We have a 3 year key stage 4. Students that opt for GCSE Religious Studies have 3 different homeworks that carry through every year. I have blogged previously about some of these (see links in headers) but not as our key stage 4 homework programme as a whole.
Students are given mini booklets of keywords that they need to know to understand the key beliefs and teachings of the religions studied. They are given these before they have studied their context. The idea is that they learn these ‘off by heart’ and then when we cover them in lesson their meaning and application to the religion becomes clear.
All keyword sheets are available in our classrooms and are always attached on ShowMyHomework when set.
We also have made Quizlet quizzes on all the words here. We also give students index cards to create their own testing set.
The students then have weekly keyword tests. One week they are the ‘current’ keywords that they are learning (one of the pages of words) and the other week are ‘random’ from all previous pages learnt. They complete the test in class and then they peer mark using the correct answers. They get very good at this. In fact from when I give out the sheets for them to write on, they run this part of the lesson themselves.
The basis for these are that retrieval practice is good for long term memory. The second random test allows for spacing of retrieval as they don’t know which words will come up and how often. I am currently editing Dave Paterson’s random generator so I can automatically generate and monitor the frequency of these repetitions.
Scores are recorded out of 20 marks each time. On the current keywords they have to make progress every fortnight. They chose a focus word that they will focus on getting correct next time to slowly increase their score.
2. Writing multiple choice questions
Student feedback on this system is overall positive with the caveat that they’re boring. I don’t care as long as they remember them.
After a few lessons of a new topic I set this homework. Students have to write a minimum of 6 multiple choice questions on the topic.
The rules are clear (see above).
The rationale for this homework is two-fold. Firstly it is really easy to see their misconceptions. If they indicate a correct answer that is in fact incorrect then I can see what they’ve misunderstood. Depending on the frequency and seriousness of the error I will give whole class feedback or individual feedback on that issue. Students then need to rectify their error.
I use their questions for the next homework.
The third type of homework uses the questions they previously wrote. I type them up onto a google form and then set them as a multiple choice quiz. There may be one or many correct answers. They must achieve full marks. Google forms records their scores.
They can actually cheat by doing the quiz once and then keeping the answer tab open. I’ve told them how they can do this! However I don’t care. The point is that the answers are shuffled so they still have to fully engage with the correct/incorrect answers. This exposure is important.
My screencasts on how to create these quizzes is here.
Once we have covered several topics, I can then start to repeat, space and interleave the quizzes. So year 10 currently have quiz from a couple of weeks ago and one from January or year 9. This repetition supports the idea of retrieving information at spaced gaps of time during the time needed to learn them long term.
We have a class website and I also put a copy of these quizzes on there so any motivated student can go and complete these independently at any time. I’ve put a notification onto those sheets that email me when they’re completed so I can see straight away who has been doing some independent study.
The benefits of only 3 homeworks
- Students always know what they need to do; it doesn’t change
- All of these support research from cognitive science on long term memory
- Parents know what to expect
- Students can’t ‘get stuck’. There’s no new concepts (the keywords are initially just a memory task)
- They need few resources: keyword list and a piece of paper to write the MC questions
- It’s very little work for the teacher. I just check their MC questions which takes max. 15 minutes for a class. The online quizzes mark themselves. I just put the results on the screen. They mark their own keyword tests.
- All homework set is of the same quality; no last minute rubbish made up by the teacher just because they have to set homework
- All 3 homeworks feed into important knowledge and skills they need for their exam
The only issues have been if a student cannot access the internet for the online quizzes however, with plenty of time to complete these I always offer break/lunch access using our devices at school. In an extreme case you can print the quizzes but of course they won’t self mark.
I have been doing this for a couple of years now. I think our results show that this is significant in long term memory and consequently performance in their exam. To me, these are so important, I can’t imagine setting any other form of homework at key stage 4 that would make a bigger impact on learning.