there needs to be a link back into the classroom. You might consider making classroom material a starting point for additional exercises done alone at home, or perhaps arrange for something covered in the classroom be needed to complete the homework task. Free choice style homework can also be brought back into the classroom once completed through presentations and sharing learning with others making sure that independent learning is not lost outside the classroom.
3. Tailored to challenge. Successful homework assignments will challenge students to go beyond what is learned in the classroom, however, should not discourage weaker students. You might consider having various levels of homework and require all students to attempt the first level,making additional levels optional depending upon the child’s ability.
4. Choices. Where possible give students choices in their homework. This will help motivate the student and allow them to engage in deeper learning if they take control of some aspect of the task. For the youngest students you may have two different maths sheets that test identical material but with different sums, on different colored paper. For older students you may allow them some scope to write or read about one of three topics. Allowing individual choice will also help you spot students who are consistently working together too closely or even plagarising from each other.
5. Quick feedback. Students thrive upon quick feedback, so make sure your exercises permit you to give this in the style of questions that you set. Consider using computerized learning aids – such as on-line quizes – to facilitate quick turn around time or even automate the process entirely for a certain proportion of homework exercises set to reduce the time that students might have to wait for feedback.
Whether you teach very young students or adult learners these tips for homework will help ensure that assignments are successful in facilitating the student’s progression.