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Making homework ‘work’

By 04/04/2022April 12th, 2022No Comments
Alistair Foster, Head of English at The Beauchamp College in Leicester

As we return to some kind of normality in our school routines and consider what can be learnt from teaching in a pandemic, I’ve begun to explore how Educake can be used beyond simply a home learning tool.

Creating consistency across cohorts

Consistency is a key principle in my department. I want all our learners to have the same experiences and opportunities in their lessons. This can be difficult to balance; staff need to feel a level of autonomy and their creativity should not be stifled. Equally, students should not feel that they are getting a different ‘deal’ from their peers. One way this can be achieved is with homework.

Setting centralised homework – without the marking burden

As Head of Department, I use Educake to set centralised weekly homework for all of our KS3 and KS4 students. I know exactly what each of our 1000+ students are being asked to complete each week meaning I am certain homework will not be disrupted by staff absence, forgetfulness or any other disruption that can occur. I also find submission rates are near-perfect when a whole cohort of students has the same task and deadline. This may sound like I am doing a lot of the ‘heavy-lifting’, but with the Educake, this really isn’t the case. Setting the initial question is where my input ends – there’s no marking (it’s all auto-marked), and individual teachers review their classes’ results

Revealing and dealing with misconceptions

During the early stages of school closure in 2020, a colleague asked me what I was doing with the scores from each quiz. Was it the marks themselves that I was interested in, or did I simply want to know that work had been completed? This was a good question. Really, I had just been setting quizzes as a means to an end. This is when I asked staff to bring Educake into the classroom (online at first, but then in-person). The useful colour-coded percentages at the top of each task allow teachers to easily see the content and question types that their entire class (and for me, the whole cohort) are struggling with.

Teachers are now regularly using lesson time to unpick questions where students have been less successful. Through this we have recently discovered that the majority of our Year 11 cohort didn’t understand that Charles Dickens begins A Christmas Carol in an informal tone when he describes Jacob Marley as “dead as a door-nail”. We also found out that 24% of our students could not recognise how sentence lengths can be used to create meaning in descriptive writing.

Stamping out misconceptions is essential to learning. With this type of feedback, we can do that quickly and effectively. I believe this empowers teachers; they have an instant visual representation of their students’ areas for development that they can act upon. This in turn, helps us achieve consistency. As a department, we’re on the same page when it comes to capturing and analysing results, which is pivotal to reliable and informed decision-making. Educake not only facilitates this consistency, but ensures homework is both productive and informative.Teachers are now regularly using lesson time to unpick questions where students have been less successful. Through this we have recently discovered that the majority of our Year 11 cohort didn’t understand that Charles Dickens begins A Christmas Carol in an informal tone when he describes Jacob Marley as “dead as a door-nail”. We also found out that 24% of our students could not recognise how sentence lengths can be used to create meaning in descriptive writing.