Transforming homework?

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    I am a Science teacher in a Secondary school in Edinburgh. At present I am working on a classroom homework enquiry in part completion of a MEd at Stirling University. Until recently our homework tasks were mainly traditionally driven by content of subject, a weekly issue- grade marked-returned basis. In general summative assessment was the main way of grading/evaluating pupils’ learning. Our concerns being that these summative forms of assessment generate very little useful information for students and results in lack of engagement by them in the homework assignments.
    I believe that ‘formative assessment’ through self and peers assessment has an important part to play in students identifying gaps in their learning and next steps for improvement. I have been working with (four) teachers and pupils in three s1 and one s2 classes to change our homework practices. Pupils are given a free choice in the way that they can produce a project/presentation based on Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Experiences and Outcomes (E&Os), for the particular topic (from each a six week rota) they are working on. We believe that in class peer and self-assessment of pupils’ homework will provide a powerful motivator to engage in and complete tasks. We hope that these different types of homework projects will promote not only pupils’ engagement in the tasks themselves but also in skills development and in the classroom activities from topics which E&Os are associated with. In our first part of the enquiry we have observed increased quality and quantity of homework produced by pupils and we have observed good engagement during in classroom peer and self-assessment activities. There have been many posters, surprisingly many are hand produced – my expectation of a swathe of computer generated Wikipedia/Google “projects” was not generally apparent. So far creative projects have included a scripted video clip classroom Q&A session (starring me as teacher!), models and a board game. One pupil who has not been able to engage in homework came back at break time to work with his teacher on a project while one pupil in my class who faces similar challenges questioned me about the content required and I am now hopeful of his participation. At a recent parents evening feedback on this type of homework was positive from many parents. Our aim is that this type of engagement can be sustained into the next rotated topics – three of our classes are each working on topics which other classes have covered so that we can share and compare our observations and support further development of this enquiry. So far pupils, parents and teachers seem to be engaged in tasks – is it transforming homework?

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