Home Learning vs Homework – a PACED approach
What do we value as important for a student when she goes home after her day at CGGS?
At a time when the nature of teaching and learning is transforming, with modern practices, digitisation, and abundant information available to students, this question has fuelled deep introspection for a number of Ormiston and Senior School staff.
Reflecting particularly on the polarising topic of homework, our teachers have been investigating their application of tasks for the girls to complete at home by asking:
> Why do we ask our students to complete it?
> Is it having a positive impact on learning?
> What does current research evidence tell us?
(educationally; neurologically; and from girls’-specific and well being perspectives)
Through broader consultation with students and parents of the School, we understand that homework is perceived to help set important routines and study habits that can lead to progress in student learning. It has also given some parents a chance to engage in and connect with their child’s learning. However, it is increasingly apparent that for some families, the conventional approach to ‘homework’ has not always been a productive and positive learning experience and it has placed significant, burdensome pressure to their family life.
The impact from a girl’s perspective yields a similarly broad array of responses. Whilst some students comment favourably or indifferently on the topic, a number also suggest their experiences could be improved, particularly with regard to stress they feel with their time commitments. In other terms, many students feel compromised by their strong interests in both academic learning and in co-curricular and non-school based pursuits; they are sometimes simply unable to meet their competing demands.
To illustrate this, here is a snapshot of a week in the life a Camberwell girl in Year 9 (age 14).
With such compelling information from our students, combined with further provocation from leading research and news media across the world (see further reading below), we have embarked upon a bold re-evaluation of what we value for our students at the end of their school day.
At Camberwell Girls, we value each student having the time after school hours to:
> connect with her family;
> to enhance her personal development through play, leisure and socialisation activities
> to enhance her well being through health-related activities (including sleep);
> to connect with her local community through clubs, sports or events;
> and we value her home learning (not home ‘work’) as a productive part of her development.
Rather than removing homework altogether, we have placed renewed value on the ‘learning’ aspect to be done at home, recognising that the right kinds of tasks can offer significant learning benefit to our students.
Our aim is to emphasise ‘learning’ over any mundane, trivial or unnecessarily time-consuming tasks that could be called ‘work’, implying a job to be done, perhaps without any actual learning at all. Unfortunately, most global research on the topic of ‘homework’ has identified precisely that effect: lots of work, but zero to very little actual learning.
Foremost expert on all things teaching and learning, Professor John Hattie, Director of the Melbourne Educational Research Institute and Chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership illustrates through his longitudinal, meta-analysis of global research that homework in both primary and secondary schools is not impactful on student learning.
Despite this, Hattie challenges teachers worldwide not to eradicate homework, in favour of striving to improve it.
Thus we have developed our PACED Principles for home learning at CGGS.
The acronym PACED stands for Preparation, Application, Consolidation, Enhancement and Differentiation.
By developing home learning tasks that fit with these principles, we plan for each home learning task to be an enriching and productive use of her valuable time.
Throughout Term One, several teachers across our Junior and Senior Schools have been implementing these principles. Early feedback is universally positive, showing that the PACED approach is quite effective in helping students to grow their learning by productively using their time at home. We thank those teachers involved for their commitment to trial and test this important learning strategy, as these early experiences will help us to evaluate and refine the home learning principles before implementation across all year levels.
On a final note, as researchers repeatedly point to reading at home as the most valuable task that a student can do to improve their learning, we continue to strongly advocate for this also.
~ Ben Jenkinson & Nirvana Watkins
Further reading articles