On Sunday, the Department for Education scrapped guidelines for headteachers on how much homework they must set. Headteachers are now free to determine their own homework policies. Here are three ideas for putting that freedom to good use.
1. Scrap Homework Altogether
At Gaithersburg Elementary School*, it the US, principal Stephanie Brant has replaced all homework with '30 minutes of daily reading at home', either alone or with parents. As an article about Gaithersburg from the Harvard Graduate School of Education puts it, 'Twenty-first-century learners, especially those in elementary school, need to think critically and understand their own learning — not spend night after night doing rote homework drills.'
The Harvard article provides a brief history of homework in the US, pointing out that students' homework load multiplied during the cold war, based on anxiety that the Soviet Union had better scientists and engineers than America.
This is controversial stuff. When David Price wrote a blog post proposing an 'end to homework', he got more comments than he'd ever had before. He followed it up with this post. Both are worth reading - they draw particularly on Alfie Kohn's research about homework, which is pretty convincing stuff.
2. Do more extended projects
I'll illustrate this with an anecdote:
When a teacher came to visit San Diego's High Tech High, she asked a student about her homework.
'Oh, we don't get homework,' the student replied?
'Well,' the teacher asked, 'what do you do at home, then?'
'I work on my projects,' the student told her.
High Tech High is the Learning Futures programme's international partner, as well as one of our 10 Schools for the 21st Century. They are driven by project-based learning, which means that students are focused on the 'big picture' of creating a meaningful piece of work which will take lots of time and many draft - so they are in charge of what needs to get done at home.
For more about project-based learning, download the Guide to Project-based learning that we produced in partnership with High Tech High.
3. Flip the classroom
What if students could watch their lectures at home, and apply what they've learned in school? This is the heart of the concept of the 'flipped classroom'. You can see a nice introductory video here:
In addition to making your own videos, you can draw on videos from a host of different websites. There's a great list on the 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning blog here.
We're so excited about the flipped classroom model that we're 'flipping' two conferences that we're hosting in June, in London and Manchester! You can read more about them here
*Full disclosure: I found out about Gaithersburg because my mom is a counsellor there.