Newsletter 161 - NEEDU - Schools That Work II - Effective Homework


Schools use homework effectively to strengthen or re-inforce skills taught in class, advance classroom lessons and maximise positive outcomes. Schools that work use a “community approach,” characterised by a working environment where teachers, parents, and students work together as partners, to ensure that homework assignments maximise positive outcomes. In this approach, teachers design effective homework, assist learners to self-regulate and take responsibility for their work, and empower parents to support their children at home.  Discussed next are research-tested strategies that teachers, learners and parents in this study, working as a formidable trio, use to improve the utilization of homework.


Teachers use a wide range of strategies to make homework effective, more meaningful and to maximize positive outcomes. Summarised below are strategies that teachers in this study commonly use:

· Assign work that learners already know. Teachers give homework to re-inforce skills or concepts taught in class and advance classroom and not to deal with topics that have not been taught. They make sure that learners understand the concepts and possess the skills needed to complete homework assignments by themselves without expecting parents to become teachers at home. Homework is used to provide teachers with feedback about how successful their lessons were to ensure learners understand concepts taught in class.

· Review homework before learners go home. Teachers spend time before learners go home clarifying what learners are expected to do at home “so that they don’t get home and start troubling their parents because they are confused.”

· Create homework that applies skills taught in the classroom to real-life situations. Where possible, teachers re-inforce skills or concepts and adds relevance to classroom lessons by asking learners to do research by reading newspaper, magazine, or internet articles.

· Differentiate homework—no one-size-fits-all: Teachers use a variety of ways to differentiate and scaffold homework so that it is pitched at the appropriate level of difficulty for individual learners to ensure success.

· Accommodate learners with disadvantaged background: Teachers take into consideration factors that make it difficult for economically disadvantaged learners to complete homework because of inequities in their home environments, e.g., lack of parental supervision for a variety of reasons. Aware of these inequities, teachers provide after-school homework support for learners in the under-served communities “because when they get home, they don’t have time and space to do work,” one teacher reports.

· Hold learners accountable for completing homework and provide immediate feedback: Teachers create and enforce rules for completing homework, design and administer the consequences of missed homework. The consequences of not completing homework are communicated to learners and parents clearly. Learners are given prompt feedback after homework is marked and discussed in class before the start of a new lesson.

· Co-ordinate homework given to learners so that teachers in different departments do not all give homework on the same day.



Teachers in this study feel they do everything they can in class to teach “but there is a point where learners must also take responsibility for their own learning”

To encourage learners to take responsibility for their own learning, teachers use different approaches including:

· Teaching learners self-regulatory skills they need to help them do work at home such as how to set-up a suitable work environment, manage time, handle distraction, and control negative emotions.

· Asking learners to share their work with their peers in the classroom. To save time and to encourage learners to take responsibility for their work, some teachers ask learners to share and discuss their homework, including any difficulties they experienced and approaches they used when completing homework, in their peer co-operative groups.



Taking into account varying exceptionalities in learners’ homes, teachers provide opportunities for positive parent involvement.

Schools that work use highly effective strategies to encourage parents and to keep them committed to serving in a supporting role in the education of their children. Parents are not expected to play the role of a teacher at home but teachers empower them at the beginning of the school year on how best to assist their children with their homework. Empowering parents includes providing some guidance to enable them to:

· Understand the purpose of homework so that they could understand why it is important that learners should complete homework at home;

· Create a home environment that is conducive to learning. This includes giving parents suggestions how to set a specific time and provide a distraction-free environment where learners can complete their homework and study; and

· Know how to monitor and what to check if homework is completed without being experts in the subject area. Teachers use different means such as school newsletters and parent–teacher meetings to convey these suggestions.

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