The Learning Journey: Homework
Deputy Head (Academic)
BA (Hons), PGCE, Post.Cert. Level 5 Dyslexia & Literacy (York), Post.Cert. Level 3 Success with People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Matthew continuously explores creative opportunities in his teaching to create an exciting, vibrant academic environment. Focusing on pupils’ well-being, self-esteem and positive learning experiences has always been his priority; an approach that fits perfectly with his role as Deputy Headteacher Academic, at The Moat School, London.
In 2018, Matthew set up the ‘I Believe In Me’ project, designed to connect young people with projects that can support them through music and creative arts. ‘I Believe In Me’ became the theme song of the inaugural Neurodiversity Celebration Week in 2019 and the ‘I Believe In Me’ project went on to be shortlisted for the 2020 TES Well-being Initiative of the Year.
The Learning Journey
There are many challenges faced by parents as they support their child on the thrilling ride known as ‘growing up’. None of these challenges are more confusing (and potentially frustrating) than supporting your child on their academic journey through school, particularly where there are specific learning needs to support. What sort of support should you give as a parent? How much is enough? How much is too much?
Answers to these questions will naturally depend on many factors, not least your child’s age, learning needs (including strengths and areas of difficulty), independence, motivation and past experiences in education. However, there are strategies that can be explored that can help learners at any stage make more productive use of independent revision and learning time. This blog will explore the opportunities to engage with your child on their learning journey and offer tips and tricks - including specific learning strategies, working memory and focus exercises, assistive technology and online resources - for supporting learning development at home.
Any discussion about supporting learning at home has to start by confronting the H-bomb.
Opinions and academic positions vary considerably regarding the merits of homework, and this variation in approach can often be magnified in a specialist setting. Parents will have their own opinions about this too, ranging from those who view homework as an invasion of personal space and family time, to those who see it as an essential, irreplaceable link to their child’s personal academic progress. As a result, some parents want less homework set for their child, some want more.
Most educationalists agree that, used properly, homework can have real value. There can be measurable advantages to having the opportunity to revisit certain areas of learning, or familiarising yourself with specific information or ideas in preparation for the next lesson. Things can go wrong when the expectations of homework lead to feelings of pressure, stress and anxiety.
My top tips, therefore, for harnessing the potential value of any homework set for your child, whilst avoiding the most common snags and frustrations, are:
communicate with school
don’t try to do too much!
These top tips may seem a little obvious or self-evident; however it is amazing how often these simple steps are overlooked and how much unnecessary confusion and frustration this can cause. If homework is to be of any use at all, it needs to work for all stakeholders, that is the student who’s doing it, those who are supporting them to do it (you!), and finally the teacher who’s receiving and assessing it.
Teachers should always aim to ‘differentiate’ work for each learner in the classroom, where possible, so that tasks provide the right amount of challenge and opportunities for success for each individual. This is particularly important in specialist education. It is not usually practical or desirable, however, to prepare individually tailored homework for each child (although different levels of difficulty or detail may be applied to the set work). Rather, the benefits of differentiation in homework come from what is referred to as ‘differentiation by outcome’, essentially: what does each child ‘do’ with the task?
The first thing to remember is that things work best with communication. Homework is no exception. Don’t be afraid to make contact with your child’s teachers to let them know what works best for your child at home. You won’t be a nagging parent if you’re simply providing information about this. It is perfectly fair to give honest information to your child’s school about the time restraints, additional commitments, distractions and working requirements that your child experiences outside the school day. This information provides your child’s teacher with useful insights into how they should interpret what your child has achieved with a set task, in addition to what they already know about your child’s abilities, areas of difficulty and current progress.
In the same way, a quick note on individual pieces of homework by you (or preferably by your child - get them into the habit!) saying things like ‘this was easy!’, or ‘I didn’t get this bit!’, can be really useful learning journey feedback.
Finally, many people suffer under the belief that more is better. For most age groups in primary and secondary education, particularly in a specialist setting, 15-20 minutes of quality application to a homework task is a good rule of thumb. If a child cannot finish the task in this time, this again is valuable information for the teacher who set the work.
With the communication channels open, homework can be a meaningful part of your child’s learning journey, without becoming a chore to be avoided or despised. With this in mind as a starting point, I look forward to meeting you here again and sharing some useful strategies for supporting and further invigorating your child’s learning at home, in the next instalment of The Learning Journey.