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Engaging students in home learning

Updated: May 22

Home learning is not always effective, we do not always get every student engaged. This is not such a huge problem, since we have all that classroom teaching time to put it right. However, since schools have partially closed- we are now reliant on home learning. After asking the question with opinion polls, most of us teachers are experiencing the same issue. Some students simply do not take part in or put the required effort in for effective home learning. Our role has changed, we need to inspire and motivate to do this. In this post, I will be discussing the components of effective home learning. How to increase completion of homework tasks and keep students wanting to learn.

Research supported components of effective home learning

1. Student Choices: It has been found that students are more likely to engage with tasks that they have some control over. Particularly, when students are given choices between tasks of different difficulty levels. This has been shown to increase engagement with tasks. Teodorescu et al (2012), found that student choices and multi-level homework led to significant improvements in motivation and task completion. Implementing this strategy led to 70% of students completing additional work that would not even be credited.

2. Mixing easier and more challenging tasks together: There is evidence to support that dispersing easier and harder tasks into a homework assignment increases motivation and task completion. Students require some easier tasks to reduce anxiety, and develop their confidence when working without the support of their teacher. Homework that is too challenging can lead to increased anxiety and reduced motivation. So mix it up. Give everybody some opportunity for success along with the challenge(Calderhead, Filter, & Albin, 2006).

3.Rewards: An easy one, remember to include completion of home learning tasks in your reward system. Students can become competitive and work harder when rewards are involved. Research by (Reeve, 2006) found that most students were motivated by reward systems and more likely to complete home learning tasks when they know that rewards are available.

4. Give feedback: Research by Walberg (1999), found that students are more likely to complete home learning tasks if they know that they will be graded or their work will be commented on.

5. Individualization: Home learning that allows for innovation, creativity and individualization leads to higher levels of motivation, increased engagement with tasks and a more enjoyable experience for students (Hallam 2006). This does not mean that students create their own home learning tasks, but they should have some freedom to present their work in a more unique way.

6. Collaborative learning opportunities: Collaborative learning is another tool that can be utilized to engage students in home learning. When students work effectively with others, their engagement increases as a result (Wentzel, 2009). There are several ways to apply this when setting home learning. I have found that using Google Docs or slides is an easy way to allow students to work in groups remotely. These applications allow students to edit each other's work or add to the same document very easily.

Practical applications:

  • Give students a choice of tasks. These could be varied difficulty questions or tasks. You do not need to label which one is easier, let the students decide that. For example, it may be to write an essay or design a presentation- with 2 slightly different questions/ assignment briefs.

  • When setting a challenging home learning assignment, mix in some easier tasks to ensure that confidence remains high. You could set a multiple choice question in between each more challenging long answer exam question.

  • Continue to log rewards while working from home and make it clear to students that they are competing for rewards points. You could even offer some sort of prize for an overall winner.

  • You could use google classroom to provide feedback comments or grades to students once they've completed tasks. This lets students know that you are still tracking their work. If you are using online resources that mark automatically, share this data back to the students so that they know you are monitoring.

  • Set some open ending tasks, allow students to be creative and get them to enjoy your homework. Set a question to the class but allow them to produce the work in any way that they want. You may want to suggest some examples such as presentations, leaflets, posters or podcasts.

  • Allow students the opportunity to work in groups, to engage in home learning together by using technology such as Google.

Try out some of these strategies and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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