Homework – who is it really ‘work’ for?

Anyone that knows a teacher, knows they have a shadow that follows them everywhere. That shadow is marking. A teacher is never far from another essay to examine, book to mark or piece of work to score. I’ve been marking between 100-150 pieces of work every fortnight for the last ten years, mostly on an evening or grabbing the odd five minutes here and there but rarely at college (otherwise when do you plan, prepare resources and answer an endless stream of emails?) However, this blog isn’t about marking because I accepted many years ago that it is just part and parcel of the job. It is an essential to ensure students’ progress, learn from their mistakes, develop their technique and understanding and recognise their current working grade. No, this blog is about homework or the lack of it.

Now at school, teachers have detentions whereby students complete the work that should have been done at home. At college you hope your students have learnt those life lessons and therefore do their homework. The problem is what happens if they don’t do it or at least can never remember to hand it in? The answer – more time is then spent by the teacher chasing up those students, asking for it, reminding them, sending emails, contacting parents…there must be an easier way.

So what criteria is necessary for homework:

  • Set weekly or at least per unit
  • Combination of essay practice, questions to answer and independent research tasks
  • Work that can be easily and quickly assessed/ marked
  • Way to monitor progress and track improvements
  • Purposeful not pointless activities

Now I find that at the start of the year I establish a solid routine for homework. By this time of year, that routine has fallen to the side due to revision for mock exams, intense focus on finishing the content and generally me forgetting to set it!

What I have designed and prepared to pilot in September is a Homework Booklet – a bound booklet with a range of activities for each topic covered. The aim is that students will complete the relevant sections at the end of every topic. They will know that this is the HW they have to do, so I won’t have to remind them each time. Students will also be able to monitor their own progress, always recognising which pieces of work need to be completed because all activities are included in this one organised structure.

hw2I will establish a marking routine, where I collect so many booklets in and mark in bulk (very much like work books at school). In the front of the booklet I will include a target sheet, a sheet for students to transfer their feedback to so they can monitor their progress and an exam board mark scheme so they can assess their own work.

This is a work-in-progress so fingers crossed it all goes to plan in September. I will keep you posted 🙂

If you would like a copy of the First Year Homework Booklet please click on the image below to be transferred to the shop:hw 1

If you would like a copy of the Second Year Homework Booklet please click on the image below to be transferred to the shop:hw22

First round of marking for second years – looking good!


Update (2019): The pilot last year went very well and we are using the HW booklets once more with first and second years. What a good start to the year!


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