The workshop on Differentiated Homework came about due to us considering the differentiated lesson. “We differentiate in lessons so we should differentiate homework…right?” Right!
How can we as teachers insist upon differentiating our classwork but then feel justified in giving the entire class the same piece of homework? It can become boring for the more able, consistently annoying for those who are finding the work challenging and it can be boring for the teacher too! To an outsider, it may seem strange that we are not differentiating homework, so what’s happening? Why are we all giving our students the same homework? Let’s consider the “Why? How? & What?” of this homework scenario
Why do you want students to complete homework?
o Practice? 10000 hrs makes perfect (Malcolm Gladwell)
o To cover more content? The flipped classroom (Bergmann & Sams)
How do you want them do it?
o Paper based or On-line?
o Weekly, Bi-Weekly?
What are the next steps?
o How can you maintain this level of homework?
o How much effort are you putting in when setting and marking the homework?
o How can you ensure that your students learn from the homework and not end up with lots of pretty displays? What level of feedback/marking is the most effective (#Takeawayhmk – how can you fairly assess the homework… S. Porter is currently researching this.)
Knowing the current approaches that are taken with homework and the completion rates, the following is a list of different homework that can be tried with classes – Differentiated Homework
- Two sided worksheet / laminated card
o Basic questions on one side and an extension of the concept or a problem solving task on the other side.
- On line homework (SAM Learning, MyMaths, ShowMyHomework, etc)
- Concept Cards – some staff made their own in the workshop
- Choice Boards
Alternatives to Traditional HW
- Suggestions by the students of Kathleen Cushman “Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery
- Takeaway HW (from “100 teaching ideas for Secondary Teachers” Ross Morrison McGill aka @TeacherToolkit)
“The truth is that only a tiny fraction of people get lucky.” (Gove, 2013)
This week Simon Cowell said: “I didn’t work hard when I was at school. I left at 16 and I didn’t have any qualifications. I was useless. The secret is to be useless at school and then get lucky.” Gove responded: “This is an irresponsible and stupid thing to say. Teachers strive every day to ensure children understand the importance of learning, hard work and discipline. Simon Cowell’s comments undermine their efforts. The truth is that only a tiny fraction of people get lucky.”
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ he describes the importance of opportunity and circumstance in becoming successful,“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.” (Gladwell) – the contrast with Cowell is that opportunity is one part of the success equation. Opportunity is nothing without Grit or the“persistence, doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.” (Gadwell)
A short insight into outliers, 10,000 hours and what makes people successful is provided in this interview of Gladwell:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz4hPbHIZ6Y – it ends with Gladwell urging, “society to build institutions that provide opportunities to work hard.” …it is opportunity that is seized that creates success not chance or luck or talent alone.
David Beckham provides an excellent example. Whilst at Man Utd Under 15 Academy, he spent every school holiday in Manchester. Like many other successful individuals Beckham had four things, opportunity, competition from like-minded individuals, GRIT and deliberate practice…he writes:
“The incredible thing about that generation of lads, who came into the youth team (1. opportunity) with me in 1991, is that they were committed to hard training, as I ever was. We couldn’t get enough of it. Gary and Phil Neville had a Dad whose basic motto was ‘give everything and you will reap the rewards.’ At the end of practice, while most of the older lads were sitting in the canteen with their feet up, Gary was still pounding the ball against the wall… I already had a strong work ethic because of my family background (rise review – background counts four times more than school attended). Practice was like second nature. But with these guys (the Nevilles, Giggsy, Nicky Butt, Scholsey) (2. competition from like-minded individuals) I knew I had to take it to another level, to put in the extra shifts, to leave nothing to chance. We had to show commitment like never before…and that is exactly what we did. (3. GRIT) …the more we practiced the better we became. Soon we were overtaking the older boys who were realising, a little to late, that they had taken things to easy… It wasn’t just the quantity of practice, it was the incredible focus on quality. (4. deliberative practice)” (David Beckham, 2013)
Even with opportunity, only effort and commitment over time (GRIT) combined with practice that is …”intentional, aimed at improving performance, designed for your current skill level, combined with immediate feedback and repetitious.” (Malcolm Gladwell) … will allow individuals to succeed, to become over-performers based on their context and background and to be outliers.
At our Bristol Brunel Academy it is precisely these conditions that will allow us to over-perform and create an Academy of Outliers;
- Opportunity (getting teaching and learning right – teaching that is… intentional, aimed at improving performance, designed for your current skill level, combined with immediate feedback and repetitious?
- Competition from like-minded individuals (Peer groups, ethos, language, aspiration, pastoral support, House system?) – growing an epidemic of strong work ethic.
- GRIT (an ethos of possibility for all through effort) Outliers focus on long term goals, ignoring short-term distractions. – they are unswervingly future-focused.
- Deliberative practise approach… learn-revise-test-feedback-learn…marginal gains increasingly creating outliers compared to starting points.
Whilst in the world of celebrity the role of luck maybe high; we live in a world that requires a series of conditions to exist and an attitude and approach that enables individuals to succeed. At Brunel we are increasingly providing, supporting and developing these enabling conditions and opportunity … indeed we cannot afford not to secure over-performance, to buck-the-trend and to create an Academy of OUTLIERS.
“To build a better Academy we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks, context and arbitrary advantages that determine success…with an Academy that provides opportunities and the conditions for all to feel success.” (Malcolm Gladwell, adapted).
Post submitted by:
Dr D Nicholls